Hilton Australasia Head, Heidi Kunkel: “Hotels must pursue sustainable practices”

Ali Coulton

As consumers begin to wise up to tourism’s impacts on the environment, implementing sustainable practices is becoming imperative for all businesses in the industry.

Which is why we do a little happy dance every time we see a travel or hospitality company taking a stance and implementing sustainable tourism practices.

So it goes without saying that we were over the moon to see Hilton Hotels promise to cut its environmental footprint in half and double its social impact investment by 2030.

To learn more about this commitment and see what else the industry can do to make tourism sustainable, we chatted with Heidi Kunkel, Hilton’s new Vice President of Operations for Australasia.

“With the growth of the world’s population, sustainability is one of the biggest issues facing our planet,” Kunkel told us.

“The hospitality industry is a contributor to this issue, having an environmental impact through energy and water consumption and waste creation.”

“It is imperative that hotels are more socially responsible and are actively pursuing sustainable practices to conserve our beautiful environment.”

Kunkel is passionate about sustainability, particularly ethical food sourcing. As a vegetarian, she told us it is her personal mission to encourage conversion to a plant-based diet.

“Sustainability and ethical food sourcing are topics we should all be concerned about and take action on as individuals in our daily habits,” she said.

“At a corporate level, organisations must be proactive in implementing policies to reduce our impact on the environment.”

“At Hilton, we are proactive in reducing the use of plastic and as an example has eliminated the use of plastic straws from our hotels across Australasia.”

“This initiative aims to remove approximately 2.5 million straws from the environment annually.”

“I would love to build upon this initiative and remove plastic from our hotels altogether.”

Kunkel said she is proud to work for Hilton, who are actively engaged in numerous initiatives through the corporate responsibility strategy Travel with Purpose.

“To us, hospitality is much more than just the service we offer our guests. Our hospitality extends to our communities, our Team Members and our collective world as we strive for positive social and environmental change.”

“With Hilton’s corporate responsibility strategy; Travel with Purpose, we provide Team Members with the opportunity to make a difference and develop local solutions that positively impact their communities and environment.”

“Since 2008, Hilton globally has reduced carbon emissions by 30 per cent and water consumption by 20 per cent, and we’ve diverted more than 1.5 million pounds of soap from landfill to save lives in developing countries – helping drive a 35 per cent reduction in the mortality rate of children under the age of five who suffer from hygiene-related illnesses in those countries.”

“We have also committed to double our sourcing from local and minority-owned suppliers, and double its investment in Hilton action grants and other programs to help women, youth, and persons with disabilities around the world.”

Do you have something to say on this? Get in touch with Travel Weekly Editor Ali Coulton here to share your thoughts.