Princess Heights makes going green profitable

POSTED: 02/5/15 8:29 PM

St. Maarten – The Princess Heights boutique hotel in Dawn Beach is now among 2,300 hotels in 47 countries around the world to carry the Green Key eco-label. On Monday evening, the hotel celebrated the certification with a reception around the property’s pool.

General Manager Emil Lee said that initially he had no intention to get the hotel certified. “Thanks to one of our interns, Marlyn Wessels, that changed. She told me, we are so close, we are almost certified anyway. Why don’t we just pull the trigger and finish it?”

The young intern worked as the project coordinator for the certification from thereon. “There are many reason to do this,” Lee said. “It is about being efficient and environmentally friendly. These are tremendous reasons. One of my pet peeves in the past about going green was that the costs were higher. If being green is more expensive, it is not sustainable. Everything we are doing here is good for the environment, but also for profitability.”

Lee said that there is one more important reason why Princess Heights in the end opted for Green Key certification. “This is our home. We live here and we want our children to grow up on a clean island, where beaches are clean and where the water we drink is healthy.”

Lee said that the certification is an ongoing process. “You cannot be complacent about it. The easiest savings are the hardest to achieve though; they come from behavioral changes. This is why I want to thank my staff for supporting the program and for changing their behavior.”

Rueben Thompson, who acted as the project manager for the certification for environmental Protection in the Caribbean (Epic) said that this organization started with eco-label programs on the island in 2008. “The idea behind it is to promote environmental awareness.”

Epic runs environmental education programs in schools, but it has also done this for community groups, the airport, the fire department and insurance companies.

Thompson thanked the organizations that have cooperated with these programs: the St. Maarten Timeshare Association, the Marine Trade Association, the Hospitality and Trade Association, the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund, the Tourist Bureau, the airport and the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Affairs.

Thompson said that Epic had looked at American certification programs, but that this turned out to be complicated because St. Maarten is not an American territory. “Therefore we started looking at European programs and we found that their standards are actually higher. Currently we have the blue flag program for beach resorts and marinas. The Oyster Bay Beach Resort, Divi Little Bay and Isle de Sol Marina have the blue flag.”

Princess Heights is the first property in St. Maarten with Green Key certification.

Finn Bolding Thomsen, the deputy CEO and International Green Key director at the Foundation for Environmental Education in Kopenhagen attended the reception at Princess Heights on Monday. The non-profit foundation owns the Blue Flag and the Green Key eco-label programs and it also does three school-based environmental programs.

“It is not easy to get the Green Key-label, but the criteria are quite straightforward,” Thomsen said. “There are 130 criteria and most of them are mandatory. The others are guidelines, to be implemented over time.”

The criteria fall in two categories – environmental management (saving on water, energy and waste) and awareness – information for staff and guests.

Currently there are six Green Key hotels in the Dominican Republic, four in Puerto Rico and some in Mexico on the Caribbean coast.

Thomsen said that Green Key has signed a memorandum with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism association – of which Emil Lee is the president – for the expansion of eco-label in the Caribbean. Hotels that have earned the label will be features on TripAdvisor and in the future also on Expedia. In exchange, Green Key promotes these travel sites on its own website and on social media.

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