People-centric policies are vital to a lasting sustainable shift: Shruti Shibulal

Of the various industries adopting increasingly sustainable practices, tourism is among the most influential. As an operationally interactive industry, tourism has the ability to influence a heavily collaborative culture through partnerships and interconnections with varied supply chains. These factors along with the sector’s necessity to reinvent service offerings to suit altered market dynamics in the post-pandemic world combine to incentivize a shift towards comprehensively conscious business models. said Shruti Shibulal, CEO & Director of Tamara Leisure Experiences

At its very inception, Tamara Leisure Experiences was designed to be a holistically responsible hospitality group. The early integration of innovative and incremental policies measured against globally delineated Sustainability Development Goals has rendered us more resilient to volatility, including COVID-19-related challenges, and served to make us more desirable to the growing segment of environmentally and socially conscious travellers.

Our core philosophy centers on harmonizing people, the planet, and profit. People are vital to the success of this triple mandate, which remains true for tourism across the board.

Since people (employees, vendors, collaborators, and patrons) are both benefactors of sustainable business as well as change agents who steer its impact across future generations, tourism must work towards not only adopting conscious practices but meaningfully engaging stakeholders to do the same. While it seems like an enormous and challenging task at first, I have learned through experience that thoughtful initiatives implemented incrementally can result in sustainable, even profitable, shifts.

At Tamara, these people-centric initiatives include hiring locally. Over 50% of our pan organisational staff is composed of local residents. This brings in generational knowledge of local landscapes and cultures which helps us synergise our operations and curate authentic offerings.

During the pandemic, we did not lay off a single employee. Instead, we used nominal pay cuts administered across the top 3% of the organisation along with intensive cost rationalisation exercises that allowed us to invest in our staff members. The job security this created was motivational. It united teams to work undeterred towards quickly adopting the highest safety and sanitation practices to serve our guests. We then used the remainder of the lockdowns to engineer over 100 hours of both professional and recreational activities, including free access to mental health care. These development sessions built an agile, dedicated, and creative work culture.

In order to sustain the positive changes of this time, we began reviewing employees based on revenue and non-revenue goals. The former looks at explicit productivity and profit-oriented tasks, while the latter encourages every team member to ideate social and environmental initiatives – many of which directly benefit their own communities. The cohesive effort of purpose-driven thinking and the freedom to experiment catalyses innovation, which is an important by-product of sustainable development.She added

For instance, a team-driven ideational and analytical process led us to find the exact type of water-conserving plumbing now saves up to 10,000 liters of water per day at just one of our properties. We were also able to reinvest the cost savings from this to build rainwater harvesting tanks that facilitate the reuse of 90 lakh liters of rainwater at The Tamara Coorg and 35 lakh liters at The Tamara Kodai. Collaborating with local residents informed organic farming and wildlife conservation practices which make our estates a haven for bird watching and farm-to-table dining experiences that are highly coveted by our guests.

In the vein of engaging further stakeholders in our sustainability efforts, we also employ green building practices. For instance, we noticed that most hotels have large glass windows that exceed the extent of pulled-back curtains. That surplus perimeter is hidden, does not impact the guest’s view, and yet marginally contributes to heating and cooling costs. Remeasuring windows across hundreds of rooms to align with the curtains significantly reduced energy usage. It continues to compound cost savings. We have also implemented other energy-conserving design elements to automatically aid with temperature and light control. Antique materials found on site have also been restored and reused in construction. In addition to cost and energy savings for Tamara as well as, a clean and conscious experience for our guests, these practices also allow us to engage the expertise of multiple teams such as designers, architects, engineers, and material vendors.

Through comprehensively responsible operations we are able to reinforce our vision among staff members, add value to our guests, maintain more profitable offerings and promote thoughtful practices across auxiliary markets. We believe that sustainability is a tapestry of cohesive practices interconnected by incremental actions. People remain central to this endeavour. Therefore, tourism – with its far-reaching influence on a wide web of market sectors, is critical to effecting large-scale social and economic change.

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