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UNWTO calls on island hotels to support renewable energy

October 9, 2014 Responsible Tourism No Comments Email Email

From Aruba to Zanzibar, many islands around the world rely on tourism for much of their GDP. Some 41 million international tourists visited Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in 2013, bringing them US$ 61 billion.

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However, because these islands are by their very nature remote, often extremely so, this inward investment comes at a cost to the environment. 

First, the tourists predominantly arrive by air, itself a significant contributor to climate change. Secondly, servicing their guests’ needs whilst on holiday –  along with those of the resident population throughout the year – demands a lot of energy. Yet, despite efforts to increase energy efficiency, on average these small islands are facing increasingly high energy costs as they still rely predominantly on ever more costly imported diesel fuel. Currently more than 90% of SIDS energy comes from oil imports, and this represent up to 20% of their annual imports.

A significant step towards addressing these intertwined issues has just been made, however, at the Third UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, which took place in September. At the conference the UNWTO and the International Renewable Energy Agency, which supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, partnered to promote the use of renewable energies on small islands around the world.

In a Joint Statement on Renewable Energy and Tourism in Islands, the two bodies announced that they were committed to stimulating investment in cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions so as to lessen these islands need to rely on fossil fuels. They then called on the islands’ hotels to document their energy savings and cost reductions from such efforts and to share their findings with one another through the Global Renewable Energy Islands Network. 

 “Investment by island hotels is vital to demonstrating the business case for renewable energy, which is essential to addressing the burden of costly fossil fuels that inhibits islands’ economic and social development,” said IRENA Director-General, Adnan Amin, while signing the Statement. His views were supported by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai who added: “Tourism is a primary economic sector for many SIDS and a dominant force driving inclusive socio-economic growth. Yet, sustainable tourism development in small islands continues to face many challenges; one of the major ones is their high dependence on fossil fuel. The synergy of tourism and renewable energy represents a powerful force that will pave the way for win-win solutions in driving the sustainable agenda of islands forward.”

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