Hotels, restos urged: Practice sustainability
Ghio Ong (The Philippine Star) - November 21, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA,Philippines — With the perceived boom in the country’s tourism industry, an advocate for sustainable practices has urged hotels and restaurants to carry out measures to tackle the issues of waste.

“In the next couple of years the booming hospitality and tourism industry will cause  booming garbage, food waste and water problems,” Danny Bielik, chief executive of the World Green Council, said in an interview in Makati City last Friday.

In June, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that tourism has employed 5.4 million people, or 13 percent of the country’s total employment last year.

He cited wastes that hounded the world-famous Boracay island.

“As a big country with a growing tourism industry and a history of environmental problems, the Philippines has (its) moment with Boracay… a very public, very global public embarrassment,” Bielik said.

“Booming of garbage in beaches like Boracay was a wrong kind of boom,” he said, as he lauded the government for taking action.

Boracay was closed to tourists from April to October last year after President Duterte called it a “cesspool” due to waste and sewage dumped into the beach.

This also led to the closure of businesses which violated environmental and other laws, particularly regulations on easement from the beachfront.

‘Dirty industry’

Bielik, an Australian currently based in Singapore, noted that the hospitality and tourism industry “is a very dirty industry that people don’t realize.”

He said that in Sydney, where he was born, “50 percent of garbage was generated by the hospitality and tourism industry, and it is unbelievable.”

“Think about all the coffee cups, the food waste, all the plastic bottles left in people’s hotel rooms with water, those shampoo bottles that get thrown away… it all adds up,” he added.

He noted that energy is also wasted, mostly from air-conditioning units and lights left open for almost a day.

These problems prompted him and Jerry Schwartz, a well-known hotelier in Australia, to establish the World Green Council.

Investing in machinery that promote sustainability would reduce consumption of the hospitality and tourism industry while not impacting the guest’s experience, Bielik said.

 Schwartz has “spent a lot of time and money on sustainability,” for instance installing a 5,000-megawatt solar farm beside the Crowne Plaza hotel in Sydney’s Hunter Valley, which he owns, and is now used to produce wine and alcoholic drinks also served at the hotel. 

No idea

But Bielik noted that despite the huge investment made for sustainable practices, hotel staff “could not engage with what is being done.”

“All the money poured into solar power and air-conditioning management systems, food waste reduction strategies, the staff had no clue,” he said.

With the hospitality and tourism industry being about people, it is important to engage the industry workers, he added. “You’ve got to really engage… hospitality is supposed to be about people, hence you’ve got to engage people.”

This drove the World Green Council to create a course that discusses sustainability practices in the hospitality industry, made possible by Bielik’s company Burst Learning that focuses on adult education.

The hotel staff interested in the course could gain access to the modules – a four-week program that would last for 10 minutes a day – through their mobile phones.

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