We know how brutal the pandemic has been for tourism. It was not just during the lockdowns, when people stayed inside, but the long months after, when hotels and other venues closed. And even after places reopened, we know that the ongoing health and safety measures make it hard for people to take much-deserved holidays.
That is why the European Union wants to help. Tourism is a vital sector, including urban or city tourism, which includes cultural and historical visits as well as business, sporting events, commercial and leisure events. We want it to recover, build resilience and become sustainable so it can survive future shocks and thrive. As part of the EU’s wider, green recovery plan, the 2020 Industrial Strategy includes measures to help tourism meet climate and sustainability goals.
At the heart of this is the EU Ecolabel for tourism accommodation. The EU is carrying out a communication campaign to promote the EU Ecolabel, raising visibility with tour operators, associations and consumers. It could give you a competitive advantage, help you stand out on booking platforms and support your recovery from the pandemic.
The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary initiative for sustainable tourism. It is a certificate that shows hotels and other tourist accommodations meet key standards of environmental excellence. It covers areas like water heating systems, air conditioning, lighting, room temperature control and renewable energy sources. The EU Ecolabel is awarded by an independent environmental verifier and recognised by the authorities and the business community.
The EU Ecolabel matters because climate change and other environmental challenges affect your business. For example, one of the most serious effects of climate change is likely to be flooding, which could lead to overflowing sewage in cities. Imagine how that could affect tourism. Not to mention the damage from flooding: insurance costs from the 2011 Copenhagen floods were estimated at €700 million.
Another example is air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, notably from transport: they not only contribute to climate change but to a wide range of diseases, including stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, trachea, bronchus and lung cancers. This is especially pronounced in cities, where emissions linger longer. Dirty, unhealthy cities are rarely popular with tourists.
So, how can EU Ecolabel help you?
Firstly, it will boost your image and reputation. Guests will recognise that you are going further to make your accommodation sustainable. That will also improve customer loyalty and engagement with the community as you sustain the quality of the environmental attractions in your city. Climate change matters for Europeans, who are ready to change their behaviour to cut emissions.
Climate change is also a threat to your urban environment. Urban areas will need to adapt to the impacts of rising temperatures and cope with the ever-more-frequent heatwaves, water shortages, storm surges and natural disasters which, in turn, can impact urban infrastructure, stress services and the habitability of the built environment.
This is especially important for popular destinations like Amsterdam, Paris, Rome and Barcelona that already suffer from overtourism, a phenomenon that piles pressure on the local environment, producing traffic congestion, air pollution, noise, more waste and sewage, and making more demands on water and energy.
If cities are to be liveable and sustainable, all stakeholders – residents, visitors, public authorities and businesses – need to work together to respond to the challenges.
Clean, sustainable environments, by contrast, are a tourist asset. With the EU Ecolabel, you can show you are addressing the issue.
Secondly, the EU Ecolabel will give you a competitive advantage. Sustainable practices are money savers. Optimised environmental management of your accommodation will not only cut your carbon footprint but will also reduce your energy consumption, water consumption, use of chemicals and pesticides, household and food waste.
How can you save money? Take energy, for example. Inefficient installations overuse electricity, so when you replace them with energy-efficient alternatives, you cut your bills. EU Ecolabel accommodations save up to 50% more energy by using more efficient light bulbs and appliances.
Money is also saved when temperatures in common areas and rooms are regulated with automatic switch-off options. These money-saving options are easy to adopt, and they fight climate change while protecting our natural environment.
There may also be funds available at the national and regional level to support EU Ecolabel accommodation: check with your national and regional authorities for more information.
Part of the solution
The EU Ecolabel can make you part of the solution. You can play your part in helping to restore the environment while sustaining your local community. The climate crisis affects us all, and it affects us in different ways. The EU Ecolabel is a win-win response: a healthy environment is an essential asset for any tourist destination.
For example, fresh water is a scarce resource in some cities due to overtourism, and it is exacerbated by the rising temperatures caused by climate change. However, a circular approach to water management – installing efficient taps, toilets and showers, recycling rainwater and reusing more towels – can make a big difference. For example, you can save up to half of the water use with aerators and 70% when infrared is used, all without sacrificing performance.
Energy-efficient taps and showerheads can also cut energy consumption for water heating by almost 40%. Using renewable energy cuts the polluting and climate-changing effects of fossil fuels. Giving guests options for sustainable transport modes also helps fight climate change. All of these simple solutions help to reduce the frequency of floods and heatwaves.
Solid waste, if poorly managed, can end up in landfills. Plastic waste is not just bad for the environment, but a turn-off for tourists who see beautiful historical or cultural areas spoiled. The EU Ecolabel can show it is properly recycled or recovered. Sustainable approaches ensure no single-use packaging, disposable cutlery or toiletries. You can also cut harmful chemical use in cleaning products and services: this will bring health benefits and prevent toxic substances from entering the environment.
So, the EU Ecolabel is your chance to become part of a movement that keeps cities charming, clean and healthy. With this voluntary and strategic environmental scheme, you can give guests an eco-friendly and high-quality alternative to conventional hotels – while also engaging in a sustainable recovery. As travellers go green, you can lead the way in offering a sustainable hotel experience. Sign up now, to show your green credentials, save money, and be part of the solution.