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How Europe’s accommodation sector is approaching sustainability

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New research from and Statista uncovers how the European accommodation industry feels about sustainability and decarbonization. Ready or not, the continent’s hotels have much to gain from meeting energy needs off-grid and attracting sustainability-minded travelers

Our Summer 2023 European Accommodation Barometer* surveyed 1,040 properties across ten European regions in spring 2023. Here’s what we uncovered about the industry’s progress toward greater sustainability efforts and where challenges remain.

Sustainability readiness across Europe

The journey toward a more sustainable accommodation model has been long in the making. Currently, 42% of European hoteliers feel very prepared for the challenges of sustainability and decarbonization, up 3% from 2022. Conversely, just 15% of hoteliers feel unprepared, reflecting a 3% decrease from 2022 when it was 18%. While the progress is encouraging, respondents all agreed that more must be done.

Italy topped the readiness ranking, with 58% of hoteliers rating their preparedness to face the challenges brought by sustainability and decarbonization as good or very good. Following closely behind were Spain at 46% and the Nordic countries at 45%. Italy and the Nordic countries maintained their strong positions at the other end of the scale, with just 5% and 6% respectively rating their preparedness as poor or very poor. Among the countries surveyed, Greek hoteliers expressed the least confidence in their preparedness, while France felt unprepared by the largest margin. Germany stood out as the outlier, being the only nation to rate itself less well-prepared than it was in 2022. All other regions showed improvements.

Preparedness for sustainability and decarbonisation

It's challenging to pinpoint the exact reasons for discrepancies between nations. But in the case of Greece, our research found that Greek businesses are more concerned with limited access to capital than their counterparts across Europe. In the accommodation sector, most investments in sustainability pay for themselves, but accessibility and availability of financing options still matter. Addressing the misconception that becoming more sustainable always has to be expensive is key in the region, especially because even small changes can quickly add up to make a difference.

Sustainability and decarbonization investment

While 52% of hoteliers planned to maintain their investments in sustainable practices at the same levels as 2022, a small portion of them (13%) intended to spend less. On the other hand, 32% were eager to invest more in sustainable operations over the next six months.

A look at the bubble chart below shows how accommodation providers plan to distribute their investments toward decarbonization and more sustainable practices.

Majority of European hoteliers convey plans to invest in energy efficiency

In our report, European properties rated energy costs as their top challenge by a large margin, with 86% identifying it as a key concern, up from 80% in 2022. It’s not surprising that energy efficiency had top billing in sustainable investment goals, at close to 60%.

The next largest sectors targeted for investment were waste reduction and water preservation. This resource allocation indicates that long-term financial savings are a powerful motivator for businesses to make changes.

Motivating factors for sustainability developments

Hoteliers in our survey ranked energy efficiency as the top investment priority in the realm of sustainable improvements. Against the backdrop of exorbitant utility bills, hoteliers are looking to shield their businesses from price fluctuations. This can serve as an incentive to switch to alternative energy sources and improve efficiency.

With 46% of accommodation providers anticipating 2023 to be a record-breaking year for revenue, there’s strong motivation to attract new and returning guests. Our Sustainable Travel Report 2023 indicates that most travelers (76%) want to travel more sustainably this year, and a significant number (46%) are willing to spend more to do so. Accommodation businesses could benefit greatly from pursuing opportunities to provide for this growing category of travelers. 

Europe’s sustainability opportunities

In our report, we asked European accommodation providers to identify their primary opportunities for 2023. We found that “offering local experiences,” a goal that ties sustainability efforts into the wider community, was significant to 55% of respondents. “Higher interest in more sustainable products and services” closely followed at 53%. Another notable opportunity identified by 53% of properties was “attracting Gen Z travelers.” Since this is the demographic most concerned about climate change and reducing their carbon footprint, implementing more sustainable initiatives is a great way for properties to meet the needs and preferences of their younger guests. 

Emerging opportunities ranked by European hoteliers

Our report highlights that European tourism is continuing its post-pandemic upward trajectory, with many accommodation providers anticipating a record-setting year. With this in mind, it would be beneficial for governments to explore how they can assist accommodation businesses in their pursuit of stronger sustainability efforts and decarbonization. 42% of survey respondents believed fiscal and tax rewards would help accelerate their plans for more sustainable practices, while 36% called for better access to capital and financing.

While progress continues to be made across the continent, Italy is still the only European region surveyed where a majority of accommodation providers felt sufficiently prepared for challenges regarding sustainability and decarbonization. With the rising demand for sustainable travel, the sector’s encouraging recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and energy costs eating into profits, now is an ideal time for businesses to reevaluate their commitment to sustainability and identify areas where they can ramp up investment and introduce new practices.

*This survey was conducted by Statista and took place between March 28 and May 15, 2023 via phone interviews. In total, 1,040 executives and managers from the European travel accommodation sector participated in the survey.

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Dive deeper into the insights

Our full report unpacks the impact of the post-pandemic boom on Europe’s hotels, examines the role of governments, and highlights the disparities between large chains and independent properties. 

Download the full report

What do you think of this page?

  • A growing number of European hoteliers feel prepared to face the challenges of sustainability and decarbonization, but more progress is needed
  • Italy, Spain, and the Nordic countries are confident in their preparedness, while Greece and France are less sure, and Germany feels progress has stalled
  • 32% of hoteliers plan to increase sustainability investment in 2023, prioritizing energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water preservation
  • The high cost of energy is a strong motivating factor driving investment decisions. An increase in sustainability-minded travelers is also an incentive
  • Hoteliers see opportunities in local experiences, more sustainable offerings, and attracting Gen Z travelers