Fifteen hotels have expressed their interest in Green Hotel certification. It is expected not only to benefit the certified hotels, but also the country. The certification will happen from 2018.

Green hotel coordinator, Karma Tshering, said that awareness workshops were held to inform interested hotels about the green hotel guidelines. The 15 hotels had written to National Environment Commission (NEC) and Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) expressing their interest in certification.

NEC in collaboration with TCB, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB), Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB), and Department of Revenue and Customs organised the workshop.

The guideline was developed with the help of international experts from Global Sustainable Tourism Council and was supported by local experts from agencies such as NEC, TCB, HRAB and ABTO.

Karma Tshering said the guideline is not mandatory, but NEC and TCB are trying to promote the use of the guideline as it has several long-term as well as immediate benefits. “By trying to be responsible in consumption and production in the sector, which is growing and has huge potential, developing such guideline will have huge benefit and it is a step towards meeting SDG Goal 12.”

The Green Hotel Guidelines for Bhutan states that there has been rapid growth in hotel industry to keep abreast the increasing number of tourists, which is why it is important to incorporate healthy practices to ensure sustainable tourism development.

Karma Tshering said developing tourism in a sustainable manner means making use of natural resources in a sustainable way. “We have huge natural resources, which are used for several sectors. Tourism is one sector that is heavily dependent on it. If we do not use these resources in proper manner, resources could be in danger of depletion.”

The green hotel guideline aims to inspire all the hotels in Bhutan to adopt sustainable practices in their operations and management, to create awareness and understanding within the hotels, to encourage hotels to enlist for certification, and to help improve and complement TCB’s hotel classification and star rating system.

Karma Tshering said that usually when people talk about green, people target hard component like building materials and products. “However, the green hotel guidelines look at soft components, starting from reception, restaurants and room plans to maintaining records on waste generated, papers used, waste sold and re-cycled which are shown to give huge benefits in terms of saving cost and time.”

The guideline contains four sections – demonstrating effective sustainable management, maximising social and economic benefits to the local community and minimising negative impacts, maximising benefits to cultural heritage and minimising negative impacts, maximising benefits to the environment and minimizing negative impacts.

For the start, he said that since neither NEC nor TCB has the capacity or expertise in green implementation, the certification is limited to a few hotels. “But we are planning to cover as many hotels as possible within 5 years.”

NEC and TCB have requested experts from abroad to show how the certification is carried out. “Based on that, Bhutan will also adopt this certification with relevant agencies such as TCB, NEC Secretariat, Bhutan Standard Bureau, and others.”

Hotel Thimphu Tower has started using sanitised bata slippers instead of disposable slippers, woven baskets instead of plastic bags and dispensers for soaps and shampoos.

Owner of Hotel Thimphu Tower, Tshering Wangmo, said that the guidelines would not only be beneficial for the hotel in terms of saving electricity and waste production, but also help the environment.

A Hotel Riverside staff said the hotel was interested in the certification as it would help reduce waste. “Hotels produce more waste than homes and how much ever we take care of them, there is bound be a little bit of waste produced. If all the hotels took care of their waste, it would help keep the country clean.”

He said the guideline would also help reduce wastage of water. “If the hotels can abide by the green hotel guideline, it can bring more focus to our country and bring in more tourists.”

Karma Tshering said that promoting green in all sectors has huge benefit to the country. “Bringing green components will ensure quality of products, energy efficiency, energy saving, and waste minimisation.”

Karma Cheki