Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, issued a resolution in late 2007 that all new buildings should meet strict environmental international construction and design guidelines from January 2008.
John Goldwyn, senior project planner and landscape architect for WATG, a design consultancy for the leisure industry, said it was just as worthwhile for hoteliers to focus on the environment – financially as well as in terms of marketability.
“According to travel industry research, the majority of travellers seek out authentic experiences, and their choice of hotel stay does depend on factors such as environmental awareness and corporate social responsibility,” he said.
“If it is done right, hoteliers will be able to charge their guests a premium for these environmentally-friendly services and people are willing to pay more – significantly more.”
Full details of the green building regulations have yet to be announced but the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system – developed by the US Green Building Council – is starting to be implemented in the region, having been adapted to suit the Middle Eastern climate.
Speaking on a panel at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, Roger Hill, chief executive office of global design firm Gettys, said: “Developers and planners in the region need to adapt to this new regulation as soon as possible. ‘Going green’ is no longer just the right thing to do, it is the only thing to do.”
Mohammed Sweid, chief executive officer and co-founder of Dubai-based interior contracting brand Depa, added: “There’s no doubt that energy efficiency and water conservation are key initiatives for the regional hotel industry going forward.
“If the UAE is serious about its commitment towards sustainability, the higher authorities need to step in and make green building initiatives mandatory from the design phase through to the development phase and further down into operation, maintenance and management of the facilities.”
Hill added that developers in the region need to be incentivised to develop a green ‘momentum’.
“In the US you often have developers who are offered grants, tax offsets and expedited permitting by the government in order to encourage them to build green” he said.
“While operating and building green projects may be more costly in the short term there is no denying the returns in the long term; for the hotel owners, the end users and the environment.
“Take Scandic (hotel group) as an example; it has earned $52.9m through the successful implementation of sustainability initiatives over the last 11 years.”