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How sustainability benefits vacation rentals

We were recently lucky enough to be joined by three sustainability aces in our panel discussion at Short Stay Week. We picked their brains about the benefits that social, environmental, and financial sustainability bring to a vacation rental business. Note the three factors we associate with sustainability there – each reliant on the other for long term success as well as tackling climate change.

To help you craft your sustainability action plan, we’ve summarised our key takeaways below. Read on to get valuable insights from:

Bob Garner – Co-owner Casal Dei Fichi & Coordinator at Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency
Merilee Karr – CEO and Co-founder of Under The Doormat
Ittai Savran – CEO Olala Homes
Tyann Marcink – Community Ambassador at Touch Stay
Andy McNulty – CEO and Co-founder of Touch Stay

Why sustainability is good for your vacation rental business

Bob is a sustainability pro who has previously contributed to our blog, explaining how environmental attributes can attract guests. In our discussion, he stressed that in order to continue making sustainable changes, your business needs to remain in action. Your sustainable business practices should reinforce your financial sustainability, not undermine it.

Guests expect vacation rental accommodation to have sustainable business practices

A survey found that 70% of travellers are more likely to book accommodation with sustainable business practices. Travellers want to be more sustainable in every aspect of their lives – they no longer leave climate worries behind when they go on holiday.

Bob noted that sustainability is the new WiFi: twenty years ago, a traveller wouldn’t even have thought to ask for WiFi in a vacation rental, but today it’s a given. Right now sustainable business practices remain a bonus, but very shortly they’ll be an expected norm.

Other vacation rental businesses are already prioritising sustainability

Vacation rental property owners and managers currently have the perfect window of opportunity to move with the times, rather than playing catch up in a couple of years. Implementing sustainable business practices now places you ahead of the curve, and gives you an edge over other accommodation providers who haven’t yet done so.

Meeting the need for sustainable short-term rentals will make eco-conscious travellers more likely to choose you, and it’s unlikely to put other travellers off. So really, why wouldn’t you?

Remember to communicate how your vacation rental business is becoming more sustainable

In order to see the rewards, you need to communicate your sustainable practices with the outside world. Bob mentioned a phenomenon called “green hushing”. This is when vacation rental providers keep quiet about the ways in which they’re building more sustainable businesses – the opposite of greenwashing.

If you shout about the good work you’re doing, you’ll start to see those eco-conscious travellers choosing you, the positive reviews, even the award nominations! Most importantly, you’ll encourage other vacation rental managers and travel industry players to make their own businesses more sustainable.

Watch our webinar to find out how vacation rental professionals are centring sustainability in their marketing and guest communications.

watch the Touch Stay climate webinar

Proof that environmental sustainability translates into a strong vacation rental business

Our panellists are ideal case studies in the benefits that sustainability brings to your business:

  • Bob sees a 60 per cent return rate at Casal Dei Fichi. He puts that down, in part, to his sustainable practices. He describes a “virtuous circle”, in which sustainable business practices earn him positive feedback and reviews, good press coverage, and even awards.
  • Ittai enrolled Olala Homes in Barcelona City Hall’s sustainability certification, and as a result he is seeing happier and more effective employees. A big focus point for Olala has been employee development, and as part of this they have introduced a new onboarding process, which has already shortened the learning curves of new hires.
  • Merilee has also noticed a change in her employees – an emerging set of shared priorities and goals. By encouraging a new, more sustainable mindset throughout her organisation, Merilee is seeing people take the lead on making sustainable changes.

How to make your vacation rental business more sustainable

So, it’s all very well us telling you about how important sustainability is for your business, but how do you actually make your business more sustainable

Understand the value of community support when implementing sustainable business practices

Andy emphasised that you don’t have to go it alone. Tackling the climate crisis can feel like an overwhelming task, so remember that there are other people who have been there before you.

Ittai and Merilee built on Andy’s point to encourage vacation rental owners and managers to use structures which are already in place:

  • For Ittai, a sustainability certification demonstrated how many different aspects of social and business sustainability intersect with environmental sustainability. Plus, it pushed Olala Homes to actually effect changes which they had been planning on implementing for a while.
  • For Merilee, the value of these accreditations comes from the framework they provide. Your business now has a structure to follow, and a partner who has been through the process many times before. Suddenly, rather than one huge, scary, shapeless challenge, sustainability becomes an actionable to-do list.

Bob specifically encouraged vacation rental businesses to sign up with Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency.

Tourism accounts for eight per cent of global greenhouse gases – we can’t leave it all up to governments, as businesses we have to play our part. This doesn’t mean, however, that you need to have all the answers. Join Tourism Declares and get support from people who have already done the learning.

– Bob Garner

Limit the barriers to sustainable business practices – keep it simple

Tyann suggested committing one dollar/euro/pound per property per night to a cause of your choosing, perhaps an organisation which works to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Give your guests the opportunity to match your donation – over the course of a year, the contributions will pile up. Tyann’s method incurs minimal cost or hassle for you, but it’s effective at raising funds for a specific cause, and you can shout about it in the MaD section of your Touch Stay guide!

Andy echoed Tyann when he encouraged people to just start with something, and build up from there. At Touch Stay, our something was signing up with Ecologi to become a climate positive workforce – we now offset the carbon footprint of every one of our employees.

Test out any sustainable business practices before you implement them

Ittai encouraged us to test any changes with a pilot programme in one department or one property. It’s easy to let our enthusiasm get ahead of us when we’re implementing positive changes, but starting small ensures that the changes you’re making are right for your business. Make sure that your innovations are practical and effective within one department before rolling them out across the board.

What does sustainability mean for Touch Stay?

Andy explained that, for Touch Stay, sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the needs of future generations. This mission requires a holistic approach, which addresses social and business sustainability as well as environmental concerns.

This is why our own sustainable business practices take a range of forms. Alongside becoming a climate positive workforce with Ecologi, we’re also a member of the Stripe Climate programme. This means that one percent of our revenues go towards carbon removal projects.

This year, we also developed the Making a Difference section in our digital guidebook. This section allows vacation rental owners and managers to showcase the ways that they’re becoming more sustainable, and encourages their guests to play a part during their stay.

Our digital welcome books are designed to help you communicate effectively with your guests, whether this is about arrival instructions, how to use the compost bin, or how to plug an electric car into the charging station.

Our digital guidebooks help you to meet all of your guests’ needs, whilst saving you time.