1. What inspired you to create your business?
Owner Mario Delicio spent a great deal of time travelling, staying in many hotels around the world. With an innate passion for sustainability, he began to notice the wasteful nature of hotels and decided that he wanted to start his very own green hotel that holistically approached all design, construction and operation with sustainability in mind. The mandate to his team was thus to, from predesign phase, build and operate Africa’s greenest hotel. The success thereof has since lead to the launch of Africa’s first sustainable hotel management company: Verde Hotels.
2. How does being responsible help your business attract potential customers?
Whilst there is a niche group of travellers that choose the hotel based on its sustainability credentials, most first time guests choose the hotel due to its convenient location near Cape Town International Airport. However, we have noticed through reviews and tracking of return guests, that they are significantly influenced and impacted by the responsible culture of the hotel. The experience engages them with the concept of sustainability within their own lives and often influences their decision to recommend the hotel to friends and family or to return on their next visit or conference.
3. How do you engage guests in your responsible tourism activities?
Strategic signage is placed throughout the hotel to remind guests that they are in a sustainable environment. The signage is educational in nature and explains in basic terms some of the initiatives that have been put in place in both design and construction and operation. All greening information can be found under the green experience tab on our website, as well as on the interactive TV’s in their room. We encourage guests to be responsible during their stay by offering them rewards in the form of an inhouse currency which can then be redeemed for use at the bar or deli. Some ways they can earn the currency, called Verdinos, is to: utilise the power generating gym equipment; re-use their towels; choose not to turn on the in-room air-con and separate their waste. We also position ourselves to celebrate environmental days in the hotel and engage our social media followers in issues of sustainability and how they can also be more conscious at home or at work.
4. What is the responsible tourism initiative of which you are most proud?
Hotel Verde is the first hotel in the world to be certified with a Platinum LEED certification for both New Construction, as well as Operations and Maintenance. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is considered to be the premier mark of accomplishment in green building world wide. LEED bases its certification on meeting sustainable requirements that range from sustainable sites, indoor environmental quality, energy consumption, water consumption and waste management; to responsible sourcing, ongoing maintenance and innovation. This ensures Hotel Verde to be a flagship for green buildings and green hospitality. It makes the hotel a breeding ground for changing mindsets, often attracting people from all walks of life to take tours of the hotel to learn about sustainability in general. For example Hotel Verde offers school tours to high school learners and tourism students which are extremely popular.
5.What positive impacts does your tourism business have on the community/environment where you are based?
Hotel Verde favours local, previously disadvantaged entrepreneurs through the procurement process. For example, a female entrepreneur has since had to employ four more staff members to create the biscuits in the rooms and deli. All art in the hotel is local including the room floor artworks that were created through a school art programme showcasing the artwork of 45 grade 11 students. A clothing bank is placed in reception for guests to donate clothes to a local night shelter, whilst left over food in good condition is also donated as opposed to disposed of. The hotel hosts a number of community based events at the hotel whilst also supporting and participating in on-the-ground initiatives such as tree plantings.
6. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
Communicating complex sustainability issues to employees of all levels and achieving buy in and understanding from all employees. However, through an in-house drive called Avanti (which means moving forward in Italian) we have been able to engage employees through regular meetings, incentives, competitions and trainings. It is something that takes constant effort and consideration, but is well worth it.
7. What advice would you give to any entrepreneur starting a responsible tourism business?
That sustainability is a journey and not a destination. It needs constant effort, trial and error and coming up with new ways to do things better and to do them differently. No one will have all the answers, but with a little bit of research you can make more informed decisions. Don’t get despondent by trying to do everything and becoming overwhelmed. It is far better to see sustainability as a lens through which you see your business. Therefore with each new decision you take – you simply keep sustainability in mind and make the most responsible choice. If you do that each time, you will have a far more responsible business going forward.
Hotel Verde Thrivability Report.
Green Experience Page on the Hotel Verde website.
Hotel Verde blog on their commitment to being responsible at WTM London 2016.