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Thursday, June 20, 2024

How Data Drives Eco-Friendly Practices in Travel and Hospitality

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Khushbu Raval
Khushbu Raval
Khushbu is a Senior Correspondent and a content strategist with a special foray into DataTech and MarTech. She has been a keen researcher in the tech domain and is responsible for strategizing the social media scripts to optimize the collateral creation process.

Learn how travel and hospitality companies leverage data and AI to achieve sustainability goals, reduce waste, and meet growing customer demand for eco-friendly experiences.

Sustainability has become a pivotal concern in today’s fast-paced travel and hospitality industry. As Chief Technology Officer at BeCause, Jonas Bruun Jacobsen is at the forefront of ensuring that the engineering team aligns the development of the BeCause platform with customer needs and expectations. Jacobsen’s role involves maintaining high standards and motivation within the engineering team and supporting the broader BeCause team whenever possible.

Jacobsen shares his insights on leveraging data-driven decision-making to achieve sustainability goals in this interview. He addresses the challenges the travel and hospitality sectors face in collecting and interpreting sustainability data and the pivotal role of AI in enhancing sustainable practices. He also discusses the emerging technologies shaping the industry’s future and advises companies hesitant to adopt data-driven sustainability approaches. 

Join us as we delve into the strategies and innovations driving sustainability in travel and hospitality with Jonas Bruun Jacobsen.

Excerpts from the interview; 

How can data-driven decision-making be leveraged to achieve sustainability goals in today’s travel and hospitality industry? 

Data stands as the most effective and efficient pathway to achieving sustainability goals. Setting measurable goals based on data insights enables companies to track progress and prioritize initiatives effectively, identify opportunities for improvement, and optimize resource allocation for sustainability efforts.  

Given the rising demand for sustainable options, understanding customer preferences and industry trends through data is essential for travel and hospitality companies. To better align with travelers’ changing needs and preferences, they must actively collect, interpret, and utilize data to identify issues, themes, and solutions for sustainable actions. By leveraging data to understand traveler patterns, resource consumption, and environmental impacts, the sector can inform sustainable practices and meet the regulatory requirements and growing demand for eco-friendly accommodations, transportation options, and experiences.  

What challenges do travel and hospitality companies face in handling sustainability data, and how can BeCause streamline this process?

Despite the widespread interest in sustainability, facilitating reliable communications between travelers, travel companies, and certification entities remains a significant challenge. The complexity of how hotels collect, manage, and share their sustainability data is increasing, especially in how they communicate their actions and impact to guests clearly and efficiently.  

Current processes for hotel operators, large and small, involve highly inefficient, manual, and laborious ways of sharing sustainability data with distribution partners and certifiers and standardizing information across their portfolios. This makes it much harder and more expensive to provide transparency to guests.  

To address these challenges, the travel and hospitality sectors require data-driven tools to accurately and automatically assess their sustainability performance.  

This is where BeCause steps in, replacing outdated manual processes and disjointed systems to streamline operations, ensure compliance, and ensure transparency with stakeholders. The BeCause platform modernizes the data-driven sustainability approach for providers, distributors, and certification entities, resulting in accurate sustainability data for over 25,000 hotels and OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) across the globe.  

With BeCause, hotel managers can gather intricate information from various sources and utilize mapping algorithms to swiftly analyze and effortlessly integrate data across all channels, stakeholder formats, and workflows, including ecolabel certification.

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Can you share some specific examples of how AI has improved sustainability practices within the travel and hospitality sector?  

There are numerous ways in which AI has been instrumental in enhancing sustainability practices within the travel and hospitality sector. Some noteworthy examples gaining popularity include AI tools that offer more personalized guest experiences, such as recommending local experiences or eco-friendly amenities for sustainability-conscious travelers.

Then, AI tools are implemented to prevent food waste in commercial kitchens by monitoring and analyzing waste and assisting chefs in optimizing purchases and preparation processes. This is both a sustainability win and cost-effective. Smart, green building technologies, such as AI-driven HVAC systems, optimize energy consumption by monitoring water flow and pressure throughout a hotel, detecting anomalies that may indicate leaks. They can also be integrated with maintenance workflows to schedule repairs, thus conserving water automatically.

Central to all these advancements is AI’s ability to handle vast amounts of data – collecting it from many sources, merging, transforming, presenting, and discovering patterns and anomalies, etc. – to make all the above opportunities manageable in practice. 

How does BeCause use AI to optimize resource usage and reduce waste in travel and hospitality?

At BeCause AI is crucial in optimizing resource usage and reducing waste within the travel and hospitality sector through data analytics and machine learning models.
More specifically, for a business, BeCause analyzes trends and identifies anomalies or gaps in the data assembled or the lack of data. This analysis enables the identification of sustainability solutions and data providers adept at addressing the respective anomalies and challenges. Such providers might include systems that optimize food waste, water, and energy, sustainable suppliers, or consultancies that specialize in niche and complex issues.

Finally, the improvement data is integrated back into the business’s BeCause profile, analytics, and external communications. 

Beyond resource management, how can AI be used to promote other eco-friendly practices within the travel and hospitality industry? 

AI offers numerous opportunities for the travel and hospitality sectors to adopt a holistic approach to sustainability. For instance, hotels can offer personalized eco-friendly recommendations, where AI suggests sustainable activities, accommodations, and dining options tailored to individual traveler preferences and sustainability criteria.

This could be especially beneficial for promoting local and seasonal cuisine, as AI analyzes dining preferences and local food availability to recommend sustainable, seasonal dishes to guests. By highlighting local and seasonal ingredients, hotels and restaurants are encouraged to prioritize sourcing from nearby farmers and reduce their carbon footprint associated with food transportation. 

Another example involves providing behavioral insights into sustainable practices. Here, AI algorithms analyze guest behavior and preferences to identify opportunities to promote sustainable practices during their stay. AI encourages eco-friendly behavior, such as preceding daily linen changes or responsible consumption, by personalizing reminders, offering incentives, and sharing educational materials.

What emerging technologies and trends will impact travel and hospitality sustainability?

First and foremost, travel and hospitality companies are increasingly being required to demonstrate transparency and credibility in their sustainability performance. This is driven by new regulations, such as the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), Green Claims Directive (GCD), and Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD). This requires producing, validating, and improving a greater number of data points than ever before

To facilitate this, emerging technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart water meters, are enhancing data collection by making it more seamless and reliable. Platforms like BeCause can already connect to not only IoT devices but also utility providers, certification agencies, and auditors to automate and ensure reliable data collection and validation for their users. 

Next, integrating AI and Big Data is another emerging technology with significant potential to impact how travel and hospitality companies approach sustainability. Once the data is collected, machine learning algorithms can analyze these large datasets to identify patterns, trends, and insights. These findings can guide sustainable practices and decision-making, whether through predictive analytics or customer feedback and sentiment data analysis.  

Finally, the resulting insights can help track and integrate advances in impactful decarbonization technologies within renewable energy and fossil fuel-less vehicles, enabling the travel and hospitality sector to reduce its negative footprint while increasing its positive contributions. 

What is the most successful strategy for travel and hospitality companies to implement AI-powered sustainability solutions?

In my experience at BeCause, the most successful strategy for travel and hospitality companies to implement AI-powered sustainability solutions involves a combination of proficient, granular data collection, stakeholder collaboration, and personalized implementation. 

Firstly, companies should collect comprehensive and accurate data on their sustainability efforts. Regarding data collection and management, having a centralized platform that collects and communicates sustainability data automatically and reliably is necessary for any hotel or group that wants to reduce its operational costs around sustainability.  

Secondly, collaboration with stakeholders across the supply chain, including suppliers, distributors, and certification entities, is crucial. By sharing data and aligning sustainability objectives, companies can develop a more thorough approach to sustainability, benefiting all stakeholders involved. 

Lastly, implementing AI-powered solutions tailored to each company’s specific needs and challenges can drive success. Begin by implementing AI-driven solutions on a small scale to demonstrate their effectiveness and benefits. Choose a specific area of sustainability where data can significantly impact energy efficiency or waste reduction before scaling up implementation across the organization.

For example, we recently integrated the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Hotel Sustainability Basics (HSB) framework into the BeCause platform. This framework allows hotels at the beginning stages of AI-driven sustainability initiatives to complete 12 fundamental, globally aligned sustainability criteria. All hotels can and should implement these criteria as a bare minimum. Once these criteria are met, hotels can annually apply for Hotel Sustainability Basics verification through one of WTTC’s partners, Green Key and SGS. Successful verification grants them a badge that can be utilized across their branding to appeal to the growing number of environmentally conscious guests. 

Similarly, hotels can utilize the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance’s free industry measurement tools, the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) and Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI), to calculate their carbon footprint and water usage.  

What advice would you give to travel and hospitality companies that are hesitant to adopt data-driven approaches to sustainability? 

We often associate sustainability primarily with environmental concerns. However, sustainability is much more than that – it includes environmental, economic, and socio-cultural implications as well. It’s important to recognize that sustainability isn’t just a socially responsible strategy; it’s also sound business practice and should be treated as a measurable goal rather than an abstract concept.  

When implementing data-driven approaches, you should anticipate that adjustments and refinements may be necessary. Therefore, staying flexible and adaptive and continuously monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of initiatives is key. 

For travel and hospitality companies, it’s important to strive to identify synergies between business priorities and sustainability goals. By doing so, they can maximize financial gains, reduce environmental impact, enhance customer satisfaction, and meet evolving market demands. 

Above all, effective management relies on accurate measurement. Recently, the regulation of sustainability has become more stringent than ever. Data is the key to accurate measurability, ensuring companies comply with these tougher standards and optimize their sustainable practices effectively. 

How does BeCause help travel and hospitality companies turn sustainability data into actionable insights?

With over 200 companies worldwide offering sustainable accreditation and certification processes for the travel and hospitality sectors, each employing its unique methods and criteria for evaluating sustainability, achieving compliance becomes a daunting task in terms of cost and time. 

BeCause, a purpose-built, AI-powered hub, assists hotels in efficiently managing the complex ecosystem of sustainability accreditation and compliance by centralizing data and automating data transmission amongst different stakeholders, including travel and accommodation booking marketplaces and industry certifications. Additionally, all information collected through BeCause’s platform can be upcycled and automatically mapped to multiple frameworks, expediting qualification for voluntary green certifications and guaranteeing compliance with regulations such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSDR) and The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDD). 

Once their data is collected, our customers can identify trends, patterns, and areas lacking sustainability performance. This information is critical for helping them understand where they stand regarding sustainability and identify areas for improvement. 

Accurate data collection, analysis, and measurement allow our customers to test the outcomes of actions and initiatives, compare results, benchmark progress against industry standards and competitors, and adjust strategies over time. The wide range of data available to our customers provides an excellent foundation for developing new sustainability key performance indicators and keeping track of the results of every single action.  

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Beyond data and AI, what other factors should travel and hospitality companies consider for a sustainable business model?

Beyond data and AI, there are several other key factors travel and hospitality companies should consider when building a sustainable business model. First and foremost is staying informed about relevant environmental regulations and ensuring compliance with legal requirements.  

Also, embracing innovation and continuously seeking opportunities to improve sustainability performance through technology, process optimization, and product development is essential to staying competitive and future-proofing the business. Maintaining transparency about sustainability efforts, progress, and challenges and communicating this information openly and effectively to stakeholders builds trust and credibility. 

Finally, companies can enhance their sustainability efforts by prioritizing collaboration with suppliers who share their commitment to sustainability. Ensuring the entire supply chain is aligned with sustainable practices lays the groundwork for long-term sustainability and success.  

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