How Brexit Went So Wrong: A Crisis Of Leadership

To quote Shakespeare, the past 3 years of UK politics have been “A Comedy of Errors.” Former prime minister Theresa May endured repeated humiliations as Parliament rejected her Brexit deal with Europe. Boris Johnson has hardly fared better. Despite declaring he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than request another Brexit extension, last week Johnson, still very much alive, was forced to ask Brussels for precisely that. Johnson’s continued theatrics raise a deeper question. How did Brexit go so wrong? In short, Britain has experienced a catastrophic leadership failure. 

Prepare to fail

From the outset, Brexit was plagued by an utter lack of planning. Former PM David Cameron, who agreed to the referendum to please his anti-EU allies, never believed it could succeed. Indeed, Cameron even ordered the Foreign Office not to prepare a contingency in case that nation decided to leave the EU. 

During the campaign, remarkably little attention was paid to the logistics of how Britain would decouple from Europe. Instead, “Leave” leaders made emotional appeals about immigrants and exaggerated claims about future health funding. Instead of preparing for hard policy decisions, these leaders clung to a nebulous and naïve vision of Brexit. 

For all the talk of a “better deal” for Britain, leaders apparently forgot that Europe had every incentive to put the screws to the UK. Europe would also demand that Britain discharge its existing commitments to the EU. The rosy picture the Leave campaign painted contrasted sharply with the tough situation British negotiators experienced in Brussels. Not only did unrealistic expectations create a trust gap with the British public, but the lack of planning created political divisions that have weakened the British negotiating position. Instead of articulating a clear exit plan beforehand, the British government appears to be improvising its most important decisions. 

Self-inflicted wounds

Negotiating a complex set of economic and legal arrangements between Britain and Europe was never going to be easy. However, Britain’s leadership has made the process significantly more difficult. Much of the current gridlock originated with two disastrous decisions in 2017. The first of these was the decision to trigger Article 50 and begin the two-year countdown to leave the EU. When the Brexit deal proved more contentious than expected, Britain was forced to scramble to meet this self-imposed deadline. Then recognizing the impossibility of reaching a deal in time, Theresa May’s government twice had to go to Brussels to request an extension. Now Johnson has requested a third extension, further hurting the credibility of British leadership. 

The second mistake of May’s government was calling a snap election in June 2017. Hoping to strengthen their hand, the ruling Conservatives expected to increase their parliamentary majority. Instead, the vote boomeranged on them, and they were forced into a coalition with the Northern Irish DUP to maintain power. Tied to their minority coalition partner, the Conservatives lost control of Brexit. Instead of being able to negotiate a “Conservative” Brexit deal, they needed a deal that pleased the DUP too. Aspects of a DUP-approved deal were opposed by some Conservatives, killing May’s efforts to deliver Brexit and exacerbating nasty divisions within the Conservative party.

Loss of faith

Britain’s leaders worsened an already challenging situation by losing the confidence of their people. Before the vote, the hyperbolic and sometimes downright violent rhetoric of campaigners increased national polarization. After the vote, the government’s disorganization and apparent unpreparedness to deliver Brexit further eroded the electorate’s trust. The ongoing spectacle of threats and ultimatums seems likely to alienate people further.

Instead of leading, leadership has resorted to political games. Particularly notable was Boris Johnson’s attempt to suspend Parliament for several weeks to limit their opportunity to review the latest Brexit deal. Not only did Johnson manage to spark outrage across the political spectrum, but he also was rebuked by Britain’s Supreme Court. Parliament responded with escalation, pushing a requirement that Britain could not leave the EU without a deal. Dysfunctional politics are hurting Britain’s institutions at home and its standing abroad. 

“Remain” or “Leave”, there is no denying that Brexit has been terribly managed. Leadership failures have reduced British politics to a farce and Brexit to a punchline.   


University of South Australia Research focuses on sustainable tourism

Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles from the University of South Australia has studied the tension from over tourism for more than 10 years, and her most recent research, published in Journal of Sustainable Tourism, suggests, if we want to preserve the positives of travel, we must urgently rethink our approach to it – as a planet.

The past few years have seen a major schism emerge in attitudes to tourism. On one hand, the new wealth of a burgeoning global middle class and shrinking cost of high-quality tourist experiences have allowed an unprecedented number of people to travel, often resulting in enlightening and inspiring experiences.

On the other hand, many parts of the world have groaned under the weight of wanderlust, with popular destinations swamped by masses lured through cheap flights, package deals and clever marketing.

The fall out, from the beaches of Thailand to the slopes of Everest, has been cries of “over-tourism”, and in areas like Barcelona and Venice, the deluge of visitors has led to outright anti-tourist activism.

For Dr Higgins-Desbiolles, the growing animosity towards tourism in many parts of the world is not a sign we shouldn’t be travelling, but rather a sign we should be actively changing the way we travel.

Dr Higgins-Desbiolles advises: “We need to ensure those impacted by tourism are also those benefited, not just in a short-term financial sense, but in an ongoing social and cultural dimension as well. Then they, in turn, will have good, enduring reasons to welcome visitors into their communities.”

Likening the required shift in thinking to the emergence of the environmental movement last century – “the greenies have been talking like this for years, and the rest of us are just catching up” – Dr Higgins-Desbiolles suggests the tourism industry needs to buck its addiction to endless growth, recognising the finite limits of the planet and learning to work within them.

Dr Higgins-Desbiolles added: “We’re not suggesting everything has to grind to a halt but, just as other areas of industry have had to recognise the importance of sustainability, both socially and environmentally, tourism must stop sacrificing a long-term future for short term gains.”

Dr Higgins-Desbiolles’s study highlights mechanisms to drive this change, the key being a shift from corporate, often international operators, to local, socially-embedded custodians of tourist destinations, with strong evidence that such a transformation dramatically improves outcomes for people and planet.

Dr Higgins-Desbiolles also notes: “Obviously, we need to preserve the livelihoods tourism provides, but if that is focused on the local community, then they intrinsically limit things to what is sustainable, both for the population and the environment.”

Pointing to the success of initiatives such as that in Guna Yala, an Indigenous province of Panama with a Statute on Tourism protecting the local customs and ecosystem, and the Tourism Optimisation Management Model developed by the community of Kangaroo Island to ensure mass tourism developments did not diminish their quality of life, Dr Higgins-Desbiolles says there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about more sustainable models of tourism: “This will be a big challenge for the tourism industry in coming years, but it is a challenge the industry needs to face, and I believe it is one it can rise up to.

“I think there is a change going on around the world, when you look at things like New Zealand’s ‘Wellbeing Budget’ and the Buen Vivir (‘living well’) movement in South America, through which measures of prosperity are based on more than gross domestic product.

“If tourism can embrace that change, it will not only ensure the future of the industry, it will improve the experience for everyone involved.”


The stargazers’ trail: New ‘astro-tourism’ trail created in the Welsh mountains links six new locations awarded ‘dark sky’ status

A new astro-tourism trail of ideal star-gazing spots has opened in the Cambrian Mountains in Wales, incorporating six new sites that have been awarded official ‘Dark Sky’ status.

The trail, which covers just over 50 miles, can be visited over the course of a few nights for a glimpse of Orion, The Plough and the North Star.  

The six new Dark Sky Discovery sites are away from the worst of any local light pollution, provide good sightlines of the sky and are generally freely accessible at all times.

They have been awarded the status as the UK’s best spots to witness celestial goings on – adding to three existing sites in the region.

Dafydd Wyn Morgan, leading the project, said: ‘The Cambrian Mountains is one of best places in the world to view dark skies. 

‘The clear skies offer incredible views of the Milky Way, meteor showers and the International Space Station when it passes over.

‘By day the astro-trail allows you to discover a community woodland brimming with wildlife, the UK’s tallest reservoir, a 12th century abbey and mining heritage stretching back to Roman times.’ 

The astro-trial is scattered with pubs which planners urge people to ‘pop inside for a meal’ if cold and cloudy skies present themselves.  

Mr Morgan added: ‘I now aim to encourage local people as well as visitors to the Dark Sky Discovery Sites.

‘The land of the Cambrian Mountains is amazing by day and sky just waits to be discovered by night.

‘An SQM is taken. Sky Quality Measurement to assess light pollution. All the sites are locations that have achieved Milky Way tier status i.e. you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye.

‘Sites are 10x10m in area and accessible to all 24/7. They will be in rural locations.’

The nine sites are all accessible with a stunning view of the night sky visible from their car parks – for those who may not be able to trek to a remote location.

A low level of light pollution from cities or street lighting makes the area perfect for viewing a normally washed out night sky.

A study by the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that only two per cent of the UK were able to gaze at ‘truly dark skies’ while 57 per cent struggled to count more than 120 stars.

Many people in major cities – London, Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester – were unable to view a single star at all.

Emma Marrington, dark skies campaigner at CPRE, said: ‘It’s deeply disappointing that the vast majority were unable to experience the natural wonder of a truly dark sky, blanketed with stars.’

Adding: ‘Light doesn’t respect boundaries, and careless use can see it spread for miles from towns, cities, businesses and motorways, resulting in the loss of one of the countryside’s most magical sights – a dark, starry night sky.’ 

If you’re not near Wales these sites, which are all wheelchair-friendly, are free from most light pollution and boast great sightlines so you can enjoy the best panoramas possible:

South east: Near London, the South Downs National Park boasts no fewer than seven recognised stargazing spots, including Ditchling Beacon, Butser Hill, Old Winchester Hill, Iping Common and Devil’s Dyke.  

Midlands: The Peak District is blessed with truly dark skies and has three recommended spots at Surprise View, Parsley Hay and Minninglow. They’re all easily accessible and have information panels that help to guide you around the night sky. 

North: The North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland national parks all have many stargazing spots. The Kielder Observatory holds stargazing events including family astronomy nights.

North west: If you’re near Blackburn, Preston or Lancaster then head into the Forest of Bowland. There are five designated dark sky sites there, including the Beacon Fell Visitor Centre.

West Country: Exmoor National Park is also a Dark Sky Reserve, which means light pollution is at a minimum. If you’re further south, near Newquay, try Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps where the Kernow Astronomers  periodically hold events.

Scotland: Take your stargazing really seriously north of the border in the Scottish Highlands.

The Cairngorms and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national parks are unrivalled on the mainland, or if you’re very adventurous try the Isle of Coll in the Inner Hebrides. It’s been named a Dark Sky Island by the International Dark Sky Association, as it has some of the darkest skies in Europe.

Scotland is also host to Europe’s first ‘dark sky town’ in the form of Moffat in the Annandale valley. Thanks to special street lights that minimise light pollution, the stars are visible right in the centre of town. You can see at least 17 of Orion’s 30 stars, whereas in most towns you will only see six. 

Cotswolds: It’s not just the national parks that enjoy unpolluted night skies, but also the designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty all over the country. The Cotswolds has a particularly suitable location at the Rollright Stone Circle near Chipping Norton, where you can watch the heavens with these Neolithic sentinels. 


One in Four Travelers Feel Inadequately Rewarded for Their Travel Brand Loyalty

art of a new report from Yes Marketing, entitled “Understanding the Traveler’s Journey”, revealed that almost 25 percent of U.S. travelers feel that they’re not being adequately rewarded for their loyalty to travel and hospitality brands.

Among a group of 1,000 respondents, 64 percent admitted to having a “go-to” travel company that they consider first and, typically, above all else when planning a trip. The findings indicate that consumers prefer turning to travel brands they’ve used in the past, but only if they feel that their loyalty is proportionately rewarded. 83 percent of those surveyed said that travel-related rewards influence their decisions about whether to stick with a certain brand.

So, what is it that customers are looking to get back from travel and hospitality companies? Generally, they want to feel like they’re receiving special treatment: nearly half of respondents reported feeling rewarded by gaining exclusive member benefits and 32 percent cited waived fees as they perk that makes them feel appreciated.

“Whether it’s offering exclusive perks or providing personalized recommendations, travel brands need to leverage the right incentives to encourage customers to choose their brand time and again,” said Michael Iaccarino, CEO and chairman of Infogroup, parent company of Yes Marketing. “Through the right combination of technology and services, brands can glean a deeper understanding of their customers’ preferences to inform their retention and loyalty strategies and develop lifelong connections.”

As Yes Marketing’s work involves tracking the consumer journey with travel and hospitality brands—from first awareness and consideration through purchase and lifetime loyalty—its research extended to many different aspects of the customer experience. When it comes to client retention, it’s surprising just how many travelers are keen to receive more communications from their preferred brands.

52 percent said that they’d like to be sent more information about their reservations and previous travel; and 44 percent said they’d welcome offers based on their past behavior, while 29 percent would prefer more messaging based on their demographic profiles. 40 percent responded that they want to see more consumer reviews and testimonials, which obviously play a huge part in informing customers’ decisions these days. Another 43 percent expressed a desire to receive more partner offers from the travel and hospitality companies that they patronize.


How technology shapes the modern guest culture and experience

In the wake of Industry 4.0 there is no doubt that technology – both its advancements and shortcomings – is dictating the speed of change across the globe. As emerging technologies innovate, so customer expectations evolve, requiring even more innovation. This is a never-ending cycle. 

Hospitality businesses must take up the challenge of keeping up with this exponential pace of innovation, or risk falling behind the competition.

To evaluate which technology to invest in, hotel management should consider the effect that technology continues to have on guest expectations. The question is twofold: how does technology impact the expectations that shape today’s guest experiences, and do these technologies support the cultural expectations of modern guests? 

There are various answers to these questions, but the overarching message is that the development of game-changing hospitality technology reflects an evolving consumer culture. As customers demand more empowering, smarter technology, hospitality businesses are forced to revolutionise operations. The goal is to replace processes that put limitations on guests, effectively giving them “the power”.

To achieve this, hoteliers and hospitality establishments must embrace mobile technology. Creating a successful, scalable technology platform that supports modern guest experiences requires a few key technologies, including: cloud environments, which 61% of hotels globally are investing in; mobile-friendly integration, which offers convenient solutions to manage communications, access and services; and expanded payment support, which offers guests the freedom to pay according to their own payment preferences. 

While this important power shift is being served by hospitality technology, it is essential that those who operate in the hospitality industry gain a complete understanding of who the modern guest is, and what they expect from their stay. Today’s millennials expect the technology that they use daily to be available to them when staying at a hotel. They also expect it to make their stay easier, more convenient, and more efficient, and they will return only if these expectations are met. 

According to a recent Infor White Paper: “Modern hotel guests expect every process they encounter to be frictionless and manageable from their personal mobile devices. These elements are not restricted to specific generations who have never lived in a world without this technology. The values that have emerged along with them are the biggest driving forces, in part influenced by technology. This relationship between technology driving culture and cultural forces that in turn drive further technology development is vital to understand.”

In the modern hotel, communications and dialogue are enabled by hotel technology – driving messages across SMS, chatbots and push notifications. However, the technology-savvy hotel implements technology at all touch points. From check-in apps and digital keys, to mobile payment solutions, automated service, real-time information-sharing, reliable access to high-speed WiFi and personalised tech-driven experiences – the possibilities are endless.


The new generation of green hotels

When the hotel behemoth Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) declared in July it would be phasing out mini toiletry bottles in all its rooms over the next two years, it made headlines around the world. What may sound like a small thing is actually no mean feat. IHG owns brands including Holiday Inn, InterContinental and Crowne Plaza. There are 856,000 of those rooms around the world that will see the bottles replaced with bulk dispensers.

“Any decision like that is a big one,” says Catherine Dolton, VP of global corporate responsibility — not least because IHG, like most chains, works on a franchise model, so the brand needed to convince owners to make the change. Then there are the practicalities to consider — how do you implement this system across 5,700 individually owned hotels? That’s one of the reasons it’s a two-year pledge. 

As it starts the process, IHG is putting the final touches to last year’s headline pledge — that by the end of 2019, its hotels will ban plastic straws. The move should save 50 million straws going into landfill each year. According to CEO Keith Barr, large brands have a responsibility to protect the environment and an opportunity to make a real difference: “There’s always more we can do to minimise waste, but the work we’re doing to reduce single-use plastic is a powerful example of how we can come together with guests, owners and colleagues to drive positive change,” he said at the time. Indeed, a month after IHG’s 2019 announcement, Marriott declared that it, too, would ditch mini bottles.

So how did we get here? Past perceptions might have been that to keep things green while travelling, we should stay in smaller, locally owned hotels. But leaving aside the issue of ownership, and looking purely at ecologically friendly initiatives, recently the big brands have really raised their game. Last year, Hilton pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 61% and halve water usage by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement. In the past decade, it’s already reduced emissions by 30%, water use by 20%, waste by a third and energy consumption by 21%. 

Hilton also recycles 400 tons (362 tonnes) of soap per year and is removing plastic straws and cocktail stirrers from its hotels. Hyatt is doing the same, recycling soap and shampoo and donating it to communities in need — during the Caribbean hurricanes of 2017, 250,000 bars were donated to people in need by Clean the World, which works with both chains. Hyatt also has a Responsible Seafood Sourcing initiative: 50% of its seafood served globally must be sustainable.

Although this might be the first time some of us are hearing about these initiatives, brands have been taking steps for years. The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) was founded in 1993 to encourage environmental responsibility in the hotel industry. It’s here that representatives of big brands can come together to share their initiatives. “There’s definitely a bit of healthy competition,” says director Madhu Rajesh, who says the ITP is a safe space for rival brands to brainstorm together. “As much as they want to collaborate, they want to be as good as each other. So it’s good to see that spark, as well as a spirit of sharing.” The group’s 16 members represent nearly 25% of the industry.

The path to sustainability was marked out a long time ago, says Rajesh. A decade ago the ITP developed tools to measure hotels’ carbon and water consumption and provide a management plan; today, 20,000 properties use them. Hilton implemented a similar monitoring system in 2008. 

Although environmental issues have been in the background for many years, Rajesh says: “The topic is in the spotlight now, so that’s accelerated the pace. But brands are all very large and the industry has a franchise structure, so new initiatives take a long time.” 

Not so IHG’s miniature toiletries decision. Dolton says she first raised the idea with Keith Barr in spring 2019. By mid-summer, it was implemented, such was the urgency they felt.

“Our executive committee has been very aware of how [environmental issues] are really rising up the agenda over the past couple of years,” says Dolton.

The pressure’s on 
At first glance, it looks like the pressure is coming from an increasingly urgent public mood. In a survey of 73,000 Hilton guests last year, 60% said hotels’ green policies affect their booking decisions. Crucially though, IHG’s recent decision wasn’t only based on pressure from the general public. “More and more the issue of sustainability has been rising up from shareholders and colleagues as well as guests,” says Dolton. And it’s not just an ethical agenda; it’s a business one, too. The mini bottles initiative will require cost upfront for owners as they invest in bulk dispensers, but over the long-term, the return on investment is significant. The same goes for moves that dial down air conditioning and introduce keycard-activated lights and LED bulbs — for an upfront investment, hotels are going to save long-term. “There aren’t only moral and ethical considerations, but considerable financial ones too,” says Rajesh.

“Being sustainable is smart business these days,” agrees Daniella Foster, senior director of corporate responsibility at Hilton. “Times are changing. We’re in an environment now where this is what our guests and employees want, and investors are looking at it as well. Companies that perform well environmentally do 20% better than those that don’t.” 

With a long future ahead of them, more than half of Hilton’s employees are millennials or younger. The brand was named number one in its industry in 2018’s Dow Jones Sustainability Index. “There’s a groundswell building up,” she says. “Hilton shares are now being bought because of our [green] performance.” In a follow-up this year to its 2018 survey, a third of 72,000 guests said that they actively seek out information on a hotel’s environmental credentials before booking.

And green doesn’t have to be lean. We tend to think of hotel luxury in terms of fluffy robes, piles of daily changed towels and those mini bottles of upmarket toiletries. But it’s been the luxury market that’s led the way with sustainability. Take, for example, Six Senses — the luxe brand acquired by IHG in February. Each property bottles water onsite and plans to be completely plastic-free by 2022. Even the toothbrushes in the amenity kits are made of biodegradable cornstarch. Then there’s Soneva, which banned plastic straws in 1998 and bottles 10 years later and also has recycling facilities at all of its Indian Ocean resorts. Meanwhile, Soneva Fushi, in the Maldives, turns polystyrene packaging into construction blocks.

Luxury Peruvian brand Inkaterra also has a sustainable focus, aiming to be entirely single-use plastic-free by the end of 2019. In April, its Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel donated an organic waste treatment plant to the city in which it sits — the gateway to the famous ruined citadel. Everything organic — from food scraps to human waste — is turned into fertiliser, which is used to aid reforesting the Andean Cloud Forest and Machu Picchu itself. The hotel has also previously donated a plastic compactor and a biodiesel plant.

The latest move makes Machu Picchu Pueblo the first hotel in Latin America to recycle 100% of its solid waste.

These days, even air conditioning isn’t a given at the higher end of the market. Jade Mountain, one of St Lucia’s poshest hotels, swaps air conditioning for a missing fourth wall, with open-to-the-elements rooms designed to draw in trade winds. Manager Carl Hunter leads popular sustainability tours around the property. “Visitors not only pay attention to our sustainability efforts, but wish to learn more,” he says.

“[Being green] is a given at the luxury end,” says IHG’s Catherine Dolton. Hilton’s Danielle Foster, meanwhile, reckons it’s down to location. “Luxury hotels often have a tie to nature. You’re going there to see or experience something, and you want to preserve that for future generations.” 

Owners and CEOs of smaller brands tend to be vocal proponents of environmental issues themselves, according to Rajesh. In the ITP, she says, these brands can be more innovative, but it’s when big brands get involved that a difference can be made on a global scale. She cites the leaders of Soneva and ITC Hotels — India’s third-largest chain, which goes as far as using jute (vegetable fibre) name tags for conference guests rather than plastic clip-ons and urges guests to ditch suits and ties to help reduce the need for air con.

Making individual changes
Of course, a one-size-fits-all approach to environmental issues can lead to ‘greenwashing’ — banning straws isn’t so laudable if you serve poolside drinks in plastic cups, and there’s no point bragging about recycling prowess when there’s little recycling in your destination. Carbon offsetting, which many hotels do, is no substitute for using sustainably generated energy in the first place, and although there are numerous certifications schemes for ‘green’ buildings, there’s little clarity around what each means on a property-specific level. It’s on the individual level, however, that hotels can make a huge difference, working within their specific circumstances. 

Take Blue Apple Beach House on the island of Tierra Bomba, off Cartagena in Colombia. In 2017, owner Portia Hart launched the Green Apple Foundation, which sorts waste, composts organic matter, converts cooking oil to biodiesel fuel and uses a glass pulveriser to turn bottles into sand, which locals use to make cement. “Our logistics have been developed around our location — this is an island with little to no municipal services,” says Hart, who hopes to create a replicable model for places where recycling is scarce.

“If we end up with glass-recycling centres on the coast of Colombia, vermiculture [worm-aided composting] in the coffee region and plastic recycling in Bogota, that will be a win.”

Other properties are working with their direct environments. In April, Mashpi Lodge in the Ecuadorian rainforest doubled the size of the private reserve in which it sits to 6,200 acres, with plans to reach 35,000 acres by 2040. The move means everyone who stays there, or travels through Ecuador with its sister company Metropolitan Touring, will be carbon-neutral — the growth of the rainforest offsets their emissions in a place that needs protection (rather than other carbon offsetting projects planting trees in unsuitable places).

Main shareholder Roque Sevilla’s reasoning is stark: Metropolitan Touring’s 14,000 annual visitors generate around 25,000 tonnes of CO2. “It’s not enough to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from our operations,” he says. “It’s essential to offset their carbon footprint and absorb the difference by expanding the Mashpi Reserve.”

In Cambodia, designer-turned-hotelier Bill Bensley went so far as to buy 1,000 acres of national park-adjacent land in Cambodia after hearing that miners and loggers were after it. 

“Having spared the land from the prospect of clear-cut logging, the question was what to do with it,” says Bensley, who worked with business partner Sokoun Chanpreda. “Our dream was to educate Cambodians that conservation is smarter than extraction. We spent years coming up with a low impact model that would not only conserve and protect the land, but also create sustainable opportunities for locals.” The result is Shinta Mani Wild, which, as well as being green, is 70% staffed by locals. “They now have an alternative livelihood to extracting from the forest,” says Bensley.

So, what’s the future, sustainability-wise? Strawless hotels look like a given, as do properties trumpeting their carbon-cutting initiatives. And you can expect to see many more as standard, such as cork recycling (The Savoy currently does this), beekeeping (Fairmont St Andrews restored three acres of lawn to natural grasses for its 20,000-strong bee population), and less water-greedy gardens. For example, Blue Horizons Garden Resort in Grenada replanted more than six acres of its grounds with drought-resistant plants and trees in 2014, while Atmantan, near Mumbai, uses only climate-appropriate plants such as mango trees and chillis.

Crucially, green initiatives will be factored in at the planning stage, so hotels are built to be sustainable, rather than adapted retrospectively — something Madhu Rajesh thinks is crucial for real change. 

The other thing that can make a difference? Us. It’s time to alter our holiday mentality: turn lights off, employ the air con sparingly and use the same towel for a few days. IHG already offers extra loyalty points for guests who forgo housekeeping — as with the toiletries, expect others to follow. As Madhu Rajesh says: “We all have the ability to influence.” 


Hoshinoya Karuizawa, Japan
In the forest an hour from Tokyo, this eco-hotel by Japanese chain Hoshinoya is powered by hydroelectricity, generated by the river that runs through the property, and geothermal energy from onsite hot springs. It’s 70% self-sufficient and uses no fossil fuels. Doubles from £750.

Morukuru Beach Lodge, South Africa
In the De Hoop Nature Reserve, 150 miles east of Cape Town, this lodge is entirely off-grid. Electricity is generated by solar panels, while hot water and underfloor heating comes from pellet burner boilers. Wastewater is purified via an innovative take on a septic tank, linen is washed with biodegradable soap and toiletries are made sustainably from indigenous plants by local women. From £478.

AquaTurm, Germany
This quintuple-glazed former water tower on Lake Constance generates all its energy from solar panels, hydrothermal and wind power and donates the leftovers to the National Grid. From £104.

Zuri Zanzibar, Tanzania
On the Kendwa beachfront, this hotel uses 52% less energy than the baseline for green certifiers EarthCheck. Water comes from wells and the sea via onsite desalination, rainwater is harvested for irrigation, and the grounds are grass-free. The innovative air conditioning system uses a quarter of the power that normal AC does. From £331.

Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk
This hotel in the Dedham Vale AONB produces so much energy via biomass boilers, solar panels and air source heat pumps that it supplies the excess to the National Grid. Air is heated by the pool and everything down to cooking oil is recycled. From £175. 


Independent Hotels Are Disappearing as Chains Grow

This should be the heyday of independent hotels, which by their very nature offer the distinctive experiences sought by many travelers.

Instead, they are up against huge hotel companies with deep pockets as well as competitors on Airbnb. The result? More independent hotels are either joining the big chains or shutting their doors.

Thirty years ago, about two-thirds of all hotels were independent, according to the hotel data company STR. Today, less than 40 percent are independently owned and run.

One of the biggest reasons independent hotels are disappearing is that they’re getting acquired by the large hotel companies or joining them as affiliates to tap into their marketing power.

Accor had 3,600 hotels and 14 brands in 2013. Now, through acquisitions and investments in other lodging companies, it now has nearly 5,000 hotels under 39 different brands. The chain IHG was also one of the first to the trend, buying the boutique hotel company Kimpton in 2015.

Marriott International’s purchase of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016 included the acquisition of the Luxury Collection and Tribute Portfolio. These groupings of affiliated hotels, known as “soft brands,” get access to the big companies’ reservation and marketing resources but keep their individual identities.

Marriott has had its own soft brand since 2010, the Autograph Collection, which now includes more than 175 independent upscale and luxury hotels worldwide, among them the Emery Hotel in Minneapolis and the Publica Isrotel in Tel Aviv. Nearly 90 more hotels are in the process of joining the Autograph group.

From a customer standpoint, the clear demarcation between a chain and an independent hotel has totally eroded, said Jan Freitag the senior vice president of lodging insights at STR. When a guest walks into a hotel, he said, it’s not apparent that “it may be powered in the back by an affiliation.”

The big chains have been expanding their soft brands to meet the needs of travelers looking for “unique, boutique or historic” places to stay or to add a smaller or different-priced offering to a market where the company sees an opportunity, said Ting Phonsanam, co-founder of Momentum Hospitality Management. His company works with independent hotels to strengthen their brands, help develop renovation plans or prepare their properties to join a soft brand.

Independent hotels that join a soft brand keep much of their own personality, Mr. Phonsanam said. “They can make their own decisions on uniforms, dining offerings, furniture and other aspects of the hotel,” he said.

The fee can be significant, commonly 5 to 10 percent on all revenue, Mr. Phonsanam said. In return, soft brand members get help with marketing and can take advantage of the larger company’s purchasing power or property management software.

Joining a soft brand can get even more expensive, though, if the hotel requires significant renovations or operational changes as a precursor to joining the group.

There’s also significant competition from Airbnb, said Jeffrey Low, founder of Stash Rewards, which offers a loyalty rewards program for independent hotels. Airbnb is adding inventory to the alternative lodging market, attracting customers “who might otherwise choose an independent hotel,” he said. That drives down the prices independent hotels can charge, Mr. Low said.

Independent hotels with strong established positions in their markets are the most likely to reject offers to join a larger group.

Barbara Malone, co-owner of the 110-year-old Hotel Sorrento in Seattle, says the key to success for the independent hotel she owns with her husband has been to “stay true to the hotel’s DNA as a community builder,” offering music and literary events and serving their core customers including families coming to the area for medical treatment. At the same time, she said, it’s important to stay nimble and take advantage of new opportunities, like the current expansion of Seattle’s convention center just a few blocks away.

Still, she said, it’s getting more challenging to operate as an independent hotel. “The major brands can approach corporate clients with a large portfolio and a range of prices,” she said. “That’s stiff competition.” The Sorrento also competes with a growing number of Airbnb offerings and other short-term rentals.

Patty Baird, who owns the independent Cedar House Sports Hotelin Lake Tahoe, Calif., with her husband, focuses on creating a sense of place at the hotel, including photography retreats, cooking classes using local ingredients and a dog-friendly itinerary on the hotel website. A recent outing to a local food hub and brewery gave visitors. “a sense of our town and its spirit,” she said.

Independent hotels can face higher costs than large chains when working with online travel agencies like Expedia and the Priceline Group. Hotels generally pay a 15 to 30 percent commission when a traveler uses the online booking agency to reserve a room. But larger companies like Marriott use their market power to negotiate lower booking rates. Independent hotels also rely more on online travel agents to book their hotel guests than the big brands.

Independent hotels also face competition from online booking agencies’ sites. The agencies will sometimes buy key words, including the name of independent hotels, to advertise on Google and steer travelers to their sites rather than to the independent hotel’s site. Ranked first in a recent search for Cedarbrook Lodge, outside of Seattle, were advertisements from two Expedia brands, meaning that those brands had essentially outbid Cedarbrook Lodge for its own name on Google. This practice can translate to reservations that are less lucrative for the independent hotels.

For its part, Expedia says buying those key words can help independent hotels because its research shows that search experiences that associate hotels with an Expedia family brand name give those hotels more credibility and customers are more likely to book them.

Jolene DiSalvo, senior vice president of Columbia Hospitality, which manages the Cedarbrook Lodge, said that while the hotel appreciated the wider audience exposure provided by online travel agencies, the goal is always to “drive direct bookings to our websites,” both for the extra revenue and more important, she said, to own the customer experience from the start.

Extreme weather has been especially hard on independent hotels because they don’t have the resources of a major chain to rebuild. According to the research company STR, 1,000 independently owned and operated hotels closed in areas along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic from 2003 to 2007. Those were the years that nearly 40 hurricanes, including Katrina, came through the areas.

The big chains have also been building new hotels at a faster clip than independents, according to STR. One reason for this may be that lenders prefer hotel projects that are affiliated with a large hotel chain because they see it as a less risky investment, Mr. Phonsanam said.

A set of businesses is serving independent hotels to help them “compete and thrive,” said Mr. Low of Stash Rewards. Accruing points for travel can be an important factor when choosing a hotel, especially for business travelers, Mr. Low said, so his product helps independent hotels stay on a guest’s radar.

Review sites like Trip Advisor can also help independent hotels. Accessing reviews and photos helps guests feel more comfortable booking a place they’re not familiar with, said Stephen Chan, a hotel real estate investor who helps organize the annual Independent Lodging Congress, a gathering of people who work in independent lodging.

Attendees at the latest conference, held last week in downtown Los Angeles, expressed their concern that many guests see soft brand hotels as “boutique enough,” Mr. Chan said. That, Mr. Chan said, was making it hard for truly independent and distinctive hotels to remain that way.


Government must change immigration policy to protect tourism workers

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is asking the Government to change its proposed new immigration system to protect the county’s tourism and food businesses.

It says that some firms could be forced out of business if ministers push ahead with plans for a points-based immigration system with salary floor after Brexit.

Migrant workers would be able to come to the UK only if they had the offer of a job paying at least £30,000 a year.

Chamber chief executive Rob Johnston said: “Our research shows that Cumbria’s hospitality and food-processing sectors rely heavily on migrant workers from the EU.

“We found hotels in the Lake District where migrants make up more than half the workforce.

“The overwhelming majority of these jobs have salaries below the £30,000 threshold.

“If the supply of migrant workers were to be turned off, there would be dire consequences. We’ve spoken to businesses that have told us they might have to stop trading.

“Recruiting local people to replace migrant workers isn’t a realistic option in many parts of Cumbria.

“South Lakeland and Eden have the lowest unemployment rate in the UK, 1.8 per cent, and Carlisle isn’t far behind.

“Given too that our working-age population is shrinking, it’s vital that employers retain access to migrant workers.”

The Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the Government on immigration policy, is consulting on the proposed post-Brexit system.

Cumbria Chamber plans to submit a detailed response before the deadline on November 5.

Mr Johnston said: “We don’t like the concept of a £30,000 salary floor but, if it is implemented, there should be exemptions for food processing and hospitality businesses.

“That’s an argument we’ll be making forcibly.

“Food processing and hospitality are big earners for the Cumbrian economy and it would be foolhardy to undermine them by restricting the supply of labour.”


Mindshare and Unilever initiative aims to cut carbon footprint in marketing

#ChangeTheBrief plans to ‘take power back into the agencies’.

In an attempt to soften the marketing world’s carbon footprint, Mindshare has unveiled its latest initiative, #ChangeTheBrief, undertaking a global brief from its largest client, Unilever.

The initiative offers clients sustainable alternatives to traditional marketing strategies in order to encourage the transition to carbon-neutral behaviours within the marketing world.

Speaking to Campaign, Marco Rimini, chief development officer at Mindshare, said: “The advertising industry creates popular culture and so the most powerful thing that we can do is to try promoting lifestyles, attitudes and behaviours that are consistent with transition to zero-carbon world.” 

“We always feel duty-bound to respond to the brief our client has sent us. Therefore, the simple idea behinid this initiative is to take power back into the agencies. We can always decide to change the brief and respond in different, more imaginative ways consistent with the world we want to see.

“This is a way of institutionalising behaviour.”

With two alternative strategies in place – the “now” brief and the “future” brief – agencies can take a conventional approach to climate change in response to briefs from clients short term and showcase eco-savvy lifestyles and behaviours in the long term.

For example, through the “future” brief, a food brand could develop packaging that encourages people to freeze unused food to avoid food waste, while a shampoo client could promote considerate water usage by creating a “songs to sing in the shower” playlist on Spotify lasting only four minutes.

Nick Emery, global chief executive of Mindshare, said: “Our great challenge as a society and as an industry is to show how living sustainably is possible, enjoyable, fulfilling and aspirational, and that it can also drive our clients’ business. These are all the things that we know how to do.

“We hope that #ChangeTheBrief will become the start of a new way of planning media and advertising for a more sustainable future,” he continued.

Last month, more than 80 creative and media agencies took to the streets of London to join the Global Climate Strike, including Goodstuff Communications, Iris, Lucky Generals, Ogilvy and Wieden & Kennedy.  

Days later in New York, McCann chief executive Harris Diamond used his platform at Advertising Week to hail brands for taking a positive stand with regard to climate change.

Carrie Timms, vice-president of global media at Unilever, said: “At Unilever, we believe brands should be a force for good for the world we live in.

“Mindshare’s #ChangeTheBrief initiative is a powerful statement to the industry that we should all do what we can through media, both expertise and investment, to deliver a more sustainable future.”

Unilever has been involved in a series of environmentally friendly campaigns in recent months, including fabric conditioner Comfort’s pop-up clothes “swap shop” and Hellmann’s food truck that served up a menu using commonly wasted foods.

Mindshare is seeking partners to join a #ChangeTheBrief alliance in order to generate an industry-wide movement to help be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

The initiative is set to launch during Mindshare’s annual Mindshare Day on 1 November.


How Human Resource Leaders Can Create and Maintain Better Employee Experiences

In our highly competitive and rapidly changing business environment, a company’s ability to disrupt and lead rests on its talent. But the workforce – and the way we work – also is rapidly changing, creating a new demand for leaders to shift their mindset from a focus on process to a focus on people.

In this new reality, in which talent is key to competitive advantage, every leader needs to think differently about their role in creating and maintaining employee experiences. Human resources executives can play a critical role here, helping build operating models that use enabling technologies to create an environment in which workers are treated like critical drivers of value.

The talent picture is complex as organizations respond to workforce pressures on four main fronts:

Diversifying workforce demographics. For the first time, corporations need to manage the presence of up to five distinct generational groups in the workforce, each with its own wants, needs, and motivators. These divergent requirements complicate the process of shaping company culture and delivering on the employee value proposition (EVP).

The rise of contingent labor. According to KPMG’s 2018 CEO Outlook survey, almost all companies in the U.S. (99%) use a contingent workforce in some capacity. Increasing use of contingent and “gig” workers complicates workforce planning, creating many possible ways to achieve an optimal workforce size, shape, or composition.

The shift to a consumer mindset. Employees are increasingly “shopping” for jobs, seeking tailored employment experiences that align with their personal goals and values. This mindset not only changes talent attraction and hiring strategies, it also increases the need for an employment experience that delivers a sense of deeper purpose and fulfillment.

Intelligent automation in the workplace. Automation technologies already have a deep impact on talent strategies. In addition to increasing productivity and streamlining time-consuming manual work, automation impacts workflows, increases employee reskilling requirements, and creates demand for new roles and new technical specializations.

In this evolving workplace, creating the right employee experience can help organizations attract and retain high-value employees who deliver competitive advantage. In these enhanced environments, these employees also can work more innovatively and more productively.

Research shows organizations with specific employee experience programs and strategies report up to three times higher profit growth. Part of this growth is due to lower operating margins stemming from employees being more innovative in how they work, but lower employee turnover also contributes measurable savings.

Creating this new kind of employee experience demands that leaders look at operations through a customer experience lens. This must be built on assessments and analysis, not just company programs, but also the wants and needs of each employee from their career, their workplace, and their employer. From there, the company can begin to shape tailored experiences for a multi-generational workforce with many different employee types.

And leaders can’t be limited to just insights from annual performance reviews or opinion services: They need to keep a finger on the pulse of the current employee experience. What do workers want across their digital, social, and environmental experiences? Is your organization meeting those needs?

Mechanisms and technology that allow for real-time feedback and sentiment analysis can ensure that workers feel heard and allow the organization to respond swiftly in the moments that matter. This feedback can also provide opportunities to iterate on the delivered experience based on worker responses and fill the gaps in the EVP.

Enhancing employee experiences means placing a greater emphasis on the structural elements that shape that work and thus shape the employees’ day-to-day experiences within the organization. Employees need to be surrounded by a platform of human-centered services that are provided or supported by HR. This means that instead of focusing on process, the HR organization of the future will be more like a platform or service provider that meets the needs of different “internal customers” or worker groups in many different ways.

All of these elements must come together in order to support transformation.

For instance, KPMG recently worked with a company in which fierce competition from emerging fintech firms put this long-standing, multinational financial services company under intense pressure to modernize. To create a business capable of meeting evolving customer expectations and competing in the digital world, they needed to make significant changes to their workforce, technology, and culture. The people agenda would drive this change, but they also needed access to in-depth insights into the future of the finance industry and the contribution of technology to business strategy.

The firm’s current HR information system required a large IT team to support, run, and customize it, with associated cost implications. This, together with many broader challenges in human capital management, meant that millions of dollars were exiting their business. They needed to move from a system that performed core HR administration to one that helped them drive talent and performance. They also needed to modernize their operations through better processes and self-service.

A key consideration was whether to implement a new HR platform. KPMG helped shape the firm’s HR transformation strategy, vision, and road map, utilizing pre-configured tools, templates, transformation enablers, and methodologies from KPMG Powered Enterprise. This helped manage risk, provide clear scope, and support business value.

Today, the firm better enables their workforce and leaders to drive the change necessary to become a modern financial services organization.

In this digital age, with the emerging and increasingly fierce war for talent and skills, creating an employee experience that differentiates employers and actually retains talent will be critical. Traditional, task-focused workplace cultures are a significant barrier to true digital transformation. Addressing and quickly closing the employee experience gap needs to be a business priority for every leader today. Instead of making transformation a goal, make it a way of business.