Arun Nanda, Chairman, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India
The Indian hospitality industry today recognises the potential benefits of sustainability and is adopting various measures to promote it.
Some of India’s largest luxury hospitality chains have strong policies in place that have brought them global recognition as sustainable leaders. In fact, the brand signature statement of a major Indian hotel chain is “responsible luxury” – and this motto is at the core of the company’s work culture. That brand’s 170,000 sq ft centre is the world’s largest 0 percent water discharge, non-commercial green building. Another hotelier has an eight-year collaboration with a leading scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group. Hospitality companies, big and small, have implemented methods to efficiently manage energy, carbon, water and waste.
Mahindra Holidays has undertaken initiatives to adopt sustainable practices by measuring its carbon footprint, conserving biodiversity, environment, energy and water and community development. Parking areas at some resorts have been converted into solar energy harvesting farms. Members welcome these shaded parking spaces, and they bring energy efficiencies. We also use biogas plants and compost machines for recycling dry and wet garbage respectively.
It is also a matter of immense pride for us to support initiatives to empower women and youth through knowledge building and skills development. In Kumarakom, Kerala, training sessions on organic farming and selling mushrooms and other vegetables were conducted, ensuring income generation and capital savings for women of the community. Rural women in Cherai (also in Kerala) are trained to make jute bags that are used by resorts and supermarkets in the vicinity.
In Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan, women from below poverty line households are taught to harvest and sell eggs from poultry farms. They are also encouraged to consume eggs, to increase the nutrition value of meals for these women and their children. There are other, ongoing self-sustaining initiatives, such as Areca leaf plate making and fish farming, that benefit the environment, businesses and the community at large.
Sustainable tourism also means conserving the ecological integrity of a place. The people of Surlabi, a tribal village in Coorg, Karnataka, make their living by selling a unique variety of honey called Kala. More than 60 villagers were provided with pots to initiate apiculture, or bee-keeping, to encourage honey production.
The hospitality business can act as a catalyst for change. The services offered to patrons cannot be sustained without the support of local communities, who are extremely important stakeholders in this business. At Mahindra, at least a quarter of the workforce at each resort is local.
The future of sustainable tourism is in adopting energy efficient technologies and passive systems for heating or cooling such as an earth air tunnel, using prefabricated components and local materials, crafts and traditional technologies.
The hospitality industry has to take its role as responsible corporate citizens very seriously. Encouraging steps and measures have been taken. We now need to sustain it.