The owners of El Gouna, one of Egypt's top leisure resort towns, are looking forward to the initial results of a pioneering new scheme, The Green Star Hotel Initiative, to which they committed last year in an effort to drive the country into a new era of green tourism.
Samih Sawiris, the chairman of Orascom Hotels and Development (OHD) is already a well-known advocate of sustainable tourism development, in a region for which currently ecotourism is regarded as the exception rather than the norm, and where eco-friendly products are not easy to source. OHD's Red Sea resort development El Gouna, which has 14 hotels, an eighteen hotel golf course and a huge range of leisure facilities, was therefore a natural starting point to pioneer The Green Star Hotel Label. Auditing of the pilot hotels take place this October, after a fast-moving eighteen month process.
The immediate goals of the Green Star Hotel Initiative, which has been specifically developed to combat the problems experienced by the region in meeting criteria laid out by existing eco-labels, are to improve the town's overall environmental performance. Area-specific criteria have been established for the Green Star Hotel Label, such as a particular focus on water conservation, given the region's arid climate. Objectives will include the reduction of water and energy consumption, and a reduction in waste generation of hotels, as well as raising awareness among hotel staff and guests, tour operators and residents.
It is also hoped that the scheme will raise awareness of El Gouna, and ultimately of Egypt generally among eco-conscious visitors from the UK and Europe.
The process has progressed with speed. An initial workshop took place in May 2007 with German company AGEG Consultants eG and OHD, which was followed by meetings in November attended by 48 representatives from 11 of El Gouna's hotels. The Green Star hotel Label started testing in three hotels in March 2008, with strong support from general managers who had expressed concern about the impact of tourism on the environment.
Just this July, El Gouna's hotel training school has started a series of ‘Train the Trainer' workshops which will be a mandatory criterion for El Gouna's hotels wishing to apply for Green Star Hotel accreditation. Each hotel can send two representatives who then in turn train the rest of the hotel staff in the scheme.
The hotels will then have three months to prepare for the first audit of each property and their employees which will take place from 19th to 22nd October 2008.
The Green Star Hotel initiative is supported by the Public-Private Partnership program (PPP) of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), which operates on behalf of the German Ministry of Development to support private-sector initiatives designed to improve environmental and social conditions in developing countries. The programme is also supported by the Egyptian Hotel Association and the Egyptian Tourism Authority, and OHD hopes that if the El Gouna model successful it will be rolled out across Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.