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Tue 3 Aug 2010 04:00 AM

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Coming back down to earth

There have been moments in the past when hearing a hotelier declare the words "we're going green" has caused me to cringe.

Coming back down to earth

There have been moments in the past when hearing a hotelier declare the words "we're going green" has caused me to cringe. Initiatives such as Earth Hour, nature walks and inter-team recycling have always seemed to smack more of PR than protecting the environment, while a beach clean-up at a resort with three chilled swimming pools might well be perceived as too little, too late.

But, over the past few months, there has been a shift in the industry, and thanks to the leadership of both individual properties and authorities alike, the trend for going green has become a lot less about creating an image and much more about making an impact.

First up was the Green Tourism Awards launched by Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) last year. That 79 hotels entered was in itself an achievement, but the accomplishments of the 12 winners announced last month far exceeded expectation.

And it is not just hotels in Dubai that have moved forward with their green efforts. In Oman, Six Senses Zighy Bay collected a ‘Green Guardian' award at the inaugural Oman Green Awards, while in Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is incorporating the capital's green building guidelines into its hotel classification system. The pilot is underway, with the new, improved system expected to be released by the end of the year.

Could this focus on all things green be one positive result of the economic downturn? Are hotels coming back down to earth by finally putting the environment first? It is no coincidence surely, that over in the US, Marriott has announced that development of its first green prototype hotel, in partnership with the US Green Building Council, is now underway in South Carolina. The new model for the Courtyard brand is designed to save roughly US $100,000, six months in design time, and up to 25% energy and water savings for its owners. The chain aims to have 300 LEED hotels by 2015, and the prototype is expected to accelerate this dramatically.

While such focused development is likely to take some time to reach the Middle East, sharing best practice will be crucial in driving environmental initiatives forward. DTCM is set to hold a forum with its Green Tourism Awards winners later this year to showcase and share achievements, while the inaugural World Green Tourism Abu Dhabi Conference planned for November couldn't have come at a better time for the industry. A host of expert speakers are lined up; make sure you don't miss out.

Louise Oakley is the editor of Hotelier Middle East.

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