Why Dubai’s hotel sector is turning over a green leaf

More hotels across the UAE are making sustainability a priority in line with a wider green drive across its economy.

September 23, 2019

Dubai’s hotels are building more sustainability features into their design and operations amid a government drive to promote an eco-friendlier future and a focus on managing operational costs.

DTCM (Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing) recently announced new goals for the city’s hotel sector in line with sustainability targets set by the United Nations. Hotels will have 18 months to implement changes, which are expected to improve practices from energy conservation to managing water use.

“Putting targets in place for the hospitality sector is a welcome step,” says Shaun Dubash, vice-president of hotels and hospitality at JLL in the Middle East. “How a hotel is managed, powered and built has an increasing part to play in the wider sustainability drive across Dubai and the UAE.”

Some hotels are already setting the bar high. The new JA Lake View hotel is partially run on solar power energy as well as employing a zero-plastic policy and using eco-friendly cleaning products. Outside Dubai, the Al Maha desert resort has 43 pools run on solar panels.

Investment in increasingly mainstream sustainable technology can be good for operators’ bottom line as well as the environment, explains Dubash.

"More operators now see the introduction of sustainability measures as a verifiable way to improve overall financial performance," he says. “Greater auditing and monitoring of energy performance are becoming more commonplace as hotel firms realise the potential for significant savings, translating to higher underlying value for the assets.”

Meeting client expectations

Changing demands among guests equally have a role to play in sharpening operators’ focus on sustainability in a highly competitive hotel market.

“Today’s guests are generally more conscious of their own personal environmental impact and are actively looking for ways to reduce it,” Dubash says. “Sustainability initiatives aren’t just something guests support through measures like banning plastic straws and reusing bath towels but they’re becoming a selling point at higher-end hotels.”

Guests from the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Madinat, for example, regularly get to take part in the release of turtles back into the ocean as part of the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project. Elsewhere, the Bvlgari Resort Dubai and Marriott International Hotels are backing the Give a Ghaf Heritage Forest project to clean desert areas and plant trees in the 500-hectare Al Wadi Nature Reserve.

A new look for a new time

The interior design of hotels run by major regional and global operators is following suit in taking a more environmentally stance.

“From choosing sustainably-sourced materials in furniture and fixtures to eliminating single-use plastics, there are huge opportunities for hotels to reduce their environmental footprint,” Dubash says. “It’s fair to say that larger groups can and are now making greater strides here.”

Dubai’s Ibis One Central, managed by major international chain Accor, adheres to its Planet 21 initiative to use sustainable materials and eco-certified products. Meanwhile, Tryp by Wyndham installed Dubai’s first glass water bottle refiling system to do away with plastic bottles.

 “Hotels need to be looking across their supply chains, their operations and their corporate social responsibility policies to see where they can make changes to become more sustainable,” says Dubash.

“It’s quickly becoming a differentiator between the myriad of brands operating in Dubai and across the UAE. If strategically implemented, sustainability efforts can go hand-in-hand with increasing bottom lines and asset values.”