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The First Group Hotels: Spearheading sustainable hospitality in the UAE


The First Group Hotels’ cutting-edge and all-encompassing sustainability agenda is helping promote a new era of environmental responsibility in the UAE’s hotel and hospitality sectors.

The First Group Hotels, Dubai’s leading lifestyle hospitality operator, is fast earning a reputation as a sustainable hospitality pioneer, forging ahead with innovative initiatives designed to reduce waste, enhance guest experiences and protect the environment.

The fast-growing firm, which operates The First Collection lifestyle hotel brand in Dubai alongside leading third-party upscale hotel properties including Wyndham Dubai Marina and TRYP by Wyndham Dubai, was one of the city’s first major operators to eliminate plastic bottle usage and implement initiatives designed to reduce water and energy consumption and boost waste recycling across its portfolio.

These initiatives have led to a significant reduction in The First Group Hotels’ environmental footprint, helping to reduce its collective carbon emissions output while significantly reducing operational costs.

Guests embrace sustainability cause

The First Group’s hotels, in addition to its hotel-apartment developments Citadines Metro Central and Grand Heights Hotel Apartments – the former of which is Green Key certified – have predominantly seen year-on-year declines in guest usage of energy and water resources in 2022, according to an independent report published by consultancy firm Sustainability Kiosk.

The installation of energy-saving fittings and fixtures in all guestrooms and public areas, alongside guest information initiatives and comprehensive sustainability awareness training programmes for all hotel staff, have generated significant real-world savings, according to the research.

“We have received an overwhelmingly positive response from our guests toward our sustainability initiatives,” says Karim Abdelhamid, Vice President of Hotel Operations for The First Group. “The majority of international travellers are now committed to protecting the planet, and as such, value hotel and tourism operators who are working hard to making a difference in this respect.

“By setting new sustainability benchmarks, we are helping establish ourselves as industry leaders, while building brand recognition and loyalty in the marketplace.”

While The First Group Hotels has implemented its wide-ranging sustainability initiatives across its entire portfolio, individual properties are also rolling out key programmes based on international benchmarks.

At Wyndham Dubai Marina and TRYP by Wyndham Dubai, staff have implemented Levels 1 and 2 of Wyndham Green – the international operator’s sustainability action plan – with Level 3 certification set to be attained in 2023. The First Group Hotels recently established a dedicated in-house ‘Green Team’, which is responsible for overseeing and implementing all sustainability initiatives at both hotels.

Recycling push receives timely boost

Meanwhile, The First Group Hotels’ Recycling First waste management programme is on track to meet its target of recycling 15% of all daily waste produced across its hotel portfolio by mid-2023, up from 2% today.

Currently, the programme generates cost savings of approximately US$35,000 annually, with this figure set to rise as new initiatives are rolled out across the portfolio.

The firm recently entered into an agreement with UK-based hotel amenities supplier Gilchrist & Soames to exclusively use its environmentally friendly Zero% range of liquid soaps and shampoos in all guestrooms, which are made from all-natural ingredients and feature 100% recycled and reusable packaging.

According to Karim Abdelhamid, the introduction of these products will eliminate more than 400,000 plastic containers being disposed of as waste annually.

“While we have always recycled these plastic-based products, the introduction of the Zero% range means we will re-use all plastic packaging on a permanent basis,” he explains. “If we compare this to the number of recycled containers we currently use in our properties, the new strategy is going to make a huge difference.”

Innovative approach to eliminating plastics

In another unique initiative, The First Group Hotels is in the process of replacing its plastic guestroom keycards with items made from recycled or sustainably sourced timber products.

According to Greg Moses, hotel manager at The First Collection Business Bay, the keycards are made from raw materials that are sourced from commercially grown forests, “with no concern for deforestation or further negative impact on the environment”.

“They’re as durable as a PVC card and can be used up to 100,000 times before requiring replacement under typical conditions,” he says.

The First Group Hotels currently uses upwards of 50,000 plastic keycards across its entire hotel portfolio annually, explains Libu Daniel, cluster general manager for Citadines Metro Central and Grand Heights.

“So, in addition to helping save the environment, the new keycards are 30% cheaper to produce than their plastic equivalent, which also helps boost our bottom line,” he adds.

Sustainability push to go up a gear in 2023

The First Group Hotels plans to ramp up its sustainability programmes in 2023 with a 12-month calendar of initiatives already mapped out based on the Sustainability Kiosk report findings.

These include new international benchmarking and certification of key sustainability initiatives, recognising and honouring sustainability champions across the organisation, and highlighting and promoting key sustainability milestones in the media and to guests staying in its hotels.

“Sustainability has long been seen as an industry buzzword, but the reality today is that all hospitality stakeholders need to play an active role in reducing the industry’s environmental impact,” comments George Ghaly, cluster hotel manager for The First Collection at Jumeirah Village Circle. “As one of the UAE’s leading hotel operators, we are proud to be spearheading these initiatives in the Emirates.”