Last year I visited a couple of new properties in Bali as an alternative to large resort hotels, staying (among others) at the Alila Boutique Hotel in Ubud where I learned that by 2019 they would put a water filtering system in place, preparing all filtered water for the hotel on site.
I took that down in my notebook and decided to pay the property another visit once the system was up and running as I wanted to learn more about the operation and economics for the hotel as well as how sustainable it really is to run such a system.
Currently there is a big trend in making hotels and resorts more sustainable, but the larger the property the more difficult it is to actually make such an effort work as it requires lots of space, technology, staff and also energy resources.
This time I was back for a day as well but it was a brief stay to check out the new facilities and I was surprised about the efficiency and little space required for that water filtering system I was introduced to last year.
Before we get into how it looks, the Alila Resort has 56 rooms and 18 villas which makes it a small operation and easier to satisfy the requirements than lets say a resort with 500 guest rooms of which there are many.
The water filtering operation requires only one staf member who works ~ 4 hours a day to satisfy the hotels bottled water needs. The plant fits in a medium sized room that is meticulously clean, has checklists and protocols displayed. A lab coat and slippers are mandatory to go inside the facility.
The filling station is designed to handle a 24-bottle tray at once which is then sealed
Below you see the filtering mechanism provided by the company (Biosystems) that allows the Alila to fill their own bottles as well as deliver excess supply to their sister properties at Bali as well. The storage room is quite big and can hold the capacity for the hotels daily supply plus reserves:
This all appeared very efficient to me. It’s a combination of things including being independent from bottled water supplied by an outside company that delivers plastic bottles, sharing the facility with Alila sister properties and also that it requires only one staff member to operate the entire thing. It also allows the property to advertise as eco friendly and sustainable so there is also a promotional benefit.
After visiting Alila I talked with other hotel managers in Bali about this option. Most of them were enthusiastic about it but the big resorts especially said it would be hard to satisfy the demand of 500+ guest rooms with an in house solution.
Of course it would be possible, but the space needs to be larger and it requires more manpower. I don’t buy the severity of problems that managers from large resorts put forward as an excuse, especially since staff is cheap in Bali. The technology however may be expensive and filters need to be exchanged on a regular basis. That being said purchasing a constant supply of bottled water from a third party is also costly.
Many hotels in Bali, as well as Thailand and other destinations, already use glass bottles which can be cleaned and re-used easily in opposite to plastic bottles that require recycling. There is still a lot of energy waste involved including for transportation.
Resorts are more receptive to wasting energy than a normal hotel. People are on holiday, they go to swim and shower several times a day. There might be also more waste produced in the process of preparing for lavish buffets and large pool areas. It’s hard to use the word sustainable in combination with vacation no matter if we’re talking about hotels, airplanes or – god beware – a cruise ship.