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Tourism Professor and Sustainability Experts Call On Asia’s Hospitality Industry To Act Fast Before Water Crisis Leads To Conflict

March 21, 2014 Responsible Tourism No Comments Email Email

In the lead up to UN World Water Day on 22 March, a prominent research consortium supported by the EarthCheck Research Institute (ERI), together with Ecolab (ECL) and Griffith University, has released its second white paper on water, calling on the tourism industry – a heavy user of water – to act fast.  

The paper titled, “From Challenges to Solutions: Providing the Business Case,” shows that water and it’s combined effect with energy use could become the most contested resource of the future.

Addressing more than 50 tourism industry professionals at a distinguished lecture at Eaton Hong Kong, Dr Susanne Becken a Professor of Sustainability from Australia’s Griffith University said the tourism industry is at risk.

“Tourism in the Asia Pacific region is growing at five percent per annum. At the same time, more than 75% of the countries are experiencing water stress at least at some critical period throughout the year,” Dr Becken said.

“The quality of the available water supply is diminishing, while the demands on volume and the costs to use are increasing.

“Layer into this the inequity of water use by large hotels where the consumption of water by guests can outpace that of the local population by up to eight times, and the potential for conflict becomes a significant new business risk.” 574119

Contributor to the white paper and co-presenter, EarthCheck CEO Mr Stewart Moore believes water is currently undervalued relative to its true environmental cost, although the situation is changing.

“There’s a nexus between energy and water – water forms part of the production process, and energy is required to produce water.  The two are inextricably linked and this puts strains on both resources,” said Mr Moore.

“We’ve all become accustomed to carbon footprinting. Next, it will be about water footprinting. That completely changes our thinking and makes us realize that hotel and tourism businesses need to have dedicated water management plans; plans which are actually implemented.”

EarthCheck Research Institute (ERI) Chairman, Professor David Simmons (from New Zealand’s Lincoln University) said the tourism industry has to make swift changes to meet the new risks, including introducing responsible design and operational practices before hotel developments are approved.

“Developers have to look beyond the box that they are building and see if it fits in with the existing environment,” said Professor Simmons.

“If we destabilize destinations by developing a ‘giant box’ in the middle of a village – one that soaks up precious resources for the rare few – then we are bound to face issues.”

EarthCheck has developed the world’s most comprehensive database on the operational performance of hotels reaching back some 15 years. This allows the organisation to benchmark and baseline facilities around the globe.

In December last year, the EarthCheck Research Institute added to the stockpile of data when it surveyed 181 hotels globally and found that water consumption varied considerably, ranging from around 200 litres per day in Europe to more than 900 litres in the Philippines, Malaysia and China. The survey highlighted that hotels deploy different initiatives to minimize water usage.

“With this data we can help facilities understand how much water they are using, understand their footprint, and provide benchmarks, monitoring tools and practical insights to guide them toward improved operational performance,” said Mr Moore.

“Major changes are required that involve leaps in the way we use water and how we deploy technology.”

Dr. Susanne Becken, professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith University, together with Dr. Raj Rajan, vice president of Global Sustainability for Ecolab, will present the findings of the white paper at a special World Water Day Distinguished Lecture at Eaton Hong Kong on March 20 at 09:15 am.

The presentation is based on the findings of the White Paper as prepared by:

– Dr. Susanne Becken, Professor of Sustainable Tourism, Griffith University

– Dr. Raj Rajan, RD&E Vice President, Global Sustainability Technical Leader, Ecolab

– Stewart Moore, CEO, EarthCheck / EC3 Global

– Melinda Watt, Chief Scientist, EarthCheck

– Dr. Char-Lee McLennan, Research Fellow, Griffith University

– Nicole Garofano, Research Assistant, EC3 Global

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