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.