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Technology and sustainability: opportunities for the hospitality industry

Published on May 23, 2022
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Last week, Globally invited veterans from the hospitality industry to a forum at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) to discuss how hotels are making themselves more sustainable, and the benefits they are seeing as a result.

In a recent Booking.com survey, 71% of respondents say they want to travel more sustainably in the next year. So as sustainability rises up the priority of many travelers, how are hotels responding and how is it benefitting them?

Globally and the Responsible Tourism Partnership invited leading industry participants to answer this question.

Samuel Njoroge, the Quality Assurance Manager at JA Resorts, Jebel Ali, has long been passionate about adopting sustainable best practices across the 800-room resort. In 2019, he succeeded in convincing the group to get completely out of single-use plastics. First came a bottling plant to enable the hotel to bottle its own water, and clean, sanitise and re-use the bottles. This was quickly followed by a decision to provide free water across all 25 F&B outlets. Then came the project to replace plastic amenities bottles with wall-mounted dispensers in all rooms.

JA Resorts saw COVID, not as a reason to postpone investment, but rather as an opportunity to accelerate progress. On the back of its own investment, JA Resorts has become a key driver of Dubai Can, an initiative to provide water refill stations to thirsty residents and visitors throughout the Emirate of Dubai.

This year JA Resorts will be tackling its organic waste by investing in on-site composting equipment.

Hugo Dominguez, the Managing Director of Energie, provides hotels with an unusual, but highly efficient way of heating hot water for guests. The thermodynamic solar system uses a combination of the air temperature and the sun's heat to produce hot water with almost zero carbon emissions. Bulky, dirty diesel generators can be replaced with a compact system, which can reduce hot water costs and carbon emissions by as much as 80 or 85%.

The system can be installed within one to three months, and the typical 2-3 year ROI makes it a popular choice in the finance department.

Russell Impiazzi, the Executive Chef at the Sofitel Hotel in Wafi, has a passion for all things food and all things sustainable. Combining these has pioneered the repurposing of food that would otherwise go to waste. He and his team use that food to cook meals which are then donated to UAE Food Bank for distribution to underprivileged people. Seeing his team buy into the project with energy and enthusiasm has been a big achievement.

But equally importantly, Russell is focused on improving the quality and healthiness of the food he serves to hotel guests. To this end, Russell is sourcing locally wherever possible, including establishing on-premises hydroponic food production, has reduced by 40-50% the quantity of meat proteins in the banqueting menu, and has developed an innovative breakfast menu to reduce food waste.

Russell's thoughtful approach to sourcing extends to his choice of containers for the food going to UAE Food Bank where he is using One Modern World, a specialist supplier of eco-friendly packaging to the hospitality industry.

Russell challenged the industry to accept that sustainable investments do have a cost and therefore impact returns, but that the cost of doing nothing is higher.

Samuel highlighted the way JA's investment in sustainability is now reaping returns in terms of the Resorts' ability to position itself to benefit from the upcoming COP28, which will be held in UAE in 2023.

All the participants emphasised the new for co-operation. In fact, sustainability is a great opportunity to build cross-functional collaboration and raise staff engagement within a particular property. But it is also important that hotels learn from one another and, to this end, the panel are all open to share what has worked well and what they are working now.

Source: Keith Bradley

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