Global warming is having a worrying effect on hospitality and the entire travel industry. Climate change is not only impacting where we stay, but where and when we travel.
We see those signs every day, as friends, work colleagues or relatives are forced to change their travel plans—and where to stay—due to our changing weather conditions. Be it flooding in Florida, extreme heat in Europe, wildfire smoke in California’s wine country or air pollution in India and China.
The warning indications from climate change are inescapable.
Some of today’s popular tourist destinations are becoming intolerable due to highly unusual heat waves. September 2023, for example, was warmer than the average July from 2001 to 2010. North America, South America, Europe, and Africa had their warmest Septembers on record, and for the sixth-straight month, global oceans ranked as the hottest on record, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Extreme heat is changing itineraries. Look at Europe this past summer.
Greece—where travel and tourism make up 15 percent of its GDP—had to evacuate over 2,000 people from hotels and home rentals after wildfires broke out on the island of Rhodes. Athens took the unprecedented step of closing its top tourist attraction, the Acropolis, after temperatures reached an unbearable 113 degrees.
Extreme Heat Alerts
Italy also experienced extreme heat. Rome and Milan, two of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations, had red alerts in place, with temperatures forecast to reach over 96 degrees. Tourists visiting Naples, Genoa and Florence were warned to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. Extreme heat alerts were in place in Turin, Bologna, Bolzano, Brescia, Frosinone, Latina, Palermo, Perugia, Rieti, and Verona.
Shorter winters and less snow are also impacting hoteliers and the ski industry.
The Alps region, for example, attracts an estimated 120 million tourists a year, and tourism is critical to the economies of many local towns but rising global temperatures have reduced seasonal snow cover in the Alps by 8.4 percent per decade in the past 50 years. Canada’s Whistler ski resort is pivoting and offering more snow-free activities and now doing a steady business in the warm weather summer months.
Some other tourist destinations may disappear altogether due to rising seas flooding low-lying islands and coastal areas. The Maldives is one example. More than 80 percent of its land is less than five feet above sea level.
Venice is another example. Flooding is already commonplace. Flood walls have been built. And the danger persists as some estimates expect seas could rise almost four feet by 2100, according to the European Geosciences Union. In other major cities, such as Amsterdam, Tokyo, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro and New York, extreme flooding could also impact travel and where people want to stay.
What can’t be ignored is that tourism is both a contributor to climate change and a victim of its impact.
Tourism’s GHG Impact
Hospitality and the travel industry contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), which cause global warming. According to Bloomberg, an estimated 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to tourism, and that’s predicted to double by 2050. The World Travel & Tourism Council says the travel industry is a large contributor to global carbon emissions, with a footprint estimated between 8 and 11 percent of total greenhouse gases.
What can the hotel industry do?
Sustainable tourism is one way to help protect countries and economies at risk from the climate crisis.
Many hotel chains display their commitment to sustainability by maintaining their properties to the USGBC LEED (United States Green Building Council), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard. This standard considers many factors for sustainable operations such as energy and atmosphere, indoor environmental quality, renewable energy and building materials and others. These properties will display the LEED mark on their entryways.
Staying only in environmentally friendly resorts is another option. Some are ensuring they run on renewable power, harvest rainwater, cut waste and invest in clean air technology.
Guests can do their part as well. In many properties, the room is made up on request not daily by routine. This saves energy by less laundering of bedding and towels, etc. so hang that towel up rather than have it replaced.
When vacationing where possible, plan your outings to avoid car trips. Less fossil fuels and less emissions lower greenhouse gases.
The Positive Impact of Bi-polar Air Ionization
Let’s not forget the stuff all around us, the air. Many hotels use advanced air cleaning technologies like AtmosAir bi-polar air ionization to provide healthy and clean air and also to avoid bringing in outside air and restrictive HVAC filters, both of which will consume increased energy.
Our company is working with major brands like Hilton and Marriott and tens of dozens of hotels in the U.S. to not only provide a healthier indoor environment, but also reduce hotel energy consumption. And in hotels that are susceptible to flooding, we are advising them on mold prevention and solutions.
While there’s no Golden Bullet that will change climate change’s impact on the hospitality business, taking steps now to make properties more sustainable, is not only good for the environment, but will make your venues more appealing to the environmentally conscious traveler.
Tony Abate is Vice President & Chief Technology Officer at AtmosAir Solutions in Fairfield, Conn., which partners with the hotel industry to make their properties more sustainable.