Surrounded by spectacular nature, The Alpina Gstaad is an intimate and discreet haven in the alps providing an authentic, mindful and indulgent Swiss mountain experience. Inspired by local alpine culture and crafts, the hotel blends local tradition and international contemporary inspirations, art and innovations with discretion and utmost attention to detail.
The Alpina Gstaad celebrates its 5th anniversary this winter. In a world where many claim to offer the perfect luxury experience, The Alpina Gstaad continues to go beyond the expected under the leadership of Eric Favre, a distinguished hotelier with over 30-years of experience at luxury properties in Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa. He also served as Director of the Hotel Management School Les Roches in Bluche and President of Swiss Deluxe Hotels.
Committed to delivering the highest standards of luxury in a sustainable way, The Alpina Gstaad is the first member of the NOW Force for Good Alliance in Switzerland. We asked Eric Favre for his thoughts on sustainability.
Do travellers care about sustainability?
Possibly not enough, but it is a subject which is developing fast and drawing increasing attention. As travel and tourism show no sign of abating, there is plenty of scope for sustainability initiatives to gather momentum and support. It is certainly time for the hospitality industry to look into it more seriously as we have not done a great deal over the past decades.
The sustainability discussion started in the late 80’s and it has been voluntary for over 30 years. Is the hotel industry really serious about sustainability?
Yes I believe it is. More and more hotels and restaurants are proposing interesting ideas around sustainability, and this is something we have seen developing very rapidly over the past few years. For example, more companies are making concerted efforts around energy and water saving, community initiatives and responsible sourcing. On the cuisine side, there are many more vegetarian, vegan and gluten free products on offer. At The Alpina Gstaad, we were probably one of the first to propose a full vegetarian gastronomic menu at our Michelin starred restaurant Sommet.
What do you see as the biggest urgency for the planet?
Certainly, the alarming rate at which the planet’s temperature is rising is an urgent issue. Equally, our usage of water, pollution and maintaining a clean environment are coming increasingly to the fore as problems which can no longer just be ignored. While policies are being introduced by governments worldwide, it is also the responsibility of travellers and the hospitality industry alike, to work together to find and implement solutions.
What are the 3 biggest challenges for the travel industry in the next decade and how is sustainability a part of the solution?
I consider one of the main challenges we face is finding ways to travel CO2 free and building on what is already being done, for example, with electric cars.
On a broader level, there is the question around how to travel without harming the environment. I believe there are many things which can be done and indeed, are already being implemented. From choosing suppliers who have made it their mission to operate as environmentally friendly as possible, to identifying places who use local produce and employ local people.
Of course, on the flip side of this come the question of how certain countries who rely on exportation of their produce, will survive with more turning to locally produced materials and products.
Which is your favourite hotel and why?
I personally do not have a favourite hotel, as when you live in one most of the time, you do not necessarily go to others during your time off! But when I travel, for pleasure or business, I choose hotels where I know people and I feel comfortable. It is more about relationships and quality rather than indulgent luxuries.
The most irritating greenwashing in hotels that you come across?
Most certainly, it is when sustainability is used to reduce costs. It should not be a financial matter but rather a movement towards doing good for all.
What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership?
Humility, quality, ambition and being somehow a model for future generations. This is challenging as I probably share different values from the newest generation, but as most things in life, it is a cycle that we may see coming back in the years to come.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to work in hospitality. From the age of eight, I wanted to be a chef and stuck to my vision, until my parents asked me if I would like to study hotel management at EHL, which I did and am still in operations today.
Should sustainability be made mandatory?
It does not need to be mandatory, but part of the future development. Everyone should understand the values of sustainable development so it becomes a natural action by itself. Everyone needs to genuinely believe in it, otherwise it will not work.
Is rigorous sustainability certification with independent audits important to regain consumer trust?
On the surface it may not seem necessary, however once you look into the details it is not so easy to become certified. So I believe that the best organisations will embrace such audits which will certainly give trust to customers – and which will in turn generate business. Interestingly, some nationalities – such as upper class Chinese travellers – are more influenced by it than others, and give high attention to such criteria.
The Alpina Gstaad has achieve the EarthCheck Bronze Certification which recognizes the commitment of the hotel to benchmark its environmental and social sustainability under the EarthCheck Certify program.
EarthCheck is the world’s leading scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group for travel and tourism.