Slow progress in adopting ‘green’ hospitality industry

Sok Chan

Government wants to develop environmentally friendly hotels in order to attract more visitors, reduce waste and create a far more sustainable way of life for residents but it is too expensive for some

Government wants to develop environmentally friendly hotels in order to attract more visitors, reduce waste and create a far more sustainable way of life for residents but it is too expensive for some

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Although the government has encouraged Cambodian hotels to adopt environmentally friendly practices to improve its hospitality industry “green” credentials and is developing guidelines for green hotels, the work has been progressing very slowly.

Not many hotels in Cambodia are considering green and environmental-friendly standards, says Chenda Clais, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association.

She points out that to embrace green practices, the hotel owners must have knowledge of eco-tourism and should appreciate the environment and understand the advantages of “green” business. She adds that a “green” hotel must pass the “green” standard levels – and they start with the usages of facilities and equipment in the hotels. All equipment must think in environmentally friendly terms, which can be a challenge.

Clais, who is also the owner of the Terres Rouges Lodges boutique resort in Banlung, Ratanakiri province, says that embracing “green” hotel standards will cost a lot of money.

“As far as I know there are some hotels in our hotel association in Cambodia that adopted ‘green’ practices, but not many do so,” she says.

She adds that it needs more money and time, as well as staff training to implement “green” practices.

“In my resort, for example, we focus on recycled products and avoid reducing plastic. We use bottles made from bamboo, not plastic and facilities such as furniture and decorations in the rooms and toilets all use the bamboo and recycled materials,” Clais adds.

‘Our social responsibility’

“We use very little plastic – we cannot avoid it totally because we cannot get something else to replace it. If we can avoid plastic use, we will do. Adapting the ‘green’ practices costs us a lot compared with using plastic. However, we have to try to avoid it because is is part of our social responsibility,” Clais adds.

“As the hotel association leader, we always raise awareness of the issue to our members so they understand the advantages of turning the business ‘green’ and using recycled waste,” she adds.

“We welcome local and international tourists so we think about being ‘green’ and urge hotel owners to be aware of it,” she adds.

In 2016, the Southeast Asia member states had adopted the ASEAN Green Hotel Standard.

Certification wanted

The objective of this standard is to develop an Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Green Hotel Standard with a certification process which will increase environmentally friendly awareness and energy conservation in the ASEAN accommodation industry, with a unified agreement across ASEAN members states.

ASEAN Green Hotel Standard includes 11 major criteria agreed by members countries, including environmentally friendly policies and activities for hotel operations; the use of “green” products; collaboration with local community organisations; energy efficiency; water efficiency; air quality management (indoor and outdoor); control of noise pollution; wastewater management and treatment; toxic and chemical substance disposal management.

Standards are voluntary

However, the standards are voluntary, says Kim Serey Rath, tourism ministry’s director of tourism, accommodation and food and beverage (F&B) management.

“There is no law or regulation to force all the hotels’ investors or owners to implement ‘green’ standards yet.

“The ministry of tourism has already issued the ‘green’ and clean standard for all the hospitality sector to implement, but it is just on a voluntarily basis,” Kim says.

“However, investors must think of the environment and waste and sewage water treatment plants before building the hotels because we have an obligation to manage them,” Kim says.

“Investing today for the needs of tomorrow” is a motto of Jef Moon, a Belgian businessman who is the chief executive officer of Knai Bang Chatt. Because nongovernmental organisations are slowly fading away, he believes that the private sector needs to undertake extra tasks to create more capital for society.

Moon promised himself to strictly follow this maxim when he founded Knai Bang Chatt, a unique “barefoot” luxury resort in the coastal province of Kep in 2006.

Protection of bio-diversity

Ten years after its creation, Knai Bang Chatt became the first resort in Cambodia to be internationally certified as a gold standard through the Green Growth 2050 initiative (GG2050). It was rewarded for the company’s sustainable operations and best practices, sustainability management, pollution reduction and protection of bio-diversity.

In March this year, GG2050 completed its third annual audit, which resulted in Knai Bang Chatt rising to the highest level attainable under the standard, with an overall compliance level above 91 percent. Now Knai Bang Chatt is certified platinum.

 Cambodia has always been a remarkable tourism destination, says Gasparotti. Savills Hotel

“By working through an international certified sustainable programme [GG2050], our whole team needs to work daily to control and measure up to 450 sustainable key performance indicators,” Moon says, adding that ‘preserving nature for the next generation should be at the core of all tourism-related businesses’ corporate social responsibility.

Hotels are now evolving, and some include museums, art galleries, boutique shops, green spaces and “green” practices, says Mauro Gasparotti, Asia-Pacific director of Savills Hotels.

‘Embrace new elements’

“Hospitality is continually evolving, and developers are encouraged to embrace these new elements for their new developments,” says Gasparotti. “It is an opportunity for the small developers that do not have much financing to build 400 to 500 rooms in five-star hotel, but they can create a boutique hotel with 150 rooms and a very nice environmentally ‘green’ hotel,” he adds.

“What’s happened ín a lot of cases is rooms were just for people to sleep in at night, but better hotels increase the added value of the destination. People come here for the experience,” he says.

“Customers will not just come and want only the room, but they want more experiences. The developers should consider ‘green’ hotels and include co-working spaces, restaurants, boutique shops and museums.

“This creates a competitive advantage because it is a new concept with added value to the destination,” Gasparotti adds.

Well-known brands here

Cambodia is home to more than 840 hotels now, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The country has become an attractive destination for international hotel chains.

Already several well- known international brands have a presence here: Sofitel Hotel & Resorts, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Park Hyatt, Raffles Hotels & Resorts, Six Senses, Hotel Emion, Ibis Hotels, and Courtyard by Marriott, Alila Hotels & Resorts, Belmond, and Le Meridien. A Hilton is set to be complete in Phnom Penh by 2022.

Boutique hotel coming

Moreover, in July, UK-based Yoo Hotels & Resorts announced plans to build a boutique hotel in Cambodia under its Yoo2 lifestyle brand.

In 2017, Phnom Penh had 219 hotels (12 with a total of 109 rooms), 619 guesthouses (10 with a total of 307 rooms) and 1,039 restaurants.

Siem Reap province had 220 hotels (13 with a total of 460 rooms), 296 guesthouses (with a total of 4,811rooms) and 171 restaurants.

The coastal zone (Sihanoukville, Koh Kong, Kep and Kampot) had 91 hotels (with a total of 4,725 rooms), 504 guesthouses (with a total of 6,718 rooms) and 259 restaurants.

The Battambang Zone (Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey and Pursat) had 80 hotels (with a total of 3,725 rooms) and 224 guesthouses (with a total of 3,823 rooms) and 329 restaurants.

Kim of the tourism ministry, also acknowledges the need for “greener” hotels to attract attention.

“Some customers need height and size, some want modern electrical devices, some want a ‘green’ environment. We have to think of the hotel that provides the full service to fulfill the demands of customers so they will enjoy themselves and come back again,” Kim adds.

‘Remarkable destination’

Gasparotti says that Cambodia has always been a remarkable tourism destination because of its incredible history, spectacular coastline and local culture.

He notes that Cambodian tourism has moved away from only being available to experienced travellers and has opened to business travellers, larger groups and new categories such as wellness seekers and high-net-worth travellers.

“We have seen a high amount of attention from international developers and investors in Cambodia. Great opportunities are open to developers and investors who understand future changes. However, as growth comes, overdevelopment and over-tourism will be a challenge,” Gasparotti adds.

Balance needed

He points out that there is always a balance of growth and sustainability that needs to be maintained.

According to data from the Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia welcomed 3.84 million holidaymakers from January to July this year, an 11 percent hike compared with the same period in 2018.

The number of Chinese tourists, in particular, experienced strong growth. From January to July this year, 1.5 million Chinese nationals visited the country, a 37 percent increase.


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