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Have Your Say

The path to green business is not always easy.  Have you come across a difficulty in your quest for sustainability?  Do you have a sustainability bugbear you would like to get off your chest?

The grading system is a controversial topic for those striving to provide sustainable tourist accommodation, here a successful, green B&B owner has their say!

'If you are an accommodation provider and you take the environment seriously you can come up against a difficulty when the Visit Wales assessor calls. Obviously if you have made your accommodation attractive and feel you offer a good all round package to your guests you want your grading to reflect that standard.'

'The grading 'common standards' clearly state that energy efficient lighting should be accepted and not be penalised but it seems that some assessors haven't read their own guidelines. In recent months more than one of our local providers have been marked down for their lighting and told that energy efficient bulbs are not "as good". We personally lost points for not having floodlighting on at all times at the front of the house despite having solar powered movement sensing lamps ("not bright enough")! Modern energy efficient bulbs are just as bright as old fashioned power eating bulbs and really, who in these enlightened times would want to see floodlighting eating up fuel and causing light pollution in our fantastic countryside?'

'The other bugbear is toiletries. No matter how sparkling clean and high quality your toiletries are, woe betide you when the assessor calls, if they are not in tiny wasteful little individual bottles. This will produce wrinkling of noses and reduction of marks. Why? Do they not understand that our guests, with a little encouragement, want us to follow environmentally sustainable practices? When you use individual bottles a high proportion are taken away by guests who then leave them wasting at the back of a shelf, gathering dust. When you use clean large bottles with dispensing valves guests only use what they need to use. Less waste, fewer lorries carrying fewer products, less packaging to go to landfill and less clutter too.'

'There are other niggling facets to assessors visits too such as wanting everything to be 'new' and not appreciating that reusing preloved items is not only good for the environment but actually makes your guests feel that they can be comfortable in their accommodation.'

'It's time for all assessors to wake up to the reality of our world as it is now and stop penalising those of us who are environmentally responsible but still give guests a high quality experience.'

This is obviously a 'hot' topic, which prompted the following response:

Having read the article about WTB assessors we concur with the article writer. Our accommodation have had to have assessor reports corrected on numerous occasions due to inaccurate entries and incomplete detail. Some elements were even dealt with in a cavalier manner.

As an assessor himself, with over 35 years experience in a field unrelated to the tourism industry, my husband knows the conduct of an assessment shall be performed OBJECTIVELY using written guidelines or product standards or service requirements. These are then treated as the 'product specification.' Our WTB assessment experiences over the past 10 years demonstrated that WTB assessors sometime confuse objective requirements with subjective requirements. They also, at times, confuse 'quality' with 'ambience or luxury' by mistakenly concluding the terms are synonymous.

Example; Which is the 'quality' bed? A standard double bed or a super king size double bed? The correct answer is, were both beds to meet their product specification, both are 'quality' beds. Ambience or luxury may be requested, however, that is a subjective decision based on personal preference.

They recall a number of assessor comments regarding the incandescent lightbulb versus the energy saving fluorescent lightbulb in their accommodation units as the related article author refers. In reality, the recognised term for brightness is the 'lumen.' An incandescent lightbulb with a rating of, say, 60 watt actually emits slightly less lumens than the equivalent 15 watt energy saving fluorescent lightbulb. Based on that fact, the assessment is flawed because the assessor was probably not informed or trained about that fact. That is not specifically the assessor's fault. It is the responsibility of those who control the assessors to ensure that they receive accurate, competent and thorough training. The individuals once, twice or even three times removed from performing the assessment/s need the wake-up call. Were those with decision making authority and financial control in the WTB generally unaware how to perform an assessment objectively, there is no chance of making the system function to the benefit of customer, accommodation provider and the tourism industry as a whole.

In my husbands experience, the best controller and assessor in any field are usually the 'poachers' - with considerable experience - turned 'gamekeepers'.