Why We’re Loving Vigilius Mountain Resort

Eco not ego

Entrepreneur Ulrich Ladurner realised a dream when he bought the dilapidated ruin of Berghotel Vigiljoch in the South Tyrol, which was to become his five star Vigilius Mountain Resort when it opened in 2003. He had no experience in tourism, but an ‘eco, not ego’ vision, shared by architect Matteo Thun, to build a modern refuge on the special site – created by man, but dictated by nature.

Ulrich Ladurner
Ulrich Ladurner

‘Sustainability trends a decade ago focused largely on the ego, which isolated people and awakened a longing for community,’ Ulrich told NOW. ‘With community comes responsibility, which brings in eco. This is not just about caring for the environment, but also stretches to social interaction as well.’

A-class Climate House certified hotel

Vigilius is set in a UNESCO World Heritage listed area amidst untamed forests, and at 1500 metres atop a mountain only accessible by cable car, making sustainability a necessity. The ‘eco’ started with location-led design and construction, using natural materials from renewable resources. Built from larch wood felled from the mountain and stone, the hotel resembles a large fallen tree, and blends into the surrounding forest and meadows. Featuring (triple-glazed) glass to capture the natural light, temperature regulating clay walls for the rooms and suites and a green roof, it was the country’s first A-class Climate House certified hotel. 

A-class Climate House certified hotel

Eco not ego permeates every aspect of a stay at car-free Vigilius, whose mix of international and local staff are trained in sustainability and encouraged to serve from the heart. Guests are invited to ‘Simply:Be’. ‘The central theme of our countless discussions was the guest,’ Ulrich told NOW. ‘What they would feel, experience, understand – with all their senses. The mountain is like an island – it encourages a clear view of oneself, leaving the unimportant behind in the valley.’ 

A-class Climate House certified hotel

As one of the few EarthCheck certified establishments in Italy (they are certified at Silver level), Vigilius is a pioneer in ecological luxury. Sustainable practices save money and supports local community. Spring water from a waterfall on tap in the rooms, and used to fill the infinity pool at the spa. Fermented food waste is used to create biogas, and the waste from that, used as garden compost. A biomass heating plant is fed by waste wood chips provided by local farmers, which gives them extra income.

A-class Climate House certified hotel

The hotel also operates on a zero kilometres principle, sourcing its needs locally as much as possible. Ulrich has a background in health and nutrition and Simply: delicious in the restaurants means local products and regional gourmet cuisine. It’s personal, with producers, like butcher Alexander Holzner, invited to deepen guests’ understanding of their products over an aperitif.

A-class Climate House certified hotel

‘To me, “simplicity” is a great challenge – philosophically as well as economically,’ Ulrich tells NOW. ‘I find the world’s best wines boring. I only drink wine when I can experience its location and the people who created it.’ Annual events held at the hotel include the ‘Vernatsch Cup’, which supports local vineyards and builds the reputation of this local specialty wine.

‘Eco, not ego, means many things,’ Ulrich says. ‘It is to be mindful of small details, and to be openhearted and authentic. It means caring for and preserving what will be even more important tomorrow than it is today. It reminds us to think of future generations.’

5 Minutes with Mark Edleson

Mark Edleson – Founder, Alila Hotels

ALILA is a luxury boutique hotel brand, managed by a skilled local and global team that embraces the values of passion, innovation, authenticity, social responsibility and community engagement. In support of sustainable tourism, Alila hotels integrate the natural, physical and cultural elements of their environments. We asked Mark Edleson, the founder, visionary, heart and soul of Alila for his thoughts on sustainability and how he ‘walks the talk’.

Do travellers care about sustainability?

I wish they cared more! While some developers and some operators make efforts to incorporate sustainable elements into their activities, major changes will only come when travellers express their concerns vocally and with their buying power. It is clear that not enough travellers care enough to pressure change. When I stay in a hotel, I carefully hang my morning bath towel hoping it will be usable in the evening and for another day. I am upset when I return to find a clean towel knowing the water, energy and chemicals that are required to clean each towel. While I appreciate drinking water in the room, I would prefer refillable bottles to plastic ones. These are simple but concrete actions the industry can take but only travellers can make those changes happen.

Is the hotel industry really serious about addressing sustainability?

I think the industry is becoming more serious over time about issues of sustainability because its customers are getting serious about it.  There is, indeed, some “green-washing” that takes place where hotels indicate concern without really doing much to address the issue but I do see more genuine concern.  There is very little information available through traditional booking channels to help inform the traveler about environmental issues but as that information does become more widely made available it will influence travel decisions.

What do you see as the leading trends in sustainability for the hotel industry?

The leading trends are the easiest that involve operating issues with little capital cost such as more careful waste management, water conservation and energy reduction.  These can be done with rather simple solutions like converting to LED lights, controlling air conditioning, segregating organic and inorganic waste, ensuring pools and water features are not leaking.  All of these solutions immediately lead to savings in operating costs.

What are the 3 biggest challenges for the hotel industry in the next decade and how is sustainability a part of the solution?

I am not sure what the 3 biggest challenges are but there is massive disruption going on in the industry now with the likes of OTAs, alternative lodging and social media.  The hotel industry requires massive fixed capital and the ability to make a return on capital is becoming an ever greater challenge.  Sustainability might be part of the solution if it can help lower operating expenses and play its part in preserving deteriorating environments that so many hotels, and particularly resorts, depend on for their very existence.

What bothers you most within the sustainability discussion?

I am bothered by the fact that one of the biggest components of the discussion, the airline industry which delivers our guests to us in most cases, is not in our control and we cannot do much about it.

What do you see as the biggest urgency for the planet?

The biggest urgencies are to create peace among people and to make greater efforts to limit environmental degradation leading to climate change.  If people cannot live in peace they will not travel and if climate change continues at the current pace, some of our best destinations for travel like Miami, the Maldives and many other coastal cities and resorts will disappear.

What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership?

I would hope to have raised the level of discussion and awareness of the need for environmental stewardship in the hospitality industry in Asia.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I’m still not sure of what I want to be when I grow up!

Which is your favorite hotel, apart from your own, and why?

I have always loved Amanjiwo in Central Java, Indonesia.  The setting among the volcanoes and religious and political history of Java is stunning and fascinating and the proximity to Borobudur gives it a sacredness and calmness that is always rejuvenating (Confession: I was one of the developers of the property but am no longer involved).

Give us an example of how you, in your personal life, walk the sustainability talk?

I divide my home life between my apartment in Singapore and my villa in Bali.  In Singapore, I am fortunate to be able to walk everywhere and when I am tired of walking or hurried, I can take public transportation.  In Bali, we grow most of our own food and get most of our energy from the solar panels on the roof.


Alila adopts the EarthCheck Certification – the world’s leading programme used by the travel and tourism industry to assess environmental sustainability. Alila Seminyak, Alila Villas Uluwatu and Alila Manggis have achieved EarthCheck Gold and Alila Jakarta is scheduled to achieve this level in late 2017.

Many of Alila’s newer resorts are designed and built in accordance with strict EarthCheck standards, leading the way in sustainable hotel development. These are Alila Seminyak and Alila Uluwatu in Bali, and Alila Anji in China. Alila SCBD will open in Jakarta in Q4 2017.

5 Minutes with Eva Malmström Shivdasani

Eva Malmström Shivdasani

NOW talks to Eva Malmström Shivdasani, the co-founder and creative director of hotel brand Soneva and the visionary who first coined the phrase ‘sustainable luxury’ in 1995 when the hospitality industry still thought ‘green’ was just a colour.

All the environmental crisis we face have a huge toll on humanity – on poverty, security, public health and disaster preparedness. The interconnected nature of our eco systems and climate means that no country or community can be immune to any of these threats. How can we best harness human power and creativity to come up with solutions for all of our sakes?

Yes I agree. Harm to the environment and social injustice are linked. As a result of our experience at Soneva, our belief is that many of the solutions already exist. The challenge is to focus our efforts on this. Our experience as leaders of a sustainable organization is that one needs to continuously drive this agenda from the top and reward and recognize those with initiatives.

There are examples of the negative environmental and social impact of corporate greed all around us. Some companies are starting to realise that addressing sustainability issues can actively spur economic activity and growth – how would you galvanise more companies to act responsibly?

By two-way action – from one side government incentives and from the other side via a strong individual grass-roots movement. I believe that one person really can change the world – they can inspire such a positive change and alter other people’s behaviour. It’s great to see such a growth in awareness over the past few years about things like the environment, the planet’s health, animal rights, etc and largely this has been driven by ‘ordinary people’ on platforms like social media. The media also has an important role to play in educating people to use their wallets to force companies to be more responsible and ethical.

What in your opinion is the most pressing sustainability issue facing the travel industry today?

Wastage. From food, water, power and air con usage to unused soaps and unecological products, there is huge wastage in the hospitality industry which is unnecessary. It adds to the huge strain on the earth’s precious resources.

Do travellers care about sustainability?

Twenty-two years ago no one cared much about ecology. In every interview I made at the time I tried so hard to convince the journalists that it was extremely important to “educate” their readers about the environment, but I felt like a “lone voice in the dessert”. Even Sonu did not care much at the time. My hosts (staff) thought I was mad. They were amazed that I had ordered furniture “with holes in them” (recycled teak) and that I would not let anyone cut a tree or even branches, and they thought it was ridiculous.

Then little by little our guests started to open their eyes, and some even kept asking what wood we used for the buildings and the furniture (and our hosts became strong believers). Today, many guests are very aware of environmental issues and many chose to stay in hotels they feel take care of the environment and the locals. Unfortunately, I don’t think enough people care. At the Sonevas, we hope to instill interest in all sustainable issues. The children are fascinated to see our Eco Centro, as well as learning a lot in our “Den” (kids club). I always believe that if we teach the young generation, they will go home and teach the older”.

Can you share a favourite place to stay, or a useful product or service, that you feel is doing something genuinely sustainable for people and planet? Do you think it’s important for ‘eco’ companies to prove they are sustainable, rather than just say they are?

Yes there is so much ‘greenwashing’ going on today that I think it’s important for companies to really demonstrate how they are committed to sustainability to ensure they have credibility. I am a bit biased as I love to stay at Soneva because I know everything is organic and natural, however I also really admire companies like Stella McCartney and Patagonia. They really put sustainability and ethics (for people and animals) at the very heart of what they do, and they don’t deviate from their beliefs. They prove that sustainability is actually great for business. At Soneva, we strongly believe in the same thing.

What do you do in your daily life and when you are travelling in the name of sustainability?

I would never support any brand that treats people, animals or the planet badly. I would never eat any unethical food like caviar, foie gras, shark fin soup or similar. I would never wear any fur or unethical skins like crocodile, sting ray, serpent, etc. I believe that consumers should vote with their wallets and exercise this power more to drive collective change in the world. When the demand stops, the killing stops.

5 Minutes with Christopher Warren

Christopher Warren

Christopher Warren is the proprietor of Crystal Creek Meadows in Kangaroo Valley Australia, a country lodge and spa retreat certified by Eco-Tourism Australia, and the founder of My Green Butler, a service innovation which stimulates guest participation in a hotel’s sustainability agenda. He works as a tourism consultant advising hotels and governments, and recently designed the first Certificate in Innovation for Sustainable Tourism for the International Centre for Responsible Tourism. We asked Christopher for his thoughts on sustainability and how he ‘walks the talk’.

Do travellers care about sustainability?

Yes, most do. However, there are thousands of definitions for sustainability so one has to accept that travellers define sustainability using their knowledge and common sense (based on their life experiences). Consequently, sustainability means different things to different people. Likewise sustainability will have different relevance to an individual across the wide variety of travel experiences they may take, for example as a business travellers, parent, partner and friend, you might consider experiences from an different economic, social and environmental aspect. Furthermore, many socially acceptable practices have invisible resource consequences which people are not always aware of. For example, preparing for a business meeting and wearing a suit and then requiring an air-conditioned room to work in rather than wearing suitable clothing for the outside temperature. Society is complex and sustainability factors are therefore not always apparent to individuals. Most individuals assume that their travels are not harmful to the environment or community because the company has taken care of negative impacts. They care about sustainability but are not always presented with responsible options to enable them to apply those values.

Is the hotel industry really serious about addressing sustainability?

No, many are not. Some may disagree with my point of view because examples of water and energy efficiency and community deeds can be cited. However, I think we have reached a cross roads which is far more significant than technical eco efficiencies and CSR. Climate Change, social change and ecological decline require us to rethink how we operate. The Victorian concept of a hotel has in many ways not changed. We have similar buildings, similar anonymity, similar room structure and services. Meanwhile, we see rapidly changing lifestyles, modes of business, broadening of affluence and significantly increased leisure time for the middle class which is growing globally. This is set against declining inner city air quality and increased noise levels, increasing temperatures, loss of natural habitat and subsequent drop in wildlife specifies and numbers. However, the public’s awareness of environmental challenges and socially unacceptable business behaviour is growing, requiring businesses to hold a social licence to operate. The hotel industry’s sustainability both in terms of its durability as a concept and their external social and environmental impacts calls into question their modus operandi because of the levels of food waste, standardised resource use, space and privacy expectations from the public. Today’s challenges could be a launch pad for more dramatic change which considers a hotel’s sustainability holistically beyond resource efficiency and CSR. We have the opportunity of breaking free from the current model to a much more innovative concept. The is particularly true of hotels which are primary management companies rather than holders of building assets, this factor has changed and should be used to lever the sector’s sustainability.

What do you see as the leading trends in sustainability for the hotel industry?

There will be an increasing level of investment placed into building management systems and intelligent HVAC equipment. Greater control (where the infrastructure permits) will be given to the guest for thermal comfort and lighting. Green corporate events and their subsequent footprint will continue to grow, but that does not necessarily mean that hotels will maintain their market share. Other venues which have greener credentials (e.g. botanic gardens, national parks, creative reuse of buildings integrating renewables) will become more attractive.

There will be requirements for increasing detail of carbon footprints in order to meet the Paris Agreement. This raises an increasing need to establish accurate carbon accounts from the beginning as the media and NGOs will increasingly be studying companies’ longitudinal trends.

Local food, food grown on site will continually be desired and positively exploited by chefs.

What are the 3 biggest challenges for the hotel industry in the next decade and how is sustainability a part of the solution?

Costs, staff and differentiation. Costs are only going to increase particularly in energy, water and waste management. Sustainability is part of the solution through technical efficiencies but equally important is behaviour change of both staff and guests. We are under valuing both the staff moral benefits that sustainability brings, and that guests are willing to participate. To break free of the current model we need to innovate and to innovate we need high calibre staff which have both practical skills and conceptual knowledge of what sustainability is and how it can generate commercial success for hospitality. The challenge is that the knowledge is not sufficiently well grasped and the operational structures need to change to permit innovation which must involve design thinking solutions. Differentiation is essential in an increasingly competitive and crowded market place. Sustainability does provide the catalyst for creativity that can aid differentiation. Differentiation is difficult due to the dominance of online travel agents, as we have to comply with standardised presentation and information. We must use new and old methods to break free from this strangle hold so we can effectively show how sustainability practices offer our guests a co-created and even a co-produced experience.

What bothers you most within the sustainability discussion?

We are limiting ourselves with conversations about techno efficiencies. We are not grasping the nettle to pull ourselves out of the current nexus of consumption, carbon emissions, resource use and the need to provide a healthy quality of life for all living things. We are using the word ‘sustainability’ to sweeten minor changes and in so doing causing confusion as to the genuine meaning behind sustainability, which can lead to consumer scepticism. Secondly, after meeting 14,000 guests I can honestly say that the public are changing and are delighted to see honest, positive efforts, they then reciprocate. Those in the industry who claim guests will not participate need to question how much their own business has adopted change. The Paris Agreement gives us only a little chance for massive change. There is no room for internal posturing, we must act. Good actions are great business enhancements for staff morale, guests, suppliers, investors and your own peace of mind.

What do you see as the biggest urgency for the planet?

Reduce carbon emissions. The fastest way to achieve this now is through (a) preventing waste, waste management including changing food preparation, buffets and plate size, (b) significantly cutting energy use – through practical infrastructure which enables guests to better control their environment and the redesign of public areas, (c) investing in renewable water systems including black water, (d) investing in your own renewable energy system, and (e) carbon philanthropy where you can invest in your supply chain’s carbon footprint and help smaller operators and producers to reduce waste.

What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership?

Confidence that we can overcome the challenges, that we can use creativity to actually improve the guest experience through more mindful services which make people happy and more satisfied.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A cartoonist, I like to see the funny side of life.

Which is your favourite hotel, apart from your own, and why?

The Inn at Whitewell (a 14th Century coaching inn and manor house) in the north west of England. It is located in a hamlet, next to an old church and surrounded by the beauty of the Lancashire countryside. The settling is perfect and tranquil. Inside the bar stocks wonderful ales (like Theakston’s Old Peculiar), the restaurant serves excellent dishes using local lamb, beef and venison. The rooms are Comfortable with a capital C because that is their primary focus. Every room is unique with rich inviting colours that create an air of relaxation. Windows view lush views that beckon to you to take a country stroll and savour fresh air and good company. Their sustainability efforts can be seen in the joy of showcasing the best from Lancashire, the vintage furniture, the promotion of local ales. I love it so much I had my wedding there!

Give us an example of how you, in your personal life, walk the sustainability talk?

I literally walk through the house and ensure our system are working efficiently, I share progress and challenges with my children to boost their resilience and see the future positively. I apply what I say through for example renovating our kitchen using mostly reused furniture. It is essential the children see examples of this abstract concept called sustainability.

5 Minutes with Arnfinn Oines

Arnfinn Oines

The Social and Environmental Conscience of a hotel group is in charge of the day-to-day management and implementation of responsible business practices in all their properties. At Soneva, Arnfinn Oines has this vital role and he has been involved in establishing and implementing the Soneva Carbon Calculator, Total Impact Assessment, Clean Water Projects, Soneva Forest Restoration Project, Myanmar Stoves Campaign, the Soneva Foundation, the SLOW LIFE Symposium and the group’s Social & Environmental policy and procedures. Soneva has received numerous environmental recognitions including two prestigious awards from the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow.

Why did you choose to focus your professional career on sustainability in hotels?

It was by accident. I was doing my Master of Business Administration and saw a notice on the university board from a hotel looking for someone to help them with their eco certification. I got in touch and as they were looking for someone part time it was perfect for me to combine this with my studies. I enjoyed the work, and the company liked my work, so when I finished my MBA I move in full-time with the company focusing on sustainability.

Which is your favourite part of your job and which is the part that you enjoy the least?

Knowing that I can make a difference is a great satisfaction for me. I love starting new projects and continuing existing projects that I know have a positive impact. Furthermore, I enjoy measuring these impacts in order to be able to know what the true impact is. Of things I do not really enjoy is to stop motivated employees from doing something. I do not like to be a party-pooper, but sometimes I need to do this if an activity leads to negative impacts.

On December 2017, the One Planet Summit in Paris opened with the bleak assessment that “We are loosing the battle and we are not moving fast enough.” Does our planet have a chance?

I am a firm believer that we do have a chance. It may look quite doomed and we cannot continue with business as usual. We do need to act fast and when we do I believe we can prosper in a sustainable way. It is about realizing that sustainability is not about limiting growth, it is about growing within boundaries. The Planetary Boundaries explains this beautifully. The planet has a set budget and if we stay within these bounderies there are no limitations to growth. We just need to be creative and act swiftly.

The word sustainability was coined in the late 80s and it has since been voluntary in the travel industry. Should it be made mandatory and why?

It should be mandatory. Sustainability makes business sense and thus it is those that embrace it NOW that will prosper in the future. It would however be helpful if legislation made it harder for those who are not sustainable. That would lead to a quicker shift, and again, it will be those who are already embracing it that would prosper the most.

With the crisis of trust in our world today, why are most hotels still hesitant to be visibly accountable and transparent around sustainability with no greenwash allowed?

When a property or the operator does not believe in sustainability and/or do little about it, they are not likely be transparent about their practices. Some may recognize that it may result in bad publicity, especially in today’s age of social media, thus hotels may want to cover over the lack of responsible practices with one or two social initiative that they promote highly. They do not do it because they believe in sustainability, but because they feel forced to. These hotel properties simply do not believe sustainability is good for business.

Which individual hotel and hotel group has been an inspiration in protecting the environment and supporting communities apart from your hotel group?

There are many hotels that do good work. Wilderness Safaris for instance does some amazing work with regards to conservation. Chumbe Island is another example of a company that works with the local community and local government to conserve the environment.

Three bits of advice for readers eager to travel sustainably.

Check if the company follows sustainable practices. Of particular importance are energy, water and waste practices and if they are not transparent in their website, ask them. Check if the company has any interesting activities that follow sustainable practices. Look for recommendations for the particular property in question.

More hotels today say they are sustainable without being accountable and transparent. Is this the new greenwash?

The most important thing is that hotels operate sustainable. Whether or not it is promoted is secondary. Unfortunately, some claim they do a lot or make big fuss about one small thing they do to sound like they are doing a lot. This would be greenwash if they use that to cover other unsustainable practices. It is important to be transparent. You do not have to be perfect to do well. Sustainability is a journey. It is not something hotels should be competing about. Share experiences and learn from each other.

Is the travel industry acting fast enough? OR is there a fallacy of incremental change?

No, the travel industry is not acting fast enough. On a positive note, there has been a shift in the focus on sustainability which is a tremendous step for the industry and its great that big hotel companies are meeting to discuss sustainability. However, the change is not happening at a fast enough pace. This is partly explained by the nature of the hospitality business with a lot of existing and old infrastructure, which is harder to change than new builds. But it also had to do with lack of knowledge. There are always things a hotel property can do better and they obviously want to tackle the larger issues first. It is very positive that there is change and focus on sustainability, but it is time to focus more on improving and accelerating the change.

Sustainability is not a competition. What must happen NOW to galvanise more ‘competing’ hotel companies to work together to safeguard people and planet?

It must be NOW that more hotel companies should collaborate on sustainability, share best practices by showcasing good case studies and lead by example.

5 Minutes with Stephan Stokkermans

Stephan Stokkermans

The legendary beachfront Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin in Noordwijk was founded in 1887 and is one of the few luxury hotels in the Netherlands which is still owned and managed by a private family company. Stephan Stokkermans is the Managing Director and he represents the second generation to lead its third generation to become a leader in sustainable hospitality.

True leaders ‘walk the talk’ and at the hotel’s 130th anniversary celebration on September 23rd, Stephan Stokkermans announced that the Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin will be the first member of the NOW Force for Good Alliance. Joining the NOW movement, this inspiring and responsible legend believes ‘it is the right thing to do’ and aims to boldly advance sustainability and provide a travel experience that makes a positive difference, supports host communities, delivers better value, cares about the uniqueness of people and place, and aims to be in harmony with nature.

We asked Stephan Stokkermans for his thoughts on sustainability.

Do travellers care about sustainability?

Fortunately, the number of travellers who care is rising and we have a new generation of travellers who seem to care more. Nevertheless there ́s still a lot of work to do to raise the awareness on how travellers can participate in caring about Sustainability. The worldwide increase of tourism and the growing number of travellers creates a tremendous opportunity for new initiatives to act as force for good for all stakeholders involved.

Is the hotel industry really serious about addressing sustainability?

Not enough. However there ́s a great potential to make better steps and more hoteliers are changing their attitude from greenwashing to truly caring. As a global industry and with most of us welcoming three generations of guests, we have the unique opportunity to show leadership and inspire our guests and hotelier colleagues to make the change. With this change we also inspire our staff and other stakeholders to change their behavior. At the end we do know one thing; our next generation and future guests will make their buying decisions based on new values and sustainability is one of them. So, we should act now.

This year we are the first luxury hotel in the Netherlands to be awarded with the EarthCheck Bronze benchmarked certificate. To achieve this, we have created a special position for a Sustainability Manager within the hotel. What makes it very special to us is that the position is held by a family member of the millennial generation and that he ́s also looking for solutions within all subsidiaries of our family company, the Noorlander Group.

What do you see as the leading trends in sustainability for the hotel industry?

For those hoteliers who are developing new projects there are many opportunities to create truly sustainable real estate. Today, we’re working on plans to rebuild the historical wing of our hotel. One of the considerations is the massive step we can take to make the building more sustainable by rebuilding it instead of renovating. Another trend is within the Food and Beverage Department where we focused more on the supply chain of products, re-engineering of menus to respond to the changing consumption patterns of our guests and finally waste management. Last trend I would like to address is the focus on local community. We live and work in Europe and we face other challenging issues in our local community as a resort hotel in Bali. For example, here we face issues on a growing number of elderly people who are getting lonely and disconnected although they have a relatively high income. We have to invest in activities and facilities to help them remain active and engaged in the community.

What are the 3 biggest challenges for the hotel industry in the next decade and how is sustainability part of the solution?

Staffing becomes a real challenge. Not only to get the right number but also the right quality. Our industry will continue to grow and with a changing mindset on work-private life balance of the new generation, we will have to come up with new ways to remain and become an attractive place to work. Staff want to work in companies which create added value to society. From that point of view sustainability has a lot to offer.

Secondly and more on a strategic level are the disruptive technology solutions which change our business models. The hospitality industry should learn a lesson on the impact to our business by new channels like Booking.com and competitors like AirBnB and AirDnD. If we’re able to start collaborating and being innovative with technologies which helps us on sustainability issues such as (food) waste management, we can use it for our benefit.

Finally, we have the best water supply in the world. If we’re not able to create wells in less developed countries and teach communities to maintain them, I foresee we will experience bigger issues in our society than ever. Sustainability offers us the opportunity to create more awareness in our own communities on the use of water and how we’re able to create solutions for other communities.

What bothers you most within the sustainability discussion?

The deciding reason why many people focus on sustainability is that they are doing a good thing (by the head), however it bothers me that their decision isn’t based on ‘doing the right thing’ (by the heart). Our generation has a huge responsibility to create a better world for future generations.

What do you see as the biggest urgency for the planet?

In my opinion there’s no such thing as the biggest urgency. We’re currently facing several urgent matters which all seem to be connected. Global warming and climate change is still one of biggest urgency, and so are the use of energy and water and geopolitical issues to mention a few. Therefore, we should start to rapidly rethink the future on food, energy and society.

What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership?

Having inspired the people I worked with to challenge themselves to make a difference and get everything out of life. Towards Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin I can only wish that in my current role as Managing Director, I’m able to create a sustainable platform for the next generation to take over.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Air Traffic Controller. When I grew up we lived close to a military airfield and I spent hours watching all the jets taking off and landing. I imagined how exciting it must be to be in the control tower and manage all the incoming and outgoing planes. Starting to work young in restaurants the hospitality virus caught me. I guess the only parallel between being an air traffic controller and hotelier is that we manage incoming and outgoing logistics.

Which is your favourite hotel, apart from your own, and why?

Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne. Since day one of my first stay I was blown away by the service, facilities and location at Lac Leman. Nearly 25 years later I’m still impressed by the way the hotel develops itself and remains to be world class. Our own hotel is nearly the same age and the Beau Rivage Palace inspires us on how to keep up with the latest developments.

Give us an example of how you, in your personal life, walk the sustainability talk?

Upon the time I had to make a decision on a new car, I’ve decided to move to a mobility concept. I lowered my carbon footprint with that decision and made a small contribution on changing the views many have on owning and using cars (since most are parked for 22 hours per day and not in use). Furthermore I’m involved in a local initiative called Blue Ocean Valley. Our village and the villages in the region should become places where it’s scientifically proven that citizens live longer and happier and tourists feel better. Within this initiative many sustainable aspects are contained such as growing local food, becoming active in our local society and creating an infrastructure which promotes walking or biking instead of using cars.


Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin is a member of the NOW Force for Good Alliance, an affiliation of extraordinary and caring places to stay that provides a sustainable travel experience and takes responsibility for their impact on the community and the environment. View them HERE.