WTTC launches Hotel Sustainability Basics scheme at ITB

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled a scheme to establish minimum sustainability standards for every hotel, no matter how small.

The WTTC’s Hotel Sustainability Basics programme comprises 12 sustainability indicators “that all hotels should implement”.

It was launched at German travel trade show ITB in Berlin, with the WTTC calling on accommodation owners and providers to implement the criteria over the next three years to “raise the floor of sustainability in the sector”.

WTTC senior vice-president for advocacy and communications Virginia Messina, who leads on sustainability, said: “We need to help smaller businesses and bring everyone to the same level or we’ll never progress.

“We need a starting point, something basic but with science behind it, that is solid and robust enough to create an impact.”

She explained: “A group of hotels approached us saying, ‘We need a base level’. We did a round of consultation and worked with hospitality consultancy Green View to produce tools for carbon and water measurement, and we came up with 12 criteria, divided into three categories.

“It’s a three-year programme. Participants must meet eight criteria by the end of year one and 12 by the end of year three.”

Adherence to the criteria will be backed by online verification. Messina said: “We couldn’t just go with self-assessment. We take this seriously. Without a verification system it could be seen as greenwashing.

“We worked with two certification bodies, SGS and Green Key, which helped develop a simple online process for hotels to provide evidence they comply.”

SGS is a Swiss certification specialist, while Green Key provides eco-label certification to hospitality and tourism businesses. The WTTC ran a pilot with 50 properties last summer.

Messina added: “The certification bodies run the system. The aim is to get everyone to the same level. We’re talking to destinations and working with OTAs. There is a huge amount of interest in every region.”

Green Key will survey 27,000 hotels on whether they currently measure energy, water and waste to provide “a benchmark of where we are”, said Messina.

The WTTC is in talks with the travel industry sustainability organisation Travalyst, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance on how to follow up the three-year programme.

Hotels required meet eight criteria in first year

The Hotel Sustainability Basics programme requires hotels commit to meet 12 sustainability criteria within three years and hit eight in the first year.

The criteria, grouped under the headings ‘efficiency’, ‘planet’ and ‘people’, are:

Efficiency:  1. To measure and reduce energy use; 2. Measure and reduce water use; 3. Identify and reduce waste; and 4. Measure and reduce carbon emissions.

Planet: 5. Operate a linen-reuse programme; 6. Use green cleaning products: 7. Offer vegetarian options; 8. Use no plastic straws or stirrers; 9. No single-use plastic water bottles; and 10. Use bulk amenity dispensers.

People: 11. Demonstrate community benefit; and 12. Reduce inequalities.

The WTTC argues these are “the first crucial steps all properties can take, irrespective of size, resources and progress so far”. But it urges the sector “to seek improvements beyond the 12 basic criteria”, saying: “They are intended as a first step.”

The criteria and toolkit are freely available. The verification programme costs €99 a year for hotels not in need of support, €149 for those requiring some assistance, and €198 for one-to-one support from verifiers.

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