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Cost: Rs 36,000 for two
The spring package, valid till 31 March, includes accommodation for three nights in a deluxe or gardenview room, complimentary airport/railway station transfers, a half-day sight seeing trip and a 20% discount on all meals. Also, you can bag an extra bed for Rs 1,500.
If you had to choose between saving the planet and saving some money, what would you pick? Tough call? Okay, how about a chance to save some money while saving the planet?
Walk into an eco-conscious hotel—or its upgraded version, a green hotel—and you’ll be doing just that. Take the Rain Tree in Chennai for instance. The reason that the hotel is able to offer quality service for less is that its eco-sensitive measures also translate into lower operational costs. A green hotel reportedly saves 34.7% of the energy costs of a regular hotel. Another Ecotel hotel, The Orchid in Mumbai, claims to save 22,608 kilowatt hours (KwH) per year just by switching guest room corridor lamps from 18 watt compact fluorescent lamps to 10 watt ones.
Assuming that the tariff per KwH is about Rs 4, it translates into a saving of Rs 3.6 lakh a year. Then there is the linen reuse programme—you don’t change towels and bedsheets every day at home so why do it in a hotel—which means a saving of Rs 170 for towels and Rs 80 for linen per day per occupied room at Uppal’s Orchid, Delhi. Even Mumbai’s Hotel Rodas saves Rs 127 a day though only three or four guests opt to hang on to used towels and linen. So, besides protecting the planet, eco-friendly hotels pass these operational savings to its guests.
The room tariff at the Rain Tree, for one, is lower than that of most other comparable five star-hotels in the city. A night at the Rain Tree costs about Rs 7,500 while the Trident Hilton costs Rs 8,100 and the Chola Sheraton costs around Rs 8,800. And that’s not all. Even if there is no direct monetary advantage by way of lower room rates, green hotels will pass on their savings, and appreciation, to eco-sensitive guests. Says Param Kannampilly, technical director, The Orchid: “Participating in our linen programme earns you green points, where one point is worth Rs 100, which can fetch you gifts like a microwave oven.”
Steps like using a chlorofluorocarbon-free air-conditioners and channelising the heat generated by the air-conditioning plant to heat water for the hotel (called a desuper heater) have helped in scaling down costs. Or banning carbon paper—all paper used by Ecotel properties contains at least 50% recycled content. Or setting the thermostat in each room so that you can only drop the temperature two degrees below the standard fixed at 24 degrees centigrade. Or the fact that the geyser works at full capacity only in the mornings and evenings, when business travellers are likely to be in the room.
The rest of the time you get only comfortably warm water. Or encouraging guests to use the same towels and bed linen for two days at a stretch. This not only saves water, but also checks water pollution by reducing the use of detergents, bleach and fabric softeners.
The number of travellers who swear by sustainable travel may still be small in India, but the tribe is growing in leaps and bounds. The Orchid, Mumbai, claims to enjoy one of the top-three—if not the best—occupancy percentage in the city across all seasons. Clearly, more and more Indians are basing their choice of hotel, and airline, on whether or not it is eco-conscious. It is this fact that prompted Air-India to sign an MoU with General Electric Company to become an environmentally sustainable airline with more fuel efficient engines. And this is why around four-five more Ecotels—adding to the seven already operational—are coming up this year along with what is being tom-tommed as India’s first green hotel, The Park Hyderabad, by 2009.
In the coming months we will see even more aggressive green initiatives being employed by hotels, which will enhance the guest experience considerably. Like eco-conscious swimming pools filled with salt-water, meaning less chlorine and other chemicals, which also harm one’s skin and hair and mostly non-smoking rooms—the Park Hyderabad is expected to ban smoking in 90% of its rooms.
According to Sustainable Travel International, a global leader in sustainable tourism development, just one night in a hotel in a year means that you leave a carbon footprint the size of 15.3 kg. That is the measure of your impact on the environment in terms of contribution to the amount of greenhouse gases produced.
So, any way you look at it, going green is the only way forward. Moreover, can you think of another strategy that saves you money and makes you politically correct at the same time?
The destination: Bhutan
Where to stay: Amankora. Given that there is really no budget way to do Bhutan—this place discourages backpackers—you might as well try the opposite end of the spectrum, luxury tourism. Since this is not a place you can cover in two days, you might as well opt for the Amankora Pilgrimage, which will take you across all the five Aman lodges, each nestled strategically in a different landscape, showcasing the best of the Himalayan kingdom.
Why take the tour: In one word: savings.The seven-day pilgrimage costs under Rs 3 lakh.And it comes with all meals, a complimentary chauffeur driven four-wheel drive and guide, all road permits—they are not easy to land and all of Bhutan except Paro and Thimphu are classified as restricted areas— and two free spa treatments per couple. If you were to make individual bookings at the Amankora properties, where a night’s stay costs around $1,100 (Rs 44,000), including meals, laundry, airport transfer and taxes, just board and lodging for the same seven nights would cost Rs 3.10 lakh.The two complimentary spa treatments would otherwise cost an extra Rs 6,000. Plus there is the cost of road travel, which is not exactly cheap in Bhutan. Hiring a taxi for a day costs around Rs 1,200 plus fuel so the seven-day holiday would cost, at least, another Rs 18,000.All in all, the Amankora pilgrimage saves one around Rs 40,000.And the lodges are completely eco-sensitive to boot.