By Jan Van Der Putten, Vice President, Operations, Africa and Indian Ocean, Hilton
With global awareness around climate change and sustainability increasing, consumers are travelling more thoughtfully and making conscious choices across the entire travel experience.
They are thinking critically about how and where they spend their money during their trips, opting to stay at hotels that prioritise sustainability, and often choosing experiences that benefit local communities.
The hospitality industry has a unique opportunity to take the lead on sustainability across all dimensions of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles by building it into how it operates.
Hotels can have a powerful impact in their communities by sourcing products locally and empowering local artisans, farmers, and small businesses. In Africa and the Indian Ocean region for example, Hilton recently launched the ‘Wild Spirit Wines of Africa’ Beverage Conservation Programme as part of its ‘Travel with Purpose’ strategy focusing on local sourcing, water stewardship and wildlife protection. In collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa and ‘Under the Influence’, Hilton included wines and spirits on the menus of eleven hotels in the region. The wines and spirits are sourced from farms and distilleries in South Africa that champion biodynamic and regenerative farming practices, environmental conservation, and protection of water catchment areas.
The initiative was born out of Hilton’s ‘Big Five’ commitment launched in 2018 to drive sustainable travel and tourism in Africa and support the implementation of youth opportunities, water stewardship, anti-human trafficking, local sourcing, and wildlife protection on the continent.
While initiatives to reduce waste, conserve water, and lower energy consumption have topped management agendas across the industry, there are still barriers to the overall sustainability agenda across the region. Supply chain localisation, diversity in management structures, youth empowerment and reliance on imported foods are key considerations industry leaders need to prioritise. Furthermore, transporting goods across the world does not only come with a hefty price tag, it also significantly increases a hotel’s supply chain carbon footprint.
To curb transport costs therefore, it is important that hotels have a strong network of local suppliers and producers who are critical to the long-term development of the sector. In Seychelles for example, most of our hotels offer an environmentally conscious menu made using locally sourced ingredients in partnership with the island’s farmers. Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa also recently launched its crisp vertical farm providing a choice of truly unique farm-to-table dining experiences for guests which significantly reduces carbon footprint related to importing food supplies.
Creating opportunities for Team Members and communities is also important in driving sustainable tourism and economic development. There are a few industries whose resources, expertise, and career pathways are as relevant to addressing the challenges facing employees and local communities today, and whose business and expansion relies as heavily on a trained workforce in every region of the world.
At Transcorp Hilton Abuja, we have collaborated with Chanja Datti to launch a Waste Recycling Initiative. In 2022, the hotel collected 15,271kg of recyclable waste and provided full time employment through Chanja Datti to two waste collectors. The revenue generated from the recycling project was donated towards the Bottles-for-Books Initiative used to pay the school fees for two Out-Of-School Children (OOSC).
Over the past five years, Hilton hotels across Morocco have onboarded over 400 trainees from different schools and academic institutions, such as the International Youth Foundation (IYF), L’Office de la Formation Professionnelle et de la Promotion du Travail (OFPPT), and L’ Institut Spécialisé en Tourisme et Hôtellerie (ISTH), by providing access to internships, traineeships, development programmes and full-time employment. All partnerships are tailored towards youth development strategies that help young people develop new skills, start hospitality careers, and realise a better future.
For hotels to thrive in the future, it is important to set a benchmark that enhances the cultural context of local communities, creates socio-economic opportunities across the supply chain, and fosters economic growth while protecting the planet for future generations.