The challenges facing GCC hotels in achieving net zero emissions

The challenges facing GCC hotels in achieving net zero emissions

Why the industry needs to develop a net zero roadmap ahead of the COP 28 meeting in Abu Dhabi next year

Nadia Ibrahim, associate director of consultancy and sustainability at UAE-based green facilities management (FM) company Farnek, has outlined how hotels throughout the region can create a roadmap to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

During a webinar presentation in conjunction with the Swiss Business Council, which was attended by key hospitality figures from across the region, Ibrahim highlighted the fact that some international hospitality brands already have strategies in place to achieve their net zero ambitions. However, she said, many independent hotels, particularly three- and four-star properties would require external support from consultants to design, plan and execute a carbon neutral roadmap.

Ibrahim stated: “Major international hotel brands such as Accor, Hilton and Marriott have the necessary resources to achieve their sustainability goals, but many privately-owned independent hotels will not have the means to access dedicated internal support.

“There is also general confusion about what net zero means and the process and actions required to make a corporate commitment and how a hotel’s carbon footprint can be measured and reduced without affecting the operation or guest experience.” 

It's widely reported that tourism and specifically hotels account for 8% and 1% respectively of total global carbon emissions

Implementing a carbon reduction plan is not an easy task, with multiple internal and external challenges. 

Ibrahim identified the most common challenges as compiling accurate carbon footprint assessments across the hotel, a lack of financial resources, the higher costs associated with sustainable products and insufficient regulatory incentives to support a hotel’s net zero transition.

Ibrahim, who was elected to the board of the official Local Network of the UN Global Compact in the UAE earlier this year, also emphasised to delegates that despite the challenges, sustainability in hospitality is an undeniable trend that also affords operational savings, competitive advantage and strengthens relationships with stakeholders.

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Ibrahim added: “Reducing energy output, water consumption and waste will save a hotel operation money through lower utility bills and landfill costs. Moreover, 81% of travellers that responded to a 2021 survey said that they wanted to stay in sustainable accommodation and a further 49% claimed there was not enough choice.”

Leading by example, Farnek consultants have already identified the scope and boundaries to accurately measure and reduce its own carbon footprint. 

Apart from building performance, such as energy and water consumption, Farnek is also taking into account employee travel, logistics, purchased goods and services, and waste disposal, as well as focusing on recycling, renewables and other lower carbon alternatives for use at work.

Ibrahim explained: “It is impossible to become carbon neutral by reduction methods alone, so hotels will need to offset a certain percentage of their emissions, by supporting certified carbon offset projects, such as providing clean cooking fuel to isolated communities in Africa to help prevent deforestation.

“It is essential that hotels start to plan their environmental strategy now if they are to play their part and support the overall net zero goals of their respective governments, particularly those in the UAE, who will host the COP 28 meeting in Abu Dhabi next year.” 


Farnek has developed an in-house, online solution called Hotel Optimiser which can carry out and benchmark complete energy, water and waste audits for hotel owners and managers.

In addition, Farnek is the preferred partner in the Middle East for Green Globe Certification, a worldwide sustainability management system and certification for the hospitality, travel and tourism industry.

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