When Iftikhar Hamdani took over the reins of the Ramada Hotel and Suites Ajman in 2009, the brief was not to radically change the hotel’s environmental sustainability practices. Instead, upon taking the helm, Hamdani was tasked with turning the struggling resort in the northern emirates into a profitable property.
“I came in as director of sales. At that time, the business was not good,” he recalls. “The location, Ajman, and the inventory of 388 rooms meant it was definitely difficult to fill this property. So when I joined, I took the lead and improved occupancy. So the hotel was doing well in business and later the management decided to promote me when the general manager moved to Dubai,” says Hamdani.
“There were no complaints from them either because we would always switch on the AC one hour before they returned. After all these exercises we reached AED 325,000, which was almost a 50% reduction. Even now, with 100% occupancy, our bill never crosses AED 325,000,” he adds.
While reducing electricity and water consumption was a strategic decision for Hamdani, it also sparked an interest in sustainability practices that could decrease costs while reducing the hotel’s environmental footprint.
One of the key initiatives the hotel introduced as a result was the zero landfill project, whereby the hotel aims to recycle or reuse more than 90% of its entire waste and not use landfills at all.
“When I became the leader of the largest property in the Northern Emirates, for me, at that stage, the main challenge was cost because the electricity bills were coming up to AED 549,000 (US $149,469). So I would set all the revenues, but on the other side, cost was really high. So that was a turning point for me, to move towards sustainability,” he explains.
When he started looking at cutting down costs, Hamdani realised the hotel’s largest expenses came from utilities, especially water and electricity. “These were the basic things for any general manager to look into because this was a really big expense but there was nothing really in my mind at that time to do something for the environment; it was mainly to see how I can increase the bottom line,” Hamdani admits candidly.
One of the key issues Hamdani faced was long-stay guests leaving air conditioners running while away at work. “We have more than 100 companies staying with us and they are away at work for 12 hours so during the day they would leave the AC running.
So that was a big issue — why did they need to leave the AC on all day? We asked if they could be switched on again one hour before the guests returned so that was a huge saving,” he recalls.