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In keeping with its name, for Port Macquarie’s Observatory Hotel not even the sky’s the limit, it seems.

The popular beachfront hotel, consistently rated No 1 on TripAdvisor, has exceeded even its own record as the NSW North Coast’s most awarded hotel.

Within the space of the past four weeks it has taken our four major awards for its environmental innovation and contribution to eco-tourism – the most recent at the 2014 NSW Tourism Awards in Sydney last Thursday night [27/11/14].

The hotel’s operators, Southern Cross Resorts’ Chris and Trish Denny, were presented with the Qantas Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism as the state’s leading achiever in the field at a ceremony at Darling Harbour.

In the past month the hotel’s environmental credentials have also been recognised with a NSW Green Globe Award for the best small business for sustainable achievement, the NSW Premier’s award for the best of all green enterprises in the state, and a first international award, Best Sustainable Hotel in Australasia, in the World Boutique Hotel Awards presented in London.

The hotel is officially certified 100 per cent carbon neutral and, among its environmental initiatives, hundreds of solar panels on its north-facing rooftop provide the energy consumed by 5,000 guests a year. The Observatory, known as “Port Macquarie’s best address”, occupies the most enviable location of any North Coast hotel, right on the town’s main surfing beach.

The Dennys say The Observatory’s green philosophy proves people, planet and profit can co-exist harmoniously.

The hotel, leading host of athletes in the twice-yearly Ironman event, offers a range of inclusive sustainable packages including O-Zone rooms, koala hospital tours, bike ‘n’ hike tours with picnic backpacks, and bicycles with free iPod audio-visual tour guides. www.observatory.net.au.

Do you prefer to stay in a hotel knowing it follows green practices?

The Observatory Hotel Port Macquarie has been awarded the title of Australasia’s “best sustainable hotel” in the 2014 World Boutique Hotel Awards presented in London last week [Wednesday November 12 2014].

Awards judges visited the hotel, among finalists in six regions around the world, earlier this year. The Observatory impressed for its 10-year Green Future program that has seen it lead the Australian hospitality industry in environmental innovation.

The hotel is one of only a few nation-wide to have been officially certified as 100 per cent carbon neutral.

Only a week earlier the hotel took out the NSW Premier’s 2014 Green Globe Award for the most impressive sustainable enterprise in NSW, the latest in a series of both State and national accolades for its green initiatives and service excellence.

Boutique hotels are characterised by their unique character, individuality and location, by contrast with big-chain or other standard hotels that lack distinct or niche appeal.

The Observatory has become the only hotel anywhere in NSW to be honoured in the history of the international awards. Saffire Freycinet, on Tasmania’s rural east coast, has also been recognised by the World Boutique Hotel panel. The luxury six-star property, with rates around $2000 a night, won this year’s overall best boutique hotel award.

The Observatory Hotel, overlooking Port Macquarie’s main beach, is operated by Southern Cross Resorts directors Chris and Trish Denny.

Chris Denny is a founding member of Port Macquarie Hastings Sustainability Network, a community group fostering the local development of renewable energy projects.

Mr Denny, also a vice-president of Greater Port Macquarie Tourism, said he hoped the Observatory’s award would promote wider recognition of the Port Macquarie region as a whole as a clean, green destination.

Balancing the interests of the environment with the demands of operating a financially sound enterprise has won Port Macquarie’s Observatory Hotel national recognition in the 2014 Australian Business Awards.

The Town Beach hotel has been named an ABA100 Winner for Sustainability in the awards announced this week [on Wednesday July 30 2014]. The award is the highest honour achieved and the latest in a series of business and tourism industry association acknowledgements of the hotel’s excellence in green initiatives and environmental sustainability.

The Observatory, formally known as Southern Cross Resorts, was doubly honoured by the judges, also awarded a 2014 ABA100 Winner for Service Excellence. This year’s dual recognitions, given on the hotel’s 10th anniversary, reflect twin awards given by other tourism and industry bodies in 2009 in the Observatory’s fifth year of operation, also for sustainability and service excellence.

Annually, the Australian Business Awards determine the nation’s top 100 enterprises across a range of categories. Public and private companies, government and statutory bodies and educational institutions are assessed for performance and achievement against global standards. Each year the top 100 are invited to compete internationally for further recognition against other leading entities. The Observatory is in notable company, with prominent names also on the 2014 Australian winners list including Optus, NRMA, Lend Lease, Leighton and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Hotel directors Chris and Trish Denny see the honours as an endorsement of The Observatory’s pursuit of a quality experience for its guests, and assurance that standards achieved earlier in the hotel’s operation are being maintained and continually improved.

“Awards by peer groups in business and tourism associations are an important means for us of benchmarking our performance against national standards of excellence,” Mr Denny said. “Strict evaluation criteria mean enterprises that are highly marked can be confident the rigour of the process ensures their acknowledgement is for genuine achievement.

“We particularly welcome these awards as a valued recognition of our loyal staff, a number of them celebrating their 10th anniversary with us, along with the hotel’s own 10th anniversary this month.

“Importantly, the two awards are complementary: we feel simultaneous awards for both Sustainability and Service Excellence demonstrate that the competing imperatives of people and the planet, and profit, can coexist and thrive.”

The Observatory has implemented a series of environmental initiatives every year since its establishment in 2004. Even as the hotel was being built, the Dennys retained a University of New England archaeologist to catalogue convict-era relics uncovered on the construction site. The heritage items are now displayed in the hotel’s foyer.

In its most recent innovation more than 200 solar panels were installed one year ago on the hotel’s rooftop. In the past 12 months electricity generated by the panels has entirely supported the energy usage of 100 of the hotel’s guests every week.
The July announcement of The Observatory’s two ABA wins was closely followed by news it has also been named a finalist for its environmental program in this year’s Hotel Management awards for the Australia-New Zealand and Asia-Pacific accommodation industry, being presented in Sydney early next month [September 2014].

One of the joys of Easter celebrations for littlies is the traditional Easter egg hunt when children delight in finding treats hidden by the Easter Bunny around the garden.

This Easter, staff at The Observatory Hotel are leaving out carrots for the Easter Bunny and children holidaying at the hotel on Easter Sunday, April 20, will be invited to take part in a fun Easter egg hunt in the hotel’s gardens.

“It’s an opportunity for families spending school holidays and the Easter to Anzac Day break away from home to still enjoy a fun childhood custom, and for parents to record their own movies and images of those precious few years when kids revel in the Easter Bunny’s visit,” a hotel spokeswoman says. “We didn’t want boys and girls travelling away from their own homes to miss out.”

The Observatory is one of Australia’s few certified 100 per cent carbon-neutral hotels. Since its owners paid to power up 240 rooftop solar panels last September, it has generated free electricity for more than 3,000 guests. Annually, the panels will neutralise carbon consumption covering about 5,000 visitors.

The Observatory, Port Macquarie’s and the Mid-North Coast’s noted “green” deluxe hotel, is proud to have achieved another first in sustainability in the tourism-hospitality industry. Today [Friday September 13 2013], a new installation of rooftop solar panels was switched on, saving both on operating costs and the environment.

“The view across our rooftop of all that Town Beach sunshine being captured by cheek-to-cheek panels really dramatically illustrates how the sun’s energy is just begging to be put to use to cut carbon emissions,” Observatory director Chris Denny said.

“The energy savings achieved by the panels will wipe out the pollution attributable to as many as 100 visitors every week staying at The Observatory Hotel – or 5,000 visitors to Port Macquarie a year”.

The Observatory is officially recognised and awarded as one of Australia’s very few hotels already 100 per cent carbon neutral, a status achieved via a four-year staged “Green Future” program launched in 2008 and completed last year. Among a range of national and state tourism-industry recognitions it has been honoured with, it was judged the most recent winner (2012) of the Qantas Award for Excellence in Environmental Sustainability.

“Our new solar installation that’s been powered up this week extends our green credentials,” Mr Denny said.

“That’s because, until now, emissions from an estimated 25,000 visitor-nights a year have been reduced to zero in two ways: by installing energy-efficient infrastructure – plus by the hotel’s purchase of carbon credits to offset the remaining energy usage.

“Now, the solar panels we’ve installed will cut the traditional energy consumed by guests by close to a further 10 per cent – reducing the number of carbon credits The Observatory needs to purchase and cutting in real terms a significant 70-plus tonnes annually of carbon emissions.

“Eighty three per cent (83%) of our guest rooms are occupied by two or more people: couples, and families with children. So a conservative estimate is that well more than 50,000 people stay at The Observatory every year. Now, around 5,000 of them will have a zero impact on energy use, and the environment.

“Other statistics that have been calculated to put our new energy savings into perspective are: our panels will generate approaching 100 MWh of energy a year, sufficient to support a ‘mini-village’ of 15 homes of four-person families for all their power requirements 24/7, and freeing up some $15,000 in electricity costs for direction to other purposes.”

The hotel’s solar switch-on this week is not the end of The Observatory’s sustainability effort and trajectory. Chris Denny, a civil engineer and member of the Australian Accommodation Association’s Sustainability Panel, is currently involved in a project to establish the Port Macquarie region as a sustainability hub, supporting and spreading responsible environmental practices via the operation of a local education resources centre and promoting the implementation of new sustainability technologies as they become available.

SOME BACKGROUND FACTS:

Cutting the use of traditional energy sources such as coal-fired power is the ideal way of reducing carbon pollution worldwide. It’s universally acknowledged that energy wastage and unnecessary consumption can damage the environment.

But the Australian Government and environmental authorities agree that in the modern world some emissions are unavoidable. Hotel guests, for example, might not enjoy cold showers! Because reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global target, after carbon reduction has reached a comfortable threshold, they recommend: “Carbon offsets make up for the rest.”

Carbon offsets pay for projects reducing greenhouse gas emissions – projects such as restoring forests, updating power plants and factories or increasing the energy-efficiency and reducing the impact of transport modes such as cars and planes.

Carbon offsets paid for by The Observatory – in conjunction with its own energy-saving measures – mean the hotel pays for other industries also to reduce polluting practices.

The net result of The Observatory’s “Green Future” Program – initiated five years ago and progressively enhanced since then – is that far fewer carbon emissions enter the atmosphere.

Guests choosing to stay at The Observatory in effect are helping save the planet. One example: the government says about a quarter of human-produced carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean. As it dissolves in sea water it forms a weak carbonic acid, making the ocean more acidic. The sustainability of marine life is just one benefit of reduced pollution.