The travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest economic sectors, with a global retail value totaling over $8.8 trillion in 2018 alone. Of the 25+ subsectors in the industry, three sectors account for more than 50% of the total revenue - hotels and accommodation, air travel, and food services. The hotel and accommodation sector accounted for more than $600 billion in 2018, and experts expect those numbers to rise once the global COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
While this sector of the tourism industry is among the largest contributors to employment and economic revenue, it’s also one of the most energy-intensive. Energy consumption accounts for 3-6% of overall hotel operating costs and approximately 60% of hotel CO2 emissions. Although energy requirements take a heavy toll on the hotel sector’s bottom line, things like outdated technology, inefficient appliances, and poor operations management keep profits from
increasing and hold back sustainability efforts.
In a recent study published by the International Tourism Partnership, experts project that the global hotel industry will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 65% per room per year by 2030 to meet the objectives of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. While it seems like a daunting task for hospitality companies and hotel operators, prominent players in the industry have started the transition to a more sustainable and profitable future.
The Hilton group has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 61% per square meter by 2030 from a 2008 baseline. The hotel group is now purchasing over 300 million kWh annually - enough green power to meet 94% of the organization’s electricity use.
Marriott has committed to reducing its carbon footprint across all properties and operations by 30% by 2025 from a 2016 baseline. Marriott has four sustainability goals: nurture our world, empower through opportunity, sustain responsible operations, and welcome all and advance human rights.
Wyndham Hotels has pledged to reduce overall emissions by 15% by 2025 from a 2019 baseline. Wyndham is “dedicated to fostering environmental sustainability.”
hard to compare progress
While it’s promising that these large companies are taking action to improve sustainability and energy efficiency, it’s hard to compare progress, as each uses different baselines and metrics. Still, the movement toward accountable energy consumption is promising, and the benefits of awareness should continue to drive further change across the industry.
Green financing and government incentives will play a vital role in the push for a more sustainable and energy-efficient future in tourism. As of now, there are few government initiatives for energy efficiency in the EU specific to the hotel and accommodation sector. Still, private funding is a huge opportunity for investors, and many are jumping at the chance to profit. There are also several global organizations that focus on sustainable growth in the tourism industry. The United Nations World Tourism Organization is one such group with one specific project geared towards the challenges of sustainable tourism in the EU - Hotel Energy Solutions (HES). The HES is a collaborative project between the United Nations and the leading agencies in tourism and energy that aims to deliver information, technical support, and training to small and medium enterprises in the hotel and accommodation sector. The goal is to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy production across the EU 27.
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