nown for its pioneering role in high-end tourism in Nepal since the 1960s with its five-star Soaltee property in Kathmandu, the group has taken another step by setting up Nepal’s most state-of-the art green hotel.
The new Soaltee Westend Premier in Nepalganj stands out for its elegant architecture and interior design, but it is what is in its basement that is more interesting: a computerised system to manage electricity, temperature, water, and waste that is ecological as well as economical.
“We wanted to take our pioneering role in Nepal’s hospitality industry to the next level, and set a new reference point for what hotels in Nepal should be,” explains Soaltee Crowne Plaza GM Upaul Majumdar, showing visitors the hotel’s heat exchangers.
Instead of energy-intensive central air-conditioning in Nepalganj where summer heat hits 45o, the hotel uses radiant pipes to send cold water at 8o to cool walls and floors of the rooms. In winter, the pipes carry heated water. This keeps the entire hotel enclosed in a climate-controlled cocoon.
With additional measures like insulation, temperature calibration, even Otis elevators with regen drives, the hotel saves 75% on its monthly energy bill. Rainwater litre underground tanks, ground water is recharged, toilet effluent is treated for recycling so there is no sewage outflow, and even the exhaust air from the kitchen is filtered before being released.
“Instead of just announcing that we are green, from the design phase we planned to do it properly,” Majumdar explains, “it is expensive to be environment friendly, but we realised that in the long-term it can actually save you money by cutting down on waste.”
Soaltee Nepalganj is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified Silver Category hotel in Nepal, a designation awarded by the US Green Building Council for following strict energy-saving and eco-friendly criteria.
The border city had no five-star hotel, but is on the cusp of a boom because of international flights to Delhi staring from January, the prospect of a surge in Indian tourist arrivals, pilgrimage traffic bound for Mt Kailash, the potential for a modern conference venue, as well as a surge in Nepali tourists.
Majumdar, who was voted Asia’s Best General Manager Hospitality at the recent CMO Asia in Singapore, said Soaltee’s management saw the business potential in Nepalganj, but also wanted to invest in human resources.
It has partnered with GATE Vocational to set up a hotel training institute in its premises to prepare staff not just to meet its own needs, but raise professionalism in the hospitality industry.
Says Bibek Poudel of Gate Vocational Westend: “The quality of human capital is low in Western Nepal, and we found out that there was a demand for trained staff at new hotels in Nepalganj, and there are enough jobs here to absorb all our graduates.”
The hotel is packed this season with Indian pilgrims waiting for flights to Simikot and on to Kailash in Tibet. The hotel had a soft opening in January is offering a promotional rate of $50.