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Eco Certificate for Phoenicia

Phoenicia balances enduring luxury with new international green certification as one of Malta's first ECO-certified 5-star hotels. 

Hotel Phoenicia have just received notification that the 5-star property at the gates to Valletta has been awarded MTA's new international ECO-certification, a significant achievement for Malta's grand old lady of luxury accommodation. The ECO certification is the national scheme for ensuring the environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural sustainability of hotels on the Maltese Islands, a certification internationally recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council as fully reflecting the GSTC criteria.

The Phoenicia's eco-friendly strategies have been a mission for General Manager Charles Azzopardi and his management team, and the hotel's Chief Engineer Tony Saliba has been the champion for this and previous eco-projects. Phoenicia's investment in MTA's new eco-certification process required significant effort by all hotel departments.

“While they may be hidden to the eye, Hotel Phoenicia's environmental commitments are everywhere. We are doing this because we believe in sustainability and as a leading Maltese tourism entity we have to walk-the-talk, if we do not lead on this type of issue how can we expect other tourism stakeholders to take an active interest in changing their work practices? In short, green is part of our Phoenicia Brand DNA, it's part of who we are,” says Charles Azzopardi.

“Some online travel booking services like Travelocity run a programme that highlights “eco-certified” businesses so that customers will know when a hotel offers certain “green” features, like smart energy conservation, improved indoor air quality systems, solid waste management programmes, and so on, but our primary focus is to ensure that we stay true to the core of the Phoenicia Brand, which has always been about enlightened approaches to catering for the needs of our guests. At Phoenicia we have chosen to act on our environmental values. We believe that making progress on environmental issues comes, in part, by creating awareness, changing mind sets and by implementing practices which can be easily adopted both at work but also at home. Making everyone aware that when it comes to environmental awareness and sustainability every little thing helps.: A Maltese hotel can provide a fully luxurious guest experience and be very green at the same time, and environmental initiatives can be implemented in a manner that is practical, economic, aesthetic and most importantly aligned with guests expectations." explains Azzopardi.

Chief Engineer Tony Saliba says that "eco-sustainable methods have been the first choice for the Engineering Team at Phoenicia for over 20 years, whether the facility is third-party certified or not. This is evident by the small cards in the hotel's rooms that suggest guests reuse their towels coupled with energy and water-saving techniques that were employed well ahead of the current eco-curve, either for sustainability reasons or just for efficiency reasons, like saving on the power bill. In addition, Phoenicia was one of the first hotels in Malta to participate in MTA eco-programmes when they were brought to the local market a decade ago, given the fit with our management philosophy around this subject."

Saliba continues, "Sustainability measures, when applied correctly, cut overhead, and they match guest sentiment for reducing the environmental impact of their visit, even in hotels like ours known for their luxury accommodations in every sense of the word. Of course, the new MTA criteria is now much tougher, covers a much wider spectrum than previously and is more demanding in many areas. We started with a gap analysis and then we sat with every team to listen to their ideas about how we could improve in certain areas, then we implemented the processes including staff suggestions about how to meet the upgraded standards. Every team and every member of staff was involved, it really helped to bring us together to talk about the way we work."

"Some aspects of the MTA's ECO certification were pre-empted by our existing practices, we are very green and natural in our kitchens, for example, and executive Chef Halevi has the gardeners very busy with over 5000 square metres of kitchen gardens so that fresh food arrives on every plate. Most of that food is almost 100% organic, and we have aligned all of our purchasing, both for food and beverage as well as all other inbound purchases, based on ideas like reducing the amount and type of chemicals we use, making sure that biodegradable is the main focus, and ensuring that if we use a chemical in our 7.5 acres of garden that they are not harmful to bees and that our gardeners always have the required safety equipment when mixing chemicals. The devil is in the detail, we have to be that exacting to meet the Phoenicia's brand criteria, that puts us in a good position to then look at participating in third-party certification programmes," highlights Saliba.

"The list goes on," says Saliba, "Organic cleaning supplies and recycling and composting programmes are now standard. Products in the restaurant and elsewhere across this rambling 7.5 acre property are sourced primarily from local organic or sustainable producers. We are not perfect. Knowledge and budgets have limits to heed. But we hope our actions have provided worthy examples for others to try."

"As the 'project champion', we have looked at this hotel to be as transparent as possible when it comes to the choices we've made and the values we stand by. Our management team created a list of environmental initiatives to address every aspect of Phoenicia's life, most of which we were able to implement. That was in itself a good feeling, irrespective of any certification process. Of course, being natural means working with other stakeholders such as, or our Staff Committee supporting NGO's through volunteer work, or when we select high-quality recyclable papers for all our printing needs, or undertaking cultural projects using those very same paper stocks to help acquaint our guests with the cultural heritage of the Maltese Islands in products like the free bookmarks depicting different aspects of Valletta and St. John's Co-Cathedral, or the trees we plant to improve air quality. Or the staff training that saved 150 gallons per year of water just from dripping taps, separating room waste at source by our Housekeeping team, or installing sophisticated IT systems that read energy use and identify where it is going so we can reduce energy wastage, or install LED lighting everywhere plugged to intelligent systems so we can deploy our Room Energy Management System. The Phoenicia might be Malta's oldest 5-star hotel however we continue to invest in the latest state-of-the-art infrastructure to help the island to achieve sustainability in its tourism product." confides Saliba.

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