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Monday, April 7, 2008

Resort trends to watch

The world's changing climate is causing an unprecedented period of innovation and reinvention

Building a mega resort development has never been more challenging than it is today. Besides having to worry about the question, “If we build it, will they come?”, developers also need to consider the extent global warming will have on their resorts.

For instance, ski resorts could be literally finished if, by the time they are completed, the weather is not cold enough to produce snow – they can’t depend on the artificial powder alternative forever!

In 2006, Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted that by the year 2050, over one-third of Europe’s top ski resorts would disappear because their low-lying slopes would succumb to higher temperatures.

While many leisure industry experts think the finding is unduly pessimistic, many established winter resort operators are not ignoring it.

Eco-friendly operations
In Aspen, Colorado, one of the most famous mountain resorts in the United States, the Aspen Skiing Company decided to purchase renewable energy certificates from wind farms to offset all of its electricity use – about 21,000 megawatt hours.

To reduce pollution, it also uses biodiesel to fuel its snow-grooming equipment, while the heating and cooling for its Snowmass Golf Clubhouse come from watersource pumps located in a pond.

In Europe, the threat of climate change has made many new and refurbished Alpine resorts look beyond eco-friendly strategies to ensure continued revenue attraction. This includes expanding on their menu of winter-based sports with activities that can be enjoyed during three or four seasons, such as golf, tennis, rafting, canoeing and hiking.

Eco-resorts pave the way
Despite the growing importance of eco-resorts – projects focused on environmental sustainability – they have so far largely been built on a small-scale by local individuals or companies.

One of them is Whitepod near Aigle in Switzerland. As a result of its commitment to provide a holiday experience with zero impact on the environment, it uses furniture produced locally from sustainable wood and water from a rainwater recuperation system.

In Lungau, Austria, St. Martin Chalets is Europe’s first energy self-sufficient resort that uses materials such as local larch and pine insulated with sheep’s wool for its main structure.

Near Llangollen in rural Wales, the Whitewater Country Park – touted as the United Kingdom’s first ecoresort – is built of solid log, while in Poprad in south-west Slovakia, the Aqua City spa resort has been designed to draw 80 per cent of its electricity from geothermal water, solar power and wind turbines. By the end of this year, it hopes to be completely self-sufficient in energy generation.

Greener development strategies
In Tahoe, California, the Village at Northstar resort features an extensive trail system complemented by a shuttle service and bicycle tracks to get its guests out of their cars.

To minimise disruption to the environment and keep the cars out of sight, its parking is tucked underground, beneath the buildings.

So far, three buildings with 100 ski-in, ski-out condominiums, a commercial precinct, a fitness facility and a slopeside owner’s club, have been completed. The structures have been strategically placed to maximise natural daylight penetration, while over 50 per cent of waste caused by its construction have been recycled by the contractors.

Warm-weather resorts too are tackling climate change issues by rethinking their approach to land use, traffic management, building design and sustainable development.

With their guests becoming more sophisticated and increasingly rejecting created environments, they are seeing this strategy of adopting green development techniques as providing a win-win solution.

Carbon-neutral resort
In Bulgaria, an emerging resort destination that does not have a history of international tourism, architectural practice Foster & Partners recently put together a masterplan for a carbon-neutral resort located on the Black Sea coast.

The development, known as Black Sea Gardens, comprises a series of automobilefree hill towns set amidst oak forests, meadows and river gorges.

Its residential clusters will accommodate some 15,400 residents in a layout that will follow the contours of the landscape so much of the site can be preserved as virgin terrain.

Anchored by a 220-berth marina and with a lakeside spa, activity centre, sports park, restaurants and shops, these hill towns are themed according to the nature of their immediate surroundings, such as “Sky Village”, “Wilderness Village”, “Meadow Village”, “Cape Village” and “Sea Village”.

To create a calm, pollution- free environment, the roads leading to this leisure destination will be inland and away from the seafront. Residents will also be required to leave their cars in an underground car-park at the entrance to each village and commute either by foot, electric shuttle bus, electric pool car or bicycles.

The resort industry is entering an unprecedented period of innovation and reinvention that is likely to accelerate in years to come, with the push coming primarily from the growing recognition of the need to protect our fragile environment.

As is the case for most businesses, the winners will be those that can successfully create places and experiences that will continue to be authentic 20 to 30 years after they are built.

By New Straits Times (by Lim Lay Ying)

Lim Lay Ying is managing director of Research Inc (Asia) a company specialising in market research and consultancy for all facets of real estate development.

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