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Climate change impacts perilously the hospitality industry

Amsa Hospitality recognizes that the hotel industry wastes up to 18% of the food bought every year

The past few months of 2022 have us witness that climate change is not only a theory anymore, but a hard fact that we need to learn to live with and adapt to. All the continents were impacted one way or another by climate change – never positively. To summarize, and not limited to:

  • China: A heat wave and drought dried up rivers, disabling hydroelectric dams and cutting off ships carrying supplies.

  • South Africa: Heavy rainfall caused floods and mudslides that killed at least 45 people.

  • Pakistan: Near continuous monsoon rainfall, flash flooding, and rain-induced landslides, causing widespread devastation and casualties affecting millions of people.

  • India: A severe drought struck parts of India, reducing the country’s food exports. Floods in Bengaluru, India’s tech capital, forced workers to ride boats and tractors to get to work.

  • Europe: Droughts across the continent dried up rivers, exposing sunken ships from World War II and disrupting the tourism industry. Wildfires in Europe have burned nearly three times as much land as the 2006-2021 average, while dramatic water shortage disorganized water distribution and led to significant agricultural production losses.

  • USA: Due to a severe heat wave, about 100 million Americans across the country suffered never-seen before high temperatures, wildfires, and water shortage, while at the same time floods ravaged other parts of the U.S.

Climate change consequences on the tourism industry as a whole is considerable: The European Union states that “the economic consequences of climate change for regions where tourism is important can be substantial. The suitability of southern Europe for tourism is projected to decline markedly during the key summer months (…). Projected reductions in snow cover will negatively affect the winter sports industry in many regions.

The hospitality industry needs to consider climate change when thinking about its future.

First, we must see how we can adapt to climate change to secure business development, and a steady revenue stream. Next, we need to review what can be done to combat climate change – which brings us back to the importance to adopting urgently Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) / sustainability practices; It’s not only ‘good for the Planet’, it’s a survival necessity for our industry. We cannot continue ignoring the importance of CSR much longer.

The United Nations’ Sustainability Hospitality Alliance explains that “climate change is already affecting the hospitality sector."

"Extreme weather is increasing the cost of operations and reducing the number of tourists visiting certain destinations, while local and national environmental policies and penalties are being introduced in cities and countries around the world. The Alliance adds that “the hotel sector accounts for around 1% of global carbon emissions and this is set to increase. Hospitality, like other industries, has a responsibility to manage its impact on our planet.

A very interesting study from the African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure asks: Hospitality, vector or victim?

To make a long story short, the answer to the question is ‘both’.

Victim, because the recovery from extreme events can be extremely difficult, particularly where infrastructure essential to our industry is damaged and loss of life has been noted. Such occurrences have the capacity to negatively shape travelers’ perceptions and critically influence visitors’ numbers at the destination level. The competitive nature of the hospitality industry worldwide creates a situation whereby there will always be potential alternative available, which in itself encourages and definitely allows certain types of travelers to change their patterns of consumption, and effectively substitute “one destination for another” with little difficulty.

Climate change is also projected to impact at individual hotel level due to the durable effect on the social, political, and economic environmental context, by having a critical influence on health, water availability, food systems, and systems of production. The outcomes may serve to drastically change the hospitality landscape within many communities, particularly in areas with high levels of poverty where conflict over access to essential resources is exaggerated by stresses related to climate change.

The hospitality industry is impacted by the outcome of climate change, when climate is a key resource: Sea level raise in coastal areas, lack of snow impacting dramatically ski resorts,...

Take Rovaniemi in Finland, for instance (“the official hometown of Santa Claus”). The image sold to tourists has much to do with the notion of the destination as a snowy Christmas wonderland. According to Climate Adapt, “after several warm and snowless season starts, Christmas tourism businesses have expressed concern about the future of the region's winter tourism industry. (…) In the light of climate change projections, maintaining the attractive image of a snow-covered winter wonderland may become impossible. Tourists react negatively to estimated changes and planned adaptation mechanisms. In other words, unless they reinvent themselves and drop the snowy Christmas image, Rovaniemi will be a ghost town before late.

The hospitality industry is definitively a climate change victim. But it is also a vector. The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance reminds that we, as an industry, have a major impact on climate change:

  • 1% of total global carbon emission is emitted by the hospitality industry as a whole

  • 8 times more water used per person (guest) than by the local population

  • 18% of food bought by the hospitality and food service are wasted annually

  • 3 times more coral damage and disease at sites with high tourism

Worrying, isn’t it? We, as an industry, have an important role to play to help turn things around.

We discussed the issue in many occasions within these pages, as we strongly believe that the acceptance of our industry by the local populations as well as simply the raison d‘être of implementing new hotels (both business and leisure) may be questioned in the near future if we don’t act today – look at the airline industry and the flygskam concept that slowly grows in popularity, first in Northern Europe and now spreading across the Planet. We don’t want a hotellskam to be called worldwide one day against the hospitality industry: We will be negatively impacted enough by flygskam if it becomes a global success!

The hospitality industry needs to act now. The Sustainability Hospitality Alliance (SHA) is already a positive step towards the right direction. Nevertheless, there is not one hospitality group listed in the top 50 S&P Global’ 2022 Sustainability Yearbook – the first industry-related company is Sodexo ranked 48th. This ‘non-ranking’ makes sense at the SHA represents ‘only’ 40,000 hotels out of the estimated 180,000+ properties worldwide, according to STR – barely 22%.

The Alliance promotes various actions to act against climate change. In a nutshell:

  • Sustainable building design Promoting the business benefits of sustainable hotels for all industry stakeholders.

  • Hotel carbon measurement initiative This initiative’s methodology and tool helps hotels calculate their guests stays and meetings carbon footprint, and assist them in making the right decisions to reduce their impact on the environment.

  • Water scarcity Water scarcity will soon not only affect the poorest countries, as discussed here, but also parts of the world where water used to be in abundance, as seen these past summer months – 40% of the world’s population is already impacted. A hotel uses in average a whopping 1,500 liters of water per room, per day. The SHA proposes to develop ways to improve water usage efficiency.

It is up to each independent hotel and hospitality group to decide if they want to join the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, or similar group, or not. Nevertheless, it is in our own interest to actively combat climate change. The hospitality industry as whole is already impacted to some extent, directly or indirectly.

At Amsa Hospitality, we put Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and therefore sustainability at the heart of everything we do. We are a hospitality company who wants to thrive; not only today, but for many years to come. We recognize that a hospitality group cannot be run today like it was only 10 years ago – the world has radically changed.


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