A surprisingly cool desert in summer
In 2005 the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) established a one-of-a-kind ecolodge in the heart of Wadi Feynan in Dana Biosphere Reserve named Feynan Ecolodge. Four years later, a partnership was initiated between the RSCN and EcoHotels, a local Jordanian company, who took over the management and operational responsibilities of the lodge and transformed it to internationally acclaimed ecolodge. Feynan, with more than 20 international awards, provides visitors with a plethora of unique and authentic experiences while contributing to the conservation of the Dana nature reserve.
Perhaps the most unique feature is that the lodge exists ‘off the grid’ with almost zero emissions, generating its own power in a self-sustaining manner and resisting the ease of fuel-powered generators that pollute the air and serenity of the area. It uses candles for lighting at night and the limited solar power is used for food preparation. Feynan Ecolodge empowers the surrounding Bedouin community by offering them income generation opportunities while providing services to visitors from all over the world.
In total, four hundred people, including entrepreneurs and their families, benefit from the lodge’s existence.
In spite of the extraordinary experiences and the noble message that Feynan Ecolodge espouses, the seasonality of the destination, particularly the hot desert summers and lack of electricity for cooling the rooms, especially at night, led the lodge to have single digit occupancy rates in the summer months with an alert on the lodge’s website warning tourists about the heat, discouraging many from visiting. The low occupancy had a negative impact on not only on EcoHotels, but also on the lodge’s local staff, the local community microbusinesses and RSCN. Summer slowdowns were compounded by growing instability and insecurity in the Middle East and a drop in overall tourists, and Feynan Ecolodge’s profitability was under threat.
An immediate solution was required.
In 2017, EcoHotels reached out to MEDA's Jordan Valley Links project for support in launching environmentally friendly cooling measures including installation of a new photovoltaic (PV) system. The PV system, which was successfully commissioned in August 2018, significantly increased the lodge’s capacity to power fans, fridges, and freezers.
The early results of the cooling have started to be felt at Feynan.
The warning is gone from the lodge’s website and occupancy levels increased 40% in August 2018 compared to August 2017!
Mr. Nabil Tarazi, EcoHotels Founder & Managing Director, expressed his satisfaction and gratitude, “Thank you MEDA for your support. After the installation of the new PV system and cooling measures, we can now promote the lodge in the summer months knowing that the guests will be able to have a comfortable sleep at night, without the need to sleep on the lodge’s rooftop terrace. We have already started seeing the positive results and we look forward to having double digit occupancy rates in the summer months that will allow us to at least cover our costs during the slow season”.
He added, “Now we can also ensure continued direct benefit to the local community all year long. As an example, our local community bread supplier, Um Khalid, will be happy that her income will not be reduced in the summer months in the future. With increased visitor numbers, we now plan to support additional community microbusinesses to enable them to benefit from tourism”.
MEDA, through its Innovation Fund, was able to support Feynan to not only achieve sustained economic gains for the community, but also to continue its work on nature conservation by adopting clean technology solutions for business growth.
-- Nour Qawasmi – Monitoring and Evaluations Manager, Jordan Valley Links