Home Publisher's Point of View After 18 Months of Work: The Hotel Water Measurement Initiative

After 18 Months of Work: The Hotel Water Measurement Initiative

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Glenn Hasek

Last week was an important one for the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) and our industry. ITP, a membership organization with the mission of facilitating collaboration between some of the world’s leading hotel companies, unveiled the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI). The result of 18 months of work by 18 global hotel groups, ITP and others, HWMI is the industry’s first jointly developed and consistent water measurement tool. It will enable hotel companies and individual properties to measure and report on water consumption in a consistent way. The tool is free for you to use.

The problem with water measurement in the past has been that each hotel group has had its own way to measure water consumption. Building on ITP’s earlier success with the universally recognized tool for measuring the carbon footprint of a hotel room, stay or meeting—HCMI (Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative)—now used by over 24,000 hotels globally, HWMI will allow any hotel anywhere in the world to measure and report on the water footprint of a hotel stay or meeting/event in exactly the same way. Consistent measurement is the first step necessary to enable hotels to report and benchmark—and ultimately reduce—water consumption.

Using HWMI, one can calculate the amount of water used per occupied room (and per guest night, where data are available) and per area of meeting space per hour. ITP provides a spreadsheet example of a hypothetical hotel to help you follow the calculation process. You will need to gather quite a bit of information upfront—even from your laundry company if you outsource that part of your operations.

Many lodging stakeholders are going to benefit from HWMI, as will the increasingly water-stressed environment.

I spoke with Fran Hughes, Director of ITP, about HWMI. The following is the result of my interview:

Why are you excited about the release of HWMI?

“HWMI represents 17 months of hard work and commitment from the 18 companies who participated in the working group and who set aside competitive interests for the common goal of creating a methodology the whole industry could adopt. Seeing the hotel industry come together for the common good is really exciting stuff! Given the success of the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) which is now used by over 24,000 hotels worldwide, the potential for HWMI is huge. We now have a great opportunity to engage with the industry and its customers on water issues. The hotel sector touches every corner of the globe and by raising awareness of the need for better measurement, ITP and its members are leading the drive to better management of water. Water scarcity is increasing in many parts of the world so the industry needs to measure and address its impacts in order to grow sustainably, otherwise it will have neither the ability or license to operate. This is the first step in the journey on water stewardship and we look forward to exploring the opportunities better water reporting provides.”

Who do you expect to use it in the coming months and years? All of the stakeholders in its creation have committed to use it?

“The members of the working group will be rolling our HWMI across their portfolios in the coming year. Given the scale of this task it will take time to embed but we anticipate that over 10,000 hotels will be using HWMI within a year of launch with more coming on board in coming years.”

In addition to the press release and upcoming webinars, what efforts will be taken in the coming months to get the word out about HWMI?

“ITP’s focus for the coming months is to promote HWMI; both to the hotel sector to encourage hotel companies, associations and individual properties to use the methodology to calculate and report on their water footprint, and also to corporate customers, travel planners and the meeting and events industry to raise awareness that water footprint information is now available and that they can enhance their service to their customers, reporting and demonstrate their commitment to driving environmental responsibility by asking for this information. We also are encouraging companies to participate in the annual Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking Study. By submitting data on water and carbon confidentially to the study, hotels and hotel companies will receive a report on their own use compared to the local averages, get data validity checks and be part of a global movement to create better benchmarking for the hotel sector. All data is anonymized and shared in the spirit that through better benchmarking that we can drive better understanding of our environmental impacts and better performance and management of these impacts. Context is essential.”

What have you heard from the meeting planning community in regard to the need for something such as HWMI? Any response from that sector in regard to HWMI’s release?

“Corporate customers have been asking for consistent and transparent information on water use through RFPs for some time and now our members can provide this. This creates a ‘virtuous circle’ where the industry is now able to communicate transparently with its customers and guests and customers can drive better environmental awareness and reporting by requesting this information. We’d be delighted to hear from any organisations who would like to hear more and see how we can support them in using HWMI to achieve their own objectives.”

Watch for additional coverage of HWMI in future Publisher’s Point of View columns.

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