How will micro-certifications change the future of the hotel industry?

The COVID pandemic has made it essential for hotels to prove that they’re adhering to the highest possible standards of health and safety. Micro-certifications have given them a way to do this – but they’re not a universal panacea. We explore the reasons why…


Long before 2020, the question on every hotelier’s mind was how to ensure their enterprise was as green as possible.

Then came the matter of staying compliant with changing regulations around data processing, storage and privacy.

Now, hospitality professionals have met their greatest challenge yet: responding to health guidelines in the wake of a global pandemic, without allowing sustainability targets to fall by the wayside.

There is mounting social pressure for businesses to raise their ecological game. Guests need clear and effective communication to prove that hotels are following new policies and procedures, not only to ensure that their chosen lodgings meet the highest standards of sanitation, but also to provide transparency about the environmental impact of their stay.
The answer to this challenge may be found in the form of micro-certifications, also known as single attribute certifications.

What are micro-certifications?

Micro-certifications are individual awards, assigned by an accredited third party, that communicate a specific feature or benefit of a product or service. Fairtrade, Gold Standard, MSC and Rainforest Alliance are several of the certifications you may recognize from the realm of consumer products.

Micro-certifications are not a new thing – they’ve been around for decades. Within our highly regulated industry, hoteliers and hospitality professionals will already be aware of a number of micro-certifications such as ServSafe, Alcohol Awareness and Guest Service Professional – and new ones are being introduced all the time.

These awards enable hoteliers to communicate the quality of their accommodation, creating a point of difference over their competitors. And they’re advantageous to guests too. Micro-certifications make it easier to identify hotels that adhere to the policies that matter to them. If they are regulated in their hotel choices (for instance by an insurance policy), they may even be limited to hotels that hold certain micro-certifications too.

The future of micro-certifications

At a time when hotels are under pressure to meet fast-changing standards for the sake of their guests and the wider world, we’re very likely to see new micro-certifications arise.

These may include micro-certifications to show accordance with:

Green and sustainable criteria:

  • Being able to offer a carbon-free stay, for instance, by offsetting 100% of every guest’s impact.
  • Offering a fully plant-based menu and choosing only carbon-neutral suppliers.
  • Providing low-carbon or zero-emission forms of transportation for guests to help reach the premises.

Data regulation:

  • Having employees trained in data handling, including the safe disposal of guest data.
  • Having secure data-storage facilities.
  • Adhering to regulations regarding the use and processing of data, for instance for marketing purposes.

Health and wellbeing guidelines:

Having employees trained in the safe disinfection of hotel spaces after they have been used by guests.

Having communal spaces tested to ensure they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Implementing a safe procedure to follow in case of a viral outbreak or other health emergency.

Can micro-certifications offer a complete solution?

One counter argument to micro-certifications is that they can only convey small and specific amounts of information about an accommodation option and are nowhere near as robust as full certifications.

Micro-certifications also tend to be local in nature and therefore only provide certification across a particular region or country. Equally, some awards allow for carbon offsetting which means, for example, that hotels may compensate for emissions by planting trees. Although ostensibly a good thing, it results in more incidences of greenwashing and creates an unreliable dataset for corporations which is useless to them when it comes to measuring their ecological footprint.

As the number of certifications increases, it will become more difficult for hoteliers to know which to choose to address a particular issue – or whether to implement one over another. And guests too may have trouble differentiating between certain labels.

It’s also likely that the increasing popularity of these policies will give rise to a number of new regulatory bodies which, in turn, may lead to some competition between specific types of micro-certification.

These issues may force hoteliers and travel managers to work hard to ensure that they are able to identify which micro-certifiers offer the most robust options. Hoteliers will also need to be vigilant when choosing their providers, ensuring that the awarding body is legitimate and authoritative – doubly important given the cost of these certifications.

However, one solution to these problems is for the hotel industry to move towards a global standard. As pointed out by Professor Maribel Esparcia Pérez of the University of Lleida, micro-certifications should not be seen as a goal in themselves but should add up to a complete system. She argues hoteliers worldwide should work towards a common goal of total sustainability and look at achieving micro-certifications as the steps towards achieving this.

So while micro-certifications are still in their infancy, as a hotelier, you can ensure that the certifications you are pursuing today might one day add up to a complete system that’s considered world-class. Make sure you’re choosing micro-certifications from suppliers with a good reputation in the industry, and that the parameters of your certifications meet the needs of your travelers.

HRS is your partner in the changing world of regulation

We’ve been looking at two solutions that provide a more comprehensive and global alternative to the limitations of micro-certifications.

As well as eradicating green washing, this initiative provides a uniform and trusted measure of hotel sustainability. Green Stay reporting is based on the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) and provides data that is accessible to all those booking through our platform.

The Clean & Safe Protocol

At a time when 88% of corporate travel decision makers are seeking lodging with a revised COVID-driven hygiene standard as their top priority, we’ve devised the Clean & Safe Protocol. Developed in partnership with SGS – the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company – this initiative is intended to provide both corporations and hotels with a well-defined standard that demonstrates the cleanliness and hygiene of a property. There are now 60,000+ hotels with Clean & Safe labels.

Consequently, the HRS platform makes it easier for corporations to find accommodation which matches their duty of care requirements when it comes to hygiene, but also highlights lodgings with the desired green credentials too.

For the hotels that partner with us – and are raising their game in the light of new policies and procedures – it’s an easy way to be found and secure bookings.

Find out more about HRS’ solutions and how they can help hoteliers adapt for the future.

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