1. First of all tell me what is different at InterContinental Da Nang today.
Firstly, we have planted over 50,000 trees and plants in and around our hotel. Today we also grow our own herbs and ingredients in our eco garden and have our own water plant to treat waste water and supply drinking water to all the rooms in the resort without plastic bottles.
2. Good work. How did you and your hotel cope at the beginning of the pandemic?
When it all happened I had to make sure that most if not all of my staff get to keep their job. We started with upgrading the surroundings before venturing into renovations because as a company we are always investing in the property so I thought the best thing to do is to take the time, however long it may be, to build enhance the property. Today we have a very beautiful club lounge that we are very proud of and our brand new 4-bedroom villa is going to be handed over this week. Through it all our owners and IHG have been incredibly supportive of all our efforts.
3. Is sustainability also something you get a lot of support on?
Sustainability is a big deal for us and we aim to move forward in a big way. One of the best ways to start on sustainability is to educate your staff on wastage because especially in a country like Vietnam not too many people are concerned about conserving energy and water and it is incredible how much we can save just by timing and sensors on lighting and other electrical appliances. Also we started managing the chemicals used in laundry and started a water and waste treatment plant for the resort. We are most proud of our ability to produce our own drinking water now, which has eliminated 420,000 plastic bottles from landfills.
4. Naturally since this is such a natural haven. What else have you incorporated into the area attraction that is good for the environment?
We protect the natural ecosystem around the resort and employ naturalists who advise us on how we can better conserve our natural resources without losing balance with tourism. Besides an incredible variety of rare birds and insects, we also have a very special resident, the red-shanked Douc, a stunning and rare langur species that is endemic to Vietnam, roaming throughout the resort. We offer daily tours to seek out these inhabitants and so far they have been well received. Education really is the start.
5 Do you feel your staff get these efforts? Are they concerned with environmental issues?
Well we approached this rationally and tenaciously. If it meant repeating the messages 500 times a day we do it. When they realised the economic sense the efforts made for the company they are also willing to chip in as a team. We don't just stop at the work place but from time to time will inspect their apartments too to ensure that such concerns are not just 'work-place concerns', because you save electricity and water you save money!
6. Many times sustainability measures hit a snag exactly because of cost. How is your situation different?
To create a truly sustainability hotel you have to take a step back. It is true that cost is a hindering cause but it is down to how one makes a case to the owners. If an asset is worth some half a billion, it is just intelligent to spend a bit more to set up the necessary fixtures so waste can be properly managed and wastage can be eliminated. For example the cost for our water plant was recovered within one year of operation so it isn't an unattainable goal at all.
4. What is your vision for the ultimate sustainable hotel?
I think we have to bring the planning forward at the conceptual stage and set things in place so wastage is optimally managed. The best case scenario is that all aspects of energy consumption should be properly efficient - AC that doesn't take 3 hours to cool down a room, energy saving LED lighting all round, there must be ways to recycle the steam from the laundry rooms, the food waste from the kitchen must be treated and there must be solar panels to tap power from the sun. And if we are at a pristine location like this I also need to ensure that the surroundings would be protected too with no overfishing or hunting.
8. How much will these cost?
For a $200 million asset I am thinking an additionally $1 million thereabouts. But what is this amount of investment for such a costly asset? Especially since sustainability efforts is just a way to pay it forward and when operations go into full swing, the energy and resources saved would measure up to the initial investments. Also, once these measures are set in stone, your business will easily be up a few percentage points because travellers are careful where they holiday these days with special preference for environmental hotels.
9. How about the packaging for in-room amenities?
For IHG all our amenities come from a bulk source but we are a luxury design hotel, and customers pay top dollars to be here so we cannot compromise on the luxe factor. We will however forsake plastic products with wood (combs and toothbrush etc) with more refined finish. Within this year we hope most of the rooms, suites and villas will be totally plastic free.