A hotel chain with a sustainable mission, that means doing a bit more than installing a green roof. Marco Lemmers is CEO and co-owner of Conscious Hotels in Amsterdam. What does it entail to greenify inner-city hotels? We sat down with him to discuss sustainability in turbulent times. Sustainability, design and a clear vision: How does the hospitality industry go beyond the necessary criteria for a Green Key and how does Conscious Hotels set the tone for the industry?
You need humour and innovation to further shake up the hotel industry in terms of awareness. What makes your approach distinctive, and was there a “breakthrough” moment in the way you do business?
‘We have always brought sustainability as a positive message. We try to entice our guests to contribute to sustainability with humour in our communication, beautiful hotels and restaurants where we serve delicious organic snacks and drinks. Or, as we say it: “Eco-Sexy, Big Smiles.” We didn’t really have a specific breakthrough moment. We embarked on a sustainable mission out of conviction in 2009. Yes, it is true that we are getting more and more “wind in our sails” now, as guests, employees, suppliers, partners and investors are making more and more sustainable choices.’
Keeping a critical eye on your internal operations, optimising processes and guest experiences responsibly and increasing your impact seem to be essential success factors of Conscious Hotels. What changes do you see in consumer behaviour?
‘Overall, we see that sustainability is future-proofing companies and is seen by more and more consumers as a premium feature. Young people prefer to spend money on healthy food. Nowadays, they don’t mind if clothing is second-hand. It is about having fewer things, but things you actually use. And instead of spending money on stuff, they spend more on experiences, such as trips and events. We see that people are critical towards companies. If you are not “OK” in the eyes of young people, you will have a hard time finding good staff, and this could potentially affect your sales as well.’
Can you talk a bit about what actions are currently at the top of your “sustainability agenda” and how you set your priorities?
‘We developed a Life Cycle Assessment-based Footprint Model for our hotels last year. This model allows us to prioritise very well. We do many things very well, but the biggest negative impact is tied to the fact that we still have meat on the menu. The main focus was already on vegetables, thanks to our “Meat no Need” promise. But this year, we are completely taking meat off the menu, throughout our company.’
What can we expect from your session?
‘I want to share our vast knowledge and experience and inspire people with a positive and fun message to also take steps on the sustainability ladder.’
14:30 - 15:00 (ENG) Eco-Sexy. Big Smiles.
Marco talks about the origins of Conscious Hotels and how he interprets sustainable leadership in hospitality. He believes in sending a positive message and in inspiring and enticing people to take steps on the sustainability ladder. In his view, social entrepreneurship and connecting are also part of sustainable business. He likes to summarise these beliefs as "Eco-Sexy. Big Smiles" and "Doing good while looking good".
Do you want to attend the breakout session of Marco? Order your ticket for Travel Congress here.