The current economic climate may have frozen moves by the industry to roll out new green projects, according to representatives of two of the UK's most environmentally advanced hotels.
Speaking to Caterersearch after last week's annual conference of the British Association of Hospitality Accountants - which saw more than 360 finance, IT and managerial staff attend a series of panel discussions and workshops at the Sofitel at Heathrow - delegates voiced concern at how little time was given to sustainability issues, compared with just two years ago.
Jill Hall, financial controller at the Bedruthan Steps Hotel, which has won a slew of top awards for its integrated approach to the environment and responsible tourism, said that not so long ago "it was the trendy thing to be talking about and everybody was saying what they were doing". She added that this was no longer the case.
Angela Vickers, managing director at Apex Hotels, added that now was not the time to be putting green initiatives on the back burner.
"We are full participants in the Carbon Reduction Commitment and haven't scaled back but it looks as though a lot of people have," she said. "In fact we have been working very closely with our suppliers and that is something businesses should be looking at, even if they aren't actively rolling out big projects."
But many hotels and restaurants were finding that well-intended moves to install meters and monitor energy usage more closely had been undermined by the Government's U-turn on proceeds raised from the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.
It means businesses who signed up to the scheme expecting to get a rebate if their usage rates improved will now see any money they have already paid on account retained by the Treasury.
Stephen Mellor of Energy Cost Reduction said: "It was originally sold as a ranking scheme - which would be attractive to businesses looking to boost their profile with environmentally conscious customers - but it is now a tax and there is no doubt it will be extended.
"Businesses in the hospitality industry need to be aware of the changes and how they will be affected in the coming months as some of the fines for non-compliance are horrendous. A lot of people will not be motivated as there will be less to gain and less of an incentive."
But Mark Anderson, commercial and property director of Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants, said that the downturn wouldn't affect the company's long-term plans to roll out more properties such as Tamworth, where the 20-bed new-build "bolt on" is insulated with lambs' wool and 100% of its heating is generated from renewable sources.
"We're seriously committed to sustainability at Whitbread and we've just opened our second green property at Burgess Hill, going even further in terms of energy saving than our excellent property at Tamworth," he added. "Our ‘Good Together CSR' programme has seen us pressing on with a £7m investment package to reduce our carbon emissions across our UK estate."
By Elizabeth Mistry
E-mail your comments to Caterer News here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Caterersearch.com jobs