The initiator of this hotel cooperation is the Responsible Hotels of Switzerland association under the leadership of President Valentin Bot, who also manages the flagship Hotel Kartause Ittingen in Warth. 26 hotel operations from nine Swiss regions and star categories from 3- to 5-star superior could be won for this idea. "By a year from now, we would like to be a group of 40 to 50 hotels of strong character that pay high attention to the topic of sustainability," Bot said in his introduction.
According to Booking.com's Sustainable Travel Report 2021, 81 percent of travelers want to book environmentally and socially sustainable accommodation. It is an outdated cliché that so-called eco-travelers are young and spend little money. Over-45s want to travel just as responsibly as Millenials. According to Switzerland Tourism's "Tourism Monitor Switzerland" guest survey, the proportion of eco-travelers who afford nice accommodations is even slightly above average. "Sustainability is not a primary travel motive, but increasingly the differentiation in the final choice. And that's where more and more are opting for the more sustainable hotel," said Jürg Schmid, co-owner of Schmid Pelli & Partner, who served as moderator for the media event.
26 member hotels with individual character
The members are hotel businesses with a proven track record of high quality. They all take responsibility - all in their own way. Strict admission criteria are designed to ensure this and are verified by the board. Consistently regional purchasing, no plastic, accompanied jobs and apprenticeships or energy-saving infrastructures: all members demonstrate excellence in a specific area of application. Member hotels have or will achieve sustainability certification, strive for the highest level III of Swissstainable (Switzerland Tourism) and cooperate with sustainability partners.
The Responsible Hotels of Switzerland pursue four goals. First, the hotel cooperation is a showcase to make the operational investments in sustainability visible and to put them into value. Secondly, it aims to attract guests with sustainable needs and travel habits. Third, the cooperation positions itself as a competence center and topic leader. And fourthly, the cooperation promotes the exchange of experience among the member companies.
The website Responsiblehotels.ch is continuously supplemented with comprehensive information on the efforts of the businesses with regard to sustainability. But also experiences that the individual establishments offer their guests are listed on the website. A Responsible Hotels of Switzerland voucher, which can be redeemed at any member hotel, is intended as a gift with meaning and symbolic power.
"Our guests are as demanding as we are".
Tiziano Pelli, Managing Director of Responsible Hotels of Switzerland and co-owner of the Schmid Pelli & Partner agency, in an interview with Werbewoche.ch.
Werbewoche.ch: How did the idea of "Responsible Hotels of Switzerland" come about?
Tiziano Pelli: Schmid Pelli & Partner is in close contact with many Swiss hoteliers. Discussions have revealed that numerous hotel companies have already been addressing the issue of sustainability for many years, have invested a lot of time and have also made major investments. However, the economization of these efforts has been difficult. The fact that the issue of sustainability has even been intensified by the pandemic was the impetus for us to set up the hotel cooperation Responsible Hotels of Switzerland. On the other hand, we realized that people who care about sustainability have no guidance for their vacation plans. With Responsible Hotels of Switzerland, the potential guest has a credible platform.
What were the biggest challenges during the launch?
Determining the criteria for which hotels could be included took time. On the one hand, we do not want to be a platform that greenwashes hotels. On the other hand, the topic of sustainability is quite broad and has many facets. This means that a hotel cannot be top everywhere. Every business has a different focus. The passion of the hotel management for the topic is decisive, but not always quantifiable in numbers. Therefore, a mix of qualitative and qualitative metrics has finally emerged.
How long did it take to recruit these 26 lead companies for this network?
Within three months, we found the companies and convinced them of our concept.
Should the cooperation continue to grow? Is there a size limit?
We believe that the hotel cooperation can eventually include around 40-50 establishments, spread throughout Switzerland.
Every company has to demonstrate excellence in at least one area. Are there also Basic criteria that must be met?
The most important basic criteria are that the establishment achieves a rating of at least 8.7 on Booking.com or 4.5 on Trustyou. This already says a lot about the quality of the establishment. After that, the location of the hotel was also important to us. The guest should be able to enjoy a vacation there. Lastly, we also attached importance to the fact that they are independent establishments, all of which have their own character.
Can sustainability in the hotel industry be achieved without a major increase in costs, or is it ultimately an expensive proposition?
There are many approaches that can be implemented without spending a lot of money. For example, you can rely on purely organic products in the kitchen, only source products from the region or pursue the noise-to-tail approach. There are hotels that enter into partnerships with other service providers, such as beekeepers, bakers and others who are very sustainable on the road. Other hotels, on the other hand, pay attention to plastic-free operations. Often it is not a question of money, but rather of concept and conviction.
Does a sustainably operated hotel also have advantages in the acquisition of corporate events?
Definitely. A company that wants to be sustainable does its events, seminars and conventions in places that are also sustainable. This is the easiest way for them to emphasize their sustainable aspirations.
How specifically is sustainability communicated?
100 percent. Our positioning is: "The hotel group Responsible Hotels of Switzerland unites the lead establishments of ecological and social sustainability. Our members are independent, characterful establishments in beautiful locations and of high quality. Our guests are as demanding as we are - they want to enjoy heartfelt, deprivation-free and responsible. We want to give a solution to guests with high demands for responsible travel. The Responsible Hotels of Switzerland are the sustainable Swiss hotels."
Are specific events and campaigns planned?
The platform lives largely from the contributions by the member hotels. This means that large campaigns are not possible. We communicate primarily through the numerous stories. These stories can be of an infrastructural nature. That is, a special way in the energy production or in the construction of the building. But there are also many stories about concepts that are lived in the hotels. For example, the integration of people with disabilities in the hotel, a food waste concept or the cooperation with the organic farmer next door. More and more, the hotels are also developing exciting offers such as fly fishing, forest bathing or the silent walk in the snow. These are also great stories.
How does the exchange between the hotels work?
Networking" and the exchange of experience among member companies is actively promoted. At least one symposium is held annually. Experts report on the latest findings, technologies, solutions and production methods of ecological and social sustainability in the hotel, catering and food industry. In addition, insights and the exchange of experiences on best practices in the national and international hotel and catering industry are made possible.
The Ticino Tiziano Pelli lived in Milan for many years and marketed the homeland for Switzerland Tourism from there. When he moved to Zurich, he became Head of Staff Management and was responsible for strategy projects, market research and corporate communications. In addition, Pelli led projects such as the conception and implementation of all activities related to "100 Years of Switzerland Tourism" and the development of the "Contact Switzerland" call center. Prior to this, Pelli was a member of the management team of an agency in Zurich. The economist studied at the University of St. Gallen and is now an independent entrepreneur and co-owner of the Schmid Pelli & Partner agency.