Ditching Plastic: Managing Hotel Guests Expectations.
The abrupt closure of Boracay Island, regularly featuring in the Top 10 Islands or Beaches in the World lists, in April 2018 caused shock waves in the Philippines. Labelled a “Cesspool” by the Philippine President Rodriguez Duterte, the island was closed for 6 months to address a number of environmental concerns.
That same year Filipino’s were faced with numerous videos and photos of their coastlines heaped in trash from the ocean, especially during the rainy season months of July-August 2018.
What do these have in common?
Many people have started to comment that Mother Nature is giving back to us, what we gave to her, and it’s time to clean up our Act!
Plastic Pollution Statistics & Facts states: “Approximately two-thirds of the ocean plastic arrived from garbage left on the beach, flowing out of sinks or drains, or being swept by a river into an estuary. Poorly managed landfills located near the ocean, and even items flushed down the toilet are major culprits.”
In the Hospitality Industry the concept of providing ‘added benefit’ to hotel guests, results in hundreds of mini plastic bottles, toothbrushes, razors, shower caps, house slippers, plastic coated sachets or plastic cartons ending up in our landfill every day.
In the Philippines, where the average hotel stay is often 2-3 days, that is a lot of extra un-necessary waste plastic.
Our World is telling us we can’t sustain this behaviour and it’s not just the Philippine Hospitality, and Restaurant Industry that is ready to embrace the idea that we need to change our mindsets.
More and more, the general public, travelers and tourists are also more willing to change their habits, and be more ethical and ecological when travelling.
But how do we manage the guests expectations of those not quite ready to give up the little ‘luxuries’?
Which is the bigger battle?
Changing how we provide services to our guests? Or changing our guests mindsets?
Ditching Plastics: The Added Benefits/Little Luxuries Guest Expect
Many of us will remember the comedic brilliance of the TV Show ‘Friends’. For hoteliers and staff there is a particularly memorable episode, where Ross teaches Chandler his etiquette for hotel stays.
“Dude, that is not cool … you have to find the line between stealing and taking what the hotel owes you … Hairdryer: no, no, no but shampoos and conditioners; oh, yes, yes, yes”.
Whilst there are still guests who may feel that they are owed the little extras they have come to expect from a hotel stay, perhaps it is finally time for us all to say:
“No, No, No to Mini-Bottles and Yes, Yes, Yes to Dispensers/ Alternatives”
Ditching Plastic: Why should we be greener and more ethical?
On 19th January 2016 The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking The Future of Plastics Report was released [1.]. A stark warning followed: just 5% of plastics are being recycled. 40% end up in Landfill Sites and a Third end up in “fragile eco-systems” including our Oceans.
“By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea, than fish”– Ellen MacArthur at the launch of Rethinking The Future of Plastics Report
The BBC Blue Planet II Series, from the renowned Natural World advocate Sir David Attenborough, was bought and shown in 30 Countries in 2017. One particular episode finished with scenes of a Pilot Whale carrying and mourning her dead calf for days. A turtle struggling and trapped in a tangle of plastic and discarded netting. Beautiful tropical fish swimming through plastic waste dumped by humans.
National Geographic reported that a plastic grocery bag was found in the Marina Trench. The Mariana Trench is deepest point in the ocean. It drops down almost 36,000 feet, in one of the remotest areas of the Pacific Ocean. The recorded plastic bag travelled the deepest out of all trash fragments found in that area. [2.]
All these things are leading to a change in public opinion about their convenience over the health of our Planet.
If it wasn’t bad enough that our careless and lazy habits are polluting the World, they are now finding their way back in to our Food Chain.
The Guardian reported evidence of microplastics in salt sourced from America, Europe and China [3.]. Research released on 11th April 2018 [4.] evidenced that plastics have even been found in tap water and beer; 81 % of the tap water samples contained plastic debris, mostly in the form of microfibers.
Plastic debris was also found in all 12 brands of the beer tested.
Ditching Plastic: It’s time for the Hospitality Industry to play its part
For some guests the complementary mini-bottles of shampoo and conditioner remain an expected perk of their stay. Or, in the case of Ross Geller (Friends), a right.
Maybe, with a growing change in public opinion and attitudes, guest expectations are also changing and we, in the hospitality world, are just assuming they will miss the mini-bottles on their bathroom shelf!
With Articles, Reports and Documentaries offering stark warnings for the future of our planet and people becoming more self-aware about how they are contributing to the state of our Planet, Hotels can be capitalizing on this, saving money and saving the planet.
Alternatives Practices in Guest Rooms
Ditch the Mini Bottles of Shampoo/Shower Gel in the Bath Rooms. Even if your provider takes back the bottles to ‘re-use’ or recycle, as part of the contract, or your guests take them home with them; it’s still unnecessary plastic in the World, likely to end up in land-fill or our oceans.
- Install Dispensers in guest bathrooms, which can be topped up as required.
- Offer organic, locally made Shampoo/Conditioner Bars, and Soap Bars, which are large enough to last for 5 days. Provide some information (in your In-Room Information Pack, or a notice in the bathrooms) about the local co-op that made them and list the natural ingredients and how they benefit the body or hair. You could even offer these products for sale in your lobby, for guests who wish to take them home as souvenirs
- Don’t offer Soaps or Shampoo’s at all. Just ensure that your Room & Rates Page, on your website or social media accounts, is clear that complementary toiletries, including toothbrush and toothpaste, are not provided. Also add a section on your Confirmation Email or Booking Voucher, explaining that you do not provide toiletries.
Stop providing complementary toothbrushes & toothpaste; seriously who goes on holiday without a toothbrush! Other than those who forget to pack it. The complementary toothbrushes provided are awful anyway, with plastic bristles falling off mid-brush.
- Provide Bamboo Toothbrushes instead (but source a seller that doesn’t wrap each toothbrush in a plastic sheath inside its box)
- Have a stock of standard-buy toothbrushes and toothpaste, which guests can purchase from Front Desk
- Don’t offer toothbrushes or toothpaste at all and just ensure that your Room & Rates Page, on your website or social media accounts, is clear that complementary toiletries, including toothbrush and toothpaste, are not provided. Also add a section on your Confirmation Email or Booking Voucher, explaining that you do not provide toiletries.
Remove all Single-Use Plastic items from your guest rooms.
- Items such as Plastic-Stemmed Cotton Buds. Alternative: wood stemmed buds, or don’t provide them at all.
- Shower Caps (does anyone use these?!)
- Throwaway slippers
- Disposable Razors. Alternative: have safety razors available, for purchase, at Front Desk.
Ditch the Complementary Mini Water Bottles in room refrigerators; at a minimum it’s two little plastic bottles a day, per room, ending up in the trash.
- Have a Water Station on each floor/on each corridor
- Have a Water Jug/Bottle with lid in the room refrigerator for guests, as well as a set of glasses. Place glasses and cups upside down on paper doilies (instead of covering in plastic)
- Have personal Water Bottles available*, which guests can fill themselves from the Water Station before heading out. If the bottles are labelled with the name of your hotel or resort, they’ll double up as a marketing tool, when the guests return home and continue to use them. Guests can take them home or, if they leave the bottles behind, they can be donated to local schools.
* In your Welcome Packs, explain why you offer these bottles in the hotel rooms rather than disposable bottles, and explain that guests can help you in achieving your green credentials by not losing the bottle (which will be chargeable) or they can purchase their own bottle, to take home, from the shop.
Remove guest room Tea and Coffee Making Facilities. This is a tricky one because most guests expect this facility but usual practice has been to provide individual portions of coffee, sugar, creamer and tea bags in plastic coated sachets.
- You could offer Coffee, Sugar, Tea Bags and Creamer in small, individualised jars, with enough for 4 drinks (depending on room size) and top this up on request. Larger jars brings risks; the risk of contamination, an unhappy or ‘funny’ guest deliberately adding something to the jars for the next guest to ‘experience’. Above all, just the hygiene aspect is an issue.
- Offer complementary Coffee or Tea as Room Service instead.
Provide clearly designated waste bins in guest rooms and around the hotel
- Have bins for newspaper, paper, glass, aluminum, cardboard and plastic in each room
- Don’t line the room bins with plastic bags, instead have housekeeping empty them in to one large bin (per type) or bio-degradable bag, then clean and dry the room bins.
This practice will reduce the amount of plastic bags of rubbish, being sent to local waste plants.
Implement a Linen Reuse Program. Realistically few guests, when at home, change their towels or bed-linen daily. And if they knew the costs involved financially and environmentally, few would expect it during their hotel stay. Economically Sound reported that a 150-room hotel can conserve 72,000 gallons of water and 480 gallons of laundry soap, every year, by implementing a Linen Reuse Program.
- Have a sign in your guest bathrooms explaining about your Linen Reuse Program for room towels
- Have a sign in the bedroom explaining about your Linen Reuse Program and setting out how often the bed-linen will be changed, unless requested by the guest.
Use green or reduced chemical cleaning products; it’s not just trash harming our environments but pollutants from cleaning and laundry products, seeping in to our water.
- Buy nontoxic, biodegradable cleaning, laundry and dishwashing products with seals such as GreenGuard, Green Seal and Environmental Choice EcoLogo.
- Make your own eco-friendly, organic cleaning products [5.]
Ditching Plastics in Restaurants and Bars
Ditch Plastic Straws and Cocktail Stirrers: Few people physically need them! Straws take anywhere between 50-200 years to break down in the environment, and even then tiny fragments of plastic can still be found in fish, soil, vegetables and meat, and inside us.
- Implement a Straw On Request Policy (some people do need a straw to drink; young children, people with disabilities and people who’ve suffered a stroke).
- Offer only Paper, Bamboo or Metal Straws; this is a massive industry now and you can purchase wider straws for thick shakes and smoothies.
- Keep a stock of un-used Bamboo and Metal Straws that you can sell, on request, to your guests.
- Use metal cocktail stirrers, at the point of mixing and remove before serving, cleaning after each use.
Ditch your non-recyclable take-out boxes/”doggie bags”. Guests often ask for left-overs to be boxed up, for later. Too many take-out boxes and cartons are either made from plastic coated cardboard or Styrofoam. Scientists predict that Styrofoam pieces trashed today, will still be here in 500 years time.
- Replace take-out boxes for compostable sugarcane boxes
- Replace take-out boxes for corrugated cardboard boxes
- Opt for eco food wraps made from cloth and coated with beeswax. These are an expensive option but, as with the personal water bottle option above, can act as a marketing tool if you have your business logo printed on them. Let guests know they’re reusable.
Ditching Plastic: Preempting Guests Expectations
How do we deal with those who will complain when their little conveniences are no longer offered as standard; those who will moan about the inconvenience of having to bring their own toiletries, or not having tea and coffee making facilities in their room?
Once you’ve made your changes, or set a timescale to make your changes, your next move has to be managing your guest’s expectations.
Have a clear Eco or Sustainability Statement or dedicated page on your website (take a look at Watercolors Dive Resort Boracay).
But make sure it’s on the right page! SEO Search Analysis on your site will probably evidence that your least visited page is the one containing your Sustainability/ Eco-Friendly Statement. So consider, in addition, a statement or information box about your Eco-Ethos on your ‘About us’ Page. Or on your Room and Rates Page. Feature photos of your bathroom dispensers, or your locally-made organic soaps, in the Room Photo Gallery, with a description about where you source your products.
Preempt your guests concerns about the product brand, or ingredients of the Soap, Shower Gel, shampoo or Conditioner. You can include information about the brand that you use, or its content, in your website statement.
Or, you could consider including this information, alongside your Eco-Friendly Statement, in the Room ‘Welcome Pack’, as part of a Bedside notice or in a notice in the bathroom. Perhaps on the back of the bathroom door; many people like to read something whilst they’re on the CR and they’re a captive audience once seated.
Ditching Plastic: Managing Guest Expectations whilst saving the planet
Check out our earlier article about some of the Hotels in the Philippines that have already adopted a range of Green practices: Hotels That Go Green: How Your Hotel Can Be Eco-Friendly Too
As funny as the Friends episode was back in the 1990’s, let’s hope that guests attitudes have changed to the point that they no longer see little bottles of soaps as something worth stealing, or as a perk of their stay.
- The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics – The Ellen MacArthur Foundation
- Plastic Bag Found at the Bottom of World’s Deepest Ocean Trench – National Geographic
- Sea salt around the world is contaminated by plastic, studies show – The Guardian
- Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt – Mary Kosuth, Sherri A. Mason, Elizabeth V. Wattenberg
- Non-Toxic Own Made Cleaning Products
- Restaurant Recycling