1.5 Earths are required to sustain the demands humanity currently makes on nature, according to the Global Footprint Network report 2014. For more than 40 years, our needs have exceeded the planet’s bio-capacity – the amount of biologically productive land and sea area available to regenerate these resources.
Middle Eastern and Asian countries are amongst the worst culprits for increasing the global footprint. A growing population, industrialisation and increased regional pressures place a strain on the world’s bio-capacity capabilities. The problem stems from the numerous construction and large-scale infrastructure projects required to accommodate the needs of developing economies and is exacerbated by a lack of general awareness about what to do with our waste. Our technical knowledge of proper recycling and waste management practices is pretty poor.
According to the World Bank, annual population growth in the UAE was 0.51% in 2014 – among the highest in world. In terms of tourism, Abu Dhabi aims to increase the number of visitors to about 1.8 million by the end of 2016. Dubai has set a target of 20 million visitors by 2020, projecting an increase in 8.2% in tourism year on year.
According to JLL’s 2015 UAE market report, Dubai’s hotel market saw the addition of 2,700 hotel keys in 2015, increasing the total supply to 67,100 keys. An additional 18,000 rooms are expected via pipeline projects such as The Address Boulevard, TRYP by Wyndham, Paramount Hotel & Residences and the Address Sky View. These new resorts will increase total supply to 86,200 rooms by the end of 2017. In Abu Dhabi, an additional 1,000 keys were delivered in 2015, increasing supply to 20,700 keys at year-end.
Despite lower oil prices and a buoyant industry, global market fluctuations pose a challenge to the hospitality sector over the short- medium term. Provided market conditions and consumer spending improves, we can expect the anticipated demand to realign with that of proposed supply, as more hotel rooms come on the line and macroeconomic factors put pressure on Average Daily Rates (ADR) and occupancy.
What all this means, is that in run up to Expo 2020 operators must continue to explore vantage points, operational efficiencies and prudent spending. Hotels must reconsider their waste management practices if they are to minimise the waste produced by an increasing number of guests. Planning starts now, and there are few eco-friendly ways to help avoid throwing potential cash into the trash.
In a cost intensive business environment such as hospitality managing capital and operational expenditure is key. Operators must identify areas of surplus or existing redundancies; this means wastage. And the work starts at home with staff. Begin by setting teams targets and training initiatives to adopt effective methods of energy and water consumption.
Servatius Palmans, General Manager Hospitality, EHK says that since introducing the revolutionary 1 DryWash technology (a completely waterless car washing system) last year, he has seen positive market response. He thinks it, in part, comes from the government demonstrating greater awareness about water conservation, starting with its own fleets. 1 DryWash is a cleaning fluid made with environmentally friendly ingredients that simultaneously clean, shine and protect. With more international hotel chains going green, the benefits of waterless car washing are very appealing. It is also an added value to hotel guests, who may opt for a guilt-free car wash while having their vehicle valeted. “We provide this service in partnership with our sister-company Valtrans, and the cost (Dhs20-25 on average) surprisingly to many, is not much more than a regular car wash,” notes Palmans.
Water consumption is one regional concern, another is food wastage. A meal thrown in the rubbish is more than just lost food; the whole production chain – from fertiliser to transportation – is also wasted. Hotels are now even able to put a dollar value to the avoidable average cost of wastage per meal, to calculate potential savings to their business.
Sustainability measures can be implemented across the board, even at the minutest level. Changes can start small, for example raising awareness about not changing the towels as frequently. “Sustainability is embedded in our corporate philosophy and we hope to share that message and inspire more companies in the region to do the same. Ensuring our planet’s future is a responsibility for every one of us; it starts with the old saying that a little goes a long way”, says Hamdani. The Ramada hotel also participates in the Soap for Hope initiative, where used soap is treated, reconverted, repackaged and distributed to underprivileged communities.
Deciding what materials can be repurposed and how requires resourcefulness. Partnering with specialised recycling consultants can help; specialists will audit all areas of a hotel to ascertain opportunity and action.
This can result in significant savings and environmental benefits, as stated by Gerald Lawless, The Honorary President and Ex-Group CEO of Jumeirah Group. “Of course if you’re recycling, [which we have been doing with our cooking oil for years now and this cooking oil is sent to a depot in Jebel Ali, which is then refined and used to fuel our bus transport for our employees], there is obviously a saving there. It is also very good for the environment because instead of this oil being disposed of, it’s actually been recycled”. “It is the same with paper and plastic, which we have been recycling for years. Plus we have been working closely with our landscape contractors to see what we can do in regards to various areas such as mulching and fertilizer. Because in regards to the Madinat Jumeirah it is a very big estate with lots of opportunities,” Lawless continues. Clearly, Jumeirah is making strides as far as the environment is concerned. “All of the canals, can be pumped and the water can be recycled up to six times. It’s all sea water and a sea water pump so, effectively, we don’t have to use any chemicals in the water that runs through the canals.”
In conclusion, education is integral to the sustainability movement, in the region and globally, and each one of us has a role to play. It could mean not leaving water taps running while we brush our teeth or turning off a light switch in an empty hallway.
Going green is accessible to everyone and it’s worth giving it a go – not just in terms of ROI, but also for the environmental implications and benefits it could carry for our future generations.