Thursday, 17 October 2013 00:00
By Sarah Hannan
The European Union (EU) sponsored ‘Greening Sri Lanka Hotels Project’ which was executed since 2009 in a span of four years, adjourned with its very own independent awards ceremony ‘EU-SWITCH-Asia Greening Hotels Awards’ at the Jaic Hilton on Monday, 14 October. The new European Union Commissioner David Daly was the chief guest for the event while IMF Resident Representative Dr. Koshi Mathai delivered the keynote address.
In his welcome address Chamber of Commerce Solutions Ltd. Managing Director/ CEO Prema Cooray stated: “The EU sponsored Greening Sri Lanka Hotels Project (GSLH) has been in operation for the past four years and is at the tail-end of this program. During this period the project reached over 350 hotels ranging from large, medium and small which were formal and informal. The project focused to optimise and improve the use of resources such as waste, water and energy by engaging the hotels in promoting sustainable consumption practises in Sri Lankan hotels.”
Daly delivering his first speech after resuming office as EU’s Commissioner said: “It is a triple pleasure as it is my first speech after being appointed as the Commissioner to address issues related to climate change, secondly this shows the strength of the relationship ties between EU and Sri Lanka and of course recognising the hotels that have work towards addressing climate change and acting on it. EU has funded over 7 billion euros to programs that tackle climate change issues and is instrumental in executing many projects around the world. Climate change has a greater impact towards the next generation of adults; a child born during the year 2000 will face a challenge of reducing resources as the usage rate for energy will go up by 45% more, Food consumption would be up by 50% more and 30% more water.”
He further stated that Sri Lanka as a country is very fortunate given its rich bio-diversity, beautiful beaches, hospitable people and by following the best practices it can achieve the growth rate of 5.5% living up to the goal of sustainability ‘People, Planet, Profit’.
“I am quite pleased to look back on what we have achieved in the last few years. This year we saw an increase in the number of entries and due to the high level of interest we have bifurcate the awards introducing a ‘Runner up’ award for the Overall Green Champion category. I think we have managed to create interest and awareness of good energy and environmental conservation practices among Sri Lankan hotels. Many hotels have realised that ‘going green’ is not only good ethically but that it is also beneficial in reducing cost and creating market differentiation. A solid platform has been laid and Sri Lankan hoteliers now need to build on this to make the tourism industry more environmentally sustainable,” Greening Sri Lanka Hotels Project Director/ Consultant Srilal Miththapala stated.
In his keynote address Dr. Mathai reiterated: “I am particularly interested in environmental causes and events. Nothing can be furthered from the truth and sustainability is brought out from project as this. Though a three decade war distracted and dithered the economic development in Sri Lanka, on a brighter note that war had its own silver lining which hampered the over building and over development, protecting the natural habitats which were impossible to penetrate during that period. As the catch phrase of this project goes we should ‘Get it right first time, on time, every time and strive for continuous improvement’. At present times tourists come in search of environmental friendly holiday resorts. This market of consumers is willing to spend time at an environmentally friendly place. In the meantime room stock needs to be developed along with improved road connectivity and appropriate infrastructure in place. A customer will not want to spend seven hours on the road to reach their destination which is located 100 kilometres away from the airport. With the new highways coming to place these challenges would be eliminated. The Sri Lankan Government’s goal of 2.5 million tourists by 2016 does not seem ambitious enough given the figures worldwide.”
This year the award saw 47 entries out of which 27 were from large hotels and 20 from SME hotels. Over 30 training and awareness workshops and seminars have been conducted in all parts of the island, while 142 ‘walk through’ energy, water and waste management audits had been carried out on individual hotel properties. Many hotels have implemented a wide range of the recommendations.
Pix by Lasantha Kumara