Part of the Accor hotel group, Swissôtel was founded in 1980 and is a world-leading travel and lifestyle hotel brand. Today it numbers more than 30 hotels globally including flagship properties such as Swissôtel The Bosphorus in Istanbul, Swissôtel The Stamford in Singapore and Swissôtel Chicago. Here we share insights into the green personas and recommendations identified in a recent EHL Student Business Project commissioned to enhance Swissôtel’s commitment to sustainability.
Student Business Project overview
A team of six BOSC students from the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne developed the following research and recommendations for their final year student business project over a nine-week period. The report focused on action plans based on weaving sustainable practices into the guest rooms, F&B departments and architecture, and also into communication strategies designed to effectively disseminate sustainable messages to both internal and external stakeholders (employees and guests). Identifying customers types with specific 'green personas', along with their beliefs and habits, was key to the aims of this research project.
Sustainability is not the primary decision factor when booking a room, however, today's customers are increasingly influenced by sustainable elements such as eco- design and green actions of a hotels. If incentives are offered, most guests are willing to participate in green initiatives such as the opportunity of opting out of daily linen washing. Willingness to pay a green premium depends greatly on customer behavior and persona types.
The SBP report identified three customer segments as personas for eco-conscious hotels:
The Unaware are seemingly uninterested in sustainability initiatives and choose the brand for an appealing offering (price, location, activities, etc.), but can be swayed towards sustainable practices.
The Informedare aware of the need to be more environmentally-conscious and value hotels that are sustainable but still prefer the hotel to take the necessary measures for the guests.
The Activists are, by nature, those who genuinely care about the planet and are willing to compromise during their stay in the name of CSR.
Meet Bob, his wife Lisa and their three kids. Bob was searching for an ideal family getaway to escape the bustling city and stressful work-family life, therefore the 'vitality' statement Swissotel was marketing became an instant can’t wait to explore moment. Lisa, whose personal health is a priority and wants to stay in shape when on holiday, was attracted to the new in-room fitness walls. Both Bob and Lisa were interested in the family-oriented offerings Swissotel was promoting. Apart from the bold sustainability statement from the brand, the couple was unaware about the initiatives taken by Swissotel. On a daily basis, the family usually sorts their waste, attempts to buy organic produce for their children and tries to bike over using the car to do their part to avoid pollution.
Theo is a businessman constantly on the go. He’s a frequent traveler, hotels have literally become his second home. He values brand loyalty to avoid the hassle of guest registration and is constantly re-selecting guest preferences on websites and during check-ins. He desires a seamless journey from booking to arrival. He chooses Swissotel for location purposes, the in-room functionality, along with Swiss hospitality values. While staying in an upper tier hotel, he wishes to enjoy the luxury Swissotel has to offer; comfort is the key. Having studied engineering at university, the trigeneration system in the Swissôtel Istanbul property, as well as the bio food recycling machine, triggered his attraction to this innovative brand. For Theo, paying for hotel that participates in these eco-conscious initiatives without him having to compromise on comfort is simply what ideal customer service is all about.
Sarah is a true environmentalist millennial. She has attended over 100 protests in the last three years, she is a Greta-believer and does everything to reduce her CO2 emissions. When she travels she does not want to lose her activist nature nor the instant gratification she feels on a daily basis having helped to save the planet. She doesn't own a car, but rather walks or bikes. She writes her own vegan foodie blog, spends her summers creating campaigns to clean up the oceans, and avoids products in plastic packaging. Sarah is not impressed with a hotel's "one towel re-used is one tree planted" policy, and can differentiate greenwashing from truly authentic sustainability practices. She genuinely enjoyed staying at the Swissôtel Chicago hotel for their Testa partnership (a leading pioneer in the sustainable production of local produce). Sarah only travels occasionally but when she does, she is willing to pay the green premium for initiatives such as hotels showcasing carbon neutral systems, fabric repurchasing or organic food gardens. She is willing to make compromises during her stay if it will benefit the planet and allow her to feel part of the green movement.
Keeping sustainability measures consistent for all
Sustainable recommendations must be applicable to all Swissôtel properties worldwide, and equally applicable to the various persona types who have a sliding scale available depending on how much or how little they want/need to learn about the brand's sustainability measures. Research shows that Swissôtel sustainability initiatives differ by location. Different properties are involved in actions such as greywater harvesting, bio food recycling programs and partnerships with sustainable brands such as Testa. But to increase consistency between properties, Swissôtel could implement global actions for the whole brand, for example:
Creating an in-house staff 'Green Team' who act as brand ambassadors informing and educating guests where necessary.
Integrating a mobile application that communicates the importance of sustainability and actions both internally and externally. The app also serves a communicative purpose, including features such as an energy consumption board, an FAQ section, and an amenities section for guest personalization.
A comprehensive virtual handbook to be provided in all Swissôtel properties to team members in different departments explaining the aims of the group, its tasks, values, and the benefits for both the hotel and the employees.
The F&B concept, boutique and café to offer an extraordinary dining experience with locally grown food and reduced food waste throughout the supply chain.
Partnerships with indoor vertical garden companies, creating a new space that not only communicates a 'green' decor message, but also serves for interacting with the local community, e.g., a co-working/ workshop hub and a grocery store where locals can find fresh organic produce.
For further insights into the SBP recommendations for Swissôtel's commitment to sustainability, click here for a mini case study overview