Europe's Voice of Tourism

The impact of EU rules for energy efficiency in hotels

The European Union’s sustainability and energy efficiency rules are set to have a significant impact on the European hotel industry in the next five years. With a focus on reducing energy consumption, carbon emissions, and waste production, the EU is pushing for sustainable practices across all industries, including tourism.

The hotel industry is a significant contributor to the European economy, generating over €380 billion in revenue and employing over 10 million people. The industry is also a major consumer of energy, accounting for around 1% of global energy use. As a result, the EU has implemented policies aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the hotel industry while also boosting its economic growth.

Several specific regulations have been implemented to enforce sustainability in the hotel industry. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) requires hotels to monitor and reduce their energy usage, while the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) mandates the reduction of waste generation and encourages recycling. Additionally, the EU Ecolabel certification scheme sets strict environmental standards that hotels must meet to be certified.

The key policy driving investment in the hotel industry is the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive, which requires member states to improve energy efficiency by 32.5% by 2030.

Nature and size of necessary investments

Investments in sustainability and energy efficiency are necessary for hotels to comply with these regulations. Upgrading to more energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems (heating, ventilation and air conditioning ), implementing smart room technologies, and using renewable energy sources like solar panels can be costly but necessary for compliance. However, these investments can also lead to cost savings in the long run and attract sustainability-conscious guests.

According to a report by the European Investment Bank (EIB), the total investment needed to achieve the EU’s energy efficiency targets for the hotel industry could be up to €6 billion per year until 2030. This investment will be essential for the industry to reduce its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Benefits of ISO 14001 or EU Ecolabel certifications

Hotels that obtain ISO 14001 or EU Ecolabel certifications will have a competitive advantage in the market.

These certifications demonstrate a hotel’s commitment to sustainability and environmental protection.

ISO 14001 certification is an international standard for environmental management systems, while the EU Ecolabel is a certification scheme that verifies a hotel’s environmental performance.

Certified hotels will be able to attract sustainability-conscious travellers who are willing to pay more for eco-friendly accommodations. These travellers are becoming increasingly important in the European hotel industry, as sustainability is becoming a key factor in travel decisions.

European subsidy programs available

Several European subsidy programs are available to support hotels in their sustainability efforts. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF) provide financial assistance to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

The ERDF is a European funding program that aims to support regional development.

The Cohesion Fund provides funding for projects that promote economic and social cohesion in the EU.

The EAFRD funds rural development projects. These subsidy programs can provide significant financial support to hotels that want to invest in sustainability and energy efficiency.

The Horizon 2021-2027 program offers funds for sustainable tourism initiatives, while the LIFE program supports projects that focus on improving the environment and climate.

Sustainability-conscious travellers

The number of sustainability-conscious travellers has been steadily increasing over the years. According to the European Travel Commission’s report on European Tourism Trends for 2020, sustainability is becoming an essential factor for European travellers when choosing a destination. In 2019, 71% of European travellers considered sustainability when choosing their travel destination, up from 64% in 2017.

According to a survey conducted by in 2018, 87% of their global travellers want to travel sustainably, and 39% of them are willing to pay more for eco-friendly accommodation.

Another survey conducted by GlobalData in 2019 found that sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly important to travellers from the UK, Germany, France, and Italy.

Role of Industry Associations

Industry associations such as HOTREC (European Hotel and Restaurants, 2 million members) and Skal International play a crucial role in negotiations with European and national government bodies. These associations represent the interests of the hotel industry and work to ensure that regulations are reasonable and realistic for hotels to comply with. HOTREC has been actively involved in the EU’s sustainability efforts and has advocated for measures that support hotels in their sustainability initiatives.


The EU’s sustainability and energy efficiency rules are set to have a significant impact on the European hotel industry in the next five years.

While compliance can be costly, investments in sustainability can lead to cost savings and attract sustainability-conscious guests.

ISO 14001 and EU Ecolabel certifications can differentiate hotels from their competitors, while European subsidy programs can support hotels in their sustainability efforts.

With the number of sustainability-conscious travellers increasing, industry associations like Skal International play a crucial role in negotiations with government bodies and in promoting sustainable tourism.