Tourism is recognised as one of the largest and rapidly expanding industry sectors in the world. This industry is not just one of the largest industries but also the largest source of foreign exchange and revenue for Nepal, which is still reeling from last year’s devastating earthquake.
As many as one million tourists visit Nepal every year, contributing to the major expansion in a number of hotels. The number of hotels in Nepal has crossed 1,000, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
The hotels all around the world have been pursuing green practices for more than two decades with the objective to reduce hotel operation costs and decrease harmful environmental impacts. However, the concept of “green hotel” has not gained much momentum so far in the Nepali context. As most of the hotels target backpackers, the focus is always on the cost rather than the environment.
Although some national and international organisations have started working towards sustainable tourism, the main focus is on mountaineering and trekking.
It is no secret that the average hotel guest is trashing about two pounds of paper, plastic, cardboard and cans each day. The simple concept of a green hotel can change this. The simple concept of the green hotel is to make the hotel environmentally friendly by minimising its negative impact on the environment while still providing guests with the best services possible. The common measures include water conservation, optimising the use of renewable energy and recycling products.
In order to save water, green hotels install features that lower the water consumption of guests. Low-flow showerheads, low-flow toilets, which use less water per flush than regular toilets, installing latest dishwashers and washing machine that consumes less power and water are just a few measures that hoteliers are adopting.
In a bid to contribute towards sustainable tourism and attract more eco-friendly visitors, the few hotels of Nepal are slowly adopting some of the environmentally friendly principles. Some of the five-star hotels based in the Capital, Kathmandu are focusing on rainwater harvesting, waste management and installing solar lighting system among others in a bid to go green. However, hundreds of other big and small hotels across the country are not even aware of the concept.
The hotel industry is one of the major consumers of power. In the country like Nepal, if the majority of the industries including hotels start substituting the main power supplies with solar, it could be beneficial in minimising the on-going energy crisis. The task of Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) – the umbrella body of hotels in the country, which has started consultation among member hotels for adopting eco-friendly principles, is one of the praise-worthy steps. HAN is working on the part of certifications from international certifying agencies and is also doing homework to set the benchmark of a green hotel in the local context. Most of the star hotels have already started prioritising the use of biodegradable items and reducing the use of plastic bags. The other initiative includes the placement of linen cards giving guests option to reuse their towels/bed sheets if they are staying more than one night. In this way, the awareness of the guests becomes an important aspect of such initiatives.
Reports by various businesses around the world show that the appropriate management of green measures can help to reduce the consumption of energy and water consumption by more than 20 to 40 percent. The investment at the beginning might be huge but the ultimate result is a win-win situation for hoteliers and guests. According to Travelife, an international organisation working for sustainability in tourism, solid waste costs decrease by more than 15 percent. Overall, the quality of environment gets better which is something much bigger than monetary saving.
Importantly, most of the visitors today are very aware when it comes to environmental issues. The concept of green hotels can work as a tool of marketing as well.
Despite several benefits, it might be a mammoth task to switch to green measures for the hoteliers. The first factor is the investment. As green hotels require the use of latest technology, replacement of products from air conditioning to refrigeration is certain to cost a huge amount. Likewise, solar-based solution available in Nepal is simply limited at the household level. The other important task is branding. Unless international certifying agency provides the green certificate, it will not be possible for hoteliers to promote the hotels internationally as green hotels. An institution like HAN and a concerned government authority may look into these challenges so that the tourism can flourish without affecting the environment.
* Samiksha Koirala is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo, Norway. Prior to this she was working as a journalist in Nepal.
Feature Photo: Google Images