Newly appointed Christian Gerart, cluster general manager, Anantara Sir Bani Yas properties talks through the island’s sustainability efforts and the importance of involving guests in the process.
The big picture
Before you decide to go green, take a look at the main reasons you are doing it. Is it because everyone else is doing it? Or do you have a great vision and true commitment that will lead your project to being a sustainability success story?
Sir Bani Yas Island has a well thought through master plan that was created by TDIC, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Development and Investment Company, for a tourist destination with more than 90% of the island dedicated to nature and wildlife. The masterplan was originally created before the resorts were conceptualised and is continually evolving under a watchful eye to ensure the preservation of the ecosystem and marine life.
At Sir Bani Yas Island, all elements considered in the construction of the different resorts and facilities were subject to sustainability governance including landscape, water, coastal, energy, land and marine ecology as well as cultural heritage management.
With regards to the construction of the resorts, all design criteria and specifications were reviewed to minimise the environmental impact, materials and cost. Only ‘green’ concrete suppliers were used for project wide concrete specifications. Existing and recycled onsite materials were and continue to be used for road building, trench backfilling and beach profiling, and reed beds are currently used for sewage treatment on the island.
The island’s infrastructure was designed with specific guidelines to allow a 20% reduction in normal power and water demands. This initiative was designed to encourage sustainable building design. Strategic landscaping designs also provide maximum shade to buildings, reducing cooling requirements and operating costs.
Keep your team members involved
Take a look at the best way to motivate your team members to engage with everyday sustainable activities. All team members at our three Anantara Resorts – Desert Islands Resort and Spa, Anantara Al Yamm Villa Resort and Anantara Al Sahel Villa Resort – embrace sustainable practices on the island, and Anantara’s human resources department plays a pivotal role in organising activities to create awareness among team members, guests and contractors on the island.
We reinforce the need to protect the habitat by involving everyone in activities such as: Keep our Beaches Beautiful campaigns; NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard), which is a programme designed to keep the island grounds and waters free of garbage; and we also support global campaigns like Earth Hour.
Minimise water wastage
It is important for Anantara as a provider of luxury 5-star experiences, that our efforts to minimise water wastage do not impact of our guests. Water is a valuable resource and to protect and minimise the volume used, we have employed a number of measures such as our water efficient shower heads, our linen and towel reuse programme, as well as adjusting the sprinkler timings for landscaping to prevent evaporation loss in the hot climate.
Lower energy consumption
With inventive technology many items used on a day to day basis are made more efficient. For example, while expensive in the short term, we are actively replacing existing lighting with new LED bulbs which afford valuable energy savings. To further reduce energy consumption, we have motion sensor lighting for hallways and solar powered lights on pathways.
In a country where the sun shines brightly every day, it makes sense that we use solar powered water heating systems. We also have solar powered lights in key pathways. Within the Arabian Wildlife Park itself, the gates are running either on solar power or opened manually.
Keep it moving
Take a look at options available for your guests’ transportation. Consider their activities and the means available to transfer them. Transportation solutions on the island are diverse, however there is an effort to implement sustainable solutions in this area. We use zero-emission electric buses for transporting the larger groups visiting the island.
Involve your guests
Some of the activities on offer at the Anantara Resorts on Sir Bani Yas Island incorporate sustainability solutions, such as Mangrove Planting. Mangroves are known to contribute to the overall health of the coastal area by providing food, shelter and environmental protection for marine organisms, nest dwellers and even people living near seashores. The guests are invited to plant a mangrove seedling as part of our culture and history tour, this way they take part in contributing to the sustainability of Sir Bani Yas Island.
As an island paradise, we also have guidelines in place to protect the waters surrounding Sir Bani Yas Island. There is an 8km no-fishing zone around the island to protect marine life and its establishment has created an important habitat and breeding zone for turtles, dugongs and dolphins. While there are leisure fishing trips available beyond this no-fishing zone, certain species which are over-fished such as hammour, are avoided and a catch and release based experience is offered.
Put it in writing, formalise it
Make the information about how your guests can contribute to your sustainability measurements available to them. There is a Code of Conduct for Sir Bani Yas Island, which everyone must respect once on the island. Sir Bani Yas Island is a wildlife sanctuary with a delicate ecosystem and a fragile environment. Care and attention by visitors and island residents is required if disturbance to the ecosystem is to be avoided. For instance, at Anantara Al Sahel Villa Resort, particularly due to the free roaming animals, guests are educated on why they shouldn’t feed a wild animal for the reasons that it could upset their diet or lead to unnecessary dependence on people.
We also have a speed limit for the animals’ protection. The animals always have the right of way, for they are the reason we are all on the island. Disposing of garbage outside of garbage bins is prohibited, as well as lighting unauthorised fires. The Code of Conduct is available in writing for our guests, but our staff are responsible for delivering all of this information to each and every visitor. Have a sustainability policy available to your staff as your road map.
Take care of your bottom line
The efforts to drive a sustainability policy contribute positively to awareness of the community residing on the island, as well to visitors and it helps in maintaining island sustainability for future generations, which is very important for both Anantara and TDIC. These efforts will allow the resorts to run for many years to come.
Many ‘green’ initiatives represent the need for large initial investments; however, cost savings can later be the reward, whether that be through reduced volumes of water used in the resort and clever use of grey water or reduced energy costs.
Share the love. Talk About it
Embrace sustainability initiatives and be a proud ambassador of your hotel and efforts. Share your best practices often, learn from the less successful initiatives. Talking about it encourages others to consider what they are doing.