Building sustainability into the foundations of your short term rental business is essential if you want to keep up with traveller demand. Not to mention, with eight per cent of global greenhouse gases traceable to the tourism industry, making concrete sustainable changes is part of our shared responsibility to each other.
That’s why Andy, Touch Stay’s CEO, recently sat down with Bob Garner to chat about all things green. Bob has a host of sustainability feathers in his cap! Amongst them:
- He owns Casal dei Fichi, a vacation rental property with sustainability at its core
- He regularly speaks at industry conferences to encourage owners and property managers to think about their environmental impact
- He’s a coordinator for Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency
- He’s a founder of GreenVREvents
Bob’s expertise is relevant to any short term rental owner looking to understand if, and how, they can implement sustainable changes at their property. We’ll cover:
- How eco-friendly changes support your bottom line
- Manageable sustainable starting points
- Environmental inspiration from vacation rental trailblazers
- Accepting help from the pros
- How to communicate your sustainable changes to guests
- The positive outcomes you can expect
If you’d like to watch Bob talk, in his own words, you can do so here. In case you’d prefer to read, we’ve summarised his expert thoughts below.
How eco-friendly changes support your vacation rental bottom line
It might feel as though sustainability is out of reach because it just costs too much. Given the recent uncertainty the short term rental industry has faced, it’s understandable if you’re wary of making new investments right now.
However, Bob emphasised two factors that might influence your thinking:
- Sustainable changes don’t have to be expensive – at all!
- Eco-friendly choices can actually end up making money for you
We’ll get to the first of these factors in a second. Let’s start with how eco-friendly changes can increase your short term rental revenues.
According to Booking.com’s latest data, 83% of travellers think sustainable travel is vital. This is a portion of the market that’s only ever going to get bigger.
Guests are actively looking for eco friendly travel options, which means that owning an environmentally friendly holiday rental is a strong selling point. If you can’t offer a sustainable holiday, many eco-conscious travellers won’t even consider you. You’ll have locked yourself out of a growing portion of the market.
The survey data really shows a demand from the consumer for a greener way to travel and stay. If you’re not preparing your organisation to be greener, then there’s a market that you can’t tap into.
READ: The triple bottom line benefits of sustainability for vacation rental businesses
How to start your holiday rental sustainability journey
Start small! You don’t have to change the world by the end of the day. You can start with simple swaps that often won’t cost you any more than you currently pay.
Bob gave us some tangible pointers in his AMA. If you’d like a resource to come back to, download our guide to becoming a holiday rental sustainability pro. With Bob’s help, we’ve outlined changes you can make in the short, medium, and long-term.
Grab your guide to holiday rental sustainability
1. Switch your vacation rental property to a renewable energy tariff
This is such an easy one to do. You can check the energy sources linked to your tariff by logging into your online account, or by getting in touch with your provider. If you’re not currently on a green energy tariff, ask to switch to a different one.
Most energy providers offer the option of sustainable tariffs, but if you’re with one of the few that doesn’t, then change provider! Just google “sustainable energy suppliers” to discover who offers what in your area.
With a green energy tariff, you know that your money is going into green energy sources.
2. Switch the lightbulbs in your short term rental property
Another super easy swap! Modern LED lightbulbs last much longer than the old-fashioned ones you might still have in your property. They also use a fraction of the energy.
This is a great example of how going green actually helps you to save money. Yes, you’ll make a minor investment in new bulbs, but over time you’ll save money because you won’t need to replace them as often.
3. Swap single-use plastic for reusable packaging
This one might feel like more of a heavy lift, but with companies such as Splosh – which Bob uses in his holiday rental property – it’s very manageable.
Splosh supplies reusable bottles for all your household products – from shampoo and laundry liquid, to dishwasher tablets and bathroom cleaner. Once you’ve bought your bottle from them, you never need to buy another. You simply buy concentrated refill pouches, dissolve them in water, and pour into your reusable bottle.
So far, Splosh has saved more than 2 million plastic bottles from the bin! Plus, with free delivery, subscription options, and discounts for businesses, it’s much more convenient than a trip to the shops.
4. Make sure that your direct booking website is green hosted
We often don’t realise that the internet accounts for 3.7% of global emissions – the first step to reducing this contribution is creating eco friendly websites.
You can use The Green Web Foundation to discover if your website is green hosted. Just paste in your URL and find out if your site is powered by green energy sources. If it is, you can get a badge to display on your site.
If it’s not, there are plenty of other hosting options to choose from. Because you’re moving between independent providers, there’s no one-size-fits-all method for switching. However, many providers offer switching services in which their engineers manage the entire process for you.
WATCH: How to tackle the climate emergency while encouraging travel
Environmental inspiration from vacation rental trailblazers
To set you off on the right foot, Bob provided some examples of holiday rental owners and managers who are already acing the sustainability game. Why not take inspiration from what they’re doing!
Villa in the Vineyard minimises its environmental impact
Nikki Mattei owns Villa in the Vineyard, a stunning property in Le Marche, Italy (just down the road from Bob!). Nikki has baked sustainability into the heart of her short term rental business.
She’s installed some of the more serious green infrastructure, including:
- solar panels
- a heat pump
- a copper-filtered pool
Nikki has made structural changes to her property in order to seriously reduce the impact her business has on the environment. This doesn’t have to be your starting point, but Nikki is great inspiration for what you can achieve over time if you put sustainability at the heart of your short term rental ethos.
Take a look at how Nikki’s communicating the sustainable changes that Villa in the Vineyard has made via her Touch Stay guidebook.
Park City Lodging supports local conservation projects
Heleena Sideris runs Sales and Marketing for Park City Lodging in Utah, USA. She’s helped to implement a range of initiatives to minimise the impact they have on the environment, and to work with local sustainability projects.
For example, their guests contribute one dollar per room night to Summit Land Conservancy, which protects open spaces around Park City. This solution allows guests to feel that they’ve had a sustainable vacation during which they’ve personally contributed to local conservation.
It’s a super simple way for Park City Lodging to leverage their income for good, and since starting this initiative, they’ve raised $200,000! Even a small contribution from each guest really adds up over time.
Get rid of the pressure to save the world on your own
When it comes to providing sustainable accommodation, it’s difficult to know where to start. Environmental conservation can feel like a paralysingly huge task – “I’m just one person, how can I do anything meaningful?”
If you’re feeling this way, you could start by donating money to organisations who are already up and running. Park City Lodging’s dollar-a-day initiative is a great example of a sustainable vacation rental business collaborating with an expert non-profit. Park City Lodging is much more effective funding an organisation dedicated to environmental conservation than they’d be if they tried to physically do the conservation work themselves.
Organisations that help your business become carbon neutral
Ecologi helps you offset your carbon footprint by planting trees on your behalf. Touch Stay and Casal dei Fichi both offset business carbon emissions through Ecologi. As a result, Touch Stay has been carbon neutral since April 2021, with the aim of becoming carbon negative!
Along a similar vein, the Stripe Climate programme automatically donates 1% of your revenue to carbon removal projects. There are a multitude of easy ways to redirect funds to environmental work without having to entirely restructure your business.
And let’s be honest, these organisations know what they’re doing better than we ever could. It makes far more sense for us to fund their work than it does for us to go out and plant our own trees, or try to sequester CO2 back into the ground with our own technology. Sometimes it’s best to let the experts get on with it!
How to communicate your sustainable changes to guests
With the growing demand for sustainable vacation rentals, it’s crucial that travellers know about your approach to sustainable management. So, how do you actually tell guests what you’re doing?
You’ve heard of ‘greenwashing’ – which is where people are pretending to do stuff to be more sustainable – and the opposite of that is ‘greenhushing’, which is where you do stuff, but you don’t tell anyone about it!
Use your direct booking site to communicate your environmentalism
There are a few different ways you can leverage your website to shout about how you’re making a difference:
- Take advantage of the badge available from The Green Web Foundation to show that your website is green-hosted
- Create a page dedicated to your social responsibility initiatives – link to it from your home page
- Use blog posts to tell people about what you’re doing in more detail
- Display the logos of any green tourism awards or certifications that you’ve completed
- Don’t stop at what you’re already doing – tell people what you plan to do in the future and what steps you’re taking to get there
Use the environmental tools provided by online travel agencies
Short term rental listing sites are realising that:
- travellers want to know if they’re booking sustainable accommodation
- accommodation operators want to be able to communicate their sustainable initiatives
That’s why Booking.com, for example, has created a new Travel Sustainable badge, to recognise properties that are making sustainable changes. They’ve adapted their process to different countries, in recognition of the different steps which are effective and accessible for property owners in different regions.
You can simply self-certify that you meet their criteria for your geographical area in order to have a badge attached to your listing. You’ll also then pop up when users select the ‘Sustainability’ filter in their search.
Use your Touch Stay digital guidebook to spread the sustainability word
Use the Making a Difference section in your digital guest book to fill guests in on what you’re doing, and how they can help.
With pre-written content encouraging guests to donate to Ecologi, your guidebook could even act as the starting point in your sustainability journey. All you have to do is:
- add the ‘Making a Difference’ category
- followed by the ‘Environmental Sustainability’ subcategory
- and finally the ‘Planting Trees with Ecologi’ topic
Three clicks, and your guests can start offsetting their own carbon footprint!
If you’ve got other things you want to tell guests about, e.g. donations to local non-profits; community initiatives; sustainable changes to your property, etc. then you can customise the topic to your own situation.
Whatever you’re doing, your guidebook is the perfect place to share it with guests. Send it to them before they arrive so that they can familiarise themselves with your processes and get an insight into your sustainable initiatives.
Guests will know from the get-go that they’ve chosen to stay with someone who takes their environmental (and hosting!) responsibilities seriously.
Watch the positive reviews roll in
One of the things that Bob enjoys most about his sustainability initiatives is hearing from guests after they leave.
The number of times it’s happened where a guest goes home, they message us afterwards saying they’ve had a great stay, and then they say, ‘Oh and by the way, we’ve just implemented that Splosh product (or we’ve got rid of single-use plastic, or we’ve just created an organic garden, or solar panels). Thanks for inspiring us!'
Your actions extend beyond your immediate environment. Once people see how easy it is to implement simple sustainable changes, they’ll be inspired to do the same in their own home.
Not to mention, they’ll be eager to recommend you as a host who obviously cares about their impact on the wider world. You’ll see word-of-mouth recommendations and five-star reviews from guests who truly admire what you’re doing.
Your environmental actions will help the plant, and this in turn will help you to build guest loyalty.
READ: How your environmental attributes can inspire and attract guests
Spread the environmental word with a Touch Stay digital guest app
A digital guest book helps you to convey exactly what environmental action you’re taking. Tell your guests:
- where they can find the reusable water bottles you gift them
- how they can help you to take care of your copper-filtered pool
- where they can find the bikes you provide
- what your future environmental plans involve
- where they can plug in an electric vehicle
- that there are no single-use plastics on site
- how your linen is laundered in eco-friendly detergents
Remove any sensitive property information, and you can even use your guide as a marketing tool! Link to it from your website, or your OTA listing, and allow prospective guests to explore your property in detail. The environmental attributes you list might even be the factor that convinces them to book.
A digital guest welcome book supports every aspect of your guest’s experience. They have all the information they need – from access instructions and driving directions, to local area recommendations and your sustainability credentials – before they even begin to pack. You’ll answer their questions before they’ve even asked them!
Show off your environmental creds. Spend less time answering questions. Wave off happier guests. With Touch Stay, everyone wins.