EarthCheck world first study reveals massive savings for hoteliers managing resources

Hoteliers measuring and managing water see big savings

Hoteliers measuring and managing water see big savings

A report by Professor Susanne Becken released in September for EarthCheck has revealed for the first time the tens of thousands of dollars that hoteliers can save from their annual bottom line if they systematically manage their resource use through measurement and benchmarked improvements.

Tracking data over six years, the report reveals that some hotels saved almost $10,000 in water reduction alone.

Led by Griffith University’s Professor of Sustainable Tourism Dr Susanne Becken, the study analysed historical data from 1,047 tourism businesses participating in the EarthCheck Certified benchmarking programme between 2007 and 2013.

According to Dr Becken, the EarthCheck study could have a significant impact for tourism industry management and decision makers.

Companies who committed to the EarthCheck Certified programme achieved an annual reduction in use of water by as much as six percent, a figure which Dr Becken said makes a firm business case for water measurement and management.

“Globally, potable water supply is certainly one of the most pressing issues facing the tourism industry,” Dr Becken said. “To illustrate, we know that the average hotel guest uses between 200-900 litres of water per day in South East Asia, in comparison to an average citizen who might use less than 20 litres per day, depending on the country,” she said.

Asia-Pacific is the world’s fastest growing tourism market with an 8 percent growth in tourist arrivals in the first half of 2012, and forecasted growth at similar rates during this decade.

“South and Southeast Asia are home to 60% of the world's population but have only 36% of its water resources,” said Dr Becken. “Over 75% of Asia-Pacific countries are experiencing serious water stress. Meanwhile, operational costs of water are increasing and will continue to do so.

“The United Nations Environment Program estimates that by 2050, about 70% of the world’s GDP will be produced in water-scarce regions.”

Dr Becken is on the Advisory Panel of the International Tourism Partnership which has developed a Water Risk Assessment report on key hotel development areas, and says consistency in reporting is a key challenge for managing water across the tourism industry globally.

“Timeliness and quality of data are important if we are to understand and improve tourism’s water use globally, said Becken.

“In response to this, ITP is working with 17 global hotel groups to develop a common methodology for measuring and reporting on water consumption in hotels through the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI), and we know many boards and general managers are aware of what a pressing issue it is to the industry globally,” she said.

Dr Becken believes that initiatives such as HWMI alongside existing programmes that systematically and accurately measure water use, such as the EarthCheck Certified programme, are critical to making tangible progress. “You need to measure your current use before you start reducing and managing it,” she said. “Measurement followed by management will give you the tools to get commitment from all levels of staff, because they will see the tangible and fiscal results of their efforts.

“My research into members of the EarthCheck Certified programme revealed the biggest drop in water consumption was in the first few years of membership, but businesses continued to sharpen their reductions and deliver benefits after several years,” she said.

Annual hotel operational costs for water use are often in the order of hundreds of thousands of US$. Some properties involved in the study saved as much as US$9,000 during each year for water alone – this is not counting associated reductions in energy use.

“Overall, businesses in the EarthCheck Certified programme managed to reduce water use annually in the order of 3%, but some were much higher,” Dr Becken said. “The averages may not seem surprising, but they translate to measureable and generally consistent fiscal savings.

“To provide a contrast, I know that if a hotel implements every single water measure possible in a single year, they could achieve between 10%-20% reduction in use. But to do this is very difficult due to the levels of management and implementation required. So to see an average saving of water of 3% year on year across every single EarthCheck Certified participant globally, this is real testament to the success of the programme,” she said.

According to Dr Becken, the biggest barriers facing hoteliers aiming for water conservation are internal. “You need to get your staff involved at every level,” she said. “If your hotel engineer has ideas on how to reduce water use, listen. Conversely, actively seek to educate, empower and reward your staff for their very important role in resource management.”

Dr Becken emphasises the significance of the water/energy nexus. “Hotels can’t use one without the other, and therefore savings in one will create savings in the other. Reduce the use of hot water among your guests, and you save water and electricity at the same time. It’s win win,” Becken said.

In summing up the significance of the EarthCheck study, Dr Becken said it shifted the discussion on environmentally sustainable practices into a business case.

“The facts are now evident that what gets measured can be managed, and if the tourism industry makes changes to reduce its environmental impact, it will absolutely save money,” she said.

“We want the results of this study to be a tool for all levels of management in a hotel or a group to make the case for measuring and managing water use,” Dr Becken said.

Water conservation steps undertaken by EARTHCHECK CERTIFIED members:

  • Installed water-efficient taps, showers, urinals and toilets – a water efficient toilet will use 3-6 litres per flush instead of an average 11 litres, and a water efficient showerhead will reduce water flow to 9 litres per minute instead of 15 litres per minute.
  • Signage in guest rooms: encourage the less frequent changing (and subsequent laundering) of towels and linen, encourage to reduce showers to four minutes.
  • Check: Water meters are recorded daily on-site and spreadsheets are used to monitor any abnormal usage pattern,
  • Plant rooms and logs are checked daily, pipes checked weekly
  • Micro-fibre cleaning techniques and materials used by house-keeping minimise water and chemical use in cleaning practices.
  • No chemicals are used in rooms (except for toilets).
  • Water recycled by wastewater treatment plant is used to irrigate grounds.
  • Regularly maintain all equipment and show vigilance regarding water leaks
  • Auto detect urinals installed in public areas
  • Water harvesting system installed recycling laundry water to service feature fountains and water the garden

Questions for hotel general managers and boards to consider:

  1. Are water meters installed across your hotels?
  2. How much water is used within each department or space?
  3. Can you trace water use over time?
  4. Can you map consumption and use against industry use to benchmark your performance?
  5. Can you calculate use per hotel guest per night?

Find out more: Tourism and Water: From Challenges to Solutions

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