With just over a year to go, the three-year, EU-funded Greening Sri Lanka Hotels (GSLH) programme has established itself as the 'main platform for tourism sustainability in Sri Lanka', according to project director Srilal Miththapala.
In addition to its original aim of supporting hotels to reduce waste, water use and energy consumption (more than 280 businesses have signed up to date), the programme team has been formally tasked with a number of additional actions that will help shape policy for the Sri Lankan hotel industry. Namely, producing a national ‘Green Accreditation Scheme’ for hotels, preparing a good practice hints and guidelines booklet for sustainable buildings on behalf of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Agency, and providing the Sri Lankan Ministry of Finance with inputs on sustainability for consideration during the next national budget.
Speaking at a keynote address in Colombo to celebrate World Tourism Day in September, Mr Miththapala told delegates the programme is on target to have 350 hotels signed up to its sustainability plan by the end of 2013 and invited hotels not currently registered to get involved and start reaping the benefits of sustainability.
He said, 'With the rising cost of energy, Sri Lanka tourism service providers, particularly hotels, are finding the cost of operations is rising steeply, eroding the profit margins that have been growing in the post war scenario, where increased hotel rates are bringing higher turnover.
'As well as renewable and alternative energy schemes, there is of course the possibility of hotels reducing their energy consumption by adopting more sustainable consumption practices. It is estimated that undertaking no-cost or low-cost small interventions and changes to operational systems and procedures can bring in 10-20% savings in a very short period.'
Those who do sign up can expect access to free training materials, workshops and ongoing expert support and advice to help them achieve significant cost savings and conserve natural resources. In addition to operational measures to reduce consumption, other initiatives adopted by the hotels include installing solar panels, replacing electric water heaters with a central solar water system, energy efficient lighting installed in guest rooms, rainwater harvesting and fitting low-flow showers.
To help spread word of the project's success, and encourage other accommodation providers to sign up, representatives from four SME hotels in Sri Lanka have been sponsored by the project to attend this year’s World Travel Market. Hotels attending World Travel Market are as follows: Randholee Luxury Resort, Kandy; Nooit Gedacht Heritage Hotel, Unawatuna; Thambapanni Retreat & Thaproban Beach House, Unawatuna and the Green Grass Hotel, Jaffna.
Sugath Rajapakse, General Manager, Randholee Resort, said, 'All the green initiatives initiated by the team have indeed been cost effective, and have helped reduce the hotel’s energy and water consumption tremendously. Overall, by abiding by these green practices, we want to have a more profitable business which receives positive feedback from in-house guests, who I believe are the real judges of these green interventions.'
Vipula Wanigasekara, Director General, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, said, 'I am very happy to hear that the Greening Sri Lanka Hotels project is sponsoring four hotels to participate at World Travel Market this year. We have been monitoring the work that the project is doing which is of great value to the entire industry. The project has taken the lead role in becoming a platform for promoting and publicizing environmentally sustainable activities of Sri Lankan hotels. We are fully committed to assisting the GSLH project in Sri Lanka.'
Sue Hurdle, chief executive of partner organisation the Travel Foundation, said, 'It is encouraging to see the proportion of Sri Lanka’s hotels that are attending the workshops - but even more so is the number of hoteliers using the recommendations and turning them into real actions. Furthermore, it is wonderful to see the programme generating interest among policy makers that may help to influence more sustainable tourism development in Sri Lanka in future.'
'However, there’s still more to be done. We want to encourage more hotels to register and benefit from the programme, before the funding comes to an end in November 2013.'
For further information, please visit see Greening Sri Lanka Hotels  and Greening Sri Lanka
Find out more about the Green hotel movement in Sri Lanka in our article on Sustainability in emerging economies