Balancing profit and planet: Exploring green investments on World Tourism Day 2023

As India stands poised to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, the urgency required to navigate the balance between profitability and sustainability is real

In a world where the appetite for adventure and wanderlust have become integral parts of our lives, a sobering truth lingers in the background: tourism, in all its breath-taking beauty and boundless experiences, is also a significant contributor to our planet's carbon footprint. The very act of globe-trotting is responsible for roughly 8 per cent of the world's carbon emissions.

But this World Tourism Day, as we embark on a journey to explore the intersection of travel and responsibility, a new theme takes centre stage: Tourism and Green investment. In a world where profits and the planet have often been perceived as opposing forces, we will take off on a voyage of discovery, unravelling the delicate art of balancing profitability and sustainability. We will meet the visionaries who have turned eco-conscious dreams into reality and explore how nations like India are navigating the intricate web of environmental protection and economic growth.

As the sun sets over the Taj Mahal or as waves gently kiss the shores of Goa, India finds itself at the heart of this global transformation. With projections that its outbound tourism will exceed US$42 billion by 2024 and expectations to welcome 35 million tourists by 2035, for us Indians, the realms of sustainable hospitality and profitability are intertwined like the heart and mind of a well-run establishment. Nikhil Kapur, co-founder and director of Atmantan Wellness Centre, likens this synergy to a chicken and egg dilemma. He believes that “profitability and sustainability are not sequential but must coexist harmoniously.” On the other hand, Davinder Juj, General Manager, Eros Hotel, defines the payback of sustainability in the context of civil accountability. “Incorporating green initiatives attracts a growing number of customers looking for environmentally and socially responsible products and services that in turn lead to increased revenues," he says.

According to the US Green Building Council, India has recently surpassed the US and China, ranking first globally in LEED Zero-certified green building projects. The ranking is done as platinum, gold, and silver, respectively, from best to good, by identifying properties that have reached a net zero or positive status in the categories of carbon, energy, water, or waste. But make no mistake, the journey ahead is onerous. The government, in its five-fold strategy to fight global warming and climate change during the 2021 COP26 Summit, has made commitments to reduce carbon footprints by one billion metric tonnes by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, and we are running far behind our target.

SP Jain, Chairman and Managing Director, Pride Hotels Group, says that his quest for LEED Zero certification continues and highlights how the hotel is executing several green practices. “We've replaced our old chillers with newer ones to improve energy efficiency. In addition, most of our properties are equipped with heat pumps, which benefit the units as the cold water generated can be used in chilling units, thus saving us from significant water and energy waste." Conversely, Atmantan Wellness Centre has received Gold LEED certification, and while the founders are eyeing expansion, they find themselves in a dilemma. "My wife and I, at times, find ourselves contemplating the challenge of striking a balance between luxury and sustainability as developers,” says Kapur.

As the nation stands poised to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, the urgency and dedication required to navigate this complex landscape are real. Juj highlights their in-house biogas plant and waste management practices at Eros as crucial components of their green strategy. He emphasises, “Proper disposal of biodegradable waste and efficient sewage and effluent treatment plants have minimised our environmental footprint.” Moreover, Eros has adopted eco-friendly practices like rainwater harvesting and responsible waste segregation to further their sustainability agenda.

As Indians, we trust in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Though not new, it emphasises a global perspective of prioritising collective well-being over individual or family interests. Samir MC, Managing Director, Fortune Hotels, believes that tourism is more than just travel; it serves as a bridge between cultures. “We should recognise the profound responsibility that rests upon our industry, not only as exceptional experience providers but also as custodians of Mother Earth, trying to conserve the natural and cultural treasures that make India the incredible and unique travel destination that it is,” he says. Likewise, Jain adds, “Their focus areas encompass energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, and community engagement. The aim is to continually improve their environmental stewardship and transparently share their progress with stakeholders." He says that sourcing locally from nearby suppliers and artisans reduces the carbon footprint associated with long-distance sourcing while simultaneously increasing the reach of local businesses.

Looking ahead, Kapur provides a glimpse of Atmantan's innovative approach, mentioning the fine-tuning of their HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system to align with their unique roofing and solar glass, resulting in reduced energy consumption. Furthermore, their soil bioengineering sewage treatment plant consumes only a third of the electricity compared to a standard plant while also producing cleaner water.

These hospitality professionals are the champions of this movement, ‘Green Investments', as they have embraced eco-friendly initiatives not only to reduce their environmental footprint but also to reap substantial financial rewards. World Tourism Day 2023 serves as a reminder that sustainability and profitability in the hospitality industry can coexist harmoniously. The experiences shared by these industry professionals illustrate the intricate dance between green investment and financial returns.


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