While More Hotels are Turning to Green Technology for Sustainable Operations, the Industry Still Has a Long Way to Go

Solar power is another green technology solution that hotels are increasingly adopting. The InterContinental Hotels Group, for instance, installed solar panels at several of its properties last year.
By Lea Mira, HTN staff writer - 4.22.2024

Today is Earth Day 2024 and the good news is that hotels globally are increasingly adopting green technology solutions to enhance sustainability. This shift is not only driven by the increasing awareness of environmental issues on the part of hoteliers but also by the evolving expectations of guests who prefer eco-friendly accommodations.

In 2023, the World Tourism Organization reported that 73% of global travelers prefer to stay in hotels that implement sustainable practices. This statistic has been a driving force for hotels to incorporate green technology across their operations.

One of the most common green technology solutions adopted by hotels is energy-efficient systems. For instance, the Marriott International chain has implemented an energy management system that uses artificial intelligence to optimize energy consumption. This system monitors and controls heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in real-time, reducing energy waste. The Radisson Hotel Group also uses software that allows hotels to monitor and manage its energy consumption in real-time, leading to a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.

Water management has become another focus area. The Hilton chain recently introduced a water management system that uses sensors to monitor water usage and detect leaks. This technology has helped reduced water waste, contributing to the hotel’s sustainability goals. The Wyndham Hotels & Resorts chain recently started using a smart irrigation system for its landscaped areas. This system uses weather data to adjust watering schedules and volumes, reducing water waste and promoting healthier plant growth.

Another example is the ITC Hotels in India, which has been using a waste management system that converts organic waste into biogas. This biogas is then used to generate electricity, reducing the hotel’s reliance on non-renewable energy sources. Meanwhile, the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore recently introduced a rainwater harvesting system. This system collects and stores rainwater, which is then used for irrigation and other non-potable water needs, reducing the hotel’s water consumption.

Solar power is another green technology solution that hotels are increasingly adopting. The InterContinental Hotels Group, for instance, installed solar panels at several of its properties last year. These panels generate a significant portion of the hotels’ electricity, reducing reliance on non-renewable energy sources. “The electricity generated by solar panel projects is fed into the local power grid, and hotels can subscribe to a portion of the projects and will receive both Green-e certified RECs and a discount on their regular electricity bill for the clean energy produced,” explain the company in a press statement. “Through this model, enrolled hotels can credibly claim to be powered by renewable energy while supporting the development of new local solar projects that create jobs and improve the air quality in their communities.”

Hotels are also implementing tech solutions to reduce food waste, a significant issue in the hospitality industry. The Accor group, for instance, uses a smart waste tracking system that identifies and records food waste, providing data that helps the hotel reduce waste and improve menu planning. For example, the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts chain has implemented a food waste tracking system called “LeanPath”. This system tracks and measures food waste, providing valuable data that helps the hotel reduce waste and improve its food procurement processes.

In-room technology is another area where hotels are implementing green solutions. Many hotels now offer digital check-in and check-out options, reducing the need for plastic keycards and paper. Some hotels, like the Hyatt chain, have also introduced smart rooms equipped with IoT devices that control lighting, temperature, and other features based on guest presence. This precise control not only improves guest satisfaction by enabling them to customize their surroundings, but it also leads to significant energy conservation by preventing unnecessary conditioning of vacant spaces.

The use of electric vehicles (EVs) for hotel transportation is another trend observed in 2023. Hotels like the Four Seasons have started offering electric vehicle charging stations, encouraging the use of EVs and contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions.

In addition to these operational changes, hotels are also using technology to communicate their sustainability efforts to guests. Many hotels now have sustainability sections on their websites, where they share information about their green initiatives and achievements. Some even use virtual reality tours to showcase their sustainable practices.

In terms of in-room technology, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has introduced smart mirrors in its bathrooms. These mirrors have integrated displays that provide guests with information about the hotel’s sustainability initiatives, reducing the need for printed materials.

The adoption of green technology in hotels is not without challenges. High initial costs, lack of technical expertise, and operational disruptions are some of the barriers hotels face. However, the long-term benefits of reduced operational costs, improved guest satisfaction, and positive environmental impact make the investment worthwhile from an ROI perspective.

The trend towards green technology in hotels is expected to continue, driven by increasing environmental awareness, evolving guest expectations, and advancements in technology. According to a report by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, green technology will be a key differentiator in the hospitality industry by 2025.

Despite the significant strides made in adopting green technology, the hotel industry still has a considerable way to go in terms of environmental sustainability. The sector continues to contribute significantly to global carbon emissions and waste production. According to a study published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism in 2023, the global hotel industry is responsible for approximately 1% of the world’s total carbon emissions. This figure is significant considering the industry’s growth trajectory. The same study also revealed that an average hotel guest produces about 1kg of waste per day, contributing to the increasing problem of solid waste management worldwide.

Furthermore, a 2024 report by the International Tourism Partnership highlighted that the hotel industry’s water consumption is also a concern. The report stated that an average hotel uses 218 gallons of water per day per occupied room, contributing to water scarcity in many regions.

While the adoption of green technology is a step in the right direction, it is clear that more comprehensive and far-reaching measures are needed to reduce the industry’s environmental impact. That said, it is encouraging as we celebrate Earth Day to see a growing number of hotels taking the lead in embracing technology to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.