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December saw over 190 countries come together in Paris to discuss the global initiative on climate change; a phenomenon that 97% of scientists accept is a direct result of modern human activity.
The global commitment is to act to mitigate the rising temperature to two degrees in the next 30 years. However, this increase will still result in sea levels rising at least 5cm, and potentially 40cm over the next century which is likely to see a lot of human life lost. Many tourist destinations would be wiped out and some even say the collapse of civilisation would occur.
As an industry we are responsible for 4-10% of all greenhouse emissions globally. This number rises to 20% in developed countries. This figure is mostly comprised of the effects of air travel, which are not limited to burning jet fuel to produce CO2, but also include vapour trails and ozone production, that are a direct result of the planes’ path through the air. Every effort is being made to make aeroplanes lighter and more efficient, as this is in the interest of the airlines’ margin-based costing structure. These adverse effects could be negated by traveling by ship as boat travel produces sulfate aerosol, which can reflect the sun’s rays to combat their heating effects.
So as hotels how can we help protect ourselves? How can we offset these harmful effects caused by other aspects of our industry?
One way could be a transformation of holiday destinations themselves. Some of the carbon released from the flight could be offset by installing off-grid power generation systems in hotels themselves. By installing wind turbines and solar panels, hotels also benefit directly from a business perspective. In areas such as the Caribbean with high energy prices, hotels can reduce energy bills, and increase their profit margin. Energy makes up 25-33% of the costs involved in running villas, as they rarely employ a large amount of staff, as a result a long term investment in renewable energy could also see a rise in profits for holiday lets.
Off-grid solutions also mean that destinations in areas of poor infrastructure are not subject to blackouts, which compromise guest satisfaction and safety.
Island resorts and hotel complexes that rely on generators as a result of poor infrastructure would see a huge rise in profits as diesel generators can cost $0.30 per KWH.
The final advantage is that it can provide the hotel with a unique selling point that they can use to market their resort. Eco tourism is rising with 1 in 4 people stating they were conscious of the ecological effect of their travel. In 2014 the Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa in St. Maarten transformed into a completely ecological hotel, installing 755-kilowatts of solar panels. This installation will save 1.9 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
Taleb Rafai the secretary general at the UNWTO called at the 2015 World Travel Market, for hotels to start making this kind of investment for the sector to continue to grow and provide income for impoverished corners of the world, that rely on tourism.
Hotels and resorts can search for companies that offer off-grid energy systems for tourist destinations like CP Renewables, who only employ engineers with experience in the hotel and renewable energy sector, as well as stocking products that are catered to the specific needs of the industry, low noise, none intrusive and high energy producing are assisting in making this a viable option.
Another initiative which can make a difference on its own or be dovetailed with energy savings, is making hotels more efficient at waste disposal, keeping in heat and monitoring their electricity usage. Hotels can invest in ecological soaps, washing powers and shampoos that also help to negate pollution to the immediate environment. There are multiple programmes such as http://www.green-tourism.com/ that assess hotels on how eco-friendly they are, and give them a rating, so that guests can make the right choices about where to stay. In addition Green Tourism will help with different solutions companies can use to increase their rating on its website.
The final option is not in the interests of anyone and that is to stop traveling all together. This option would be the end of our industry, and mean the end of the countless intercultural exchanges and unforgettable moments we as an industry give people. But something has got to give if we are to save humanity and ensure a future for our planet.
Mathew Jackson Roberts (http://www.cprenewables.com/)