As one of key drivers of jobs, investment and development, the tourism sector has contributed tremendously to creating an environmentally-friendly economy. Tourism contributes 5% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, out of which hotels and other types of accommodation account for 1% according to Hotel Energy Solutions Official Partners (ESOP) finding.
The hotel sector can save operational costs by taking advantage of renewable energy. About 40% of the energy used by hotels electrically and 60% comes from natural gas and oil fuels. Three-quarters of this energy is used for space heating, cooking, hot water production, air conditioning and lighting. In all these aspects, energy productivity can be increased.
Tourism is one of the most promising sectors in terms of development, increasing participation in the global economy and generating revenue to preserve the environment at the same time said Estelle Verdier, Managing Director of Jovago.com in East and Southern Africa.
On the other hand, experts portray that productivity relies on secure, affordable and sustainable energy supply. As economies expand and the world population continues to grow, energy demand is bolstering. Currently, 80% of the world energy supply comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) which emit greenhouse gases causing climate change and other negative environmental impacts. Non-renewable energy reserves are continuously decreasing while renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro power are unlimited, as they capture energy flows available from the universe.
Inefficient energy consumption is causing climate change. It is now internationally recognized that the world must significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing its use of fossil fuels. Use of renewable energy sources will help secure energy supply and lower the negative impact. For instance, renewable energy accounts for 8% of the total energy used in European countries. This number is targeted to increase to 20% by 2020 says ESOP.
Responding to global climate change, Europe which has more than 5.45 million hotel rooms represent 21% of the world total accommodations with comparatively low level of CO2 emissions. CO2 is one of the major elements degrading the environment.
Climate change refers to the change in climate over time due to natural variability and human activity. Since pre-industrial times, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 36%, methane by 148% and nitrous oxide gas by 18%. These upsurges are mostly due to human doings. As a result, the global average annual surface temperature has increased the risk of floods, droughts, heat waves, tropical cyclones and other climate effects across the planet. Climate change also negatively impacts ecosystems, vegetation, water resources, health, and industries.
The impact of the changing climate is evident and already influences decision-making in the tourism sector. To reduce this, the United Nations World Trade Organization (UNWTO) has been persuading governments around the world to include travel and tourism in their development packages to encourage sustainable growth with eco-friendly economic strategies. As a result, several pilot projects followed which prove that tourism investments under green economy can double growth while reducing negative environmental impacts. Africa, one of the major victims of environmental degradation, also showed progress in contributing to preserve the environment. Hotels on the continent started using solar power for their energy demands.
Now stakeholders are joining hands to maximize tourism’s contribution to environmental conservation, socio-economic growth, job creation, development and cultural enrichment, while minimizing negative social, cultural and environmental impacts.