Expert’s Voice: “We need more common language around sustainability in hotels”
(From L to R): E. Ricaurte, G. Noordzy, P. Marshall, A. Yao, and J. Smith — panellists at the TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Singapore panel discussion on how to integrate sustainability at early stages of hotel development. Photo by Rahul Venkit.
Solid data to support feasibility of green endeavours in hospitality is needed to appeal to owners, operators and investors, say panellists at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Singapore
Today, there may be a basic level of awareness of sustainability in hospitality.
But how to make key industry players consider sustainability in the early stage of hotel development was the topic of the panel discussion at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Singapore held at the Swissotel Stamford in March.
Sustainability an afterthought
Usually sustainability experts are called in during the pre-opening stage, which is far too late, said, Gert Noordzy, Managing Director of Northside Consulting.
“It’s a misconception that sustainability begins a later stage. We need to vector in sustainability at the very beginning of project management of a hotel. If not, the entire exercise becomes just trying to reduce some plastics. Or worse — changing light bulbs,” Noordzy said.
In an industry which usually only looks at the bottom line, hotel development professionals need to be educated on sustainability and its medium and long-term benefits, opined Alexandra Yao, Vice President of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
“There was a time when speaking about sustainability used to be considered a deal breaker. Developers would essentially go in for the cheapest option,” said Yao. “But now we need to put our money where our mouth is. We hotel developers are the first point of contact when it comes to building new properties. So it’s vital that we, along with owners, know what’s at stake,” she added, stating more and more key industry players, especially in Asia Pacific, are now more in tune with sustainability in hospitality.
Matter of mindset & educating owners
However, it’s still difficult to convince owners, operators and guests that they have the power to make the necessary change, felt Philip Marshall, Executive Director of Wellington Management Services. “It’s all about finding balance. Hotels are among the biggest producers of waste, so tackling the issue is a matter of looking at the bigger picture and of having a social conscience,” he said.
Pointing out to how some hotels have implemented initiatives such as turning waste to energy within their properties, Marshall said: “Younger generations of owners seem to understand the problem better and are more eager to tackle it.”
For Jeffrey Smith, Vice President of Sustainability at Six Senses Hotels Resorts & Spas, sustainability is also about making smart investment decisions. “The way you design your hotel, for example, can be tremendously cost-saving in the long run. So it’s important to keep such green factors in mind from the beginning,” Smith said.
Even regulatory necessities such as environmental impact assessments of hotel properties can contain opportunities to showcase unique bio-diversity or to be eco-friendly, he said.
NEED FOR A COMMON LANGUAGE
Agreeing on the importance of the education piece, Eric Ricaurte, Founder of Greenview, said it was equally important to build a strong business case for the green movement.
“There is a lots of awareness around plastic as strong images capture airtime and dominate headlines. But there is a need for more common language around sustainability to appeal to owners, operators and investors,” said Ricaurte, who was also the moderator of the panel discussion. “The need of the hour is even more data to support feasibility. And how to incentivise hotels that pollute less,” he said.
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