Last week, a mega-resort in Dubai proved that hotels implementing sustainability measures need not dispense with the luxuries their guests have come to expect. JA The Resort, Dubai's largest experience resort at one million square metres, was named 'Dubai's Most Sustainable 5 Star Resort' at the Department for Tourism and Commerce Marketing Sustainability Awards.
The award was granted on the basis of five key performance indicators - Waste and Environmental Protection; Water, Energy and Carbon; Responsible Practices; Training and Awareness; and Continuous Improvement. Despite the enormity of JA The Resort's 3-hotel operation, the enterprise was praised by the DTCM for its commitment to ensuring the smooth running of all sustainability and corporate social responsibility efforts.
'Going green' is not just good for the planet, though - it's good for business too. According to research carried out by the University of Canterbury and ChristchurchNZ, international visitors to Canterbury consider environmental sustainability to be of high importance, but tourism operators could be doing more to promote eco-friendly practices to travellers.
“The research provides evidence that visitors want to protect the environment in New Zealand, but we need to make it easier for them to do so,” said TIA industry strategy manager Bruce Bassett. “If the tourism operator is sustainable then they can talk to the visitor about how they can support the business’s efforts.”
If a large organisation like JA The Resort can achieve national recognition for its green efforts, it stands to reason that smaller businesses can learn a thing or two from the resort's sustainability solutions. Presented here are a few key strategies that hoteliers can work towards implementing, should they wish to reduce their environmental footprint.
JA The Resort was praised by the DTCM for its extensive use of locally sourced goods and products. And it's just as well - according to a report by Inside Food, consumers are increasingly seeking products that have been sourced within their countries as a way to support local businesses and traditions.
Thankfully, New Zealand businesses should have no trouble sourcing quality food, furniture, and fittings from within the borders of Aotearoa. As a country steeped in tradition, hoteliers should give serious consideration to the impact providing an authentic Kiwi experience to travellers can have, both on their ecological footprint and their profits.
The cleanliness of your water supply is of key importance when it comes to drinking, washing, and cleaning. But frequently water that is not drinkable is perfectly usable in other areas.
Situated in a desert, JA The Resort has every reason to implement as many water-conserving strategies as it can. The resort uses a reverse osmosis plant to desalinate seawater for the resort, and has its own sewage treatment plant, used for the irrigation of the hotel's grounds and golf course.
Small businesses need not install entire sewage treatment plants to ensure they are responsibly using their water, though. In 2016 Waterscan, a UK-based water conservation company, installed their greywater recycling system in a Premier Inn in Abu Dhabi. The initiative saved an average of 735,000 litres of mains water each month - or 60 litres per guest. Waterscan's technology meant toilet flushing at the hotel used 100 percent recycled water.
Invest in alternative energy sources
Though a Dubai-based business is at a clear advantage when it comes to access to solar power, there's still plenty of opportunities here in New Zealand to allocate a degree of one's energy expenditure to renewable sources.
Already up to 80 percent of New Zealand's electricity comes from renewable energy. As a volcanic country with an extensive coastline, it's perhaps unsurprising that New Zealand's green energy comes mostly in the form of hydroelectric and geothermal power.
That being said, solar power is undoubtedly on the rise here as the declining cost of photovoltaic cells has caused an increase in demand over the last few years. According to Christian Hoerning, a senior technical advisor from the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority, solar panels are “not economic at this stage. However, prices have been dropping over the years and it may be that we get a point in the future where the economics for these systems look more favourable than they currently do."
Since 2009, the average price for a standard photovoltaic system of three kilowatts has dropped from $40,000 to just $9000, making the installation of solar power an increasingly affordable way to give guests clear, material proof of your business's green intentions.
JA The Resort works with local company Gver, who recycle and repurpose old furniture. When the resort's guest furniture is due for an upgrade, Gver ensures that none of the outgoing chairs, tables, sofas, beds, or lamps goes to waste, often giving them away free, or for a very low price. Though Gver is a UAE-exclusive service, companies like Freecycle or TradeMe operate in New Zealand, and provide hoteliers with a chance to donate unwanted or outdated furniture to those who can use it better.
A notable New Zealand upcycling endeavour within the hotel industry is Moo2Shampoo, a joint venture between SKYCITY and Fonterra Brands. The project recycles Anchor lightproof milk bottles used at SkyCafé in Auckland into packaging for the shampoos and lotions provided in the SKYCITY Grand and SKYCITY Auckland Hotel.
“This innovative partnership shows the possibility and power of businesses working together to create shared solutions that reduce environmental impact,” said Grame Stephens, CEO, SKYCITY Entertainment Group. “We’re working on a number of different projects to reduce our environmental footprint, and hope this is just the first of many successful partnerships like this.”
Switch up your chemicals
Ninety-five percent of the chemicals used by JA The Resort are certified as biodegradable and eco-friendly. Relatively speaking, simply swapping out current cleaning supplies for eco-friendly alternatives is an easy way to dramatically reduce a business's impact on the environment. Numerous cleaning supply manufacturers now offer certified biodegradable, non-toxic chemicals that don't compromise on the cleanliness factor.
As eco-friendly practices become more mainstream, there’s no reason why going green necessitates sacrificing your business’s core principles. Consumers are increasingly flocking towards businesses that wear their green hearts on their sleeve. From budget to boutique, backpacker hostels and billion-dollar hotels alike can all take steps towards a greener future, and make a profit whilst doing so.