Measuring carbon emissions for hotel stays
Betty Low

As carbon reporting requirements are becoming more widespread and as carbon emissions is increasingly creeping into the tender questions, the need for a consistent measure of carbon emissions resulting from business travel trips has been growing.

Carbon emissions calculators vary, but they do exist so that the footprint of air journeys can be measured. Carbon emission measurement, however, has been notable for its absence from the hotel world but an initiative by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the International Tourism Partnership aims to rectify this.

Last summer the two trade organisations, along with 23 hotel groups, launched a methodology to calculate and communicate the carbon footprint of hotel stays and meetings in a consistent and transparent way.

It's been a long time coming.

Calculating emissions in the travel industry is notoriously difficult to do accurately because so many variables are involved. Many flight calculations, for example, are based only the city pair of the flight and perhaps the class of travel when such items as age of aircraft and weight make a sizeable difference.

However, most leaders in the airline and travel management industry argue that it is better to measure crudely than not to measure at all but to aim to do it in a consistent way.

For hotels the task is even more daunting.

For years many hotels have marketed their green credentials by flagging energy-saving initiatives such as asking guests to re-use towels or water conserving shower heads or toilets. However, actual measurable actions which could be calculated to provide benchmarks had been missing.

For corporate clients especially, often being required to report the carbon emissions being generated by a company's business travel, this has been frustrating. They have needed to know their footprint and understand what items contribute in what measure in order to meet their own targets in this area.

Like air calculators, however, the number of methodologies and tools in use make transparency of reporting within the hotel industry difficult to achieve.

The Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) Working Group, comprising hotel members within both ITP and WTTC, was formed in early 2011 to address inconsistencies in hotel companies' approaches and to devise a basis for measurement which could use available data in a consistent manner.

This measuring standard, launched in the summer of 2012 and named HCMI 1.0, aims to establish a standard approach in the hospitality industry and address the needs of its corporate customers.

Rather than talking about ambitions to use less water by washing towels and sheets less often, the calculator puts a measure on each guest's emissions through monitoring of energy usage by the building (water, fuel measurements) and assigning a per guest tally through calculations such as via room measurements.

At the time of the launch, David Scowsill, president & CEO of WTTC said, "WTTC has long been advocating that industry speaks with 'one voice'. Through this initiative we have seen major hotel companies come together to agree a means of communicating carbon impacts which ultimately will result in more transparency and clarity for the consumer. HCMI has broken new ground in its industry driven approach and I congratulate the companies involved on their leadership in ensuring this important initiative comes to fruition. We expect this industry common language to be widely used within the next two years."

The Working Group comprises leading international hotel companies such as Accor, Beijing Tourism Group, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Diamond Resorts International, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Worldwide, Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels, Hyatt Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Jumeirah Group, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Marriott International Inc, Meliá Hotels International, MGM Resorts International, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Orient-Express Hotels Ltd, Pan Pacific Hotel Group, Premier Inn -" Whitbread Group, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, TUI AG, Wyndham Worldwide.

The priority for the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative is now to maximise the take up and recognition of the methodology by more hotels and their customers. A review process has been put in place to ensure that the methodology is regularly reviewed and updated.

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