A debate regarding ‘green’ building standards is due to take centre stage at the 2008 Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) in May this year, according to AHIC co-organiser, Jonathan Worsley.This follows the initiative of Dubai’s ruler, HH Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who has been calling for governance in environmentally-aware building values for some time now.
“Sector leaders and professionals will spotlight the implications of this directive by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad, which is aimed at ensuring best practice project development in the emirate and then across the Middle East,” he said.
The initiative aims to position Dubai as the first city in the Middle East to adopt a green building strategy and eventually, developing a performance rating system that reflects the specific climate, culture, constructive environment and market in the region.
Energy consumption accounts for nearly 6 per cent of the running costs of a hotel and recent research has revealed that five-star city hotels in Dubai consume around 225 per cent more energy than their counterparts in Europe.
“The Green Development session at AHIC 2008, will look into how the hospitality sector is adapting to this new regulatory environment and the measures hotel groups are already taking to become leaner and greener in the eco-conscious 21st century,” Worsley explained.
According to advisory board member, Marc Dardenne, CEO, Emaar Hospitality, the hotel industry is well aware of its responsibility for sustainable development.
“Attention to environment conservation should begin at the development stage of a project. One advantage of the Gulf region that I have noticed is that integration of environmental best practices does start early on, and today it is yielding positive results.”
Tom Rowntree, Vice President, Commercial, InterContinental Hotels Group, Middle East and Africa, pointed out how the group had incorporated environmentally efficient equipment and practices in its InterContinental and Crowne Plaza hotels at Dubai Festival City.
He said as well as recycling, water conservation, waste management initiatives and staff training, the hotels had introduced a system to slow down the velocity of air entering the buildings to increase efficiency of cooling facilities and offset the heavy use of air-conditioning necessitated in the city.
“We have a responsibility to treat this subject very seriously and we are committed to respecting both the environment and the communities in which we operate,” Rowntree added.
“During 2008, we will be creating aligned targets and measures for the group, knowing we have done the groundwork to ensure we are concentrating on the areas where we can make a positive difference.”
Another issue set for discussion at AHIC 2008 will be how those companies and destinations perceived to be ‘green’ will have a market advantage, as awareness of green issues develop, worldwide.
Christophe Landais, Managing Director, Accor Middle East stressed that the environment was becoming a major issue for destinations competing on the global tourism stage and it was set to be a key selling point in the near future.
“Regulation is of prime importance for imposing the development of tourism in accordance with the protection of natural and cultural environments in order to create sustainable locations with long-term appeal to travellers,” he said.
Leading the session at AHIC will be Lyndall de Marco, Executive Director of the International Tourism Partnership. He will take the stage with John Goldwyn, senior partner at leading design consultancy WATG, Kay Halm, Director of Environmental Management & Technologies at the Abu Dhabi-based Tourism Development Organisation and CEO of design consultants Gettys, Roger Hill.
According to conference co-organiser, Jonathan Worsley, this vital topic will provide a fascinating insight in to the green mindset of the hotel industry.
“As the shift in consumer consciousness drives international business and destinations towards environmentally-responsible development and practice, the industry in Arabia is in a position to capitalise on the new green thinking,” he concluded.