x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Abu Dhabi starts piloting green hotels

New Government guidelines will rate Abu Dhabi hotels not only on their luxuries, but on their environmental friendliness as well.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority announced new green guidelines for hotels at the World Green Tourism conference yesterday.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority announced new green guidelines for hotels at the World Green Tourism conference yesterday.

New hotels in the capital will not just be rated on the level of luxury of their facilities and attentiveness of their staff but also on their environmental friendliness under a plan aimed at boosting the industry's green credentials.

Abu Dhabi announced yesterday it had started piloting its green building guidelines for hotels on a five-star resort planned for the Dh3.2 billion (US$871.2 million) Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort. The 900-hectare park is under development.

Under the system, which is being developed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), hotels will be classified under a "pearl" rating system, running from one pearl, the minimum required to meet the standards, up to a maximum of five pearls.

"It means that, shortly, new hotels will have a green rating alongside their star ranking," said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the chairman of the ADTA, speaking at the World Green Tourism conference, which started in the capital yesterday.

But the developer of the Al Ain Wildlife resort said it was not aiming to achieve the maximum of five pearls. Instead, it is expecting to achieve a 4-pearl rating.

"We are not going for the 5 [pearl rating]", said Ghanim Mubarak al Hajeri, the director general of the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort. "It's above our budget. Also for it to be more realistic to deliver, we are going for a 4."

He estimated it cost up to 40 per cent more to develop a "green" hotel than a standard one.

"That's in terms of the building but in the long run you will save energy and power."

Analysts pointed out there was little capital available in the current economic environment for the outlay involved in making hotels more environmentally efficient.

But tourists are becoming more demanding in terms of reducing the environmental impact of their holidays.

A survey by YouGov in the UK and the Middle East found that two out of every five people interviewed were willing to spend more on an environmentally friendly holiday.

"There is a high-end market waiting for us to deliver," said Sheikh Sultan.

The tourism authority has also introduced an environment, health and safety management system for Abu Dhabi's tourism sector to reduce the environmental impact of existing hotels.

"The consumer already today, whether it be in the leisure segment, or whether it be multinational corporations in their bids for their corporate accounts, are already asking for your details of your green credentials," James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad Airways, told the conference. "From a customer base, if they're going to preference you or work with you as an airline, green credentials are not just talk; it's about what you're actually doing."

But he also highlighted the cost involved in developing a more environmentally friendly fleet.

"At the same time you see many airlines working within industry on programmes to develop alternative fuels. We here in Abu Dhabi are working with Masdar to ensure that we can evaluate and seek alternatives as we move forwards."

Gerald Lawless, the executive chairman of Jumeirah Group, which manages 11 hotels in Dubai, New York and London, said the company had saved $870,000 on electricity and $151,405 on water in the past year by introducing measures to reduce consumption.

"As tourism develops, guests do actually want to continue to enjoy luxury, but they want to enjoy this luxury without feeling guilty," said Mr Lawless.

rbundhun@thenational.ae