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July 26, 2021 •

3 min reading

Sustainable travel 2021: on the way to net-zero emissions

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Before Covid19, the hospitality industry accounted for around 10% of our global economy. In 2019, no less than 15,000 hotels were in the pipeline attesting to the industry growth and place in our society (Hotel Management). In such a thriving industry implemented changes can have a global impact not only on its activities but also on other industries. As we face difficult times with the Covid19 and the climate change crises, it is time for us as an industry to take a stand and inspire others with our actions. The hospitality industry must change to strive in the long-term and has the chance to inspire others by doing so.

Despite the difficult situation preventing hotels, restaurants, and events from operating smoothly, field actors can take the chance to prepare properly for the future. As the current crisis forces us to reconsider our ways of designing service and experience, we also have to face climate deregulation. Travel and tourism's role in it are pushing the industry to adapt and evolve. In our situation, reducing hotels’ and restaurants’ energy consumption is the right thing to do; however, it does not make up for the whole situation.

Reducing Vs. Offsetting carbon emissions in travel & tourism

Indeed, reducing is not offsetting and focusing solely on this part will fall short of reaching the net-zero carbon emissions goal. Using less energy and generating less carbon emissions are critical parts of the final objective. For now, not all carbon emissions can be avoided in our growing industry; reducing the operation's emissions is insufficient due to a significant lack of sustainable alternatives. Therefore, to reach the net-zero emissions goal throughout the hospitality industry, we must find ways to offset the carbon emissions of construction or customers' travel, for example.

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Fighting climate change with Technology

Nowadays, technological initiatives are developed to capture CO2 out of the atmosphere to help our ecosystem survive and support our economy in fighting climate change. Significant research has focused on new processes that pull CO2 out of the atmosphere to store it underground (see companies such as Climeworks, Drax or Carbon Engineering).

Unfortunately, today these new technologies are still in development. In the meantime, hospitality actors can consider partnering up with other better-known and more developed initiatives, such as companies that restore ecosystems, potentialize the ocean's capability to store the CO2, help new more sustainable agriculture techniques, or use biomass in construction (Net Zero Climate). By joining the UN's Race to Zero, companies can set themselves on the track to more sustainable operations thanks to more precise guidelines and better-defined objectives (UNFCCC).

What is the hospitality industry doing to offset carbon?

The hospitality industry has already created or partnered with concepts to reduce carbon emissions and energy usage. For example, by putting in place simple concepts like avoiding washing linen every day or giving part of their profit to NGOs that reforest areas of our planet. It thus made the first step towards more sustainable operations. Partnering with or investing in the initiatives mentioned earlier would come as a second step reinforcing our industry's reaction to our society's current challenges. Younger generations always expect more engagement from companies on climate change. Therefore, besides taking a stand to preserve our ecosystem in the long term, engaging in a path to net-zero emissions is a way to secure clientele in the long term.

This article is part of the Young Hôtelières Insights (YHI), an initiative spearheaded by HotelierGuild’s LeadingHôtelières Chapter and EHL Women in Leadership in collaboration with IUBH University of Applied Sciences and Institut Paul Bocuse. YHI aims to develop the professional visibility of our young female talent in a network of established hoteliers and hôtelières. The current article has been first published in HotelierGuild’s Forum of Dialogue Vol. V  and LOOKBOOK Spring/Summer 2021.

Written by

AEHL, Business & Operational Specialist chez DoveVivo S.p.A.