Towards Greener Tourism
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Through its Feynan Ecolodge, EcoHotels is successfully tapping into the booming global demand for low-impact holidays that get tourists back to nature.
With its many unique sites of natural beauty, Jordan’s potential as an international eco-tourism destination is obvious. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature's (RSCN) Feynan Ecolodge, located in the southern Dana nature reserve, is leading the drive to attract more environmentally-minded visitors to the Kingdom. As well as a stunning setting, the 26-room lodge boasts the last word in green design features, including photovoltaic panels to generate electricity.
Nabil Tarazi, the founder and managing director of Ecohotels, the company that operates the lodge, is on a mission to prove that profit can be found in going green.
How is eco-tourism more environmentally and socially conscious than the typical hotel sector?
Feynan eco-lodge has 26 rooms and is completely off the grid. It’s lit by candles at night and electricity is limited to certain parts of the lodge. Electricity is generated by solar panels and we use less electricity than a two bedroom apartment in Amman.
Since the lodge is owned by RSCN, a sizable portion of the revenue goes back to its work to protect the flora and fauna that exist in the area. We are also focused on benefiting the local community. The lodge is 100 percent locally staffed. Last year, around 80 families or 400 individuals directly benefited from the lodge, and around 50 percent of the revenue stayed within the local community by providing employment and local purchases.
How do you balance all this with your need as a business to make a profit?
Most companies look only at the bottom line profit. We believe profit is extremely important, but we don’t do that at the expense of people or the environment, and this is what we are terming as sustainable success. It’s something that sustains and benefits everyone who is part of that equation.
How do you deal with competition by regular hotels that dominate the market?
Unlike five-star hotels that offer the same sun and sea experience regardless of the country they’re in, ecolodges offer a unique experience that is tied to the location that they are in. Even if there were six or seven ecolodges in Jordan, if done correctly, each one will offer you an experience tied to the location they’re at, so they aren’t much of a competition from that angle. Tourism is changing. Instead of doing sightseeing, travelers want to go to a place and really immerse themselves in the culture and the experiences available. What we are doing in Feynan is this concept of creating experiences that are tied to the location.
What are your company’s plans for the future?
Feynan is the only property we have right now, but we’re looking at other places to replicate what we’ve done there. We’re in contact with two other locations in Jordan, one of them is under development now. We’re going slightly slower because of the Arab Spring, which caused tourism in Jordan to fall by 40 to 50 percent. We wanted to concentrate on making sure we can generate revenue from one location in a tough climate.
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