September 27 marks global World Tourism Day, a day initiated and facilitated by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), on which the tourism industry is called to consider its role in various pertinent global issues. The focus this year is on tourism and sustainable energy: “Powering Sustainable Development.”
Worldwide, the tourism sector has a significant impact on energy consumption, accounting for 5% (source: UNWTO) of global carbon emissions. Four percent is attributed to transport, in particular flights, with nearly 1% coming from accommodation and small amounts from other tourism services. However, due to the size and adaptability of the tourism industry, it can play a key role in shifting perception and transforming its operations to intensify sustainable practice.
Critical to the success of a transformation to sustainability in tourism is the partnership between government and international organizations with the destinations, stakeholders, and subsidiaries themselves. Despite, and perhaps because of, its serious challenges with regard to energy security and a high carbon footprint, Cape Town is a global leader in responsible tourism practice through various initiatives being spearheaded by the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism, Fedhasa, and others.
The remaining tension is one of market demand and economics versus the willingness to change and the commitment to its implementation. A myriad of technology is surfacing that will make this transition easier. Clever gadgets that deactivate air conditioners when a hotel guest leaves the room, better design of hotels to allow natural light and temperature regulation and, particularly with escalating electricity tariffs, a shift to solar energy and heat pumps.
Says Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing: “As a long-haul destination, our carbon offset needs to be particularly good to attract travelers who may see this as a critical factor in their travel decision-making. From a general perception that each facet of the tourism supply chain is invested in a sustainability transition to the tangible proof – like tree planting programs, energy efficient lighting and clever use of technology – we need to really roll up our sleeves when it comes to the sustainable development and conservation of energy.”
In partnership, with the city of Cape Town, 21 hotels in the destination are currently engaged in a two-year program to assess, monitor and share progress towards the achieving of responsible tourism practice in destination Cape Town.
Another City of Cape Town energy project that encompasses all commercial buildings, including hotels, is the Commercial Energy Efficiency Forum . Again it’s a forum to share best practice in and to find out more about innovative management and viable technology as we transition to a new model for energy.
The UNWTO has created an online energy school – a free resource which is available to hotels needing to assess and understand the options and implications of a shift to sustainable energy: http://hotelenergysolutions.net/en/content/energy-school