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Water Consumption and Management in Global Tourism & Hospitality Industry

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March 24

On the 20th of March, the House of Commons of British Parliament celebrated the UN World Water Day by paying a unique tribute to Water conservation. The event was hosted by Bob Blackman MP and organised by Mrs Ragasudha Rani Vinjamuri, an Academic Tutor at our University and the founder of Sanskruti Centre of Cultural Excellence London. They presented their “Jalanjali” initiative with interesting perspectives on water, life and livelihoods. Among the speakers was Dr. Vipin Nadda, also a lecturer and programme coordinator (Postgraduate-Tourism & Hospitality) at the University of Sunderland in London.


Dr. Vipin discussed about water consumption and Management in the Global Tourism and Hospitality industry. He touched several topics such as the Tourism and Hospitality industry and its resources and about how water is an important resource for the industry. He then looked at water consumption patterns and management.  Here is an overview of his findings;

The distribution of water on earth shows that 97% is in the oceans, which cover 71% of the Earth’s surface, 3% is freshwater, two-thirds of which is tied up as ice in glaciers and at the poles and approximately 1% of total is available as freshwater in rivers, lakes, atmosphere and in groundwater. It is therefore, interesting to look at how this water is consumed. According to Dr.Vipin’s research, each person needs 20-50 liters of safe freshwater a day for drinking, cooking and cleaning. On average, people in Europe use more than 200 liters and in the United States more than 400 liters per day. In addition, more than one in seven people worldwide – approximately 1 billion people don’t have/limited access to safe freshwater struggling with less than 5 liters/day and thus, the demand for water projected to exceed supply by 40% by 2030.

In the 1950, there was 25 million of international tourist arrivals and the receipts totaled a mere US$2.1 billion. In 2015, international tourist arrivals reached 1.2 billion and the receipts have grown to an impressive US$1260 billion.  In the accommodation sector, the STR Global (2016) estimates that there are 202,842 hotels, offering 17.5 million guest rooms, around the globe. This shows how the industry is constantly growing. Further to this growth, the industry has become one of the major users of freshwater and its contribution to water consumption is significant though varies from location, region and consumption patterns. The consumption patterns were identified as fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, rafting and aesthetics to the tourist experience.

  • In Barbados, Cyprus, and Malta, tourism accounts for up to 7.3% of national water consumption
  • Coastal zones of the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, tourism is generally the dominant sector for water use.
  • Kitchens, laundry, toilets, showers, swimming pools, cooling, or the irrigation of gardens, as well as water use for various activities such as golf, diving, saunas, or spas.
  • Water consumption rates could be in the range of 100-2,000 L per tourist per day, and up to 3,000 L per bedroom per day.
  • Hotels associated with golf courses can consume up to 1 million mof water per year.

Therefore, the key management priority in tourist destinations has to be both in terms of actual consumption levels (direct and indirect) and future availability. They also have to look at the crisis and management of water.  This can be a challenge for local communities where their survival can be at stake. The importance of water conservation in Local/regional/National planning and development are now including tourism businesses to contribute towards responsible water management.

“A sustainable supply of water in the right quantity, of the right quality, at the right place, at the right time and at the right price” (UNESCO, 2016)

Dr Vipin also looked at how the industry can establish a water management plan. He stated that by comparing with hotel industry benchmarks, measuring self-water consumption and set some tangible targets and carry out periodical Water audits there is a scope for savings. Also by investing in water saving technology in hotels (New shower heads, flow control in taps), Low flow toilets, Implement a linen reuse programme, water can be preserved. He suggested the Grey water systems, where up to 50 per cent of wastewater can be returned to the hotel after treatment for toilet flushing. He pointed out that maintenance is also fundamental because a leaking toilet can lose 750 liters of water day in average property.

He gave a few examples such as Soneva luxury resorts in Maldives and Thailand where no water is taken from the public water supply with 60% coming from rainwater collection and 40% from desalination. The Holiday Inn in Flinders, Australia, they invested AUD $20,000 in low flow technology, after 18 months cut water usage by 50%. Starwood in the U.S. offer a $5 voucher to spend in the shop / restaurant / bar if guests don’t have their room cleaned every day.

Finally, it is important to consider that future climate change will significantly affect rainfall and water availability. Tourism’s impact on fresh water consumption is dependent on a wide range of factors due to multi-disciplinary nature. Many of these issues are interrelated and necessitates careful analysis of potential measures to manage freshwater resources: there may be ‘win-win’ solutions.


References – Tourism Barometers published monthly – Tourism Highlights

International Tourism Partnership, Environmental Management for Hotels

Tourism Concern, Water Equity in Tourism: A Human Right, a Global Responsibility 2015

United Nations, UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate

Gössling, S., Peeters, P., Hall, C.M., Dubois, G., Ceron, J.P., Lehmann, L., and Scott, D. (2012), Tourism and water use: supply, demand, and security. An international review, Tourism Management, 33(1), 1-15


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