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Small accommodations and environmentally unfriendly guests


There are plenty of guidelines on what hosts need to do to become eco-friendly but precious little on how to get the guests to also be environmentally friendly, which is a different matter than how to attract eco-friendly guests.

Most small establishments, apart from luxury boutique accommodation, are not choosy and do not exclude guests through pricing. In most parts of the world, the average price-sensitive guest in small accommodations and short rentals does not enjoy being lectured and will probably not venture further than the first page of your long list of do's and don'ts. She/he feels that as they have paid for this holiday, they are entitled to use as much electricity and water as he wants without sparing a second's thought for the Amazon fires and the Climate Crisis. Since, as they think, 'it is included' in the price, it makes sense having the air-con 24/7 and at a low temperature and setting the fridge at the minimum temperature so that those beer cans are ice cold. Why waste precious holiday time to separate bottles and tins and packaging from the rubbish - we have had enough of this back home while in this destination 'it seems they do not even bother collecting the rubbish from the streets'! 'Those plant containers are so convenient as ash-trays for my cigarette buts' (and a small revenge for your annoying no-smoking policy inside the room). My children can also keep themselves busy for a change, by abusing plants and wildlife and leaving all sorts of litter in the garden. They look so happy with no rules, rules only apply back home! Oh, and just because it's windy why not light up the BBQ today? 'What a nice and fluffy towel. Look, it also features the accommodation name - will serve as a nice souvenir'! An exaggeration perhaps, but you get the picture.

Is there a subtle way to get results without offending the feelings of such guests and ending up with poor reviews? Should a host discreetly leave an ashtray next to the plant container? Quietly turn the fridge temperature down from 9 to 7? Let them discover that the waste has miraculously sorted itself? Explicitly state that some items - even towels or slippers - are indeed gifts, to be used as souvenirs? Display a one-page summary of their environmental policies in the breakfast room? 

Yes, hosts should try these and anything else they can think of. Technology is also and important ally. From high-tech solutions such as tamper-proof consumption metering appliances in each room to low-tech ones such as replacing air-con with good old electric-fans. While extra charges do not work, incentives do: an idea is to adjust room rates downwards when the guests consume less than average. A cash-back/departure gift would work if the metering and the discount process was transparent and compatible with local tax legislation. As it is not some freebie could take its place.

Thus this is a trial-and-error process and one should observe what works with each type of guest. The mantra 'the customer is always right' is always right. If they behave badly towards the environment and the property, it is ultimately the host's responsibility for failing to educate them or at least prevent them.

Thomas Cooking No More
Agroecology Europe Forum, Crete, Greece 26-28 Sept...

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