IHF AGM and Conference 24-25th February 2020

  • 93% of Irish hotels and guesthouses are planning sustainability projects in 2020
  • Key areas include energy conservation, single use plastic and waste reduction
  • More funding needed to support investment and expertise required

Galway, Tuesday, 25th February 2020 

“Improving sustainability is a priority, not an option,” according to Michael Lennon, President of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF). Addressing delegates at the IHF Annual Conference in Galway, he said that the tourism and hospitality sector recognised that it had a responsibility and an impact when it comes to sustainability with many businesses already actively improving their sustainability, particularly in the areas of energy and water conservation, single use plastic and waste reduction.
However, Mr Lennon said that the substantial level of investment and expertise required meant that the hotel sector could only go so far on its own, and he called on the new government to make additional funding available to help support and accelerate change. 

“We are well-placed as an industry to lead the way in embracing sustainable practices that put the environment at the heart of our tourism offering,” he said. The latest IHF survey shows that over 90% of hotels are planning sustainability projects this year.  According to Mr Lennon many have already invested significantly, especially in energy conservation - from the installation of new boilers and motion sensor lighting systems to energy efficient kitchen appliances, all of which are contributing to a reduction in energy consumption. And the sector’s focus on energy consumption is continuing, according to the survey, with over 80% of hotels planning to invest in this area alone during 2020.

Water conservation is another key focus, where sustainability measures include the installation of onsite water tanks that enable hotels to control their own flow and pressure. 
However, access to grant support is proving an obstacle to greater progress on capital intensive projects. “While businesses are being actively encouraged to become more sustainable, sufficient funding is not being made available for grants and other supports. Hoteliers recognise the benefits that can be gained from improving sustainability. However, these measures can involve substantial capital expenditure that is beyond the capacity of many hotels, particularly those that are heavily reliant on seasonal business.”
As an island nation where one in nine jobs are supported by tourism, Mr Lennon highlighted Ireland’s transport infrastructure as another key area for additional government investment, describing it as being vital to ensuring a sustainable future for the industry.
“Not only will increasing public transport help to reduce carbon emissions,” he said, “it will help to accelerate the spread of tourism beyond the major cities and traditional hotspots, which is a win win for everyone concerned”
Meanwhile, Irish hotels are continuing their focus on improving operational practices in areas ranging from housekeeping to waste management. He also highlighted food purchasing and preparation as another area where hotels are making significant progress, with changes to practice helping to reduce substantially the amount of food waste that is generated. 
The IHF president said that hotels’ progress in operational improvements, in particular, is being helped and supported by increasing awareness on the part of consumers. “They are challenging us, which is good, as many of the practices we are introducing, or have already done so, require their support to be successful. Hotels want to maintain the high standards of service excellence and quality that guests expect so it is particularly encouraging when consumers expect and support the sustainability measures that are being introduced. Towel reuse programmes, which are now almost a global industry standard, help to reduce water consumption. More recent changes such as replacing single use guest toiletries with larger dispensers are now being welcomed too by consumers. Small changes, perhaps, but they all add up.” he added.
Tourism sector at a glance
  • 10.9 million out of state visitors
  • Tourism accounts for almost 4% of GNP
  • Total tourism revenue of €9.2 billion in 2019
  • Tourism industry has created over 90,000 new jobs since 2011. It now supports over 260,000 jobs, equivalent to 11% of total employment in Ireland with over 60,000 of these jobs in the hotel sector alone
  • €7.25 billion in foreign exchange earnings
  • €1.96 billion in domestic tourism revenue in 2019
  • Total of 62,897 hotel and guesthouse bedrooms in Ireland (2019)

About the IHF 

Founded in 1937, the Irish Hotels Federation is the national organisation of the hotel and guesthouse sector in Ireland. It represents almost 1,000 hotels and guesthouses nationwide, employing over 60,000 people and is a key stakeholder in the Irish tourism industry.
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