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Jetwing Hotels sets sustainability example for other hotels in Sri Lanka

Jetwing Hotels is changing the image of eco-friendly hotels in Sri Lanka with the introduction of solar-power, solar heaters, and the installation of boilers fuelled by biomass and cinnamon wood. Guardian writer, Martin Wright, talks to the Chairman of the hotel group, Hiran Cooray, to find out if it's all too good to be true.

Jetwing Hotels sets sustainability example for other hotels in Sri Lanka

Eco friendly hotels are popping up all over the world as companies become more aware of their carbon footprint and the rise in travellers who are seeking sustainable accommodation when they go abroad.

In Sri Lanka, Jetwing Hotels is one hotel chain that is implementing changes to its properties to provide an eco-friendly experience for its guests. Guardian writer, Martin Wright, talked to the chairman of the hotel group, Hiran Cooray, in the outskirts of Sri Lanka's Capital, Colombo.

At first Jetwing's properties might not look like typical eco-friendly hotels with their bold modern design and "green" elements such as solar panels, biomass boilers, bottling plants that avoid the use of plastic bottles are tucked away out of sight from the guests.

"We started with the sewage. At that time, all the hotels sent it straight into the sea. That was normal practice," explained Hiran.

He then managed to persuade his father, the founder of Jetwing, Herbert Cooray, to set up a treatment plant and after some tough negotiations with the Sri Lanka hotel group's executive team, the plant was set up. Soon, the reputation gained by the action inspired other hotels to follow suit and a few years later, the government made sewage treatment mandatory.

"The number one attraction is the beach. If you're killing the beach, you're killing the goose that lays the golden eggs," Hiran added.

Hiran then recruited eager engineers and naturalists to help transform all of the group's luxury hotels and bring in sustainable practices. Solar heaters were brought in to heat water and save water on electricity bills, and boilers fuelled by biomass - specifically cinnamon wood - were installed.

"Cinnamon is a woody plant, and with two harvests a year, the farmers are left with a lot of waste which they have to get rid of quickly," commented Hiran.

The chain's newest hotels are set to be completely solar-powered, with many even selling surplus back to the grid, with diesel generators relegated to a backup role.

Hiran added that "the first decision a customer makes is whether to come to Sri Lanka at all." He continued that if the country as a whole has a greener reputation because other operators are going by Jetwing's example, everyone benefits and more people will visit Sri Lanka for eco-friendly holidays.

Located in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is well known for its beautiful natural landscapes and diverse ecosystems which are made up of miles of unspoilt sandy beaches, soaring mountains, wildlife sanctuaries, lush nature parks, and a collection of heritage sites that include ancient cities and colonial forts.

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