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The Indian Hotel Industry Thinking ‘Green’

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Winds of changes are blowing across the Indian hospitality sector, especially with respect to adoption of sustainable strategies. Developers of new properties are realising that while a green hotel may cost significantly more, the cost benefits that can be accrued in the long run from the same, cannot be ignored. The Masterbuilder takes a close look at the factors driving this trend, what’s in it for hotel managements and its impact in the Indian context.

The tourism and hospitality industry of India has been one of the few globally, which has bucked trends in recent times and has been clocking healthy growth rates, despite the impact of recent global economic upheavals. Considered the second fastest growing tourism market globally, the total market is expected to be over $400 billion by 2025. Contributing to this turbo charged growth rate are the foreign tourists plus the huge increase in domestic tourism. Subsequent governments too have been coming out with tourism friendly initiatives such as the open sky policies and massive investment in hotel infrastructure in the last two decades.

Hospitality goes green: The incorporation of Energy Management Systems in hotel design offers immense scope for energy savings The rising emphasis on adopting sustainable practices has had its impact on the hotel industry too. There has been a spurt in the number of green hotels in recent times. However, the trend is not something recent. In fact, it all started at the turn of the century with increasing competition and fluctuations in global economy, which in a way pressurized the hotel industry to adopt sustainable practices as cost cutting measures. The focus among the hotel industry shifted firmly to energy consumption and adoption of recycling in a big way. With India emerging as a major global tourism hub, it was only a matter of time before the trend caught up here too. Today green practices are being increasingly adopted by hotels. Right from the construction of hotels adhering to LEED standards to other popular measures such as use of local products, installation of green roofs, solar heaters, wind energy devices, compact fluorescent lamps to reuse of linens, the trend has caught on big time in the country.

Keeping a tab on Energy Usage

The LEED Gold Certified the Park Hotel in HyderabadThe hospitality sector is one of the most competitive business sectors in the country. It is a sector where almost every leading global brand is in fray. This is not a surprise given the growing clout of India as an economic hub. In this competitive scenario every penny saved is a penny earned. One of the direct benefits of environmental initiatives in a hotel is cost savings. In fact, there have been instances where energy consumptions have been brought down by as much as a whopping 40% in certain hotels.

In a country like India hotels need large amounts of energy  whether it is to keep guests warm during chilly winters like in Shimla, Darjeeling, Ooty or Manali or help guests keep cool in extremely hot climes such as in the case of Jaipur, Udaipur, Chennai, Ahmedabad or Hyderabad. Therefore proper monitoring of energy requirements and the optimum utilization of available resources can help hotels and resorts cut down on overheads quite substantially.

In fact, it is for this very fact that India is emerging as a huge market for Energy Management Systems (EMS). That the country is a global hub for software development is an added advantage for hoteliers can expect installation of these systems at competitive costs. Consisting of a network of components such as HVAC interface communicators, digital wall thermostats and in-room sensors, EMS packages could become the norm in hotels and resorts in the near future.

Being Ahead of CompetitionThe Ecotel Certified Orchid Hotel in Mumbai features several sustainability initiatives

In today’s highly competitive business environment in the hospitality sector, going green also means being ahead of the competition. It is only a matter of time before green practices become the norm rather than the exception. In fact, in the case of most top of the line hotel chains, it has become a key differentiating factor. With increase in regulatory pressures and with an increasingly green oriented customer, there is no other option available to hotels. Moreover, leading hotel chains have also taken up green practices as a part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The trends are already visible in the developed world and are catching up fast in the developing world. Hotels with a strong green focus stand a better chance of being ahead of the competition, given the rising emphasis on sustainability.

Anticipating Future Regulatory Pressures

The hotels of tomorrow will not only be built green, but they will also be totally self- sustaining, with the ability to generate the entire amount of energy that they needIn a world where there is increasing emphasis on going green and where regulations to that effect are emerging thick and fast, it is only but natural that savvy hoteliers need to be one step ahead and plan for the future. Globally the hotel industry is coming under increasing scrutiny and is being pressurized by the emerging regulations to comply with an increasing number of factors. For example, with water becoming a scarce commodity in many regions, there are regulations anticipated in the usage of water in the near future. Similarly, regulations with respect to waste management are another key area where hotel planners these days need to focus upon.  The key for the hotelier of today lies in being aware of the regulations that are being adopted in the field elsewhere and adopt means well in advance. This will help hoteliers avoid a situation wherein they may have to spend hefty amounts at a later date, when they may be required to potentially shell out a higher cost for compliance.

The Indian context

For hotel managements going green makes business sense in the long runThe ‘green’ bug has also bit the Indian hotel industry in recent times. It is only but natural that a country that is emerging as a major global tourism hub should have hotels and resorts that are trendsetters when it comes to adopting sustainable strategies. The signs are already visible with several hotels now proudly claiming to be ‘LEED’ or ‘Ecotel’ certified in recent times. While LEED Certification is a third party certification of green buildings, the much sought after Ecotel Certification, initiated by HVS, a global consulting giant in hospitality sector, is a ‘Hallmark of Environmentally Sensitive Hotels’ . Hotels having the Ecotel Certification adhere to stringent energy conservation norms.

One of the first hotels in the country to be LEED certified was The Park, Hyderabad. This LEED Gold certified hotel continues to draw visitors from around the world. The 270 room flagship property of The Park Hotel’s chain of boutique hotels is considered one of the finest luxury hotels in the country.

An example for a hotel that has been both built and maintained in an environment friendly manner is The Orchid Hotel in Mumbai. The hotel is Asia’s first certified Five Star Ecotel Hotel. The hotel management has various initiatives in the areas of solid waste management, energy efficiency, water conservation, environmental commitment and employee environmental education and community. The food waste that is generated in the hotel is decomposed in the premises and an exclusive vermiculture area has been set up for converting this waste into organic manure. Similarly, a strategically designed Skylight on the hotel’s ceiling allows for optimum amount of sunlight to enter into the atrium, which providing natural light. The hotel also uses energy efficient lighting such as LED and CFL. Solar panels have also been installed on the roof of the hotel. The specially designed aerators, taps and special flushes which reduce water consumption are another green feature incorporated in the design of this trendsetting hotel.

The Raintree hotels in Chennai are another good example of green hotels. The wood that has been used in the construction of the hotel includes medium density fiber, bamboo and rubber wood. The management of the hotel has also ensured that they use cement containing a significant percent of fly ash in the construction of the hotel. Similarly, the hotel has installed a water device called the ‘George Fisher Concealed Cistern’ which uses only six liters of water per flush, as compared to 15-20 liters in the case of a conventional flush. The water that is recycled by the sewage treatment plant at the hotel is used in the air conditioners. The heat that is generated by the air conditioners in the hotel is used to warm the water in the bathrooms.

No longer is the trend of green hotels confined to leading names in the industry trying it out in one or two of its flagship properties. Leading hotel chains have taken the green process one step ahead and ensured that eco-friendly measures are adopted in a majority of their properties. ITC Hotels, one of the topmost hotel chains in the country, has for instance has come out with its ‘WelcomEnviron’ initiative, which has been started in order to propagate environmental causes in the cities where the company’s hotels are located. The guiding principle behind the initiative is ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’. Each one of the hotels under the initiative has its own programme, encompassing local participation, creating awareness among employees and internal conservation through energy saving gadgets and environment friendly material.

Similarly, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces have implemented the Environmental Awareness and Renewal (EARTH) program, a project which began as a conscious effort to commit to energy conversation and other sustainability strategies. Taj Hotels was one of the first groups to join the tourism industry in its efforts. Another good example for a hotel chain implementing environment-friendly measures across different properties is available in the form of The Fern Hotels & Resorts. The hotel chain has a number of environmentally sensitive hotels spread throughout the country. Some of the top eco features that can be found in these hotels include Ayurvedic toiletries, eco-friendly baskets, water-friendly tapand flushes, cloth bags instead of plastic shopping bags, etc.

A Trend Here to Stay

Winds of changes are blowing across the Indian hospitality sector, especially with respect to adoption of sustainable strategies.  The earlier definition of risk management in the hospitality industry is undergoing a sea change. Today risk management in the hospitality sector is no longer restricted to safety concerns around food, beverages or terror attacks, etc.

The present day hotel management also needs to take into consideration environmental issues. No longer can management of hotels or resorts turn a blind eye towards issue such as water usage, contamination or solid waste disposal. Developers have also realized that while a green hotel may cost significantly more, the cost benefits that can be accrued in the long run from the same, cannot be ignored.

A lot of focus in the corporate social responsibility initiatives these days of leading hotel and resort chains centres around adherence to certain standards in order to minimize damage to the environment. This is true both in case of the construction of the hotel building, as well as its maintenance efforts subsequently.

With regulations too getting stricter by the day, the green factor in the hotel industry is assuming increasing importance. It is a factor that is expected to become a crucial factor for success for any hotel or resort in the Indian context in the near future, what with the country emerging as a global tourism hub.

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