Understanding Carbon Emission Mitigation in the New Zealand Accommodation Industry: A Mixed Methods Study
The accommodation sector is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions within tourism, and therefore there is a need to understand emission mitigation in the sector. As there is a geoscientific consensus that excessive emissions are responsible for climate change, international efforts towards a low carbon economy need to be realised. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement will facilitate efforts by all parties to mitigate carbon, with New Zealand's current target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. It is suggested that due to its high energy use, the accommodation sector has excellent potential to lower its emissions. Previous research in New Zealand on the accommodation industry has not focused specifically on the mitigation initiatives being undertaken, nor the motivations for doing so. Therefore, the primary aim of this study is to examine the extent to which carbon emission mitigation initiatives in the New Zealand accommodation industry are currently being implemented.
A mixed methods research design, with two sequential phases, was adopted for this study. Phase One consisted of a national online survey, gathering information on the accommodation industry’s emission mitigation initiatives and motivations for implementing them. Phase Two undertook a case study which holistically investigated emission mitigation initiatives, environmental certification and corporate motivations at New Zealand’s only carbon neutral certified hotel. Statistical analysis of 566 survey responses reveals that recycling is the most implemented initiative throughout the industry, with almost all properties undertaking this initiative.
Accommodation categories in the luxury cluster implement more emission mitigation measures than either mid-range or budget cluster properties. Accommodation providers that hold a Qualmark™ Enviro award are more likely to implement LED lighting, have a ‘Switch Off’ policy and provide a towel reuse option, however, they are equally as likely as those who do not hold the award to recycle and select Energy Star appliances. In addition, analysis shows that some establishments who hold this award do not actually implement some of the initiatives studied. Corporate motivations for implementing initiatives indicate that ‘ecological responsiveness’ is behind recycling; however, the other four main initiatives are reported to be undertaken due to ‘competitiveness’. The case study reveals specific details of environmental sustainability and mitigation initiatives at New Zealand’s only certified carbon neutral accommodation establishment. This provides a role model establishment for other accommodation providers to emulate in a move towards a lower carbon operation. However, it is also suggested that there were still opportunities for the organisation to further lower its emissions, and capitalise on its carbon neutral status through marketing and advertising.
Implications of this study showed that there is potential for the New Zealand accommodation sector to become a role model of environmental sustainability and emission mitigation behaviour, as the majority of respondents were interested in lowering their carbon emissions further, as well as currently undertaking initiatives to do so. The results should be of interest to carbon mitigation businesses such as Enviro-mark, industry stakeholders such as Tourism New Zealand, Qualmark Enviro and tourists, and government policy makers when considering New Zealand’s 2015 Paris Climate Agreement targets, as mitigation of emissions will be required from all sectors, including accommodation.