Swiss-Belhotel International Senior VP highlights the need for responsible tourism at ATM

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Laurent A. Voivenel, Senior Vice President, Operations and Development for the Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International, spoke today at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) on the critical need to reduce the carbon footprint across the industry. Participating in a panel discussion at the ‘ATM Inspiration Theatre’, Laurent emphasized on the importance of achieving energy efficiency using renewable resources.

According to a report by United Nations World Tourism Organization UNWTO, the hotel industry accounts for 1% of global annual carbon emissions while tourism as a whole accounts for 8% carbon emissions and this is set to increase as the demand continues to grow. Therefore, the hotel industry must reduce its carbon emissions by 66% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 to stay within the 2˚C threshold agreed at COP21.

So, how can travel and tourism best reduce the carbon emissions of the industry?

Laurent said, “It has been calculated that 30% of global annual carbon emissions stem from buildings simply through energy consumption. As a first step, the development of innovative design concepts is essential for energy efficiency in hotel buildings for both new and existing stock. Renewable energy is a global phenomenon and the adoption of solar PV systems in the Middle East is starting to accelerate. Adoption of these can lead to significant benefits for the hospitality sector.”

There are many ways a hotel can substantially reduce its contribution to carbon emissions. The accepted standard for the hospitality industry 31.1kg CO2 per room night. Laurent stated, “We are working towards making all Swiss-Belhotel International properties within our region ‘carbon neutral’ by setting specific targets and implementing and adopting strict water efficiency, energy saving, recycling and other environmentally responsible practices. Each hotel has been given a realistic target every year to invest in energy efficiency and other methods in order to reduce carbon emissions. Quarterly environmental reporting and auditing are being carried out to assess the success of the scheme. As part of this initiative an environmental champion has been identified at each hotel who is responsible for mobilizing and monitoring support from other staff members and guests for the program.”