Around 1.3 million business trips are taken per year, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). Though this average decreased from 2020 to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world are now eager to connect and return to in-person events and business travel. In fact, nearly two-thirds of meetings and events professionals increased their budgets for 2022, and more than a third of travel managers plan to run 40% or more of their internal meetings at a hotel throughout the year. However, organizations and travel planners must acknowledge that the road warriors – as well as the companies they work for – are returning to travel, changed.
First, being conscious of corporate budgets, travelers are planning fewer trips but maximizing those times they are on the road, with an increased stay length of 1.5 days. Additionally, travel planners are exploring how they can reduce the environmental footprint of their travel programs and are seeking out environmental, social and governance (ESG) data and reporting tools from partners to quantify the impact their company’s business travel, collectively, is having on the environment and surrounding community. Finally, travelers not only want to travel responsibly, but they are also looking to engage with seamless innovations that reduce the friction points around the travel experience.
Last week during the IMEX America conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, Global Business Consulting, the consulting arm of American Express Global Business Travel, highlighted their new report, “Stay Green: The Central Role of the Hotel in Sustainable Business Travel, Meetings & Events,” developed in collaboration with Hilton on hotel sustainability practices. The report features research among travel management and procurement professionals across 50 organizations worldwide, revealing that, while almost 90% say sustainability is a priority for their company, with many willing to allocate budget for more sustainable meetings and events, 86% have little to zero awareness of hotel chain sustainability programs. And with most of the organizations surveyed (57%) at the earliest stage of their sustainability journey, many are looking for guidance on how to reduce the environmental footprint of their travel programs. The good news is, Hilton has a tool for that.
Innovative Approaches for Tracking Environmental Impact
With an urgent call to act and mitigate climate change risks, the travel industry acknowledges that meeting the demand for sustainable hospitality innovations is not only a nice to have, but a need to have. As a result, more and more corporate travel planners are seeking ESG data and reporting tools to quantify the impact their company’s business travel is having on the environment.
One answer to this is LightStay, a proprietary and award-winning tool that tracks, analyzes and reports on environmental and social impact across the entire Hilton global portfolio of more than 7,000 hotels. Since its launch in 2009, LightStay has helped Hilton achieve a 49% reduction in carbon emissions intensity, a 39% reduction in water consumption, and a 70% reduction in landfilled waste. LightStay also features a Meeting Impact Calculator, which communicates metrics such as energy use, water use, and waste diversion to meeting attendees. As one of the many industry-leading initiatives Hilton has to offer, LightStay makes it easier for corporate travel planners to measure their organization’s environmental footprint and provide them confidence that they will leave the destination a better place for having been there.
As one of the largest hotel companies in the world, Hilton recognizes its responsibility to protect the planet and the communities it serves around the world. That’s why Hilton launched its 2030 goals four years ago as part of its ambitious ESG strategy “Travel with Purpose.” Among these goals is Hilton’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, making it easier for customers to travel sustainably and responsibly, and guaranteeing the destinations where it operates will remain vibrant and resilient for generations of travelers to come.
As climate science continues to evolve, so does Hilton. After a strategic review of its 2030 strategy, Hilton recently announced enhanced environmental goals, which include cutting the emissions intensity of Hilton-managed hotels by 75%, and Hilton-franchised hotels by 56%, by 2030. This reduction target is aligned with a trajectory to hold global temperature rise 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, validated in June 2022 by the Science Based Targets Initiative. Hilton’s franchised properties will also follow in close suit, having committed to a carbon reduction goal of below 2°C.
These innovative approaches and environmental commitments build on Hilton’s long history of leading the hospitality industry in setting specific, measurable environmental goals that drive sustainable operations, minimize carbon emissions and create business efficiencies.
Creating a Seamless and Sustainable Stay
Understanding the important role that hotels play in the entire travel experience, especially for today’s business travelers, Hilton has dedicated its mission to providing reliable and friendly service—at every hotel, for every guest, every time. And, making sure that the experience meets individual guest needs.
Even before the pandemic, travelers had varying levels of comfort with the level of interaction expected of hotel staff. While some seek frequent engagement and hands-on attention, others prefer limited personal interaction. To accommodate those seeking more frictionless travel, Hilton has been exploring the expansion of contactless functions in the Hilton Honors app, including Digital Key, another aspect of making the guest stay friendly, reliable and now also seamless. Digital Key allows guests to access the property and their room via their smartphones, which has not only offered guests greater flexibility but also helped to divert over 125 tons of plastic waste from landfills since its launch in 2015.
Hilton is continuously innovating to provide as many options as possible to guests for a seamless stay. For instance, Hilton offers the ability for guests to easily and instantly confirm at least two connecting rooms at the time of booking – a first in the hospitality industry. Within the last year, Hilton also announced an enhancement to its highly valued Hilton Honors benefit: early confirmation (as early as 72 hours prior) of complimentary room upgrades, when available, for Gold and Diamond members. Eligible members receive an email and a Hilton Honors app push notification alerting them of their complimentary, upgraded room. And for properties offering Digital Check-In, the member can easily choose the location of their upgraded room through the Hilton Honors app 36 hours prior to arrival.
At Hilton, wellness is another key aspect of providing a friendly and reliable stay. As the wellness sector continues to grow, guests want to find balance in their travel routines and are looking for hotels that are addressing holistic wellness, whether it be through design elements, fitness offerings, spas or healthier-for-you food and beverage offerings. This means that the days of business travelers worrying about disruptions to their daily wellness routine are long gone, adding to a relaxing and enjoyable stay.
Hilton is committed to improving the guest experience for travelers and innovating to meet guests’ evolving and diverse needs with the right products, services and offerings. As a testament to that success, Hilton Honors membership grew 17% since 2019, reaching 139 million members.
Customers and guests have many choices available to them when choosing where to meet and stay, and they are now looking at business travel more holistically to encourage a great, but responsible visit. Focusing on customer needs that include a seamless, but also sustainable, experience will continue to be a driving force for the travel industry as business travel continues to make its long-awaited comeback.