Hotel operators focus their environmental efforts on four key areas: water conservation, energy efficiency, carbon emissions and waste reduction. Unlike other real estate sectors, hotel buildings operate 24/7 so investment in technology to help manage the systems within the buildings provides savings over more hours of the day.
Water scarcity is a global problem. Many popular tourist destinations are in water-stressed areas. Hotels use eight times the amount of water the local community uses (SHA, 2017). As a result, how hotels manage water usage and consumption will substantially impact water-stressed communities. Water conservation efforts can include minimizing water use in bathrooms, laundry, landscaping and pools and installing water management systems. Offsite projects aimed at protecting and preserving local watersheds can also be created.
Waste reduction efforts focus on cutting food waste and upcycling materials. 18% of food purchased by hospitality and food services goes to waste (SHA, 2017). Many hotel companies have set targets to reduce the amount of food waste generated by their operations by 2030. Further, many have started implementing procedures to reuse and repurpose non-food waste. Several companies have eliminated straws and single-use plastics. Others participate in programs that recycle discarded soaps and amenities.
Most hotel companies are installing energy-efficient lighting and solar panels, sourcing clean electricity and purchasing energy-efficient appliances. Many are using predictive monitoring systems to optimize and manage energy use. New properties are often planned and built with energy efficiency in mind. With margins under pressure because of rising costs, investments in energy efficiency could pay off in the long run. In 2021, utility costs decreased to slightly more than 4% as a percentage of revenue and rose to slightly less than $2,000 per available room, which is still below the high of $2,087 in 2009. However, given increasing occupancies and higher utility costs in the wake of the pandemic and the steep pullback in hotel occupancies but not room rates, we expect utility costs to reach a record $3,214 per available room in 2022, up 67% year-over-year.
1% of global carbon emissions come from the hotel industry (SHA, 2017). Many hotel companies measure and report the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their owned and headquarter properties. In 2021, Hilton achieved a 50% reduction in carbon emission intensity in managed hotels and a 43% reduction for all hotels across their portfolio as measured against a 2008 baseline. Like Hyatt and Wyndham, many have set targets to reduce the GHG emissions generated from activities at these locations. A company’s value chain emits GHG through, for example, the actions of suppliers, business travelers and franchisees. Since most hotel c-corporations do not directly own most of their hotel properties, creating a carbon minimization strategy for their entire portfolio of owned, managed and franchised hotels may be more complicated.
Meeting planners and corporate and government travelers may request environmental impact information before making travel plans. Measurement and tracking are becoming a necessity. Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI) and other organizations are preparing to adopt standards and guidelines to help operators track waste, energy and water to make it easier to report on the environmental impacts of operations.
Figure 5: Utility Costs per Available Room and as a Percentage of Revenue
Source: CBRE Trends© in the Hotel Industry Report, 2021.