In a move that puts a little heat on HotelTonight and the raft of other last-minute-hotel-booking apps, as well as possibly helping to cool down the planet, Hot Hotels is to offset the carbon emissions associated with each hotel stay booked through its platform, free of charge to the user. Instead of passing on the cost directly, the Spanish startup is soaking up the expense of buying so-called ‘carbon credits’ out of the commission it already receives from the hotels whose empty rooms it helps sell.
Carbon offsetting is currently a hot topic in the travel industry as companies in the sector (and international travel in general) increasingly come under scrutiny because of their perceived high carbon footprint. A number of holiday booking sites/aggregators already offer to purchase carbon credits — money paid towards projects that help to reduce and therefore offset carbon usage, such as renewable energy — with most passing on the cost directly to the customer. This is most common with regards to air travel, which is considered to be the worst environmental offender, though some hotel chains are tentatively getting in on the action, too.
Hot’s CEO and founder Conor O’Connor says that the idea to build carbon offsetting into the startup’s proposition came from customers already using the app. “Several users contacted us inquiring if they could purchase offset carbon credits from us or if we could recommend a company they could do this with. So we began researching”, he says.
That research turned up a few companies offering carbon credits to hotel guests, but these were largely targeted at businesses rather than consumers, says O’Connor. He then commissioned Allcot, a company specialising in carbon offsetting, to look into the possible options, and Hot’s new offering was born.
Specifically, Hot has pledged to purchase 100 kg of CO2 offsets from Allcot per hotel night booked through the Hot Hotels application. The amount is based on studies that Hot says show that between 10kg and 102kg of Green House Emissions are emitted, per room, per night, during a hotel stay. The idea being that Allcot will “retire” the equivalent amount from the carbon market, effectively negating Hot customer emissions from the atmosphere. Or so the theory goes.
On soaking up the expense, O’Connor says that since the company is buying carbon credits in bulk, the cost is vastly reduced. “We charge an industry standard commission to hotels and are happy to absorb this cost to make the stays of our guests carbon neutral”, he says.
The Hot Hotels mobile app is available for iOS, Android and Blackberry, and enables customers to book hotel rooms “last minute”, with discounts of up to 50% per booking. It operates in 23 countries and 167 cities, offering a limited number of hotels per-day — a similar model to U.S.-based and heavily VC-backed HotelsTonight, along with a number of other startups in Europe.