Hospitality’s next generation envisions a more ethical and sustainable hotel industry

Special Green spaces have also been shown to improve health and wellbeing, including reducing stress, anxiety and depression, improving attention and focus, better physical health and managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (AFP)
Green spaces have also been shown to improve health and wellbeing, including reducing stress, anxiety and depression, improving attention and focus, better physical health and managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (AFP)
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Updated 16 October 2021

Hospitality’s next generation envisions a more ethical and sustainable hotel industry

Hospitality’s next generation envisions a more ethical and sustainable hotel industry
  • Hotelschool the Hague created Sustainable Hospitality Challenge to provide a platform for hospitality professionals
  • Students are seen as future drivers of taste by their willingness to challenge the hospitality industry status quo

DUBAI: What attracts guests to a hotel? Fine dining, Egyptian cotton sheets and 24-hour room service, certainly. But that model of hospitality may be changing — at least if a new generation of hoteliers, bar owners and restaurateurs has its way.

Rather than reviewing the contents of the minibar or revising the coffee shop menu, this new breed of hotel operator is intent on combating loneliness, sourcing from local farmers, fighting climate change and building a sense of community.

In 2014, Hotelschool the Hague, a training institute, created the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge to provide a platform for the next generation of hospitality professionals who want to reinvent what hotels and restaurants have to offer.

These students are seen as future drivers of taste by their willingness to challenge the industry’s status quo. NEOM, the futuristic smart city in northwest Saudi Arabia, sponsored this year’s competition.




Saudi Arabia's natural beauty is matched by the opulent interiors of Riyadh's premium hotels (Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh/ Expedia.com)

“The NEOM giga-project, which we all call ‘the city of the future,’ aims to incorporate smart-city technologies and innovation with a focus on sustainability,” Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality and chair of the jury, told Arab News.

“It comes as no surprise that NEOM has sponsored the challenge this year, bringing all finalists to the event in the UAE.”

The event invited 30 universities from across the globe to submit ideas that would help the industry play its part in reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Last month, six finalists presented their concepts to a jury of hospitality industry investors in Dubai.

Eve Mignot, a member of the winning team from Switzerland’s Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, said hospitality is at a crossroads. The sector has historically lagged behind other industries when it comes to embracing change, she said.

“It is time to reverse this stereotype and stigma and become leaders in sustainable innovations. With our concept, we anticipate the hospitality industry of 2050 to be a community builder, innovator and a responsible and ethical member of society.”




Marloes Knippenberg CEO Kerten Hospitality. (Supplied)

The winning team proposed a concept dubbed “Shared Economic Value through Co-living Cooperative Opportunities,” or SEVCCO, which aims to incorporate sustainability through communal living operated by hospitality companies, for which they see immense potential in growing cities.

This will require a reimagining of lifestyles, business models and strategies. “There has never been a more pressing time to reinvent the industry,” Mignot said.

The team hopes this concept of “neo-hospitality” will transform societies and become a driving force that inspires communities and other industries to engage in the transformation of the world by 2050.

Lukas Lauber, another team member, said that while oil has accelerated growth and development in the Middle East, secondary consumption of oil has had negative consequences in terms of climate change and its effects on the environment.




This photograph taken on July 23, 2021 shows a view of the Park Royal Collection Hotel at Pickering Street in Singapore. (AFP)

However, in recent years, many countries in the region have adopted diversification strategies to their national economies as well as introduced policies to reduce their dependence on oil reserves and promote renewable energy. This is where SEVCCO comes in.

“Countries in the Middle East are hoping to attract foreign investment. A large part of this strategy involves tourism and hospitality, as seen by the re-branding of Dubai as a tourism hub and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy whereby it seeks to develop cities and destinations,” Lauber told Arab News.

As countries in the region develop, he said sustainable communities and cities must be built to promote a more cyclical and regenerative society. “This is where we promote SEVCCO, the creation of co-living environments for tomorrow,” said Stefano Abedum de Lima Hanzawa, a third team member.

“It is imperative that the Middle East incorporates sustainability and regenerative growth into their strategy for economic diversification and development.”

FASTFACTS

* NEOM, the futuristic smart city in northwest Saudi Arabia, sponsored this year’s Sustainable Hospitality Challenge competition.

* Some 30 universities were invited to submit ideas that would help the hospitality industry play its part in achieving the UN’s SDGs.

These concerns are made more pressing as the 2030 deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals draws nearer. By then, national economies must mobilize to prevent a 1.5 Celsius increase in global temperatures and implement strategies to shift away from fossil-fueled economies.

The team developed the SEVCCO concept to empower individuals and communities to come together and co-create a city of the future that complies with these goals.

“The concept of cognitive cities is gaining traction, as seen by the NEOM development in Saudi Arabia, and this acceleration and momentum will continue to grow,” Hanzawa said.

“We believe cyclical and sustainable co-living has incredible potential to change the way we behave and live for a better tomorrow. We wish to tackle the most pressing issues such as urban loneliness — exacerbated by the pandemic.”




Muslim pilgrims add food to their plates from the buffet of a restaurant at a luxury hotel overlooking the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, and its encompassing Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Makkah ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP/File Photo)

Other ills listed by the competitors include unsustainable production and consumption of scarce resources, resource inefficiencies, housing shortages experienced by generations Y and Z, growing elderly care home demand, the difficulties of waste management and the challenges of reducing carbon footprints by 2030.

“SHC brings forth innovative ideas about sustainable, implementable projects. The corporate world launches and brings them to life only if and when they are presented to them,” said Knippenberg. “The challenge (has) become a platform that reaches decision-makers today and is not just a school engagement.”

This year, the initiative brought together the student community, the corporate world, and investors. As 70 percent of the Middle East’s population are younger than 35, the competition is relevant to the region, the organizers said, as governments invest heavily in shifting toward knowledge-based economies.

“Especially in the Middle East, there is a great opportunity to implement ‘out of the box’ ideas,” said Paul Griep, director of industry and alumni relations at Hotelschool The Hague and founder of the challenge.

“As the region grows exponentially, it is of utmost importance for the region to become the showroom of the world when it comes to implementing sustainable solutions. Sustainability projects are the core of the multiple giga-projects in Saudi Arabia, (such as) NEOM.”




Picture from thestage from the award ceremony on stage at AHIC, in September 2021, with members of the jury and the winners. (Supplied)

Aside from EHL, the Hotel Institute Montreux in Switzerland, the Hotel Management School Maastricht Zuyd and the Hotelschool The Hague, Ryerson University from Canada, and CY Cergy Paris University in France took part, as did students from the Middle East.

The judges said the SEVCCO concept developed by EHL won out because it looked long term.

“Their concept was unique, well thought of and very 2050,” Knippenberg said. “Their idea seems like a natural evolution — community build, supporting the locality and the local supply chain and doing things with a truly sustainable mindset.”

Griep said that the younger generation coming into management is especially passionate about sustainability. “In fact, they no longer wish for it but actually require it,” he said.

“It has been proven that, thanks to this mindset, innovative solutions have already been developed. The challenge provides an opportunity for these students to work with industry partners, universities and companies alike, which help them make their concepts become real hospitality projects.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek

 


Alexandria Film Festival pays tribute to departed performers

Alexandria Film Festival pays tribute to departed performers
Updated 9 sec ago

Alexandria Film Festival pays tribute to departed performers

Alexandria Film Festival pays tribute to departed performers
  • Festival management remembered Egyptian stars who passed away in 2022 by showing a video clip during the opening ceremony

CAIRO: The 38th session of the Alexandria Film Festival for Mediterranean Countries has opened at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

It is named after the artist Mahmoud Hemida.

Festival management remembered Egyptian stars who passed away in 2022 by showing a video clip during the opening ceremony.

Famous names included Hisham Selim, Maha Abu Auf, Samir Ghanem, Dalal Abdel Aziz, Ahdi Sadiq, Ali Abdel Khaleq, Ahmed Halawa, and Aida Abdel Aziz.

Film critic Amir Abaza, who has a leading role in organizing the event, told Arab News: “We chose to name the festival in the star Mahmoud Hemida’s name because he is of a great cinematic stature who has presented a large number of important works.”

Hemida has also reinvested profits into cinema, as well as participating in the production of a number of films without looking for profit, added Abaza.

The festival also honored a number of art stars, namely director Mohamed Abdelaziz, actress Donia Samir Ghanem, director Saeed Hamed and producer Wajih El-Leithi.

Radio broadcaster Imam Omar was also honored the King of Comedy Medal went to the late Samir Ghanem and Dalal Abdel Aziz.

The festival also honored the Greek star Alexis Protopsalti, the French artist Marianne Borgo, and the Armenian-Egyptian star Nora Armani.

A movie called “Barsoum Looking for a Job” — produced in 1923 and directed by Mohamed Bayoumi — was played at the end of the ceremony.

A publication on the 100 most important comic films in Egypt was among a number of books released on the sidelines of the festival.

However, the inclusion of non-comic films such as “Between Heaven and Earth” by Salah Abu Seif created some controversy and some questioned the lack of high-level comedy movies such as “Kit Kat” by Daoud Abdel Sayed and “Umm Ratiba,” directed by Alsayed Badir.

Critics also highlighted the absence of any Mohamed Sobhi flicks, one of the biggest comedy stars in Egypt.

Adel Imam topped the poll as best actor, Shwikar as best actress, Fatin Abdel Wahab as best director, and Abu Al-Saud Al-Ibiari as best author. Thirty-two film critics and researchers participated in the poll.


Turkey, Israel ties warm with naming of ambassador

Turkey, Israel ties warm with naming of ambassador
Updated 06 October 2022

Turkey, Israel ties warm with naming of ambassador

Turkey, Israel ties warm with naming of ambassador
  • Ankara appoints new envoy 4 years after last was expelled
  • Ambassador knows region, has experience: Analyst

ANKARA: Turkey has appointed a new ambassador to Israel, as both countries move to end four years in the diplomatic wilderness.

Sakir Ozkan Torunlar has been named to fill the role left empty after the two regional powers expelled each other’s ambassadors in 2018 in a row over the killing of 60 Palestinians by Israeli forces during protests on the Gaza border.

His appointment comes weeks after Israel named career diplomat Irit Lillian as its new ambassador to Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also expected in the coming months to reciprocate a March visit to Ankara by his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog.

Contrary to expectations, Torunlar is not a political appointee and is an experienced career diplomat. He was consul-general in Jerusalem and ambassador to Palestine between 2010 and 2014, and was awarded the Order of the Jerusalem Star by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel is expected to endorse Torunlar’s appointment.

Selin Nasi, a non-resident scholar in Eliamep’s Turkey Program, said that Ankara’s choice was positive for Israel.

“Previously, the foreign ministry was planning to appoint Turkey’s pro-government SETA Foundation foreign policy director, Ufuk Ulutas,” she said, who she added was seen in Israel as a “controversial figure” for his “anti-Israeli views” and lacked diplomatic experience.

Upcoming domestic elections in both countries had accelerated the reconciliation process, she said.

“Given the upcoming parliamentary elections in November, the Israeli side in a way tried to consolidate the process by naming its ambassador in advance, preventing possible interference of domestic politics,” she told Arab News.

“Turkey has also entered the election season. The government is trying to balance domestic concerns with its commitment to restoring ties with Israel,” said Nasi.

Experts say that Turkey and Israel want to deepen their cooperation in tourism, energy, agriculture, water technology, trade and defense.
 

Opinion

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Nasi said defense cooperation had ground to a halt after the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010, when Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish aid ship headed to Gaza as part of a “freedom flotilla.” Nine crew members died in the attack.

“The docking of the Turkish frigate Kemalreis at Haifa port on the sidelines of a NATO drill for the first time since the Mavi Marmara, indicates a possible thaw in this area as well. It will take time to repair broken trust,” she said.

Both countries’ opposition to the Iranian regime is also expected to push Turkey and Israel closer, she added.

“More importantly, as two militarily strong actors in the region, these two countries have the power to shift the balances on the ground when they cooperate.”

However, Nasi warned that Turkey’s ties with Hamas would be closely monitored by Israel and that domestic politics “may still interfere in the normalization process.”

According to an annual public opinion poll by the Mitvim Institute, an Israeli foreign policy think tank, 72 percent of respondents wanted strengthened relations with Turkey. The figure was up 12 percentage points on the poll last year.

Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, said the choice of career diplomats by both sides was a good start to better relations as careful and skillful diplomacy was needed.

“There are a few challenges ahead: Elections in Israel, growing tensions in the West Bank, elections in Turkey.”

However, she said that a decision earlier this year to discuss an update to a 1996 free trade agreement was “a good opportunity to see where to expand the already flourishing trade relations between the countries.”

Turkey’s resumption of full diplomatic ties with Israel could also improve Ankara’s image in Washington, which has been damaged by its arms deals with Russia and squabbles in NATO.

The rapprochement is also expected to boost the Turkish tourism industry, Lindenstrauss added. “Israeli tourists are once again flocking to Turkey and we will soon see the return of Israeli airlines to Turkey,” she said.


UAE president thanks education workers in World Teachers’ Day speech

UAE president thanks education workers in World Teachers’ Day speech
Updated 06 October 2022

UAE president thanks education workers in World Teachers’ Day speech

UAE president thanks education workers in World Teachers’ Day speech
  • Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed underscored teachers’ role in fostering generations that are proud of their values and identity

ABU DHABI: The UAE President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed has thanked teachers in a statement on “World Teachers’ Day,” where he outlined the Emirati roadmap for improving the education sector.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE’s minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation and chairman of the Education and Human Resources Council, said the statement on Thursday illuminated the UAE’s commitment to teachers.
Sheikh Abdullah thanked all teachers on the occasion, expressing the UAE’s gratitude for their efforts to ensure that children receive a top-quality education, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
Noting that educators played a key role in accelerating recovery across the educational sector, Sheikh Abdullah highlighted the great responsibility they bear and their dedication to educate children and youth in the UAE, especially throughout and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
He underscored teachers’ role in fostering generations that are proud of their values and identity, noting that teachers prepare them with the skills and knowledge required to drive development across society and pave the way for a brighter tomorrow.
The minister added that education is crucial for accelerating sustainable development across all sectors. He said that the UAE’s celebration of World Teachers’ Day is an expression of the pride it has in its educators.
Sheikh Abdullah said the education sector has seen a major shift over the past five decades, making great strides in developing and improving its outputs.


US designates Iranian officials over crackdown on protesters, Internet access

US designates Iranian officials over crackdown on protesters, Internet access
Updated 06 October 2022

US designates Iranian officials over crackdown on protesters, Internet access

US designates Iranian officials over crackdown on protesters, Internet access
  • US Treasury Department said it imposed sanctions on Iran’s minister of interior, communications minister, and the head of the Iranian Cyber Police
  • Rights groups put the death toll at over 150

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on seven Iranian officials over the shutdown of Internet access and the crackdown on peaceful protesters following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police.
The US Treasury Department in a statement said it imposed sanctions on Iran’s minister of interior, Ahmad Vahidi; Communications Minister Eisa Zarepour; and Vahid Mohammad Naser Majid, the head of the Iranian Cyber Police, among others.
“The United States condemns the Iranian government’s Internet shutdown and continued violent suppression of peaceful protest and will not hesitate to target those who direct and support such actions,” Under Secretary of the Treasury Brian Nelson said in the statement.
The nationwide unrest sparked by Amini’s death has spiraled into the biggest challenge to Iran’s clerical leaders in years, with protesters calling for the downfall of the Islamic Republic founded in 1979.
Rights groups say thousands have been arrested and hundreds injured in the crackdown waged by security forces including the Basij, a volunteer militia affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Rights groups put the death toll at over 150.
The United States last month imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of Amini, an Iranian Kurd who died after being detained in Tehran on Sept. 13 for “inappropriate attire.”
Authorities have reported numerous deaths among the security forces, accusing foreign adversaries, including the United States, of meddling to destabilize Iran. 


Braced to crush unrest, Iran’s rulers heed lessons of Shah’s fall — analysts

Braced to crush unrest, Iran’s rulers heed lessons of Shah’s fall — analysts
Updated 06 October 2022

Braced to crush unrest, Iran’s rulers heed lessons of Shah’s fall — analysts

Braced to crush unrest, Iran’s rulers heed lessons of Shah’s fall — analysts
  • Kasra Aarabi: ‘The one striking similarity the current protests have with 1979 is the mood on the streets, which is explicitly revolutionary ... They don’t want reform, they want regime change’
  • Alex Vatanka: ‘Today, the Bazaar has nothing to defend, as it no longer controls the economy which is now in the hands of the Guards’

DUBAI: Iran’s clerical rulers will likely contain the country’s eruption of unrest for now, and prospects of the imminent dawn of a new political order are slim if history is any guide, four analysts said.
The protests, which began over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini her arrest by morality police, have spiralled into a revolt against what protesters said was the increasing authoritarianism of its ruling Islamic clerics.
However, the chances of this snowballing into the kind of uprising that rapidly unseated veteran Egyptian and Tunisian rulers in 2011 seem remote any time soon, since Iran’s rulers are determined to maintain their grip on power at any cost.
For decades, the clerical establishment has used its loyal elite force, the Revolutionary Guards, to violently crush ethnic uprisings, student unrest and protests against economic hardship. So far the Guards have been relatively restrained, but they could be mobilized quickly.
If the protests persist, the Islamic Republic will turn to its usual solution: “unrestrained violence against unarmed civilians to quash the protests this time around,” said Kasra Aarabi, the Iran Program Lead at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
Already, the protests have lasted nearly three weeks – turning into one of the biggest demonstrations of opposition to Iran’s Islamic clerical rule in years.
Although the volume of protests cannot be compared to the 1979 Islamic revolution, when millions took to the streets, the solidarity and unanimity of protesters calling for the downfall of the clerical establishment are reminiscent, analysts said.
“The one striking similarity the current protests have with 1979 is the mood on the streets, which is explicitly revolutionary ... They don’t want reform, they want regime change,” said Aarabi.
“Of course, no one can predict when this moment will happen: it could be weeks, months or even years ... But the Iranian people have made up their mind.”
Challenging the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy, protesters have burned pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanted “Death to the Dictator,” unfazed by security forces using tear gas, clubs and, in many cases, live ammunition.

But Iran’s top rulers are determined not to show the kind of weakness they believe sealed the fate of the US-backed Shah.
To human rights campaigners at that time, the Shah’s great error was to alienate the population with torture and bloodshed. But in hindsight some historians say the Shah was too weak, slow and irresolute in repression.
“The regime’s approach is far more reliant on repression than the Shah,” said Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute.
Rights groups said the state crackdown on protests has so far led to the death of at least 150 people, with hundreds injured and thousands arrested.
Officials say many members of the security forces have been killed by “thugs and rioters linked to foreign foes,” echoing Khamenei’s comments on Monday in which he blamed the United States and Israel for fomenting the “riots.”
Shortly before the revolution, Iran’s Shah appeared on national TV, saying: “As Shah of Iran ... I heard the voice of your revolution ... I cannot but approve your revolution.” His opponents saw that as a sign of fragility. “Khamenei had learned the lesson, as he lived through the revolution, that if you tell the people you’ve heard their voices and that you are wrong, this is the end of your leadership. He doesn’t want to do that,” said Vatanka.
Nevertheless, Khamenei’s unyielding rhetoric also carries risk, Vatanka said. “If Khamenei does not listen ... and stop this nonsense that protests are all foreign-led, there will be more protests,” he said. Demonstrations have spread from Amini’s native Kurdistan province to all of Iran’s 31 provinces, with all layers of society, including ethnic and religious minorities, joining in.
“These broad-based protests have attracted almost all segments of the population whose grievances have not been addressed by the regime,” said Vahid Yucesoy, a specialist on political Islam based in Canada.
A popular political Kurdish slogan used in the Kurdish independence movement, “Woman, Life, Freedom” that was first chanted at Amini’s funeral on Sept. 17 in the Kurdish town of Saqez, has been used globally in protests against her death.
Fearing an ethnic uprising, the establishment has adopted a restrained repression instead of the iron fist strategy it displayed in the past, analysts said.

The protests are “secular, non-ideological to some extent anti-Islamic,” said Saeid Golkar, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“Iranians are revolting against the clergy ... who use religion to suppress the people,” he said.
The anti-Shah revolt reverberated around provincial cities, towns, and villages. But what paralyzed his rule was strikes by oil workers, who turned off the taps on most of the country’s revenue, and by bazaar merchants, who funded the rebel clerics.
While university students have played a pivotal role in current protests with dozens of universities on strike, there has been little sign of the Bazaar and oil workers joining in.
“Bazaaris were important during the 1979 revolution as, at the time, they saw the Shah’s economic reforms as against their interests and therefore backed the revolution,” Vatanka said.
“Today, the Bazaar has nothing to defend, as it no longer controls the economy which is now in the hands of the Guards.”
The Guards, loyal to Khamenei, is an industrial empire as well as being a powerful military force. It wields political clout and controls Iran’s oil industry.