In a recent press release, CPG Hospitality and Enjoy Group, owners of Costa Rica Marriott Hacienda Belén, announced that it had installed a microgrid, managed by Heila Technologies, to reduce CO2 emissions and electricity consumption. A microgrid is an integrated, low-voltage energy generation and distribution system made of solar panels, storage batteries, energy inverters, and control software that manages the generation, storage, and distribution of the energy produced. Microgrids can be controlled as individual entities or operated in parallel to the public grid. Microgrids can also function independently of the grid, protecting against voltage fluctuations, power failures, or other anomalies coming from the electrical grid, thus adding an additional layer of reliability, while relying on the storage batteries. This will be the first of the Marriott chain in Latin America to deploy the technology.
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To learn more about this exciting technology, Hospitality Technology spoke with Oriol Gimenez, Managing Director, CPG Hospitality and Dennis Whitelaw, Area General Manager Marriott Hotels in Costa Rica & General Manager of Costa Rica Marriott Hacienda Belen.
Where did the idea for installing a microgrid come from?
GIMENEZ: CPG Hospitality has been working on a comprehensive sustainability strategy for the property which includes measuring and tracking sustainability KPIs across various categories including energy, water, waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and most importantly, guest engagement. We are lucky to have Marriott International as a committed partner in this endeavor. After a series of investments in energy efficiency to reduce our energy consumption including installing 100% LED lighting and replacing our HVAC systems with more efficient chillers, we took the next step of installing a solar microgrid to reduce our energy bill as it allows the property to charge batteries with solar power and offset peak energy demand charges. The microgrid will pay for itself overtime through energy savings.
Why do travelers care more about sustainability now than ever before?
WHITELAW: People around the world are increasingly aware of the problems that afflict us all, and prefer to travel to destinations that not only offer memorable experiences, but also support the environment, the development of the communities where they are located, and the people through concrete actions.
In addition, one of the travel trends that we have seen continue to gain momentum, today more than ever, is the importance of sustainability and ethical practices. This year, Costa Rica received the “Best Destination for Responsible Tourism” award at the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards Latin America. It is a country characterized by its sustainability. Not only does the Costa Rica Marriott Hacienda Belen property offer guests a micro electrical grid with more than 450 solar panels to avoid the emission of tons of carbon dioxide, but also in our Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort, guests can participate in “green” activities such as tree planting.
Consumers want to travel – soon - and in a more conscious way. According to a study by Booking.com, more than half (53%) of global travelers want to travel more sustainably in the future. The Coronavirus has opened their eyes to humans' impact on the environment. So we fully expect to see a more eco-conscious mindset in 2021 and beyond.
The Booking.com study also points out that the pandemic has inspired people to not just be committed to protecting themselves but also the places they visit.
Additionally, travelers are willing to take specific actions to support the environment and the work that hotels are doing. For example, they are willing to manage their waste, including the use of less single-use plastics, turning off the air conditioning and lights when leaving their accommodation, and always looking for eco-friendly accommodations, according to Agoda’s Sustainable Travel Trend Survey 2021.
How will this technology help the surrounding communities?
WHITELAW: Through the Marriott International Serve 360 program, our actions align with the company's Sustainability and Social Impact Goals for 2025, as well as the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. With the installation of the micro-electricity grid in the hotel, the emission of 20.8 tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) per year will be avoided, in addition to generating economic savings, having energy coverage and increasing resilience against any failure in the electricity flow. The installation began in March and will be ready in November of this year and will generate more than 30 indirect jobs in the country. We hope these actions can be also an inspiration for more companies to join to the sustainability wave.