In a society where tourism has seen exponential growth, we cannot overlook the negative effects it has on the environment. Hotels are one of the main actors needed to create a more sustainable tourism industry. Since day one, The Alpina Gstaad has taken into account the local environment through its construction using both local materials and workers. This allowed the hotel to reduce its CO2 emissions right from the outset, which gave the hotel a good head start for its opening in 2012. This was the beginning of what is today one of the most sustainable hotels in the world. Many hotels tend to have difficulty with the concept that luxury, a core part of hospitality, can be sustainable. That is not an issue for The Alpina Gstaad, thanks to various features of the hotel resulting in a stunning décor, mixing authentic alpine style and modern touches.
Upon arriving at the Gstaad train station, we were greeted by one of their electric cars, a Tesla Model X. These cars are available for guests to use throughout their stay to move throughout the Gstaad Valley. The hotel has a a number of electric cars, including a unique electric Fiat 500 which we used later in our stay. We arrived at The Alpina through its underground entrance that brings you into the mountain. We had a tour of the amazing premises which includes a wonderful spa, a cinema room as well as many art pieces. We also learnt about how The Alpina Gstaad is sustainable through various actions, like creating their own eco-friendly chlorine for their pools and raising awareness on the sustainability subject amongst their staff.
What’s amazing at The Alpina Gstaad, is that every staff is concerned with the subject of sustainability and you can feel it at all times. From our various encounters with different people we spoke to, from the concierge department to PR, housekeeping and general management, every staff is trying to improve the hotel’s sustainability practices from the side they know best and were happy to share their thoughts with us. The Alpina Gstaad also uses some of the heat produced by their kitchen appliances like fridges and freezers to heat their pools! Sustainable initiatives are visible in the guest rooms with a heating and air conditioning system that turns off when a window is open and toilets that have a dual flush system. There is still a bit to do in the rooms to make them more sustainable, as they still have plastic toothbrushes, cotton pads, cotton buds and slippers in recycled cotton/plastic however the team is working to find alternatives.
We also learned about the various certifications The Alpina Gstaad is linked too. They are a member of the the NOW Force For Good Alliance which provides the NOW Sustainability Trust Icon to properties with integrity. With travellers becoming more and more conscious about the environment and their impact on it, having a reliable website (itmustbeNOW.com) and traveller tool (NOW Sustainability) that list all the properties that are caring about the planet is the easiest way to make conscious travel choices. Moreover, it pushes hotels to do better every year as their good and not so good practices are accountable and transparent to travellers.
During our stay, we drove to Lake Lauenen and enjoyed a delicious picnic with local and seasonal products prepared by the hotel’s chef. The hotel kindly lent us their electric Fiat 500, the only one in Europe. It has a unique design with arctic animals fading when the temperature goes up. It was kindly gifted to the hotel by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, to raise awareness among hotel guests regarding the issue of global warming. Guests have the Fiat 500 at their disposal to wander around and discover the Gstaad valley in total comfort with zero carbon footprint.
Unfortunately, our experience has not been totally sustainable. Our picnic was packed in plastic containers and small plastic water bottles were included. We also saw during breakfast that small Nutella were provided with the bread basket. With all the negative outcomes created from the creation and consumption of this spread (due to the palm oil it contains), maybe the Chef could create a homemade “Nutella” with local products.
On the day of our departure, we had the opportunity to talk with Mrs Alexa Poortier, founder of itmustbeNOW.com. We discussed tourism and the different pillars of sustainability which focus on profit, people and planet. We discussed the importance of everyone’s voice and the point of view of generation Z, the one we belong to. Our generation will be the first to deal with the biggest consequences of global warming, but we do not seem to see how much power is in our hands today to change the situation. Mrs Poortier inspired us to think differently and re-evaluate the importance of our voice and what we can do and change around us, in our universities, at work, at home and how to make the people around us aware.
Finally, the hotel staff offered us a ride back in the Tesla to the train station for our departure. From this wonderful stay, we have learnt that luxury can go along with sustainability without affecting the guest’s experience. We felt at home from the moment we stepped into the lobby. While at The Alpina, guests do not feel the need to make compromises. In fact, by choosing The Alpina over another hotel, guests are already doing something good for our planet. Raising awareness among guests through involving experiences could maybe be the next step towards a more sustainable future for The Alpina Gstaad.
NOW and The Alpina Gstaad are two active actors in the pursuit of sustainable tourism. Sustainable development at large, looking back at the Brundtland Report is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Looking upon today’s environmental situation, we can say that the diverse actions put into place since this report haven’t been effective enough. There is no balance between the negative effects and the positive effects of our growing global economy on the environment. Therefore, it is important for every industry in today’s economy to start acting with urgency and it’s good to see hotel’s like The Alpina stepping up to the challenge.
The author of this article visited The Alpina Gstaad in the summer of 2019. In its ongoing project to be sustainable, The Alpina Gstaad has acted upon a number of the sustainability issues raised in this article.
- Winter 2019 they will be replacing their room slippers with Felt and their spa slippers will be made from recycled cork come summer 2020.
- As of Winter 2019 the takeaway containers used in picnics will be 100% recyclable.
- Winter 2019 they will be serving palm-oil free chocolate spread with sustainable hazelnut. While they still will have Nutella, they will be prioritizing their own spread.