Can Luxury Hotels Really Be Sustainable?

The Great Global Pandemic has shaken us to our cores. While face masks and sanitizers are the new norm, how will we change our overall consumption to improve our lives? If you’re still practicing bad habits like single use plastics, just know, you need to get with the times. A reusable bag and bottle are as essential as a passport and a sturdy luggage, for the sustainable, modern traveller.

Some luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, for example, like Jetwing Hotels, have embraced the ethos of sustainability and they’ve done so rather effortlessly – at least to my naked, easily-impressionable eye. While I’m not aware of their internal struggles, which I’m sure there were plenty – to implement certain sustainability measures, the hotel chain has by far won my heart in terms of shared values.

What Makes a Brand Sustainable?

Going green, sourcing local, promoting culture and diversity, etc. all play a key role in being a sustainable brand. But that’s merely scratching the surface. As hotels, implementing these sustainability efforts should not be at a cost to the traveller; especially if it’s a luxury hotel chain. Eco chalets and lodges whose main brand promise is to be one with nature don’t have this concern because their customer is already looking for rustic, wild living. But if you need a bit of luxury while also being super conscious about your impact in the world – you might face an issue. How many luxury hotels have actually implemented sustainable practices – and how many of them have not compromised on the ‘experience’? Guest experience and profitability are the two main aspects that get affected – but to what extent?

What Can Hotels Do?

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. X10

From my research on what hotels can do to promote sustainability, many sources claimed hotels should reduce water pressure, ask guests to reuse items, etc. But the thing is, reducing water pressure in the shower might affect the end guest experience. I’ve embarked on a Sustainability Tour with Jetwing Hotels – at Jetwing Lake; a property in Dambulla to better understand what and how exactly they do it.

Energy & Carbon
Jetwing Hotels’ use of biomass, through dedicated boilers are fuelled by sustainably harvested cinnamon wood. Why cinnamon? Due to its fast cropping cycle, once the cinnamon is harvest, the by product from the cultivation is discarded. By buying these from cinnamon cultivators, not only are they providing an additional source of income to the farmers but also reusing a product that would otherwise be thrown out.

Water & Waste
Water and waste is sustainably managed. Without compromising on the comfort of guests, dual flush cisterns, sensor operated urinals, and low-flow showerheads have been installed. Waste water is treated and reused for irrigation, cistern flushing, etc. while black and grey water is only treated biologically without chemicals. Food waste is fed to onsite biogas digesters, composted or used as animal feed.
Partake in the complimentary Sustainability Tour the next time you’re at a Jetwing Hotel – it’ll impress the demon outta ya!

Something I love about Jetwing Hotels – I’ve never seen them chase or shoo away a single stray dog, let alone, a whole sounder of wild boars at Jetwing Yala! They allow nature to take its course, completely undisturbed and wild. Jetwing Vil Uyana even has a manmade nature reserve within the property to encourage and sustain local flora and fauna. That’s a HUGE win in my books.

Spot the resident croc at Jetwing Vil Uyana’s manmade nature reserve in the picture below!

Culture & Community
If you’ve been to Jetwing Lighthouse and needed to travel from the hotel to Galle Fort in a tuk-tuk, you’d have experienced this. The hotel works in close partnership with a few local tuk drivers who agree to transfer tourists to the fort at a set rate! This protects the traveller from being hassled whilst also supporting the local tuk tuk drivers.

Sourcing & Production
Locally sourced food – most properties tend to their own garden, who are nurtured and cared for by the local community. And for food that they can’t grow on their own, they make sure to head straight to the little farmer, skipping the middle guy completely. By supporting local businesses and minimizing imports, they directly contribute to the local community in different ways.

You can read more on their Sustainability Strategy.

Sustainability and Self Care

Modern travellers are conscious about their impact on the world. But they also are invested in self-care and self-love, so the need for comfort, luxury and the most authentic experiences are paramount too. 64% of people are loyal to a brand based on shared values. With more and more travellers joining the band wagon of being sustainable travellers, becoming an eco-friendly, sustainable brand is an investment in the right direction.

If a small fish in a tropical pond like Jetwing Hotels can implement sustainability practices, what’s really stopping international hotel chains (most of which still use plastic water bottles and room amenities wrapped in plastic) in following suite? Is it the lack of space, infrastructure or innovation? Is it not the best time to look at new and improved ways of travelling?

If you’re a traveller looking to start small, here are some easy ways to be an eco-conscious traveller!

We can be better, together.

How do you feel about sustainability efforts of a hotel? Does it affect your experience? Comment below and let me know!

Yours Truly,
Imperfect Traveller

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