; The hotel sector is towards its next challenge: Sustainability - Strive

In the last two years, hotels and restaurants have been one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic. In Europe, domestic tourism is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2022, while the recovery of international demand is delayed until 2024. Nevertheless, the commitment to sustainability is here to stay and sustainable tourism is an increasingly popular option within the sector. As Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the UNWTO, said, “Sustainability must stop being a niche in tourism and become the new norm”.

One of the most important challenges in this sector is that hotels must not only meet the minimum requirements to be considered sustainable but must do so while guaranteeing the greatest well-being of both their customers and their employees. Overall, buildings play a crucial role in the move towards a carbon-free economy and, according to the EU Roadmap 2050, the aim is to achieve a 90% reduction by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. The European building stock is changing very slowly: more than 220 million dwellings and 85-95% of existing buildings will still be in use in 2050, and they are not energy efficient.

Steps towards a more sustainable hotel sector

To have a greener hotel sector, an important intervention to be considered is thermal insulation, which allows reducing energy consumption without changing the building’s infrastructure. The case study presented by Romano and Mancini found that replacing the existing windows with double-glazed ones, installing pumps and fan coils for winter and summer conditioning, adding a mechanical ventilation system, replacing existing lamps with LED ones, inserting motion sensors in common areas, and integrating solar panels on the roof (with a battery) have a significant impact. In the study, the energy consumption of the four hotels in Rome that were being considered was reduced from 210-375 KWh/m2 to 99-160 KWh/m2. In addition, due to the state’s subsidies, the payback time of the investment was reduced from 9 to 18 years to 4 to 7 years.

Although these measures may seem very costly and may not generate any value for the company’s bottom line, the reality is completely different. According to the latest report on online travel in 2022, 90% of users look for sustainable options when booking and it has become a filter on hotel booking sites such as Booking or Kayak.

In addition, implementing sustainability actions and policies in the sector will bring an increase in both tangible and intangible value. On the one hand, greater energy efficiency and waste recycling will lead to a reduction in costs. On the other hand, in an industry where customer experience, recommendation, and loyalty play an essential role, values like trust and respect can differentiate a hotel brand and create a long-term competitive advantage. Environmental sustainability should not be seen as a cost but as a business opportunity.

For any business, to implement sustainability-related actions and policies or commit to becoming Net Zero (as per SBTi guidelines and methodologies), it is necessary to design an emission reduction roadmap, and set medium- and long-term targets, combined with the usage of carbon offsets and Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs) to offset the unabatable emissions.

The roadmap starts with the carbon footprint calculation, which will allow us to have a full picture of GHG emissions. Once produced, it will guide the decision of the actions and policies that will have the biggest impact on reducing emissions. Examples are implementing sustainable procurement policies in food and maintenance products, etc., or developing a circular economy strategy such as using filtered alluvial water for toilets and/or gardening.  Strive is a one-stop shop where we help companies develop a climate strategy to become more competitive and resilient to climate change. We invite you to fill this form or get in contact with us at hello@strive.earth to learn more about this topic.

Written by Matija Abalos Navarrete