Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a world renown ecotourism destination with two five-star lodges, two villas and a private nature reserve committed to the conservation of the Cape fynbos. Grootbos, in partnership with the Grootbos Foundation, works to conserve 2,500 hectares of fynbos and works to uplift surrounding communities through skills development training, youth development through sport and social enterprise development programmes. Michael Lutzeyer has developed the Grootbos brand to be a true ambassador for responsible and sustainable business practice with shared value for all and to truly reflect luxury in harmony with nature. We asked Michael for his thoughts on sustainability.
Do travellers care about sustainability?
Increasingly we find that conscious travellers are a growing group, however most travellers are viewing and expecting sustainability practices as a basic requirement of any lodge or hotel. Travellers expect lodges to have holistic responses to water and carbon footprints, waste management and to respectfully engage with local communities as a matter of course.
What in your opinion is the most pressing sustainability issue facing the travel industry today?
The most pressing issue in my opinion is for the travel industry to adopt business models of shared value with local communities. The industry should truly benefit the communities and wilderness in which they operate. This does not only apply to wilderness destinations, but across the board and should include travel businesses in cities. It is a challenge for each destination to assess its impact on the surrounding environment and community and to inform it’s operating decisions accordingly, ensuring that it is never purely extractive or having an undesirable effect. The goal should be to generate value for all stakeholders!
The most irritating greenwashing in hotels that you come across?
Carbon offset practices, where hotels rather focus on carbon offset rather than committing their operation to sustainable practices.
Is the hospitality and tourism sector serious about sustainability?
Increasingly sustainability practice is becoming common practice as previously mentioned. The movement has evolved from a growing awareness of environmental and community considerations, in conjunction with a very strong profit focus; to a growing trend of an understanding the need for an integrated, holistic approach on all considerations across the business whenever a decision or plans are made. At Grootbos we aim to balance commerce, conservation, community and culture in every business plan we make. This is certainly not true across the hospitality sector, but a growing number of destinations are striving to do the right thing.
As a leader in sustainability, how are you harnessing the human power and creativity of your team to come up with solutions?
I surround myself with diverse and talented individuals who drive innovation, holistic management across sustainability practices, conservation and community engagement. This dynamic team constantly works to challenge the status quo and strive for higher standards, and together, they help me to keep pushing the envelope of what is possible.
There is a crisis of trust worldwide and public confidence in business, government and media ‘to do the right thing’ continues to drop. What can the hospitality and tourism sector do to reinforce consumer trust?
It is essential to be authentic and walk the talk. To constantly check that businesses in our sector are living up to their stated ideals, ethos, policies. For us at Grootbos, it’s important to ensure that new recruits understand the Grootbos way. Together with staff and community, we build trust in the operation and therefore the brand. This assists in establishing Grootbos as a recognized leader in progressive tourism and from this vantage point, Grootbos is able to influence and reinforce the need for other operators in the hospitality and tourism industry to operate with integrity.
What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership?
When we purchased the Grootbos property in 1991 we did not foresee where the journey the last 30 odd years would take us. I am proud and humbled by the restoration of the 2500 hectares of the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve to a pristine example of Cape fynbos with over 800 plant species documented and verified. It has been a privilege to play a leadership role in the conservation of the greater region and my next vision would be to ensure the conservation of the Agulhas Plain over the next 20 years. Watch this space.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I did not know that I would become so passionate about conservation. I would like to have been a conservationist.
What do you do in your daily life and when you are travelling in the name of sustainability?
It is important to continuously spread the word and evangelize on the importance of the sustainability.
Favorite sustainable hotel or other places to stay and why?
Naturally Grootbos is my favourite. Other than Grootbos, I would then choose Wolwedans as they too are committed to a journey of sustainability.
Grootbos joined The Long Run in 2011 and pledged to commit to the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a way to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region in South Africa.
The Long Run is a community of like-minded, innovative people committed to leveraging the power of their business for the health of the planet and the well-being of people. All members of The Long Run are tourism businesses that directly manage or significantly influence the management of a natural area of conservation value. Each member initially joins as a Fellow Member and strives to become recognised as a Global Ecosphere Retreat® (GER®).
Grootbos became a GER® member of The Long Run in March 2014. GER® members of The Long Run are centres of excellence in sustainability. Each GER® member has undergone all the necessary steps of the rigorous GER® recognition process. Being a GER® demonstrates their commitment as a leader in sustainable tourism and the extensive positive impacts their business has on biodiversity and the well being of people through pursuing the holistic balance in Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce (4Cs).