Tourism is one of the key socioeconomic sectors of our times. In 2018, international tourist arrivals grew by 6 percent, reaching 1.4 billion.
Globalization of goods and services, more leisure time, the technological and transport revolutions, and rising middle classes have positioned tourism as one of the world’s leading growth engines.
Tourism, as the third-largest traded sector, represents 10 percent of global GDP, 7 percent of total world exports, and 30 percent of total exports in services, while providing 1 out of 10 jobs worldwide.
The United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a universal plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity that sets 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The SDGs detail how the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social, and environmental — are managed in an integrated and balanced manner.
As economies expand and the world population continues to grow, energy demand is increasing worldwide. Currently, 80 percent of the world’s energy supply comes from fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases, causing climate change and other negative environmental impacts.
It is now internationally recognised that the world must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing its use of fossil fuels. The hospitality sector can contribute by becoming more energy efficient and increasing its use of renewable energy technologies.
As the The UN’s specialised agency for tourism, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is fully committed to working with its partners to increase the positive impact of tourism, contributing to SDG12 and SDG13. It has developed innovative initiatives — such as the Hotel Energy Solutions or Nearly Zero Energy Hotels — aimed at increasing energy efficiency in small-to-medium-enterprise (SME) hotels, as well as their use of renewable energies, demonstrating economic growth and sustainability can, and should, go hand in hand.
Though the initiatives concentrate on SME hotels in Europe, the results of these initiatives can be easily extrapolated to other types of accommodation, size, or location, and the principles advocated for can be followed by all hospitality industries.
There are great opportunities for hospitality industries to save on operational costs by taking advantage of energy efficiency and renewable energies. The facts are well known: In operations costs for the accommodation sector, energy costs are the second biggest expense after employment; about 40 percent of the energy used is electricity and 60 percent comes from natural gas and oil fuels; and 75 percent of this energy is used for temperature control (HVAC and hot water production) and lighting.
Energy consumption varies depending on several factors, such as the type of building, features and services provided, operations functions, equipment installed, and the location of the business. Furthermore, certain changes cannot be implemented because of technical, legal, or financial barriers.
Business owners, in particular in the SME’s segment, are frequently reluctant to install sustainability measures in general, as some can be expensive.
Currently, there are many sustainability tools, measures, and practices that business owners can implement to improve their business’s energy efficiency. Small, common sense, low-cost or no-cost solutions that can be introduced to reduce energy consumption to reasonable levels include:
- Understanding a business’s energy consumption – By knowing how energy is used, it is possible to address any excesses. Energy monitoring can help reveal problems, identify energy-saving opportunities, and verify the effectiveness of the energy conservation measures implemented. Businesses can make a first assessment by using free, online tools, such as those created within UNWTO initiatives.
- Engaging staff – Staff are the greatest direct contributor to energy efficiency through their own behavior and working patterns. As such, getting staff members involved in any energy action — to be informed of future plans and reasoning, and to be invited to provide feedback and ideas — is essential for success. You should provide you staff with information and training on actions required to support efficiency efforts.
- Improving equipment efficiency – This can range from the appropriate and regular maintenance of equipment, to replacing aging appliances. However, before performing big changes that may require large financial and temporal investments, it is strongly recommended that an energy audit is carried out by an energy expert. This will give a comprehensive overview of the actions that need to be taken to improve a business’s energy efficiency.
- Involving your clients – Hospitality clients worldwide are becoming increasingly concerned about the environment and demand sustainable standards in the services they use. Clients should be informed of the initiatives the business is implementing and be invited to take simple actions to support these efforts.
Positive changes you make for your business will not only have an economic impact by reducing operational and maintenance costs, but they will also reduce your carbon footprint, show your brand to be environmentally conscious, and boost your visibility in new market segments. These initiatives offer the sector an innovative business model that will benefit both companies and destinations.
Zoritsa Urosevic, Director, Institutional Relations and Partnerships Department, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and Cláudia Lisboa, Project Manager, Hotel Energy Solutions Initiative, UNWTO, [email protected]