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  • Yuki Katsutani

The second part of the report: What is the future of hospitality - the new value of Sustainability?

Updated: May 3, 2023

30 September 2022, jointly organised by Tricolage Inc. and the Japan Management Association, an online panel was held with the theme "What is the future of hospitality - the new value of 'sustainability'".

The previous seminar report (Part 1), to learn about examples of SDGs initiatives in the accommodation industry, introduced the sustainability promotion activities of the Ryokan facilities in the Snow Country Tourism Region and the Imperial Hotel.

This time, in the second part of the seminar report, we mainly report on the panel discussion, which discussed the SDGs and sustainability in more detail.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction of panellists and speakers

2. Panel discussion

2.1 Challenges and solutions for accommodation facilities identified through SDG promotion

2.2 Benefits and effects of working on the SDGs

2.3 The Japanese version of the SDGs is in the global spotlight

3. Audience questions about the "Universal Design for Tourism" initiative

4. Summary so far

5. Practical ways for the accommodation industry to promote 'sustainability'

6. Conclusion: promoting sustainability throughout the accommodation industry


1. Introduction of panellists and speakers

井口 智裕 氏(いぐちともひろ)


Tomohiro Iguchi Representative Director of Snow Country Tourism Region

Representative Director, Snow Country Tourism Region

Representative Director, Ryugen Co.

平石 理奈 氏(ひらいしりな)


Ms Rina Hiraishi General Affairs Section, General Affairs Department, Imperial Hotel Ltd. Manager in charge of SDGs promotion

北村 剛史 氏(きたむらたけし)


Takeshi Kitamura, Ph. Representative Director and full-time property appraiser, Nippon Hotel Appraisal Co.

Representative Director, Sakura Quality Management Co.

Executive Director, Tourism Quality Certification Association

吉田 史子(よしだふみこ) Tricolage株式会社


Fumiko Yoshida Director and COO, Tricolage Ltd.


2.Panel discussion

From this point on, the three questions were considered in a discussion format facilitated by moderator Takeshi Kitamura.

2.1 Challenges and solutions for accommodation revealed by the promotion of the SDGs

Mr Kitamura

Many accommodation facilities are searching for what to do. So, please tell us about the background to your initiatives and the issues you have found out through practice.


Mr Iguchi

'On the one hand, it's difficult to communicate ryokan branding to the rest of the world, While it is difficult to communicate a ryokan's branding to the rest of the world, we believe that the ryokan's characteristic 'connection with the local community' is a strength that differentiates it from global chains worldwide. 

And 'sustainability' is a natural keyword for 'links with the local community'. 

Despite this, this is so commonplace for onsen ryokan that it is not even recognised as such in Japan.I would like to communicate the importance of 'sustainability' more and more to my colleagues in the industry."

Mr Kitamura

Around 1,700 employees of the Imperial Hotel were able to work together to promote the SDGs initiative, What is the background to this?


Ms Hiraishi

I still think it is the 'founding spirit'. The corporate philosophy of 'contributing to society' made it very natural for us to accept that we should do the SDGs. I also think that the experience of each employee in our history has given us a boost.

2.2 Benefits and effects of working on the SDGs

Mr Kitamura

Many in the industry are interested in the benefits of the SDGs. Customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, feedback from the communities they have contributed to, etc. Have there been any tangible benefits?


Mr Iguchi

The most important thing was the effect on staff. By setting indicators, making them visible and quantifying them, the awareness of the workers has changed. 

As for our customers, it is difficult for 'luxury' and 'sustainability' to coexist, so our theme is how we can convince our customers and work together with them to create the best possible experience.

'You're a small accommodation, so maybe you're cutting costs?' It is important to create public opinion as a community so that people don't think that we are cutting costs because we are a small accommodation provider.

The market will not change unless we get together with our friends and build it up together.'For this town. For this village. For Japan.' and it is necessary to create a network. That is why it is important to 1) change the mindset of your own employees first, 2) increase the number of friends from there, and 3) educate your customers...

In addition, the world, especially Europe, is considerably more aware of the SDGs than Japan, Japan will need to be well prepared for when inbound tourism increases.

Mr Kitamura

Changes in employee satisfaction with the SDGs since 2020. How would you describe it?


Ms Hiraishi

'Why do we engage in sustainability?' ' from an employee's perspective is 'I am proud to work for a company that is committed to sustainability and contributes to society'. 

Especially the younger staff, due to the amount of schooling and information they have received about the SDGs, they tend to have a high level of awareness and are much more interested in the hotel's initiatives. 

In addition, daily exposure to initiatives such as the (aforementioned) staff cafeteria and other mechanisms to think about the SDGs in a familiar way may be an important factor.

2.3 The Japanese version of the SDGs is in the global spotlight

Mr Kitamura

Japan has long been building a recycling-oriented society. 68% of the country is surrounded by forests and the sea, many rural villages have been carefully preserved, and the Japanese are a sincere people. The world is expected to come to see how the Japanese tackle sustainability. What are the important perspectives and the Japanese style of "serious" SDGs, rather than the pretence of environmental consideration (so-called "greenwashing") that is not accompanied by reality?


Mr Iguchi

Rural life and Japanese culture are the SDGs.

(For example, in Niigata, a rice-growing region, rice that is too small for rice is selected and made into rice confectionery such as rice crackers.)

For the Japanese It is simply "kominka = Nice", but overseas it is "kominka = SDGs! It will be.

The idea is to delve deeper into the ancient Japanese way of thinking with the mind of onkochishin (new knowledge of the past).

I think it will be a message to the world. I want them to do it all over the country.

Mr Kitamura

What are the important perspectives in moving 1,700 employees?

Ms Hiraishi

At the Imperial Hotel, there are actually 2 to 2.5 sustainability flag-bearers for sustainability out of a workforce of 1,700 employees.

That's why we have put in place a system and organisation that automatically rotates, and have created various environments where people naturally think 'Let's contribute to the SDGs', as in the case of the employee cafeteria.

As a way of thinking, we have also introduced the question 'Which of the 17 items does your initiative deserve?' in our internal decision-making documents. In addition, we have introduced a check that asks 'Which of the 17 items do your initiatives deserve?

This is a mechanism to make us always think about how our actions contribute to sustainability.

3. Questions from the audience on the "Universal Design for Tourism" initiative

At the end of the panel discussion, the panellists and moderators answered questions from the audience.

Audience question

Recently, there has been a focus on 'universal design for tourism', i.e. tourism that can be enjoyed by the elderly and people with disabilities. How are these social issues being tackled?


Mr Iguchi

Of course there are hardware aspects, such as making ryokan barrier-free. We are also highly aware of universalisation efforts, especially in the area of food.

We are already working on preparations to be able to respond flexibly to diverse requests, such as religious, allergy and vegan requests, now that we are at least in demand and have more experience.


Ms Hiraishi

On the hardware side, we have expanded and improved the number of barrier-free rooms from one to ten. We are not simply decorating the rooms to look like a hospital, but are refurbishing them to make them suitable for all kinds of guests.

On the software side, there is employee training. Every year, they attend a seminar on assisted care support, and we make sure that our guests can use the rooms comfortably


Mr Kitamura

Of the 17 SDG goals, only about 40% are for the conservation of the natural environment, and the other goals cover a wide range of areas. Namely, "coexistence with local communities", "customer care", "employee care" and "business care". "to create sustainable accommodation by balancing all of them. a concept that we believe is encompassed in the content of the SDGs initiatives.

4. Summary of the discussion so far

The panel discussion covered various aspects of the challenges, solutions, benefits and effects of the accommodation industry's efforts to promote the SDGs, as well as important perspectives for the future. Below are some of the key points that need to be kept in mind:

  1. The need to successfully draw out the 'sustainability' aspect that is inherent in Japanese accommodation, differentiates them from global chains and gives them an advantage to communicate to the international market.

  2. The key to successful SDG promotion is to gain the understanding of employees. Set up performance indicators, if there is an environment where the SDGs are visualised and quantified and the SDGs are considered closer to home, employee awareness will change.

  3. Luxury and sustainability can coexist if customers understand. For this reason, it is important to create a network in the industry and work together to boost and educate people about the SDGs.

  4. If we delve into the ancient Japanese way of thinking and doing things in different parts of the country with a warm and innovative spirit, therein lies the hint for competing with the world.

  5. "Coexistence with local communities", "Customer care", "Employee care" and "Business care". The balance between "coexistence with the local community", "care for customers", "care for employees" and "care for the business" will enable sustainable accommodation to achieve the goals of the SDGs.

If you are in charge of the accommodation industry and do not know where to start in promoting the SDGs, please read the next section.

5. Practical ways for the accommodation industry to promote 'sustainability'

SAKURA QUALITY : 井口智裕氏:これからのホスピタリティとは〜「持続可能性」という新しい価値〜

It is not easy for accommodation establishments to simply say, "Let's aim for the 17 SDG goals!". It is not easy for accommodation establishments to tackle the 17 SDG goals in one fell swoop. The quality certification provided by the Association for Tourism Quality Certification (AQCA) is a practical way to address such issues.

The adoption of the 'Sakura Quality An ESG Practice Certification' is being promoted.

Sustainability initiatives are an issue that cannot be separated from the global market. However, many people must say that they do not know what to actually do. Therefore, the SAKURAQUALITY certification is a great way to first understand your company's current situation, what you have done, and what you need to do in the future. The certification is very useful to first understand your company's current situation and to clarify what you have done and what you need to do in the future.

We recommend that everyone in the accommodation industry make use of this as a practical indicator for taking the first step.

6. Finally: to promote sustainability throughout the tourism industry

Although the webinar was aimed at the accommodation industry, it was watched by many people from the wider tourism industry and provided an opportunity to reaffirm how the SDGs and sustainability are a hot topic.

As we saw with two different accommodation initiatives - a rural inn and a city hotel - the 'value' of sustainability in the accommodation industry is being delivered to customers in a variety of ways, as we saw in two different accommodation initiatives - a local ryokan and a hotel in the city.

We found that the 'value' of sustainability in the accommodation industry is delivered to customers in a variety of ways. Depending on the company's philosophy, the characteristics of the region and the relationship with employees and the local community, sustainability should be tailored to suit your company's philosophy, regional characteristics and relationships with employees and local communities.

What is the sustainability 'value' of your company or region?

  • Tricolage helps local authorities and tourism operators to create sustainable tourism.

  • We want to develop policies and plans for sustainable tourism

  • We want to promote sustainability within the company.

  • We want to create sustainable tours to meet the needs of future travellers.

  • We do know where to start.

If you have any questions about sustainable tourism, please feel free to contact us! Let's work together to find the best sustainability solution for your company and your region.



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