What do conscious travellers want today? Difficult times call for difficult questions and uncomfortable conversations.

What do conscious travellers want today?
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We are living at a time when intersecting crises and threats are reaching tipping points at a global scale, with climate destabilization, environmental degradation, veiled levels of inequality, as well as soaring public health risks, conflicts, populism and economic uncertainties.

Covid-19 is both an urgent warning and galvanizing moment. The enforced pause in tourism has been devastating as it surges and declines, but it may be the interruption needed for nature to have some breathing space and for us to ask ourselves some difficult questions. ‘It takes darkness to see the stars’ and the traumatic respite, hardships and loss must serve a purpose and must unleash the capacity of each person and company in tourism to become a life-affirming change envoy that restores, vitalizes and be worthy of consumer trust. The negative business-as-usual suicidal path that extracts and exploits must stop.

Globally, the growing importance of sustainability is now ingrained in the strategies of many industries and seen as a key business driver and risk mitigation. But, lagging behind in seriously “walking the talk” is the fragmented travel industry. In the hotel sector over the past few decades, more Hotel Owners and Operators fixated on sustainability, not for people and planet or because it is ‘the right thing to do’, but for cost savings, economic incentives, regulatory affairs and corporate brand image. And there are a few inspiring Owners and Operators, individuals with purpose and heart who truly stands out and they are taking responsibility for their total impact on communities and the environment with accountability and transparency.

In a refreshingly honest dialogue void of spin, Regional VP and GM, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru – Armando Kraenzlin, and Environment Coordinator – Faisal Ibrahim – were recently interviewed by sustainability journalist and writer Juliet Kinsman. Many journalists from the UK and countries around the world joined for a ‘deeper dive’ uncomfortable conversation focused on sustainability.

View to learn what the inspiring Four Seasons Resorts Maldives is doing to advance sustainability with accountability and transparency alongside what else the industry could and should do in this new era of travel.

For 20 years, Armando Kraenzlin’s deep commitment to sustainability from an environmental, cultural and social standpoint has helped pioneer many of the Maldives’ most notable initiatives to date: the country’s first TVET-recognised Apprenticeship Program (with 600 graduates since 2002): the first Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, now 10 years old with close to 300 admissions so far; the first coral reef-scaping project in 2001, a project that has boosted the natural reefs around Four Seasons’ two Maldivian resort islands with more than 5,000 transplanted reef structures and inspired a country-wide program of coral reef-scaping.

On-site water bottling plants, Parley-linked community recycling programs, solar energy installations, health initiatives, community outreach projects, nationwide community-focused sports events and support for the Maldives’ last remaining lacquerware producers are just a few of the other ‘day-to-day’ initiatives that he spearheads.

The ripple effects spread outwards from the Resorts through guest-focused activities designed to transform people’s own sense of connection to the world around them: from days spent researching manta rays to coral reef transplanting, Junior Marine Savers experiences to wildlife monitoring dives.

The team at Four Seasons Resorts Maldives is committed to doing more to advance sustainability in all its forms. Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru is the first of 3 properties to implement the EarthCheck Evaluate programme with Earth Rating certification in partnership with the NOW Force for Good Alliance. Check out their total impact assessments and some glorious sustainable inspiration.

As part of the Sustainability Task Force within Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Armando Kraenzlin is boldly urging other properties to move and step up.  He pointed out that hotel managers and their team have the ability and power to create change and believes that as hoteliers, their job is also to make sure that if guests are sceptical about climate change, that when they leave, they are a champion to the cause.

Today, being well intentioned is no longer enough. Consumers and investors are now aware of climate change risks and the many threats upon us, and are more demanding of businesses to adopt sustainable business practices. NOW has raised the bar on accountability and transparency around sustainability which we define as ‘wellbeing of people and the planet’, and the goal for hotels is to be carbon positive and support the Sustainable Development Goals. Rigorous sustainability should be a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in every hotel, in addition to the extra mile cleanliness and safety guests expect before, during and after the coronavirus pandemic. 

As hotels navigate through the Covid-19 crisis and reopen for business this summer, most announced their aim to safeguard the ‘wellbeing’ of all guests and employees. Yet strangely, the key message of most hotels is about safety and social distancing, cleaning and disinfection protocols! These are our minimum expectations!

Conscious travellers want more. We yearn for travel with meaning and purpose and seek more sustainable choices. We want to indulge in authentic experiences that are representative of local cultures and we want the money we spend to go back into the local community. We dream of and seek transformative, meaningful and experiential travel whether we are in a city or in adventurous wildlife explorations and retreats. We want experiences that connect us deeply to the natural world, rich cultures, beautiful communities, and most importantly, ourselves.  And we want to stay in places we can trust, operated by those who understand that this is the true definition of luxury, and it is not new or a trend, it is a commitment from the heart to ensure the wellbeing of people and planet.

Mintel, a market intelligence agency, shared their insight on the big shifts in behavior as COVID-19 brought the future forward.  On wellbeing (seeking physical and mental wellness), we are experiencing a collective grief globally and while much of what is felt today is temporary, there will be lasting impacts on individual wellbeing. It takes on new meaning and holistic health is no longer just about the whole human, or even the whole human community, but the whole human biosphere. On experiences (seeking and discovering stimulation), people in lockdown worldwide have been forced to appreciate this new state of slowness. Consumers will seek new ways to find fulfillment, comfort and reassurance, placing an even greater emphasis on experiences over things, and the value of the human connection. On identity (understanding and expressing oneself and place in society), elements once hidden from public display will be more openly shared. Consumers will emerge from social distancing having been forced to look at themselves and their priorities in a new way to determine what’s worth returning to once things get back to “normal,”  and will be even more empowered to stand up for the brands and causes that most align with their values. On rights (feeling respected), corporate ethics will no longer be a “nice to have,” but a “must-have”, and public demand for action will peak as more global social movements develop.

It must be NOW!

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Message from NOW Founder:

Worldwide, these other inspiring NOW Force for Good Alliance properties are also in the forefront of rigorous sustainability and are led by courageous and big-hearted people who are doing better. They are at different levels in their sustainability journey, ranging from those that have just started out, to those that have been committed for decades. All of them are stepping up, showing progress, stopping the greenwash and being ‘the best’ they can be right now for our world.

Soneva with properties in Thailand (Soneva Kiri) and Maldives (Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani) is the original barefoot luxury inspiration and the benchmark for responsible tourism; and they offer a slower, more appreciative lifestyle to reconnect with oneself and the natural environment.

In Asia: The self-supporting Genghis Khan Retreat in inner Mongolia is a meeting place for nature lovers and polo enthusiasts that support a Mongolian community and the education and training of young Mongol polo players.  The Legian Seminyak in Bali is a sanctuary in the sand, active in supporting regional environmental and philanthropic organisations.

In EuropeThe Alpina Gstaad is an alpine spa hotel that combines passion and an innovative sustainability vision and The Dolder Grand is ever forward thinking and inspiring with a sustainable approach in an exclusive setting above Lake Zurich, Switzerland. The legendary Grand Hotel Huis Ter Duin in Holland  (Big House On The Dunes) is family owned and managed by three generations committed to doing better for their community and the environment.  Kasbah du Toubkal is a rebuilt fortress and mountain retreat in the village of Imlil in Marrakech, Morocco support the local community and providing an authentic and inclusive local experience.

In the UKThe Hari London offers conscious family-style hospitality and actively encourages guests’ expression of their own cultural heritage whilst enjoying British traditions.  Merchants Manor at Cornwall’s south coast is a 100 year old country house hotel with a spa that support and source local in the Cornwall county.  Whatley Manoris a delightful family-owned spa hotel in the Cotswolds passionately committed to making real changes so it can operate in a more sustainable way. Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Scottish Highlands aims for guests to reconnect with nature in the longest standing rewilding projects in the UK.

In MexicoBanyan Tree Mayakoba in the Riviera Maya Mexico have an emphasis on being in harmony with nature and contributing to the growth and development of the community.

In the USA: The family owned and contemporary Beechwood Hotel in Worchester, Massachusetts just begun its journey to becoming more sustainable and is committed to making ongoing changes.

Many more inspiring and extraordinary hotel operators have joined the  NOW Force for Good Alliance and can soon be viewed HERE.

Do you care about sustainability? Please leave a reply here.