The Sheraton Mirage is a Gold Coast icon. This month the Sheraton took out the environmental management category of the Gold Coast Business Excellence awards. Chief engineer Adam Lane stopped to chat to Gold Coast Business News about the path to achieving sustainability
Congratulations on winning a Gold Coast Business Excellence award. What has been crucial in the lead up to the award?
It has been crucial to establish an environmental culture at the resort. This has been achieved by the introduction of an environmental committee in February 2008 with representatives from all key departments within the resort. The committee meets monthly to discuss and implement environmental solutions, projects and celebrations which can be introduced into the resort’s operations.
You took out the environmental management category. Is the Sheraton Mirage carbon neutral?
It is very hard to be carbon neutral but I would love to see this one day. The resort’s carbon dioxide emissions are very low, this has been achieved by a range of large and small projects to reduce our water, gas and electricity consumption. These projects include water harvesting from Sheraton Mirage’s enormous roof and ensuring water flow controllers and aerators are fitted to all taps.
Installation of variable speed drives on the resort’s chilled water system and lighting timers and sensors fitted to all back-of-house lights are key projects undertaken to reduce our emissions.
A recycling plant has also been introduced which not only recycles all standard plastic, glass and paper but also batteries, metals, wood, compact fluorescent light globes and ink cartridges. Regular monitoring and audits are also carried on all plant equipment.
What about all the other players in the hospitality market, is it difficult to sort the carbon cowboys from the real sustainably conscious?
It is obvious who the environmentally conscious hotels are but unfortunately you need full support from both the operator and the owner before large projects which make a difference can be implemented. It is also crucial to have staff who are focused on environmental issues and have the knowledge and skills to undertake these projects.
Becoming a member of the Australian Institute of Hotel Engineers (AIHE) is a great way to learn from the industry leaders and discover new technologies. The association is holding the 2009 conference on the August 27 and 28 at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre with the focus this year being sustainability and innovation.
What difference will winning the award, and the sustainability of the resort, make to your marketing?
Winning this award allows our marketing and sales team to profile the resort as an environmental leader. We have found guests and conference organisers, especially of large scale events, constantly enquire about our environmental policy. Winning this award strengthens this important policy as we are now recognised by an independent organisation.
Can you explain the tangible changes visitors will see?
There are no major changes visitors will see as the majority of the projects implemented have been in our back-of-house areas and plant rooms. If you look hard, guests and visitors to the resort will see our water harvesting and recycling projects introduced. Trialling of new technologies may also be seen. Currently we are conducting trials for new light globes, urinal sensors and guest room air-conditioning and lighting wireless control system.
What spurred you into action to undertake these changes?
I am always reviewing and implementing change but with the support from key members of the environmental committee, senior management and staff these changes have become an easy process.
I believe no matter what position you hold in a company you must try to do all you can to help the environment; whether you are a housekeeping attendant you must ensure you recycle correctly and report maintenance defects, or if you are the general manager, you must drive large projects to reduce energy and water consumption. Every team member must play their part.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Sheraton Mirage?
The biggest challenge we are facing is the one that most industries are currently facing – the downturn in the economy. But we all remain positive about the future and for when the economy starts to improve.
How has the downturn affected occupancy rates and what is being done to combat this?
As with all of us in the tourism industry on the Gold Coast, business has been affected. Here at Sheraton Mirage our focus has been the creation of new partnership and business opportunities to ensure we offer our return and new clients innovative and value added experiences.
What has been most rewarding?
It is very rewarding to see the savings achieved by the implementation of successful environmental projects. This money can then be spent to enhance the guest experience at our resort. It is also rewarding to receive awards such as the Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards Environmental Management Award, and to be recognised for all the hard work is very satisfying.
The Sheraton Mirage has been on the market for some time. What is the latest from owner Raptis Group?
This is a matter for the resort owners. My team and I are focused on maintaining the property to the highest possible standard for our guests and implementing initiatives to make our hotel a leader in excellence.
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