“Who wants to go on holiday to a place where the beach is littered with rubbish and the water is polluted?”
Prof. Willy Legrand, Professor of Hospitality at the IUBH University of Applied Sciences, talks to us about the Hotel Yearbook 2018 and the importance of sustainability for the hospitality and tourism industry.
IUBH: What exactly is the Hotel Yearbook and why is it important for the hotel industry?
Prof. Willy Legrand: The Hotel Yearbook was launched a decade ago and is very well known in the industry and among academics. The publication brings together thoughts, opinions and research on the future issues facing the global hotel industry. It is published online only, and is free. The articles are short, focusing on issues relevant to the sector. With over 155,000 recipients, the Hotel Yearbook is an important publication for the hotel industry.
Prof. Legrand: I was already familiar with earlier issues of the Hotel Yearbook because I’d used some of the articles for teaching purposes. Sustainability has been my area of specialisation for over 15 years, so I was keen to see greater publicity for examples of best practice in the field of sustainability. Given the broad reach of the Hotel Yearbook, and the fact that sustainability had not been covered in any of its previous issues, I thought it would be a good idea to contact the publisher. A few emails, phone calls and meetings later, I was appointed guest editor-in-chief of the first issue of the Hotel Yearbook to focus exclusively on sustainable hospitality. That was a great honour for me.
IUBH: You said sustainability was your area of specialisation – what was it that led you to specialise in this field?
Prof. Legrand: I come from a Canadian family that was heavily involved in agriculture. So I always felt it was important to treat nature, animals and particularly resources such as water and soil with great respect. I studied geography at the University of Manitoba, and published articles in the student newspaper about society and the environment. Years later, when I started working in the hospitality industry, my goal – wherever possible – was to combine my knowledge of and interest in environmental issues with the hospitality industry. I then took an MBA degree at the IUBH, specialising in corporate environmental management, for which I researched sustainability initiatives in the hospitality industry. Since then I have continued to work in this field, completed my PhD, and published many books and articles on the subject, including the Hotel Yearbook.
IUBH: What does the role of editor-in-chief of a publication like this involve?
Prof. Legrand: There are all sorts of administrative tasks. A draft version of the publication, including the intended subject matter, has to be produced. A list of possible authors also has to be drawn up. Having spent years writing about sustainable hospitality, I have a good network of academics, researchers and experts in this field. But of course, not all of them have time to write for us, and not everybody is “the writing type”. As guest editor-in-chief, you have to find the right person – ideally a well-known expert in the field who is interested in being published and who is able to meet the deadline you’ve set. A guest editor-in-chief also has to proofread texts and make suggestions as to how to improve them. For this issue of the Hotel Yearbook, that meant working with some 40 authors, because some of the articles were written jointly by several authors. But the result was worth the effort.
IUBH: Which article would you most recommend to readers?
Prof. Legrand: That’s a really difficult question. I’d recommend that they read the contents page and all the authors’ profiles and just pick out whichever article interests them most. This issue of the Hotel Yearbook covers a wide range of questions relating to sustainability – from water management, certifications, food waste and local supply chains to the Internet of Things, to give just a few examples.
IUBH: How important will sustainability be for the tourism industry in the future?
Prof. Legrand: In recent years, hotel and tourism businesses have been actively dealing with the impact of their commercial activities on their environment and on society. After all, it’s a recognised fact that a clean environment is a key factor in attracting tourists. Who wants to go on holiday to a place where the beach is littered with rubbish and the water is polluted? Who wants to barricade themselves inside a luxury resort surrounded by impoverished people? Big international groups and small companies alike have realised that there are tangible benefits to proactively combating these negative effects: it leads to an increase in productivity and improves the company’s reputation.
Bearing that in mind, it’s clear that sustainability is not an optional added extra, separate from a company’s ordinary day-to-day business, but the core of all its commercial activities. That’s the only way for this industry to thrive in the coming years and decades. Nobody – either now or in the future – can or should settle for anything less.
IUBH: We agree with you there. Thank you very much for speaking to us, Professor Legrand.
This interview was conducted by Jennifer E. Muhr.