Green Travel and Eco Stays: Latest Initiatives to Reduce Waste

Research from the HFTP Asia Research Center Written by: Evita Ma

Under new regulations effective July 1, 2019, hotels in Shanghai have ceased to offer disposable daily necessities such as toothbrushes, combs, bath sponges, razors, nail files and shoe polish, unless specifically requested by guests. Guangzhou hotels joined the initiative in September. In mid-October, the Beijing government also drafted an amendment on household waste management to avoid using disposable daily necessities in the food service and hotel industries. Green travel appears to be a new trend that will extend and make its way to other Chinese cities in the future.

It is estimated that more than 6.5 million sets of disposable toiletries are consumed daily if we use the 50 percent occupancy rate for the 13 to 15 million hotel rooms across China, according to Du Liangliang of the Hotel Business Unit of Ctrip, China’s leading online travel agency (Xinhua, 2019). The regulation is a great effort to combat plastic waste and encourage people to live a more eco-friendly life.

After a three-month implementation of the new regulation, according to Fliggy (2019), 90 percent of hotels believe that they saved more than 30 percent on the costs of disposable products. However, nearly half of all guests still asked for disposable necessities such as a toothbrush, which indicates individuals need more time to get used to the new regulation.

In order not to disappoint the guests, hotels and online booking platforms introduced some transitional measures. Front desk staff remind the check-in customers of the new regulations. Online booking platforms include an active reminder when sending users reservation emails. Some mid-scale hotels now pack the high-quality toothpaste and toothbrush into a travel kit set and sell it in the minibar.

In addition to the disposable amenities, the compulsory garbage classification is also of significant importance to hoteliers. Beset with a waste management problem, a hotel in Shanghai was ordered to make rectifications by officials in July. Garbage and recycling regulations are enforced in Shanghai today, and other cities are gradually following suit: Guangzhou and Beijing currently employ trial regulations with hopes to mandate them permanently in the near future.

Another point to highlight is that waste in Shanghai is now required to be sorted into four categories — wet garbage, dry garbage, recyclable waste and hazardous waste — whereas there will be some different classification rules in other cities, depending on the local governments.  With a new era of waste sorting coming, hoteliers need to be fully aware of the rules and prepare for the “green experience.”

“Green travel” and “eco stay” will not be new terms for other parts of the world. U.S. hotels refuse to put a free toothbrush, toothpaste and slippers in rooms. Some eco and green hotel brands are also becoming well-known these days. Even frequent flyer programs are challenged by climate activists recently since programs encourage people to take more flights than they actually need and increase carbon emissions. “Green” is no longer a concept for the moment, but a job that all need to keep in mind. Hoteliers need to examine their business and take action to provide a green experience from now on.


Evita Ma is director at the HFTP Asia Research Center. Contact Evita at or +1 (512) 220-4039.


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