Sustainability goes far beyond water and paper

Forbes Travel Guide's President Amanda Frasier talks trends at L.E/Miami

The President of Ratings for Forbes Travel Guide has encouraged hospitality companies to better uphold sustainability promises and declarations. Speaking at the bespoke luxury travel show L.E/Miami this week, Amanda Frasier said hotels and resorts that are ‘talking the talk’ should be ‘walking the walk’.

In her keynote address on the biggest trends in contemporary hospitality in 2023 and beyond, Frasier explained to conferencegoers that the advocacy group had initially met some resistance from hoteliers when, before the pandemic, the company established its own sustainability standards that it would use to score hotel and resorts that it inspected.

Frasier, who has been President of Ratings at Forbes Travel Guide since mid-last year offered insight on how the scoring system has evolved over the years, as well as the five trending focuses in the luxury hospitality space.

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“Luxury is evolving and the standards have changed,” she said.

Frasier referenced five of the former pillars of the scoring system. They included: a choice of magazines, including one hardcover; a chocolate on the hotel pillow at turndown; a white table cloth within a fine-dining restaurant, always having a hard copy of a menu and the requirement of a jacket for men.

“Some of these standards still have a place,” she said, noting that Forbes is working on the evolution of its standards day in and day out, and now has a refined set.

She used the stage to discuss five trends of the future – Sustainability, Health and Wellbeing, Authenticity, Experience and Human Connection.

On sustainability, Frasier said Forbes had created its own set of standards, well before the pandemic, for the luxury travel industry to help navigate the topic.

Initially, when that vision was announced to the industry, Frasier said Forbes needed to deal with “a lot of pushback” and it was argued the rating specialist has “no business in the world of sustainability”.

Regardless, Forbes pushed on and created a set of standards that are aimed at helping the industry understand how it can blend luxury and sustainability.

Frasier’s address highlighted the results of surveys of affluent travellers on the subject, including that of Virtuoso that found 71% were more likely to book a hotel that has implemented sustainable practices, and 82% expressed an interest in sustainable travel. Similarly, a study by American Express found

Amanda Frasier, President - Ratings, Forbes Travel Guide

72% were more likely to choose a hotel or resort with environmentally friendly practices, and feedback from Small Luxury Hotels of the World‘s guests found 63% prioritise sustainable practices when making travel decisions.

“These are really important conscious decisions that people are making and they need to have this ability to navigate,” Frasier explained.

Among Forbes’ sustainability standards are what efforts hotels and resorts are making to reduce paper (such as on arrival and departure, and within the guest room) and amenities not being replaced until necessary.

“Some of the sustainability standards that we inserted into the star rating system because we understand now, how much value guests or future guests are placing on their travel buying decision on a property’s commitment to sustainability – or even a business’s commitment to sustainability.”

Frasier explained that part of Forbes’ role is to “hold the properties accountable on behalf of the guests”, noting that while a lot of properties are promoting their “great environmental programs…actually those things weren’t done at all”. An example she used was that of hotels leaving cards for guests, informing them they are able to leave used towels on the floor to be replaced. However, it was common that all towels were refreshed.

She said hotels should be focused on trying to do one or two sustainable practices “really, really well” rather than biting off more than they can chew.

Frasier championed luxury brand, 1 Hotels, for its achievements in sustainability, including its clever solution for chronic over packers, that encourages the guest to leave one less item of clothing than when they arrived, which is then donated.

“Sustainability is not just about water and paper, it’s about the people and the planet and your local community as well, which we love.”

Frasier said 1Hotels is leading the charge with Forbes Sustainability standards, with a 98% score on compliance.

Across the thousands of hotels rated by Forbes, the most achieved sustainability standard was not replacing amenities such as soap, shampoo, body wash, etc until necessary – adopted by more than 75% of those scored.

“What these numbers are telling us is that we’ve got a long way to go and there’s a lot of education to be had, and we look forward to going to being part of that process.”

On the trend of Health and Well-being, Frasier said Forbes Travel Guide saw very early on from the beginning of the pandemic that there was going to be an opportunity for “wellness to be catapulted forward”.

She said that the convergence of health, wellness and travel was already occurring pre-pandemic, but COVID exasperated it. Forbes has committed to being advocates for wellness, introducing its own star rating system, measuring data and defining what wellness is, expecially in the high-end space.

A recent McKinsey study found 79% of consumers across several country believed Wellness was important in their life and therefore extremely important in their travels and was not something they wanted to stop doing while they were travelling.

“People are making their travel buying decisions now more because of what they are seeing socially and online,” she said.

Frasier noted that not only was guest wellbeing important, but so too was the staff and the workplace wellbeing.

“Health and well-being are intrinsically tied to sustainability,” she said.

“After the worst of the pandemic we knew we need to create some  wellness standards to provide some consumer confidence.”

Discussing the trend of Authenticity, Frasier said Forbes Travel Guide allocates a higher point value on its rating system on standards that are attached to staff behavior and attitude over technical and skill. Yes, technical and skill is essential but it’s the attitude and commitment of staff that wins.

“Pay close attention to who you are hiring because it’s the attitude that creates and fosters that sense of authenticity. And authenticity is what people will lean into and recognise as a connection to why they come back to you and your brand.”

LATTE was a guest of L.E/Miami.

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