The Green Files asked Stuart Bowe, the president of the Bahamas Hotel Association, on his views about the country’s tourism sector going green.
Sonia: Are you generally satisfied with the progress of hotels in The Bahamas to improve energy efficiency, conservation and to incorporate sustainable practices?
Stuart: Many hotels have put in various energy efficiency measures in recent years, but certainly much more can and must be done. This was confirmed in a 2010 detailed energy audit program by the BHA and the government conducted with 18 hotels. The study revealed tremendous opportunity exists to realize greater efficiencies and savings of between 40 percent and 60 percent for many of the hotels.
Sonia: If given the opportunity, would you make any changes to existing legislation or government policies regarding the energy sector, to facilitate hotel properties in utilizing renewable energy?
Stuart: The government has already put in place a number of incentives to encourage greater efficiencies and the use of renewable energy. Customs duties have been eliminated for solar panels and related components such as energy efficient lighting, building insulation, biodegradable items, solar air conditioners and electric vehicles. This is all a step in the right direction. Through the government's National Energy Policy Task Force, the BHA and the Chamber of Commerce have made further recommendations for incentives to purchase other energy efficient items. This would cut back on the payback period and make it more practical for businesses to invest in these savings. We have also recommended that the Bahamas Electricity Act be amended to allow businesses and residents to practice net metering, where energy is produced from solar, wind, or other renewable sources. The process allows for excess energy produced to be redirected back into the public electricity grid system and businesses/residents receive a credit.
Sonia: Do you believe that BEC, WSC and commercial lending agencies are on-board with assisting the hotels in achieving their energy objectives?
Stuart: I believe that all stakeholders realize the potential and are taking steps to address energy issues. The changes require collaboration to address the key issues; behaviors, physical assets applications and policy change. The cost of energy from traditional sources is increasing and we must step up the pace on implementing sustainable programs.
Sonia: In the absence of revised legislation, what might properties do to help themselves?
Stuart: More can be done by hotels and businesses to install energy efficient lighting, improve the use of natural shading, water usage reduction strategies for both guests and staff, better maintenance of refrigeration and technical appliances, in-house staff awareness training, utilization of professional help where needed, and other technical solutions for utility usage.
Sonia: What is your vision for a well developed green tourism sector in The Bahamas?
Stuart: There are tremendous opportunities, particularly for Bahamians, to develop small guest houses, bed and breakfast offerings, lodges, hotels, attractions and amenities, which by design and operation embrace sustainability. Under the umbrella of “green tourism”, these offerings would appeal to the eco and cultural interests of global tourists. Our Family Islands are natural locations, and we must continue to advocate for green tourism initiatives as a matter of business and industry survival.
The Nassau Guardian
Published: May 8, 2012