Sustainable travel is trending: How SA accommodation owners can meet demand

Top tips for short-term rental owners to reduce energy consumption and attract eco-conscious travellers

The majority of tourists globally are prioritising sustainable travel. According to a recent survey, 76% of travellers aim to travel more sustainably over the next year. In light of the remarkable recovery of tourism in KwaZulu-Natal, holiday rental property owners and Airbnb hosts should consider making their properties more sustainable to attract guests.

Dr Andrew Dickson, engineering executive at CBI-electric: low voltage, suggests reducing energy consumption as a starting point, given the current electricity crisis and the threat of global warming. “Property owners should empower travellers to be socially responsible corporate citizens by emphasising the importance of conserving energy.”

“While they may not significantly reduce their energy consumption while on vacation, property owners can set limits on energy usage and provide guests with the choice to participate within those parameters,” he adds. “For example, consumption can be limited to 1.5 kilowatt hours per hour. This approach allows occupants to be active participants in conservation efforts, rather than just being told to decrease their consumption.”

Dr Dickson points out that smart devices such as occupancy sensors for lights and smart plug sockets can be useful in controlling energy usage and setting limits on the amount of energy consumed. “A controller can be used to manage the accommodation’s lighting and security features to save energy while still ensuring safety is provided. Hosts can also monitor energy consumption using a dedicated meter and set up messages to notify guests of high energy consumption and encourage them to bring down their usage.”

“It is also important to advertise the property’s sustainability and educate travellers who may not be aware of how to conserve energy,” he explains. “Promoting sustainability and reducing energy consumption is a good way to attract tourists who value social responsibility and are willing to pay a premium for it. Property owners can also incentivise guests to lower their energy consumption by offering discounts or rewards for keeping their kilowatt usage below a certain level. They can also provide information about their carbon footprint and give them a rating for their stay.”

To further promote sustainability, Dr Dickson highlights that property owners can set a limit on the number of units of electricity that are provided for free and then charge for additional usage. “They can also set a timer for the water heater so hot water is available, but the geyser is not running 24/7.”

Join the smart holiday home revolution

Below, he shares seven ways that holiday rental owners can do this by using smart home technologies, like those found in the CBI Astute Range, to monitor, control and automate electrical appliances:

Knowledge is power:

If you don’t know how much electricity your rental unit is using, you won’t be able to reduce the consumption. With smart home tech, however, owners can monitor how much connected appliances are consuming to identify areas for improvement.

Keep loads low:

The load management capabilities of some home automation systems can help users ensure only one heavy load-consuming appliance, like a jacuzzi, is switched on at any given moment, thereby ensuring optimal energy distribution.

Set limits:

Users can specify the operating duration of appliances, such as running the geyser for two hours to save electricity while ensuring a hot bath. A smart isolator can also help manage energy consumption from air conditioners to ensure they are not accidentally left on all day when guests leave.

Schedule appliance switch-on:

Holiday rental owners or managing agencies can efficiently manage energy usage and enhance guest comfort by utilising smart controllers or plugs for appliances like geysers and refrigerators. By scheduling the geyser to turn on a few hours before guests arrive, they can ensure a readily available supply of hot water, creating a welcoming environment. Similarly, using a smart plug to pre-cool the refrigerator ensures it is at the optimal temperature, allowing guests to immediately store perishables upon arrival. This proactive approach not only improves guest satisfaction but also helps to conserve energy by operating appliances only when necessary, eliminating the need for maintenance teams to visit each unit and switch these items on manually. All of this can easily be done at any time and from anywhere via the CBI Home app.

Curb consumption in colder months:

South Africans also pay more during the high demand season between June and August. Unsurprisingly, this coincides with winter when we consume more electricity by using heaters, electric blankets and underfloor heating. Smart home devices could be used to determine when they switch on as well as for how long.

Remote control:

Worried a device was left switched on? Smart home technologies allow users to turn connected appliances off from their smartphone and/or tablet from anywhere in the world. They can also use this capability to switch items on. To illustrate, air conditioners can be easily turned on via an app just before guests arrive to ensure a comfortable temperature.

Incorporate renewable energy sources:

With some Airbnb hosts and holiday rental property owners turning to rooftop solar to mitigate the impacts of load shedding (and possibly electricity price increases too), smart home technology enables the effortless integration of these alternative power sources. For instance, the tech could be used to connect and disconnect from the grid as well as to ensure that the power produced by solar PV systems is used effectively and efficiently.

“Contrary to popular belief, accommodation owners won’t need to rewire their properties to enjoy the benefits of smart home technologies. Devices like smart plugs, isolators and controllers can easily be installed by an electrician without the need for additional wiring or hubs,” points out Dr Dickson.

Overall, he notes that making properties more sustainable is crucial for attracting socially responsible guests and reducing the travel industry’s carbon footprint.

“At the same time, it can help individual property owners save money. By implementing energy-saving measures and promoting sustainability, accommodation providers can create a positive impact on the environment and their bottom lines,” Dr Dickson concludes.

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