UK tourism sector is leading the way in cutting carbon

It’s official – we’re proud to say the UK’s sustainable tourism sector is a world leader in cutting carbon emissions. Our latest statistics, released last week, reveal that Green Tourism member businesses are now 30% more efficient overall* than they were in 2010, our baseline year.

This has prevented the emission of an estimated 295,000+ tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per annum compared to 2010. If we had done nothing, our members’ emissions would have stood at around 1 million tonnes of CO2 per annum. Instead, they’re nearer 700,000 tonnes.

These impressive headline figures represent a major milestone for us, indicating improved productivity and efficiency – we’ve seen progress in both bed occupancy and carbon emissions. The table opposite shows our main carbon reporting statistics (by the way, our industry measures carbon based on direct and indirect CO2 emissions per room night).

How do we compare to the worldwide average?

At 17.30kg CO2 per bed night, the average equivalent emissions for our member hotels in the UK compares very favourably with the rest of the world. In fact, it’s less than a third of the average 66kg CO2 per overnight (equivalent) that the International Tourism Partnership reported in 2016 for their 2,000 or so hotel businesses around the world.

This is particularly impressive given that our member hotels include some of the UK’s most prestigious establishments, such as the Ritz, the Savoy, Gleneagles and Chewton Glen.

Some might say the UK’s mild climate and green energy supply sector work in our favour. What we say is that green-minded travellers can spend three weeks in the UK for the same carbon emission as a week in most other destinations.

Is Scotland the world’s top green destination?

Drilling down to figures for the home nations, we see that Scotland leads the way despite its cooler climate and longer winters. The top 100 accommodation providers have even lower figures than England, and the figure for Scottish self-catering providers – at 4.69kg CO2 per bed night – is particularly striking.

Scotland’s success is thanks in part to significant investments in renewables over recent years, both nationally and on a micro level. For example, one of our Green Tourism members, a farm bed and breakfast, has a very successful 100kW wind turbine.

Self-catering in the UK has been reinventing itself along eco-friendly lines – many new properties are eco builds with renewable energy and super energy efficiency. The stock of properties in the UK now has half the carbon emission than it did in 2010.

Green ambitions for the future

I believe these latest statistics represent an outstanding achievement – one which positions the UK as the leading sustainable tourism destination in the world, with Scotland sitting as the jewel in the crown.

By building on this tremendous success over coming years and growing our membership three-fold, we aim to save one million tonnes of carbon across the UK tourism sector by 2020. The only way we can be so ambitious is thanks to the hard work and many small yet significant actions by green-minded tourism entrepreneurs across the UK.

I invite all tourism businesses with green aspirations to join us and discover the benefits. We’re the natural leader in green grading – the only sustainable tourism certification programme that benchmarks and produces annual carbon reports to complement our third-party assessments.

Find out more

Our members enjoy unrivalled expert advice from our team of experienced advisors and exclusive use of our online Carbon Calculator tool, among many benefits. If you’d like to know more about our carbon reporting or about membership, please get in touch.

DESTINATION UK kgCO2e per room night Scotland
2010 2014 2015 2015
Budget Hotels 15.3 11.57
Resort Hotels 22.66 24.62
Average Hotels 26.21 19.09 17.30 18.15
Bed and Breakfast 15.59 17.68 9.16* 8.48*
Guest House 14.15 14.86
Holiday Parks 5.39 n/a 6.19 n/a
Hostels 7.65 n/a 7.25 7.14
Self Catering 10.2 11.18 6.35 4.69

*Combination of bed and breakfasts and guest houses

FOOTNOTE: Latest Green Tourism statistics are for the calendar year 2015, with a view to 2016 data by the second half of 2017. The baseline year is 2010. The 30% reduction in carbon emissions per overnight is across all accommodation types – holiday parks, hotels, hostels self-catering and bed and breakfasts.