24 August 2018

Travelife: How does a hotel achieve a sustainability certificate?

We have observed the audit of a ROBINSON Club

TUI Group is aiming to deliver 10 million “greener and fairer” holidays every year by 2020. In the completed financial year, as many as 8.3 million TUI customers booked hotels with a sustainability certification. Around 80 per cent of hotels owned or managed by TUI Group already have sustainability certifications. However, how does a hotel achieve such a certification in the first place? In order to answer that question, we joined this year’s Travelife audit at ROBINSON Club Soma Bay in Egypt:

ROBINSON Club Soma Bay, Egypt

The audit starts at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Club Director Dr Olli Oltrogge and the Travelife auditor meet in order to discuss the conduct of the eight-hour audit. Due to the traffic situation, the Travelife auditor has arrived earlier and has already started to have a look at the club’s public facilities two hours before the official go-ahead. This is not a problem, as the club is well prepared.

The audit starts with an inspection of documents proving that the statutory requirements have been met and that the environmental statements, progress reports and environmental analyses meet Travelife’s requirements. The audit entails constantly shifting between documents in file folders and data files on the screen. 1,117 documents prepared over the past two years document the sustainability performance of ROBINSON Club Soma Bay: regular meetings concerning sustainability, fund-raising campaigns, measures to reduce the CO2 footprint, compliance with health and safety regulations, strict hygiene standards in the kitchen, improvements in energy efficiency, support for municipal institutions but also information about ways to protect corals and fish at the off-shore reefs, and many other achievements.

ROBINSON Club Soma Bay, Egypt

To share a few examples from the comprehensive questionnaire completed as part of the audit:

Question # 16: “Have you created a sustainability report within the last 12 months?” The file contains a copy of our Sustainability Report for 2018, placed in all guest rooms on the eve of the weekly Environment Day to enable them to prepare.

Question # 66: “Do you have systems in place to avoid pollution of the surrounding area from waste water?“ The club’s waste water is treated in the club’s own sewage treatment plant. 100% of the treated water is used to water the adjacent golf course, used as a resting place by storks on their long migratory route from South Africa to Northern Europe for many years.

In addition, Soma Bay also operates its own seawater desalination plant using reverse osmosis technology, so that the drinking water at Soma Bay is free of nitrates and has drinking water quality. 

Question # 128: “Do you have written grievance (complaint) procedures in place for employees? Is training given, at the start of employment, to all employees on these procedures so that they know how to use them if needed?” ROBINSON Club Soma Bay’s employee manual comprehensively describes the possibility of submitting anonymous reports to the heads of department and the club director. Employee satisfaction is a crucial social factor and hence also a key element of the Travelife audit.

ROBINSON Club Soma Bay, Egypt

After the Travelife auditor has gained an overview of the documents, reports and photos of activities, he wants to see whether the documented measures have been implemented in actual practice in the club and are “lived” by employees. Audit activities carried out in this respect include inspecting guest rooms, examining the technology used to clean the pool water, checking the maintenance schedules for the air conditioning system, and testing whether all places storing cleaning agents are locked.

ROBINSON Club Soma Bay, Egypt

The audit also includes four-eyes interviews with three randomly chosen employees. Muriel from the Food & Beverage team has been chosen today as one of the employees interviewed by the Travelife auditor. Every team member undergoes regular training on sustainability issues. The departments hold regular meetings to discuss solutions regarding ways to further avoid waste and prevent unnecessary water and power consumption. For Muriel and her colleagues, the interviews are therefore not a problem. As a result, the auditor is satisfied that ROBINSON Club Soma Bay does not only pay lip service to environmental protection measures but works every day to deliver continuous improvements.

After the auditor has left to evaluate his records, it takes a number of days until the audit result finally arrives from Travelife’s head office in London: “We are delighted to inform you that, following your recent Travelife audit, your hotel ROBINSON Club Soma Bay has achieved the Travelife Gold certification. Congratulations to all of your team in Soma Bay.“ – We have made it!