Updated: Apr 29
It's one thing to be making changes to reduce waste and sometimes it's another entirely to get your guests involved, especially if it requires additional effort on their part.
It can be frustrating to read headlines about how many people want to see businesses reduce unnecessary single-use plastic consumption only to find that when you do actually take steps to make that happen you start to receive complaints.
Very often, these challenges can be easily overcome with good communications but it can be tricky to get this right. There is no "one communication style" fits all answer, it's going to be a matter of trial and error to see what works best with your customer demographic, but there are some common themes when it comes to over-arching approaches that work.
Before you start thinking about communications approaches, make sure that you are 100% clear on your waste and plastic reduction strategy.
If you haven´t yet read our blog on 4 key strategies used by businesses that are successfully reducing single-use plastic you might want to do that first, and come back to this later. Once you are really clear on your own vision, you can really engage with guests in a meaningful way to support it.
1) Keep it Simple, Make it Easy
Make it easy, easier or more attractive for guests to choose the sustainable option. For example, on a trips to the USA a couple of years back I noticed that all of the hotels kept ceramic cups together with single-use cups near to the coffee machines. Interestingly, even when people choose to take their breakfast sitting down at the table, they chose a single-use cup.
On speaking with hotel guests, it transpired that they were so accustomed to drinking coffee on the go, that the habit was to reach for the cup they were most used to drinking from.
Removing the single-use cups from the breakfast service and putting a sign next to the coffee machine to say that "to-go" cups were available on request for anyone not taking breakfast on site reduced the consumption of single-use cups immediately and significantly. If to-go cups were requested they were retrieved quickly so as to not delay guests that really were in a hurry to leave.
In this way, the sustainable choice became the easiest choice because the ceramic cups were readily available and the operational change posed no inconvenience to the vast majority of guests.
Guests appreciate clear information and instructions. Increasingly hotels are making room amenities available on request. By providing clear information during check-in, guests are made aware that they can request any amenities using the hotel app. The app is quick and easy to install, easy to use and any requests for room amenities are attended to efficiently so as to not impact on the guest experience. It prevents the unnecessary waste and associated cost of thousands of miniature toiletries every year.
2) Connect to WHO your guest wants to be
Information itself is not enough, information is only really likely to appeal to those people who have already decided they want to change and they know how to change. Most of the time, you will need to communicate with people who have not necessarily made conscious decisions to change their behaviour but they do like to feel good about themselves and who they are.
People feel a sense of fulfillment from acting in ways that reinforce their sense of self-worth and identity. As people increasingly care about the impacts of plastic pollution, you can help them to feel that you take their concerns seriously and use communications to provide some solutions, for example:
We know that reducing single-use plastic is important for our guests and we’ve taken some steps to make this easier for you.
Should you require bathroom amenities, these are available on request at reception
We’ve removed all plastic straws, paper straws are available on request or you could treat yourself to one of our reusable straw packs on sale at reception
If you’re out and about and find you have to use single-use plastic, look for the yellow recycling bins so that you can recycle bottles, cartons and other types of packaging that are clearly displayed on the bin.
3) Stay Positive
Most people´s primary motivation to travel on a holiday is to relax and unwind, we don't want to focus on the negative impacts of not taking an action on plastic, but instead focus on the positive benefits that come from making the right choice.
This is a particularly useful approach if some of the change require effort on the part of the guest. For example, if you have installed water dispensers for guests to refill their own bottles and glasses, they may see the change as inconvenient, depending on how the service was offered before. This is a good time to think about using positive communications that make people feel that this additional effort is worth it and that they are amongst a majority of people who are doing something good. For example, a sign on the refill dispenser saying
“85% of our guests enjoy safe, great tasting drinking wáter from our refill dispensers and in the last year alone have helped us to eliminate 100,000 plastic bottles, we would love you to be part of this achievement”
This shows them that by choosing your hotel, they are part of the solution and they should feel good about this.
Perhaps you can even inform them about local refill apps that will help them to easily find refill stations when they are out and about, not only preventing plastic waste but saving them money too, a reward that they directly enjoy because of making a small amount of additional effort.
Many people perceive sustainability to be about sacrifice, about giving something up for the greater good. Engagement strategies that focus on the positive benefits to the guest experience are most likely to result in the behaviour change you want to see from your guests.
Blog By: Jo Hendrickx
For more detailed strategies to implement effective communications, why not download our Sustainable Communications Guide at just €9.50