On 30th November 2021, the 24th General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization began in Madrid, being the first to be held after the pandemic. On the occasion of this meeting, more than 1000 participants from 131 countries (including 84 Ministers and Vice-Ministers of Tourism) gathered in the Spanish capital to analyse the challenges that the sector will be facing in the coming years.
One of the debate’s main themes was which policies should be implemented in order to recover from the recession caused by the COVID-19 crisis. In this regard, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili assured that the sector is determined to fight for a fresh start, to lead the recovery and to “be a central pillar of sustainable development and climate action”. However, he stressed, “if we are serious about ‘leaving nobody behind’, then we must get serious about innovation, about education and about advancing tourism as a tool for rural development”.
Consequently, from Gradhoc we have decided to address this topic in this article, in which we will talk about sustainability and innovation in tourism and, more specifically, about energy efficiency in hotels. At the end of this post, you can also find a series of energy saving tips for hotels.
Energy efficiency in hotels
Before the pandemic brought global economy to a stop, the travel industry accounted for 10% of the world’s GDP and employed 10% of the working population. However, although it was among the fastest growing sectors, this growth was not sustainable, as the energy consumption and pollution derived from its activity were reaching alarming levels. In fact, tourism, according to the WTO, produces 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, even when improvements in transport and energy efficiency in hotels have helped to reduce emissions per passenger by more than 50% since 1990.
Then, although the UN has delayed the sector’s recovery until 2023, all MS and international organisations are launching hotel energy management systems to ensure that this upturn in activity is not accompanied by a proportional increase in energy expenditure and GHG emissions, which would have a catastrophic impact on the environment.
For example, Spain, where tourism accounted for 12.4% of its GDP and 12.9% of the country’s employment rate in 2019, is already working on its Sustainable tourism strategy of Spain 2030. The Ministry of Tourism proposes, through this document, a plan that focuses on attaining sustainable growth in the medium and long term thanks to a territorial, socio-economic and environmental perspective.
This international context outlines a near future in which the viability of hotel businesses will be largely dependent on their ability to implement hotel energy management systems aligned with a clear and strong environmental commitment. This, obviously, is not limited to energy saving, as it also implies taking into consideration a set of variables that influence energy efficiency in hotels.
Hotel energy consumption statistics
Hotels are one of the agents with the greatest impact on the communities where they are located due to their socio-economic and environmental footprint, but also because of their intensive consumption of resources (mainly water and electricity).
As an example, the World Tourism Organisation estimates that total greenhouse gas emissions derived from the tourism sector were between 8%-11% of global emissions before the pandemic, and that a hotel’s energy consumption is equivalent to 15%-22% of its operating costs. This has led ITP (the International Tourism Partnership) to estimate that a 66% reduction in the accommodation sector’s carbon footprint will have to be achieved by 2030 if the targets agreed at COP25 are to be met.
This cutback, although it may involve a considerable initial investment, can also offer much greater returns both in hotel energy consumption statistics and in financial terms. In fact, according to a 2017 European Commission report, 40% of a hotel’s total energy expenditure corresponds to electricity consumption and 45% of this amount is spent on lighting. At the same time, the EC estimates the potential savings in lighting to be between 7% and 60%. The WTO and UNEDP, for their part, claim that emissions related to accommodation services could be reduced by 30-40% thanks to the usage of clean energies and new technologies. In fact, the aforementioned text, in this respect, states that almost all renewable energies could be strategical in order to increase energy efficiency in hotels.
Notwithstanding, this impact in hotel energy consumption statistics is not only environmental. The Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation has estimated that the losses caused by the pandemic amounted to 50 000 euros/month per hotel, and that, from those, 2000-3000 euros were linked to energy cost overruns.
Hotel energy management systems
The WTO, through the project called HES (Hotel Energy Solutions), indicates that it is possible to save (at least) from 10% to 15% in energy consumption in hotels, depending on their characteristics. According to the EC, the main areas for improvement are cooling (5% – 30%), heating (15% – 20%), lighting (7% – 60%) and hot water (40% – 70%). Therefore, in the hypothetical case of a facility consisting in 100 rooms, recreational area and swimming pool, it would be possible to reduce energy expenditure by 56%.
However, each hotel has its own individual needs, since characteristics such as location, size, number of employees, type of client, equipment’s status, season, climate or services offered influence the design of an energy efficiency plan. In other words, without an intimate knowledge of the facility’s functioning, no establishment will be able to transform its business model into a truly profitable and sustainable one.
To achieve this goal, hotel chains need to incorporate hotel energy management systems that allow them to access data records and analyses. The digitalisation of the enterprise through a tool that use AI and big data is, consequently, crucial for the optimisation of water, energy and fuel consumption.
Gradhoc is a software developed by seasoned experts in industrial and commercial refrigeration that enables you to monitor your systems in real time (status, consumption, available energy sources, etc.) regardless of their location. From these, Gradhoc generates customised control panels that meet the specific needs of each user, automates processes and creates data records. This, in turn, enables adaptive energy consumption based on operational needs.
By using such software, it is possible to know the total energy consumption, the factors that are to be taken into account for the optimisation of operations, the investment that would be necessary for the implementation of energy conservation technology in hotels, the maintenance needs and the expected gas, electricity and water consumption.
Thanks to this information, the company’s board can establish a course of action in order to implement energy conservation technology in hotels without jeopardizing the service’s quality.
Energy saving tips for hotels
Finally, we recommend the following energy saving tips for hotels:
- Control the temperature in each area of the hotel individually. Outside temperature varies greatly depending on the time of the year, while inside temperature varies according to activity and occupancy rates; thus, installing smart thermostats, heat pumps and free-cooling systems makes it easier for heating and air-conditioning equipment to work optimally. In addition, the usage of natural ventilation and the maintenance/improvement of thermal insulation of walls, pipes and windows are also of paramount importance to improve hotel energy consumption statistics.
- Review your hotel energy consumption statistics in order to choose the best tariff available.
- Identify inefficient equipment that should be replaced.
- Take advantage of renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, cogeneration or biomass. Air conditioning systems and the temperature control for swimming pools are energetically demanding, but renewable sources can help diminish energy costs while reducing your carbon footprint.
- Use boilers and fuels with high energy efficiency ratings.
- Install smart lighting control systems. Light-and-activity-regulated control mechanisms are now available, as well as more efficient fluorescent lamps equipped with electronic ballasts.
- Control water consumption. Water flow can be limited by using aerator pumps and water flow limiters; furthermore, it is always a good idea to install a manometer to detect possible leaks.
- Remote management. In order to save energy, measuring the costs and acting accordingly, automating processes, is essential.
- Encourage eco-friendly patterns of behaviour. The human factor is also a decisive one when it comes to meeting saving targets, which is why the workforce’s commitment must be reinforced through the establishment of environmentally friendly behavioural guidelines.
- Act preventively. Gradhoc provides detailed data on your systems and equipment, which enables you to predict future needs for repairs, replacement of equipment, etc.
- In the case of newly built hotels, they have to be designed taking into account certifications such as passive house, BREEAM o Verde, which implies considering variables such as orientation, materials or insulation.