New Hotel Booking Tools Incorporate Sustainability Components

Two European hotel booking tools are bringing sustainability practices to the moment of booking.

Hot Hotels, a hotel booking app geared toward last-minute bookings, this year began using a portion of its commission from each booking to buy carbon credits to offset the impact of the hotel stay. For each night of every booking, Hot buys 100 kilograms worth of credits from carbon trading company Allcot. Hot co-founder Conor O'Connor said that amount is "well within the parameters" of the average impact of a hotel stay based on research by Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.

While some booking tools enable users to purchase their own carbon offsets, Hot remains somewhat unusual in that it absorbs the cost for those offsets.

"We were surprised that more OTAs or companies in travel distribution, or even the hotels themselves, don't do this," O'Connor said. "We're able to purchase in bulk, so the cost to us is minimal."

Somewhat similar to U.S.-based mobile booking tool HotelTonight, Hot allows travelers to book last-minute hotel reservations, usually discounted between 15 percent and 60 percent from the best available rate. O'Connor estimated that just over half the app's bookings are for business travel purposes. Hot currently includes hotels in about 170 European cities and is looking to expand into Israel, North Africa and perhaps the United States, he said.

Though O'Connor said Hot's offsetting program could enhance its appeal to corporate travelers, he added that "the reason why we did this is because we thought it was the right thing to do, more than any commercial reasons. It fits in with our ethos."

A more traditional hotel-booking model, Amsterdam-based BookDifferent targets sustainability in a similar manner. Launched in May 2012, the tool uses the reservations system and donates half of its commissions to the charity of the user's choice.

BookDifferent recently began incorporating into its booking filters a handful of eco-labels__Green Globe, Green Label and other designations that highlight hotels with superior sustainability practices. About 1,500 of the 260,000 hotels globally available through the tool have such a label, according to BookDifferent chairman Bastiaan Fronik.

Since the addition of eco-labels, "the number of reservations from outside Holland has been growing," Fronik said. "It mostly is leisure and small businesses at the moment. We really would like to see the medium-size and bigger businesses, though we're not really a platform for those sorts of companies, so it's difficult."