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email interview with Javad Hatami, CMO & Co-founder, Optishower

1.    In 2-3 sentences, what is your product, what does it do? What is your elevator pitch?

Optishower integrated solution helps hotels achieve operational excellence, decrease water and electricity consumption, and ensure the highest levels of guest satisfaction. We use IoT-based smart sensors to monitor water and electricity in buildings; engage and motivate guest to reduce the utility consumption by gamification techniques.

2.    Where did your inspiration for this idea come from? 

It was started from a friendly discussion between two co-founders.  Me and Mohamamdhossein, very close friend of mine and the co-founder of Optishower, were both avid travelers. We’ve been to many countries and usually we stayed in hotels during our travels. The idea came from the observation about high levels of water that was wasted in bathrooms and once someone enters a hotel they usually don’t care about the consumption. We found that 1) guests don’t know about their consumption and 2) they don’t know how they can help environment and avoid unnecessary consumption, 3) and most importantly, they don’t have any incentive to do so.  We found there is not any tailored solution for hospitality sector to tackle these challenges. It was the begging of our journey to create Optishower.

 

3.    Why should hotels be interested? 

Our solution could benefits hotels in 3 different ways:

1)      Optishower technology supports hotels to benchmark the current status of their buildings in terms of consumption and find out any bottlenecks to implement more efficient and sustainable technologies. Optishower could also help hotels to achieve their Corporate Social Responsibility goals in terms of Sustainable Responsible Operations.

2)      Finding leakages in big buildings is hard and time consuming. Our technology can detect any leakage in water pipes and abnormalities in electrical system of building, thus it saves money and time for hoteliers to avoid any damages and losses.

3)       Optishower platform connects guests to their consumption. We use gamification techniques to engage guests with their water and electricity consumption in-room. Therefore, this technology could be used as a new feature to transform in-room guest experience. Moreover, reduction in utility consumption leads to increase in profit margins of hotels.

 

4.    What are some of the initial results you are seeing?

Once our technology is implemented, it can provide lots of data and insights about status of consumption in hotels. Our technology makes utility consumption visible and easily understandable. The recent result from our pilot test in Marriott Amsterdam demonstrated that if guests know about their consumption, they were more conscious and could make more smart choice of water and electricity usage in rooms. We found behavior change is a key component to leverage sustainability status in hotels.

 

5.    What is your vision for this technology/app? What does success look like to you?

Our aim is consumption behavior change through user engagement. We aim to provide data and insight to hotel guests mixed with gamification techniques, so they can make better and smarter consumption decisions.  On the other hand, we aim to provide a platform that makes life easier and more convenient for hoteliers. We are envisioning a system that is an integral part of each hotel and provides visibility on all corners of water and electricity consumption in the hotel. Success for us means developing a solution that makes the lives of hotel guests easier and more comfortable, and provides new and seamless experiences that also positively contributes to environment.

 

6.    What is the role of tech in sustainability for the hospitality industry? 

Technology plays an important role in achieving sustainability goals in hospitality. New technologies that help hotels’ business become resource efficient can both create a competitive cost advantage and further reinforce brand focus on sustainability at the same time. This investment can be profitable and resonate the brand in the heart of customers. For example, new technologies that drives environmentally friendly atmosphere can have positive impact on guest experience. At the end of day, what the guest feels and thinks about the hotel experience leaves an impression with the guest that has a direct impact on occupancy and ADR.

 

7.    What have been your biggest challenges?

As a tech start up that wanted to disrupt travel and hospitality sector, our main challenge was to understand the major pain in the hospitality sector and to craft an innovative and wining solution for that. We looked to the hospitality sector and found that sustainability is still a luxury word; everyone talks about it, but nobody wants to implement it. We looked to the current solutions that exist and found that most, if not all, of them are technology-based and lack active end-user engagement. It took some time for us to find a way to connect tech with social and economic behavior strategies to craft a specific solution that deals with sustainability challenges in the hospitality sector.

 

8.    What is your prediction for the future of hotels, particularly in terms of sustainability and guest engagement? 

There is a visible trend in the travel and hospitality market that guests prefer sustainable tourism as a requirement in their travel. Personalization also would be a key component of future hotel service. The hotel of the future offers new and diverse experiences that can evolve with the guest. If you want to have a hotel that is sustainable and provides personalized service, you need clear engagement with your guest regarding your sustainability activities. I believe tech and behavior science are helping at that stage to provide innovative solutions that transform the guest experience. Hotels of the future would integrate sustainability as their core elements from hotel design to operation, therefore technology will bring innovative environmentally-friendly solutions to provide seamless experiences for guests in the future.

 

9.    In your opinion, what should the sustainable guest experience look like? 

I believe the trend in the travel industry where sustainability is an important concern is increasing. There are statistics and surveys demonstrating that more and more guests are booking green and eco-friendly hotels.  Sustainable design offers such travelers a place where they can feel comfortable spending their time and money. These environmentally conscious travelers likely expect sustainability efforts in the design of rooms, reducing waste, saving water and promoting green activities in operation, energy-efficient appliances, recycling programs and gluten-free meals, at the very least. Recent advances in technology made it possible to re-design hotels according to green practices. Hospitality is always about experience and connecting people. Environment influences behavior and mindset, and guests are sensitive to small things in their surrounding that change their mood. For example, rooms with new designs that enjoy lots of natural sunlight is more likely to be perceived as energizing and inspiring. To offer a sustainable guest experience, hoteliers should think about innovative ideas that combines suitability with new experiences. As an example, lamps that are energy efficient yet offers a relaxing environment for guests would create a memorable and authentic experience for guests during their stay in a hotel.

10. Anything else you’d like the reader to know about yourself or Optishower? 

Optishower is a Portuguese brand offering an innovative platform for the hospitality sector with a very disrupting idea that incorporates elements from tech to social behavior. As a young tech start up in the travel industry, we believe proactive engagement of guests is a key to achieve sustainability in the hospitality sector. Recently, our disruptive idea has grabbed the attention of Marriott hotels and we have been selected from around 150 applicants from 24 countries to pilot our technology, as part of Marriott test bed acceleration program, in Marriott Amsterdam.

 

 

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Screen capture ThinkPhi

A pair of Indian entrepreneurs has developed what they claim is “the most advanced integrated plug and play system” for shade, water, and energy.

Solar canopies and carports, which can provide shade underneath them while harvesting clean energy from the sunlight that hits them, can be a great asset in both public and private spaces, but the startup ThinkPhi goes one step further with its flagship product. The company’s model 1080 not only produces renewable electricity from the sun (and stores it in integrated batteries), but it can also collect and filter rainwater.

The product, which looks a bit like an inverted umbrella, features solar panels on the top surface, as well as a canopy to collect and funnel the rainwater into the filtration chamber, and integrates LED lighting underneath it.

Read the full article on these solar canopies here.

By Derek Markham for treehugger.

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by Nicolas Dubrocard, Former Wild Asia Project Director, auditor for Travelife and Green Globe, and Director of Audit Diagnostic Solutions Tourism

Nicolas Dubrocard

 

I started my path on sustainable tourism exactly ten years ago in Morocco where I was supporting small accommodations and hotels to obtain the Green Key international eco label and to save water through Travel Foundation’s programme called Every Drop Counts.

From the beginning of this journey I discovered that there was an area where it is easy to implement changes with huge environmental positive impacts: the bathroom.

The reasons were obvious: more efficient showerheads and taps save substantial amounts of water and energy (used to heat the water or pump it around the building) as well as limits the volume of grey water to be treated. A showerhead is easy to change, low in cost and has a payback of a few months if the original one is very inefficient. I visited hotels with shower water flows between 20 and 22 litres per minute, which is twice the amount recommended by international eco labels!

One can only imagine the amount of water and energy that could be saved annually!?

A quick calculation: let’s consider that a new showerhead can reduce the flow by ten litres per minute and the guest uses it only once a day for ten minutes (already a low figure) — the savings would be around thirty six cubic meters per year per room permanently occupied!

Most of the decision makers consider that this is not an interesting area for cost savings because water is cheap; they do not consider the real cost of water, including pumping, treatment, heating (keeping in mind that a hotel needs to heat a third of its water needs).

The financial savings is so considerable that it becomes ridiculous. It’s even inconceivable to still find that these older devices are still place, especially in destinations where the water resources are at risk; massive water wastage will lead to more tension between local communities and hotels.

So the first step for hotel managers, hotel engineering directors and even at home is to monitor and control the water flow in the shower. Don’t wait, do it now!

This part of the business is so easy, it should be mandatory and it’s a shame if a hotel’s owner or managing company is not following the sustainability experts advice during the hotel’s building phase; they would save so much time, money and natural resources!

After the technical aspects, I also had a look at the communication in the bathroom: the famous towel reuse programme. Again, the positive impacts are immense: water, energy, labour and chemicals are embedded in the towel cleaning.

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

What has happened over the past ten years? The initial situation was simple: no one cared about reusing towels. At some point, some hotels started to communicate about it, asking the guests to participate to the towel reuse programme. Then, every hotel started to create its own communication. Most hotels, at the time, believed they were doing something cool and positive but they have mostly been using guilt as a leverage: “Save the planet”, “Help save the environment”, “Do you know how much chemicals we use to clean your towels”… highlighting the negative aspects of having new towel every day. This kind of wording was analysed and there are now much better ways to engage the clients to participate, such as using social norms[2]. In a few years the messages to reuse the towel have flourished in bathrooms like Caulerpa Taxifolia in Mediterranean Sea. Looking at this trend, it is amazing to realize that the industry at large did make a move – but is it really a change?

I’m afraid it’s not.

Let’s look at one more aspect: the staff training. This is the Achilles’ heel of most hotels. It is very complicated to change the way housekeepers are working – what they have learned and even their sense of ethics (which dictates to change all towels in the bathroom). One can also not forget the limited amount of time to clean each room which really means that a housekeeper should not lose any time making a decision regarding the towels. As a consequence, it happens that towels meant to be reused are replaced, making the client very angry. Imagine that you already took time to review all the documentation (sometimes written so small that you need magnifying glass to read it!), to understand finally where to hang your towel and now very proud of yourself, you realize that these very towels have been replaced, destroying all your efforts to save the planet, to reduce the use of a significant amount of chemicals, while on vacation…you will feel bad, betrayed… It is enough to write a negative online comment!

And what should guests think about the resort hotels asking them to reuse the bathroom towel while offering a free flow of 2m X 1m beach towels?

I had the chance during my career to adapt and implement over a period of two years a programme called “Kuoni Water Champion” in Thailand, aiming to help 26 hotels to reduce their water consumption[3]. During this action we emphasized as much as possible towel reuse and we tried to introduce a new approach following the Make A Green Choice programme initiated by Starwood in Europe, Africa, Middle East division in 2015.

This programme has three advantages; firstly, by giving guests the choice to decline housekeeping services, housekeepers do not have to make the decision regarding towels in a room; secondly, it is rewarding guests who participate in the action (via a voucher, loyalty points or donation) therefore diminishing the feeling that when participating to a towel reuse programme the biggest winner is the hotel; and thirdly, it also means that there is real monitoring and follow up where guests are encouraged to participate in and are made aware of the programme upon their arrival. There are certainly some downsides to this system; it may in a mid or long term reduce the need for housekeepers and contribute to unemployment; however, at least there is an alternative to the towel reuse communication.

For each problem in the hotel industry, there is a solution. Some chains or individual hotels are really committing and doing their best. However, there is still a majority of industry players refusing to embrace the sustainability topics, keeping closed eyes on potential sources of revenue or cost efficiencies.

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

When will the hoteliers and hotel owners understand that sustainability is not a gadget but the best way to manage a hotel and increase their benefits? When will the architects stop building inefficient buildings?

Should we wait another ten years to realize that we could actually shape right now – with a little investment, repeated trainings and a lot of good will – a more sustainable industry where the hotels will not be seen as energy and water squanderer and where tensions with local communities are avoided?

 

*****

 

[1] For the person interested in monitoring their water flow in the shower, here is a short video in English and Thai

[2] A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels, by Noah J. Goldstein, Robert B. Cialdini , Vladas Griskevicius

[3] Free manual to download

 

 

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Our nation needs to talk more about the future of water, which I believe is one of the top public health and economic challenges now facing our country. This is a moment of opportunity – to drive smart, equitable, resilient investments to modernize our aging water infrastructure; to invent and build the water technologies of the future; and to protect our precious water resources. To seize this opportunity, we need urgent and sustained action at all levels of government and from all sectors of the economy. – Gina McCarthy. Read more.

water challenges

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park. Copyright Eric Vance, All Rights Reserved. GPS coordinates available in metadata. Reproduction rights granted to US EPA for EPA publications only. Reproduction rights are not transferable.

 

 

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In some parts of Ethiopia, finding potable water is a six-hour journey. People in the region spend 40 billion hours a year trying to find and collect water, says a group called the Water Project. And even when they find it, the water is often not safe. A possible solution: a new product called Warka Water, an inexpensive, easily-assembled structure that extracts gallons of fresh water from the air.  By Tuan Nguyen. Read more.

fog catchers

When dense fog sweeps in from the Pacific Ocean, special nets on a hillside catch the moisture and provide precious water to the village of Bellavista, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) outside of Lima, Peru. With a few thousand dollars and some volunteer labor, a village can set up fog-collecting nets that gather hundreds of gallons of water a day—without a single drop of rain falling, conservationists say. By Helen Fields. Read more.

 

The Last of the Pink Dolphins

With the number of these unique mammals plummeting due to development, land reclamation and pollution, now is the time to see them before it’s too late.

When Simon Holliday jumped into the water to swim from Hong Kong to Macau on 24 May 2014, he was feeling anything but ready. Kate Springer Read more.

Local Infrastructure in Australian Tourist Destinations: Modelling Tourism Demand, and Estimating Costs of Water Provision and Operation

Categories: Case Study, Infrastructure, Oceania, Pacific, Survey, Visitors, Waste, Water
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This research investigates and reviews the options available to fund, provide and operate water and wastewater infrastructure to meet growing tourism needs. This includes identification of costs associated with tourist use of infrastructure and peak capacity requirements. The major benefits include better knowledge and understanding of tourist demands, and the need for water and wastewater infrastructure and analytical tools, enabling councils and other authorities to quantify present and future tourist demands, infrastructure requirements to meet demand, and the associated costs of infrastructure provision and operation.

by Michael AP Taylor, Simon Beecham, Nicholas Holyoak and Ali Hassanli

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Tourism and Water Use – Time for Some Fresh Thinking

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24 March 2015 – I’ve been looking into hotel water sustainability innovations over the last few days, trying to find some stories for a blog to mark World Water Day, which happened last Sunday. Jeremy Smith. Read more.

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goa-cs-watertank

23 March 2015 – Tourism is a thirsty business. Peak tourist seasons are generally during the driest months of the year. Tourism development is most intense in coastal areas and on islands, where potable water is typically scarce. Read more.

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