Raymond N. Bickson

Position - Managing director and CEO of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces

Background:

Raymond N. Bickson is managing director and CEO of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces with responsibility for all Taj Hotels operations and management, hospitality and travel subsidiary companies.

Previously, Raymond served as vice president and general manager of The Mark in New York for The Rafael Group Hoteliers Monaco and with Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group for 15 years. His prior experience includes management positions with Regent International Hotels in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Puerto Rico, Melbourne and Shanghai, and training positions with Hotel Plaza Athénée Paris, Le Montreux Palace hotel Switzerland and the Kahala Hilton Hawaii.

Raymond attended the École Hôtelière Lausanne – Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in hospitality management by Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island. He is a member of the World Travel & Tourism Council, the International Business Leaders Forum, and the advisory boards of The Leading Hotels of the World, Cornell Hotel School Center for Hospitality Research and École Hôtelière Lausanne. Raymond was the recipient of the Corporate Hotelier of the World Award 2007 by Hotels magazine.

Raymond discusses Taj Hotels:

“Green” is definitely a watchword in the tourism industry today. Increasingly, the customer decision-making process will involve seeking information about the company’s commitment to social and environmental management and I believe that tourism companies will need to look beyond the return on their investment and market share if they intend to ensure brand loyalty in the tourism sector.
The future of the hotel industry will see two major trends surfacing—a more responsible industry with regard to conservation and the environment and a more socially conscious traveller. However, what is “green” is not clearly defined at this stage. It is much like the growth of the Internet, which initially was about a relatively small group of people using it, and now is about wireless connectivity and mobile networks. Likewise, in the hotel industry, there exists different hues of green.

I believe there are two aspects to being a green hotel. The first involves the physical aspects of the building and site, such as design of the hotel, technology, investment in equipment and systems which are low energy, lighting and water conservation, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The second aspect involves hotel operations, such as the process design, which should be environmentally friendly and carbon neutral, and the operating supplies and choice of guest amenities.

In emerging markets, where a plethora of brands are being developed in the hospitality space, I envisage environmental management and philosophy to be a clear differentiator for tourism companies.

Currently, green-minded hospitality is at a nascent stage in some of the emerging markets, where hotel companies are focusing on the operational aspects. Few are investing in creating green hotels.

Some companies see going green as being significantly affected by cost and quality. These companies take the mildest green effort and trumpet it as a great innovation. However, other companies that are creating green products built on sound environmental management principals are the ones looking beyond short-term returns.

I strongly believe that at Taj, we go that extra mile, as environment and social consciousness is integrated into the company’s ethos and culture. Our vision is to create and imbibe sound environmental management in our operations, as well as in product development strategies.

In a tourism company, success largely depends on making social and environmental consciousness a grassroots-level movement. Our endeavour is to ensure that every employee integrates this in their day-to-day operations. Most of our hotels are using CFL lights, which reduce energy consumption by almost 78%. Hotels such as the Taj Coromandel in Chennai, generate energy from windmills, which amounted to approximately 16m kWh last year. Solar water-heating systems in The Taj West End, Bangalore, have saved over 51,000 litres of fuel over the last three years. A biogas plant at the Rambagh Palace, Jaipur has saved over 170,000 kWh of power from the city supply since 2005-06.

As for the future, we intend to build green buildings and introduce new technology for the new hotels in India and other markets. This demands deeper understanding of the impact on the environment—both socially and physically. Environmental policy is part of the group’s corporate governance and embodies a corporate mindset to practice the best policies across the globe, thereby trying to be a responsive partner in ensuring the bright future of generations to come.

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