Director spotlight: Fran Hughes of the International Tourism Partnership

Fran Hughes is Director of the International Tourism Partnership (ITP), which works with hotel companies across the globe to tackle social and environmental issues.  As ITP prepares to launch a new water footprinting tool during World Water Week, Fran talked to us about the work it's doing, why the hotel sector is important, what led her to her current role, and what she looks for in a good hotel.

Q. What is the International Tourism Partnership?

ITP is a part of BITC. Our members are hotel companies and we bring the hotel sector together to collaborate on social and environmental issues.

It’s not about being consultants or a talking shop; ITP is about driving real progress in the sector as we bring people together on the issues no one company can tackle alone – climate change, water, youth employment, human rights. We are so much stronger when we work together to share the challenges and co-create solutions.

Examples of this include how we've developed common ways to measure and report on water and carbon through the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI), used by over 24,000 hotels globally, and the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI) which we are launching at World Water Week Stockholm at the end of this month, and which we anticipate over 10,000 hotels will be using in the first year. It’s not just the traction on the numbers that's important but the opportunities these initiatives afford in terms of facilitating benchmarking and better water stewardship across the hotel sector.

Q. How did you end up in this job?

My background is in tour operation. I started my career as an adventure tour leader for the tour operator Explore and worked all over the world before moving into an office based role. The company has a really strong responsible tourism ethos and I got quite involved in driving that forward. In the end if became my full time job! 

After completing a Masters in Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey I joined ITP in January 2012 as Head of Programmes and was appointed Director in 2015.

Q. Why is the hotel business important to sustainability and development?

The hotel sector is growing faster than the global economy. What is more, it is a sector which touches almost every corner of the globe. There are very few parts of the world you would go to and not find a hotel of some sort. Tourism accounts for around one in 11 jobs worldwide and 5% of global carbon emissions. It is a business which has a big impact and thus a big responsibility.

Q. What work have you been proudest of?

I was really proud of the stakeholder engagement process we ran in 2014. This was an extensive process of surveys and interviews to identify the key issues stakeholders identified for the hotel industry - what the problems were and what we could do to address these.

We brought our members together with stakeholders to discuss the findings at an event in London and this was hugely valuable in terms of enabling all involved to speak openly and honestly about the challenges and opportunities. It really broke down a lot of barriers and since then we have engaged very productively with stakeholders to carry forward our work. We are repeating the process this year but with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region and we are running an event in Hong Kong in September. Asia is a big growth area for the hotel sector so it is vital that we engage here.

Q. What will you be doing at the Stockholm International Water Week conference later this month?

We are launching the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI) at World Water Week. This is a methodology which will enable any hotel anywhere in the world to measure and report on water use in a consistent way.

A methodology in itself may not appear groundbreaking; but what is groundbreaking is that this rests on a collaboration of 18 hotel groups who have agreed to do something the same way for the common good.  It paves the way for a whole sector to start measuring and benchmarking, and we hope ultimately managing water better. It is the start of something very exciting.

I am also looking forward to meeting some of the stakeholders who we have consulted along the way as we developed HWMI and getting inspiration for the next stages of ITP’s journey on water stewardship.

Q. What can other sectors learn from the tourism sector?

Working together as a sector really helps as there is so much common ground. So in tourism, whether you are a budget motel or a full service luxury resort, you still have buildings, staff, food and beverage, procurement and a local community around you.

This makes it very easy for ITP and its members to work together as the challenges and opportunities are largely the same. We work together in the pre-competitive stage to ensure we create a level playing field so that sustainability becomes a standard across the sector.

Today’s social and environmental challenges are global issues. It makes so much more sense to work together on them than battle in isolation.

Q. What do you think hotels should be doing for their employees and communities?

Listening to them. Understand their concerns, motivations, needs and see how you can support them better. Every hotel should be competing to be the best place to work and a business the community is proud to shout about.

Q. What do you personally look for in a hotel? 

We all chose hotels for their price, location and quality and I am no different. But I do see action on social and environmental issues as part of the quality aspect of a hotel, not as an add-on. If a hotel cares about the community, environment and its staff you can be pretty sure it cares about giving me a quality experience.

And, of course, decent tea making facilities!  I'm British and need a cuppa in the morning!