Extreme weather, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, storms, and cyclones across the world are undeniable proof of climate change's pervasive influence, which has resulted in massive social and economic losses in recent years.
India has not been immune, with devastating floods, cloudbursts, and landslides wreaking havoc in numerous states this year alone. International organizations and governments from all over the world have recognized the crisis and are working together to reduce the impact and safeguard the environment for future generations.
At the recently concluded COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, India, too, vowed to become carbon-neutral by 2070, a target that will necessitate unprecedented collaboration between stakeholders across industries, including tourism and hospitality.
The tourism and hospitality industries are not only victims of the climate crisis, which is altering ecosystems and increasing the risk of natural disasters, putting tourist destinations in jeopardy, but they are also major emitters and contributors to global warming.
As a result, at COP26, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) released ‘A Net Zero Roadmap for Travel and Tourism’ that outlines goals for the tourism industry to become net-zero by 2050 and has already received over 300 signatories.
Even before COVID, the Indian hospitality industry was already stepping up its efforts to reduce and eliminate single-use plastic, as well as shifting to greener alternatives, as the new age traveler gave sustainability a thumbs up. The sole bright spot during the pandemic was the favorable environmental impact; according to a recent study, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a 9% drop in fossil carbon dioxide emissions in India in 2020, the first in four decades. Therefore, as the industry continues its recovery from the COVID crisis, it has an opportunity to accelerate climate action and move toward a greener, more sustainable future.
One of the main barriers to the industry adopting environmentally friendly practices so far has been the greater upfront capital expenses associated with putting these measures in place, which may not seem desirable, especially given the current state of the sector. However, these efforts, which range from the fundamentals like employing energy-efficient lights, low-flow fixtures, automatic faucets, recycling water, and trash segregation to motion sensors, solar and renewable energy, can actually help save expenses and boost the bottom line. It will also help strengthen the property's brand image in the long run, creating a crucial competitive advantage.
Hoteliers should also accelerate the adoption of sustainable design practices and focus on using locally produced, eco-friendly building materials for developing hotels, as an increasing number of eco-friendly travelers will prefer to stay at hotels championing green practices in the post-COVID world.
On its part, the government should introduce meaningful policies and incentives that encourage the private sector to embrace sustainable measures quickly. The state tourism boards can assist by implementing effective destination management systems through advanced reservation apps and daily visitor limits, among other measures, to reduce overcrowding.
The government should also build infrastructure and improve last-mile connectivity to other underdeveloped and unexplored tourist destinations in the country to reduce over-tourism at popular places. The government, the private sector, and all other tourism stakeholders should make a concerted effort to implement all possible measures to convert climate-change-related ambitions into reality, as mere lip service is no longer enough.
Mandeep S. Lamba, President – South Asia, oversees the HVS global hospitality practice for South Asia. He has spent over 30 years in the hospitality industry of which the last 19 have been in CEO positions. Having worked with leading International and domestic Hotel Companies such as IHG, Radisson & ITC Hotels, he also set up joint venture companies with Dawnay Day Group UK and Onyx Hospitality, Thailand to own and operate hotels in India giving him a broader exposure to the hospitality business.
An established industry leader, Mandeep has won several awards and recognitions in India and abroad for his accomplishments and contribution to the hospitality industry. He is a Certified Hospitality Administrator from the American Hotels Association (CHA), a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, UK (MRICS) and a member of the Tourism Council of CII (Northern India). His views are often solicited for television and print media as a spokesperson for the hospitality & tourism sector.
Prior to joining HVS in 2018, Mandeep was the Managing Director, Hotels & Hospitality Group for JLL. Contact Mandeep at +91 981 1306 161 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dipti Mohan, Senior Manager - Research with HVS South Asia, is a seasoned knowledge professional with extensive experience in research-based content creation. She has authored several ‘point of view’ documents such as thought leadership reports, expert opinion articles, white papers and research reports. Contact Dipti at email@example.com