Report: Hotels reducing carbon footprint

Data from the latest Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking (CHSB) Index shows that the average carbon footprint of a hotel stay decreased by 3% between 2018 and 2019, following a decrease of 10% between 2015 and 2018.

The report contains data from more than 21,000 hotels in 57 countries and 365 cities from the 26 global brands that participated in the study.

The greatest reduction was evidenced across hotels in the United Arab Emirates, whose carbon footprint reduced on average 25.6%. Hotels in Colombia, Saudi Arabia and Japan also made significant improvements with reductions of carbon emissions per square meter of 24.4%, 17.8% and 14.6%, respectively.

Of the countries contained within the index, in 2019, hotels in Uruguay had the lowest carbon intensity (11.1 kg carbon emissions per square meter) whereas those in the Maldives had the highest (238.8 kg/m2). At city level, Montevideo, Uruguay’s hotels were the best performing (10.8 kg/m2), while in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the average hotel emitted 221.5 kg emissions per square meter.

The 10 countries with the lowest average carbon emissions per square meter for hotels are:

  1. Uruguay 11.1 kg/m2
  2. Costa Rica 18.0 kg/m2
  3. Switzerland 23.3 kg/m2
  4. France 27.7 kg/m2
  5. Brazil 29.0 kg/m2
  6. Colombia 30.5 kg/m2
  7. Austria 36.0 kg/m2
  8. Canada 40.9 kg/m2
  9. New Zealand 41.6 kg/m2
  10. Finland 42.8 kg/m2

Eric Ricaurte, CEO, Greenview and the author of the CHSB Index, said, “The publication of the 2021 CHSB Index is a critical moment for the hotel industry, as it provides the definitive pre-COVID benchmarks for energy, water and carbon performance. It shows that for many years now the hotel industry has been on a robust pathway to reduce emissions.”

He continued, “We can see from the data that hotels located in those countries and cities where renewable energy is being adopted at a faster rate have much lower carbon intensity. In Uruguay, which is at the top of the list, 97% of electricity is produced from renewable sources. Renewables really are key to progress in this sector. Furthermore, CHSB represents the only industry-driven global dataset available to support organizations wishing to quantify the carbon emissions of their business travel hotel stays as part of their own net-zero commitments.”

The 2021 report is the eighth annual CHSB index to be released. It is the hotel industry’s largest annual data collection of energy, water and carbon performance and is the primary reference tool for governments or companies wanting to calculate the environmental impact of a hotel stay, according to researchers.

Linda Canina, the Dr. Michael Dang Director of the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, added, “The Center for Hospitality Research is delighted to publish this important piece of work again in 2021 and support the sustainable recovery of the hotel sector after such challenging times. We encourage all those looking to better understand the carbon emissions of hotel stays to use the calculation tool and the specific hotel emissions factors, in particular if they are looking to estimate their own business or leisure travel emissions.”

Inge Huijbrechts, global SVP, sustainability, Radisson Hotel Group, said, “Radisson is excited to participate in the annual CHSB index for the first time in 2021. The index allows us to benchmark our hotels’ performance against peers, and provides the aggregated datasets which are critical to our ability as a global hotel company to set relevant targets and monitor progress against them. As the world moves towards net-zero, we all have a role to play to rebuild travel responsibly as individual companies as well as collectively in the industry. The CHSB Index is a great example of the industry coming together and measuring footprints on a consistent basis, to offer a reliable frame of reference for hotel companies as well as for the business and leisure travelers who stay in our hotels every day.”

The following companies contributed data to the 2020 CHSB Index: AINA Hospitality, Centara Hotels & Resorts, Chatham Lodging Trust, CPG Hospitality, DiamondRock Hospitality Company, Hilton Worldwide, Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels, Horwath HTL Asia Pacific, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Mandarin Oriental Hotels Group, Marriott International, MGM Resorts International, Park Hotel Group, Park Hotels & Resorts, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, Playa Hotels & Resorts, Pro-invest Group, Radisson Hotel Group, RLJ Lodging Trust, Ryman Hospitality Properties, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Sudima Hotels, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and  Xenia Hotels & Resorts.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the hotel sector in 2020, the CHSB Index will not be published in 2022, but will resume in 2023 with an analysis of 2021 performance.

The CHSB Index is available to download free of charge from