International Hotels and Restaurants Association will test UN energy program


GENEVA, Switzerland – With climate change a growing concern and the economic crisis affecting their bottom line, European hoteliers are about to take part in a United Nations-backed program designed to reduce energy consumption and lead to significant savings in operating costs with a goal to achieve a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency and a 10 percent increase in using renewable, energy-new technologies.

The Energy Efficiency Excellence for the Tourism Industry project aims to research and develop future energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for hotels in the 27 member countries of the European Union. According to the UNWTO, the international hotel sector is one of the tourism industry’s largest drivers of employment and economic revenue and also is among the most energy-intensive sectors.

Worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from the accommodation sector were estimated at 274 million tons in 2005, or 21 percent of the total from the tourism industry.

In practical terms, the initiative will yield more efficient use of heating, cooling, lighting, washing, and drying, as well as other hospitality operations.

The first step will be a pilot benchmarking toolkit for four destinations in Europe: one each in France and Spain, which consistently lead as the world’s most popular tourism destinations, one in a Nordic country, and another in Eastern Europe.

Twenty-five hotels in each of the destination countries and located in four distinct destination types – coastal, urban, mountain, and rural – will be chosen as test sites for the pilot program, which is expected to start between this September and December.

The European Union will stump up 75 percent of the 1.1 million euro (US$1.5 million) overall cost of the EEETI project with the rest coming from other partners as UNWTO, UNEP, EREC, EACI, and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency.

“Our role in the EEETI initiative is to identify the European pilot destinations and convince the hoteliers and national hotel associations in various countries to participate and conduct the survey,” said IH&RA’s president, Dr. Ghassan Aidi. “We feel this project is needed because of climate change and its effect on our hospitality industry. The industry has to be made aware of sustainable development and how saving energy can contribute to hotel profitability and competitiveness.”

“After the end of this test and the results obtained, IH&RA will contact various regional governments in the Middle East and Asia to propose conducting similar tests and studies,” confirmed Dr. Ghassan Aidi.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are preferred as test sites but properties belonging to large chains also are welcome. The participating properties should not have more than 40 million euros (US$56 million) in annual turnover.

“Europe has been chosen as it has about 5.4 million hotel rooms, or nearly half the world total, and SMEs account for around 90 percent of the total number of rooms in Europe,” Aidi continued. He stressed the point that participating hotels will have a marketing advantage with environmentally conscious guests. “Both myself and our organization strongly believe that over the next five years we have to care for our environment and teach hotels about how to become sustainable development destinations,” he said.

Along with hotels, the project partners welcome involvement and input from national and regional tourism and government authorities, energy efficiency and renewable energy specialists, and suppliers and hotel and tourism associations.

The International Hotels & Restaurants Association (IH&RA) is the only private association representing the private sector since 1945. Recognized by the United Nations as “the voice of the private sector in hospitality,” it was established in Paris in 1946 and moved to Geneva in 2008 toward the next generation. Its members have more than 200,000 hotels and millions of restaurants worldwide.