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Francis Desjardins Francis Desjardins

Q & A with Francis Desjardins, General Manager, Fairmont Ajman

SUSTAINABILITY HAS BECOME A PRIORITY FOR COUNTRIES IN THE GCC REGION AND GLOBALLY, EMPHASISING THE ROLE OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY IN CREATING POSITIVE IMPACT.

FRANCIS DESJARDINS, GENERAL MANAGER, FAIRMONT AJMAN, REVEALS HOW AJMAN’S HOSPITALITY SECTOR PAVES THE ROAD TOWARDS SUCH GOALS.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: With Ajman setting green economy as one of the pillars to build its future on, what do you believe are the reasons behind placing an emphasis on the tourism industry in achieving these goals?

FRANCIS DESJARDINS: Tourism does indeed play a crucial role in sustainability and green economy.

The hotel industry in Ajman is expanding rapidly with both domestic and international tourist arrivals.

This translates to potentially higher level of waste occurring in hotels, from food wastage to energy consumption.

At Fairmont Ajman, we are committed to implementing environmental procedures and practices in order to reduce the impact of our activities and to enhance the long-term sustainability of the community and to drive the change towards positive hospitality.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: With tourism’s potential to make this positive impact, the cooperation between hoteliers and authorities appears crucial. How does such collaboration translate into action?

FRANCIS DESJARDINS: With Fairmont Ajman being one of the key tourism partners operating in this destination, it is extremely vital that we do everything in conjunction with Ajman Tourism Development Department and the Ajman Centre of Corporate Social Responsibility (Ajman CSR) when it comes to sustainable initiatives.

The hotel has, for instance, cooperated with charitable organisations to collect and distribute used clothes from colleagues and guests to donate to people in need.

We are always keen to invite them [the authorities] and the local community in other CSR activities, such as beach clean-up day, orphans fun day in March and a desert clean-up day. Aside from green initiatives, we also aim to give back to the community.

One of the initiatives we have made so far is cooperating with Ajman CSR in a blood donation drive to ensure that hospitals and medical centres have enough stock of different blood groups in supply.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What procedures have you implemented in terms of environmental protection and resource efficiency?

FRANCIS DESJARDINS: Some of the energy saving practices we currently implement include switching-off steam boilers at night, setting chiller temperatures at a controlled sequence in accordance with operations and demand, switching-off lights in areas not in use, and timed programming for all air handling and extraction units.

In the future, our aim is to instill practices such as installation of motion sensors in staircases and additional timers in kitchen equipment, treatment of grey water and replacing all lighting systems to LED.

We are planning to convert a section of our existing garden into a herb garden where our chefs [will] grow lemon trees, rosemary, chili pepper, basil, among other vegetables, for usage in our restaurants.

To keep us on track towards achieving our sustainability goals, we have appointed a Sustainability Committee.

Made up of colleagues from each department, they discuss, among other things, best practices we can implement in order to conserve energy and reduce water consumption and wastage.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Sustainable conduct does not only involve hotel staff but also guests. How do you ensure their cooperation?

FRANCIS DESJARDINS: There is a section in our in-room guest service directory where guests can read to understand our sustainability journey and our CSR key pillars. We also try to involve guests in all our CSR initiatives by inviting them to participate in activities [...].

Our company is committed to making a difference in the communities where our guests and colleagues live and work. We have a group-wide programme encouraging guests to reuse their towels during their stay as opposed to requesting for a fresh one daily.

50 percent of the savings on laundry expenses generated by this initiative are used to fund reforestation and agro-forestry projects. […]

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How is the sustainable strategy expected to shape and change Ajman hospitality industry in the years to come?

FRANCIS DESJARDINS: It is extremely vital that hotels in Ajman recognise the importance of our commitment to mother earth and to pursue progress without compromising the fundamental needs of our future generations.

Recycling [...], purchasing in bulk to avoid wastage, and [so on] are some important strategies that will help change Ajman's hospitality industry [...].

The beauty of Ajman is that, being the smallest emirate in the UAE, it is easier to impact and come together as a community towards an active environmental movement.

Canvassing for each and everyone’s support towards the preservation of natural resources and adherence to social values will definitely help the emirate to be amongst the leading emirates in driving sustainable and eco-tourismlevel