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Best Practice: Enhancing environmental awareness in tourism and hospitality with gamified online sustainable training

Awareness regarding biodiversity, climate change mitigation and solutions for the decarbonisation of the economy are also critical in the tourism sector today. The growing discussion of responsible tourism and the UN Goals for Sustainable Development shows the importance of implementing actions to address sustainable development in tourist destinations. For this to happen, everyone in the industry must work together to develop and implement best practices, balancing the local needs of the population and promoting a responsible tourism strategy. Integrating new practices does not happen overnight; it also demands time, training, resources, effort, and commitment.

We talked with Christopher Warren, founder and Chief Scientific Officer, and Sarah Habsburg-Lothringen, Director of Training and Success of My Green Butler. Christopher is the Director of the International Centre of Responsible Tourism in Australia. Sarah founded a successful consultancy business focused on responsible product development, responsible marketing and communications, and general staff training for the hospitality industry. They shared with us their experience working with sustainability for tourism businesses and the ideas behind the design of My Green Butler. 

Why is My Green Butler a best practice example of supporting tourist accommodation businesses on their sustainability journey?

Christopher: Sustainability in tourism, in fact, in all industries, is complex. Succinct training is critical to ensure a sufficient understanding of the subject. Hospitality is all about people. Our buildings do not consume resources or generate waste alone. It is the people in them that do. We need to teach and guide people – whether staff or guests – to use the available appliances and installations more efficiently so that we can begin to see a reduction in carbon emissions across the industry as a whole. This is why we developed our training programme to improve the literacy and understanding of hospitality staff members.

Our aim is to reduce carbon emissions for tourism, save millions of dollars of costs, and increase guest satisfaction and staff loyalty by making the invisible visible. The invisible is the carbon emissions and all the other resources guests and employees use and can’t see. We guide both in best practices, and we also talk a lot about the weather. It is critical to understand that significant weather events are becoming more frequent, and we need to guide people in how to adapt as well as endeavouring to mitigate.

How did you start working with sustainability for the tourism and hospitality sectors?

Christopher: Sarah and I have many years of practical experience working in hospitality. This experience showed me, for example, what I didn’t know, and I wanted to learn how to adjust my business better. I tried to become more sustainable and apply it in my business, and I realised how hard it is to do it.

Sarah: My sustainability experience began when I was running my own 3-star hotel in southern Chile. Sourcing locally, employing locally, and trying to have as little impact as possible on the destination was a priority for me. I then moved on to manage a luxury lodge, which was built in the 1940s and was sustainable before we have even applied the word to hospitality. It was part of the essence of the property.

Then Christopher and I did the same Master’s degree in Responsible Tourism Management together, which is how we met; that’s how we combined our experience with academic knowledge and learning.

How was My Green Butler initially designed, and how does it work practically?

Christopher: I helped 32 companies try to reduce their carbon emission over a period of 5 years. It was one of the first carbon auditing systems for destinations. I helped many small businesses, and they reached a green ceiling where they couldn’t save anymore, it was not affordable, or the technology didn’t exist. They did the most obvious things first, such as solar panels, but it was difficult to get more people involved and adapt their business, and some thought it might eliminate some of the unique features of their properties, too.

Use monitoring at room. Source: My Green Butler

Sarah: We train people who start knowing that sustainability is a topic that needs to be addressed, but they do not entirely understand it. We have many managers who touched on sustainability topics in training they had to reach their job level, but they are not 100% confident in their literacy on the subject. What we achieve with our training is to present the basics and build on that knowledge. We link the training to the reality of daily tasks in hospitality, and we use interactive elements thorough to engage and make it all a little more fun.

One of the downsides of traditional training formats is the lack of interaction available. We include activities that help progress skills in three ways: building knowledge, explaining concepts, and giving opportunities to interact with certain elements of what is being learned. To facilitate this, we have included simulated conversations, flip cards, and drag-and-drop activities to stimulate engagement and knowledge progression.

For example, in our flagship training course – Understanding and Applying Sustainability for Hospitality – the modules begin with an introduction to sustainability in the context of the global imperative to tread lighter at home and work. It then moves on to teach about energy and water usage in hotels, along with how to reduce the consumption of both without affecting guest comfort. A further module talks about managing waste effectively, focusing on preventing waste generation in the first place. In addition, there are modules on how what we buy and how we travel affect the overall sustainability success of tourist accommodation, and the last module covers how to confidently engage guests, guiding them to reduce consumption without affecting the quality or comfort of their stay.

Could you explain how the best practice develops sustainability in tourism and hospitality?

We also talk in every module about what staff members can do at home to reduce bills, which is, of course, an attractive proposition for anyone right now and is also a great example of how the training successfully applies new knowledge to real-life situations.

Also, these buildings are being inhabited daily by people who don’t live there and don’t know how they function within them. This presents a superb opportunity that is unique to the tourist accommodation industry and is not often discussed.

When someone goes to a restaurant, they only stay in the building for a couple of hours. In a hotel, for example, people spend much more time there. There are so many more touchpoints, as they are sleeping, eating, showering; effectively, they are living at the property as they do at home. That means they are also consuming resources like they do at home, which offers a unique opportunity to teach people how to use appliances and installations more effectively.

 

 

How do you feel My Green Butler and other gamified learning tools will be important in the future for the sustainability of the tourism industry?

Sarah: We now have a unique window where younger people coming into the industry are from generations who have grown up with positive influences like Greta Thunberg. They are totally accepting of the sustainability conversation, they understand it, and they don’t question its role or significance. However, they lack experience and need guidance from people already in the industry, and these are the people who need to increase their own literacy around the subject. Our training is well-received by both generations as it is designed specifically for people working in a business offering tourist accommodation. There are alternatives out there, but many of them are simply too generic.

Crucial to the development of sustainability in hospitality is to really embrace where we currently are. Hopefully, in a few years, the training element will have many more in-depth ways to change behaviour. People will come to the industry with this knowledge.

Christopher: Adding to what Sarah mentioned, we train millennials; we have to appeal to them, so gamification is not only in the training; it’s in the tools they can apply the training with. We really embrace Organisational Psychology by making work fun. We are not trying to make sustainability preachy; we are simply trying to make it responsible, relatable, and engaging.

We provide a practical tool so people can see their impacts when staying in accommodations. We are using technology younger people are growing up with, and it is already part of how we see hospitality in the future. Sarah and I firmly believe that hospitality should be delivered by humans, by people, and we see young people less confident in communicating one-on-one. We are giving them the confidence to talk about and understand sustainability as a fundamental part of their jobs, and we see the positive impact that our training has on developing this communication skill around the topic.

We are also sharing values.

What is relevant for the future is adaptation. We are helping the companies mitigate by reducing carbon emissions, but we are asking people to adapt to a very different environment. The training not only provides knowledge, but it also leads to action.

 

What we are doing is providing many practical examples to grasp the concept, in conjunction with the tools we offer through the My Green Butler measuring and monitoring service, so that employees and guests can get personalised eco feedback, which in turn helps them to understand more and become self-motivated to take more responsible, positive, and informed, action.

Conclusion

My Green Butler is an innovative platform for training and a best practice example that seeks to generate responsible and sustainable actions through gamification and practical online learning modules. It also exemplifies a method and a philosophy that adhere to sustainable business requirements which are fundamental for the industry today.

Skilling and training in hospitality for the future includes envisioning the role of digital technologies in improving well-being and encouraging behavioural change, both of which positively benefit the environment and society as a whole. This best practice offers positive educational solutions for sustainable hospitality that benefit all stakeholders, from guests and staff to managers and local communities, in an innovative, responsible, and future-oriented way.

Further readings:

https://mygreenbutler.com/taking-the-right-action-in-the-race-to-save-energy/

https://mygreenbutler.com/sustainable-hospitality-book/

 

8 Minutes read

This blog has highlighted sustainability using digital tools and gamification in training to promote environmental awareness, waste reduction, carbon emission reduction and efficiency in the tourism and hospitality sector. We interviewed Christopher Warren and Sarah Habsburg-Lothringen in November 2023. We thank them for sharing their thoughts and experience on developing sustainable practices in the tourism and hospitality sector

Written by Fernanda Rabelo, Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology, Technological University Dublin

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