Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and is a vital source of income for many countries. Nevertheless, like any other forms of development, tourism can also produce problems like loss of cultural heritage, economic dependence, ecological degradation and other social issues. With increasing awareness on the impacts of tourism, many people have started seeking more responsible holidays. Ecotourism, cultural tourism and nature-based tourism are a few of the names that are gaining popularity as part of alternative or sustainable tourism in order to preserve nature.
Even though tourism is one of the largest economic global sectors, it is also one of the biggest energy-consuming sectors. Tourism is a victim and contributor to climate change. With the number of tourists a year set to continue increasing, energy consumption in the field of tourism looks only set to grow. Therefore, it is only vital to call for a healthy environment to put the tourism industry on the path to sustainability.
What is sustainable tourism and why is it needed?
The concept of sustainable tourism can be traced as far back as 1980 when the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources published the World Conservation Strategy to promote sustainable development in tourism. Sustainable or green tourism is a way of traveling that while respecting the culture, environment and people of the visited area, leaves very minimum negative impact on the places visited. To be sustainable, tourism has to consider human welfare, animal welfare and nature preservation.
Any development that keeps in mind the needs of future generation while meeting the needs of the present can be called sustainable development. Tourism must be reliable and sensitive to the environment and must respect both the visitors and the hosts. Over centuries, enormous amounts of greenhouse gases are produced by the use of non-renewable energy sources such as oil, natural gas and coal. It is crucial that the global economic system adopts energy-saving measures and promotes its reliance on renewable energy sources.
Tourism/hospitality sector is a massive energy consumer and using renewable energy is the answer to sustainable tourism. Over exploitation of natural resources must come to an end for a sustainable future and fossil fuels must be replaced by renewable energy sources such as the sun, wind, rain, biomass fuels, tides and geothermal heat. Sustainable energy and tourism must go hand in hand and responsible planning is imperative for the tourism industry to survive as a whole. The concept of home stays and ecotourism has emerged in recent years to provide meaningful experiences to the tourists keeping the ecological costs at minimum.
Tourism and solar energy
Tourism and hotel industry majorly uses two types of energy, electricity and thermal energy, both of which can be obtained either from fossil fuels or from renewable energy sources. The tourism sector uses electricity to power air conditioning units, lighting fixtures, fans, refrigeration equipment, water pumps, washing machines, microwaves, televisions, computers and other electronic appliances. Thermal energy helps to operate space and water heaters, cooking equipment and laundry dryers.
There is an enormous demand for heat in hotels and tourism sector in general. Therefore, solar thermal energy is one of the best sought-after solar applications. This can be mostly used for showers, swimming pool, wellness and spa facilities, laundry and kitchen, staff quarters, etc. Many large hotels rely now on solar thermal systems to meet their water heating requirements and have installed rooftop solar plants to procure solar power.
India has a growing potential when it comes to being an attractive international tourist destination for both business and for leisure. Power costs take up around 8% to 10% of the total operating expenses of an average Indian hotel. In order to meet part or most of their energy requirements, several tourist destinations have switched to renewable energy.
The solar panels can be used in large properties like hotels, resorts, restaurants, guest houses, home stays etc. People are being more and more aware regarding the importance of the contribution of solar products towards the change in the current climate scenario. Installation of solar panels helps in controlling global warming and environmental issues related to it. Solar lights provide energy reliability and help you save a huge amount of money. The risk of short circuit is reduced to zero since the lights are not connected to an electric grid.
To accommodate the guests’ desire to enjoy outdoor spaces, many tourist spots and hotels are trying to incorporate more nature into their interior and exterior spaces. Embracing outdoor areas for social activities is becoming the trend to entertain guests and by including certain amenities in the outdoor space, the revenue can be increased in the long run. Outdoor bathrooms, vertical gardens, organic and bio-climatic architecture, and garden lighting can certainly enhance the value of the property.
Aside from solar-powered indoor lighting and heating solutions, solar-powered outdoor equipment can help to attain complete self-sustainable gardens and pools where solar energy is used to power pumps, ornamental lights and fountains. These are cost effective and weatherproof and give a flexible choice in their area of installation. Solar street lights, flashlights, garden lights, pathway lights, accent lighting, and security lighting help to turn the exteriors into safe spaces for social gatherings and night parties and with the help of a battery backup system, solar water pumps can be automated to time the sprinklers and fountains.
Compared to conventional electric lights, installation and maintenance of solar lights are very easy and the operation of these lights is quite simple as the lights switch on and off automatically. Since the lights are not connected with wires, in case there is a change in the layout design, the lights can be effortlessly moved from one location to another. Whether to add a sense of security or to beautify the landscape, there are a wide variety of elegant solar light designs to choose from depending on your requirement.
Future of solar energy
To make an effort towards minimizing their carbon footprint, many travelers prefer tourist locations that use renewable energy and due to the growing consciousness among the young generation, many hotels have started to adopt energy conservation practices to attract guests. The future of renewable energy, especially solar and wind power, looks bright for India as the geographical location works in the country’s favor as it can produce enough energy to meet its own requirements and sustain.
Solar energy is capable of reshaping the hotel and hospitality landscape of our country and is expected to become a major part of the corporate strategy of tourism and hospitality sector as they are eager to cut down their operating costs and attract environment-conscious global travelers. At present, India has many promising upcoming solar projects as there is unimaginable potential to tap solar energy. Although the initial investment is slightly high, solar systems help save money once they are set up and the long lifespan of solar panels furthermore emphasizes the fact that solar-powered systems are here to stay and are worth the investment.