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Fri 24 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Six Senses shows green sense

Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay general manager Rochelle Kilgariff explains that the company’s impressive green operations model is based on practising one simple rule: common sense.

Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay general manager Rochelle Kilgariff explains that the company’s impressive green operations model is based on practising one simple rule: common sense.

How much of what Six Senses does has been formed by common sense, and how much is based on research?

All of us have a mission statement where our core value is to create innovative and enriching experiences in a sustainable environment. That is what my first job is - when I get out of bed every day I have to think what I need to do [to make that happen].

So it is a matter of having that passion behind you to make you do it. It's great when you find another way to enhance the guest experience and at the same time save the planet and help out the local community.

We are talking about doing things with the local villagers here [in Oman]. I walk along the beach every morning and see all the children going to school. Children from all over the world have amazing personalities, and to have guests' children go and have breakfast [with the local children] you don't need to have any language skills.

These are the type of programmes we are putting together for guests here, so that guests' children can go over to the village at 7am, and the hotel will provide all the breakfast for the children - again, making them healthy with carrot sticks and fruit juices - and let them interact on their own level.

What response are you getting from the guests towards your efforts?

Some of them truly understand [what we are doing], and will choose us because of that. And some guests will not know before they come, and then they will understand. So it is nice being a part of that education process as well.

We have a lot of guests who are followers of Six Senses, who are proud to know that they are going away on holiday and will actually be able to contribute to the surroundings.

To what extent do you think your methods of operations could be replicated at existing hotels and newly opened properties which may not already have such a focus on the environment?

The world is living in [new green initiatives], and the hotel world is starting to wake up and think about it. I know a lot of the big [hotel] companies are now considering it.

Traditionally it has been a ‘return-on-investment' question for most, but now it is a ‘return-on-life' scenario for the planet and our own race so it becomes a whole different ball game.

Any hotel around the world can obviously think and look at those initiatives, and it may be done on a different level for them. If you are a 1000-room hotel you will obviously be looking at things very differently to how we look at them.

There is a perception that ‘going green' is an expensive exercise - is this true?

It's never really been a factor for Six Senses. There is a lot more focus on the actual achievement than the return on investment for us. Going natural really isn't expensive if you do it the correct way.

Sometimes it is just common sense and getting that education. One of the hardest things in the industry is to ensure you are managing an asset, and make sure your team isn't taking advantage or damaging the use of what you have as an asset.

That is where Six Senses is very lucky because our hosts have an understanding of what is needed to take care of the environment and that reflects through on how to take care of the property itself. What training do you offer staff as part of the education process?

It starts from the moment you walk in the door. It's part of our ‘can do' philosophy, and we have a ‘Green Sense' training module in the programme. It teaches you that you are part of the community here, and that you live in Zighy host village. That means you will pick up rubbish, recycle, turn off lights, save energy - it is just common green sense to make sure they understand what the company is involved in and what our mission is, and it comes out in their daily lives and daily jobs.

Where are you sourcing your products from for ongoing operations?

We try and source as much locally as we can, looking to local providers and farmers for fresh food. We don't want guests to come all the way over here and be offered water from Scotland, for example. We are going to only offer water from the region.

It seems there are other little touches, for example with the bathroom amenities being available in large unbranded-pump pack containers rather than small plastic branded-bottles.

That has been part of Six Senses' ethos for five years. Way before others were thinking about it, we were doing it. It is a really lovely natural product, which has been tested to make sure it is 100% natural. It doesn't need to have a label, but we need to be able to stand behind the fact it does not have any harmful chemicals in it, and that is why we have done it in a natural ceramic bottle with just a hand pump.

It is about making sure we are taking care of the guest, but not necessarily by providing the best luxury [products] you can find, but by looking after your health. The accommodation product is environmentally conscious.

There are other little cute things, such as the toilet paper rolls. There will always be three toilet paper rolls there when you check in, but they won't all be new rolls, they will all be at different levels. We will use it until it actually runs out.

Where most hotels would consider it luxury to give you a brand new toilet roll when you check in, we will have three or four in every room - you will never run out - but you will use up every roll. It is as simple as that.

We are making it luxurious by providing you with more than you will probably need, and that is where your recovery for the environment is just simple.

What level of involvement do you have with the local community?

The local people are very close to my heart, and sometimes I feel like I am the mayor of this bay. I have 17 [locals] working with us, and we have confirmed we will rebuild all the housing as part of our programme here.

I have one of the village elders working with our security team, and we might have trouble communicating because he only speaks Arabic, but through a communicator we speak on a daily basis to understand if they have any problems or we have any problems.

If they have any problems they come straight into my office and let me know, and I have had some elders come to me with different issues.  But it is generally a miscommunication, there has never been an issue - for example they thought we were being nasty to the goats because we were not letting them inside the resort and stopping them before they could get in.

But we were doing it to protect the foliage and gardens which we have been trying to nurture, so after that conversation we were able to let them know that we had organic waste [from salads and other leftover vegetables] which they could take away for the goats to eat.

What's the next step for the team and the property?

The Six Senses style of operations and resort is very much in demand, and we have programmes and projects coming up all over the world. But it is not about going to a city destination, it is about offering an experience that we are able to deliver and create.

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