How To Leverage Sustainability: A Case Study by GLP Films

January 7, 2022
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Small, boutique hotels are having their moment in the sun as the Corona virus is prolonging its threat globally, for more reasons than one. While many are promising greater health precautions due to limited rooms and oftentimes remote locations, you also have greater opportunity for another travel trend set by savvy and responsible travelers—regenerative travel. As hopefully all boutique hotels have already realized, sustainability is now expected by travelers and is not going away. However regenerative travel is a new buzzword the industry is seeing, and goes above sustainability in not just not doing harm to the area and community, but leaving a place better than when you first came. There’s no denying it’s good for business, and the community and environment will also prosper with this leadership and innovation.

Opportunities for Regenerative Hospitality in Boutique Hotels

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Cut down on the use of plastics by providing guests with reusable water bottles

Going beyond sustainability isn’t difficult, but it does take intention and dedicated staff committed to impactful company values. Regenerative hospitality goes far beyond asking guests to hang up towels and reducing single use plastic offerings—there needs to be positive impact involved, not just reducing negative impact. Not being corporate owned and only having one (or at most a couple) of locations may be a boutique hotel’s biggest strength in growing into a regenerative model. This allows for greater community engagement and environmental initiatives in regards to attention, funding, and impact. Thankfully, as a small hotel there are many opportunities for this impact that larger hotels don’t have. For starters, boutique hotels have:

  • Genuine community engagement
  • Renewable energy and off-grid capabilities
  • Easily incorporated grey-water and rainwater recovery systems
  • Specialized marketing strategy
  • Local company and organization relationships
  • Ability to acquire products from local artisans
  • Hotel-specific on-the-ground initiative development opportunities
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Kids learning about Organic Farming during Chaa Creek's 1-week All-Inclusive Eco Kids Summer Camp

Having a small development footprint allows boutiques to make hotel-wide changes faster and with less time waiting around to hear from the higher ups for approval—and let’s be honest, there is zero time to waste to act against climate change. Leaders in regenerative design in boutique hotels have already felt the positive impact of these values, and travelers are rewarding them for it, despite Covid limiting travel from many countries.

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Accommodations built in harmony with nature, not against it

An excellent example of a champion in the small hotel space for going above and beyond sustainability and into regenerative practices is the Lodge at Chaa Creek in Belize. For starters, environmental conservation and community engagement are at the very core of their business model, and they’ve been a leader in regenerative hospitality for decades. We had the absolute pleasure of speaking to Marketing Manager, Roberto Harrison to dig deeper into Chaa Creek’s regenerative structure of “leaving what you have better than how you found it.” On top of owning and managing a nature reserve, Chaa Creek has a plethora of sustainable initiatives that have earned them a spot as one of the top earth-conscious and community oriented hotels in the world. Their regenerative practices are extensive. They focus greatly on teaching local children the importance of environmental conservation with in-house outreach programs, hosting a fully sponsored week-long Eco-Kids Summer Camp. They’ve partnered with various Belizean schools to donate supplies to support their learning with their Pack-A-Pound program. By encouraging hotel guests to reserve one pound in their suitcase to pack school supplies to donate, they are giving back in ways that have more impact than can be quantified. Read more in our recent article about funding education through sustainable tourism.

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Students in rural communities receiving Pack-A-Pound donations courtesy of Chaa Creek Guests

People absolutely come first at Chaa Creek, which goes hand in hand with conserving land and biodiversity, and that is crystal clear with how they run their company and what they’re sharing with the world. By engaging with the local community and school children, they’re putting the future in their hands with the tools to make a positive impact on the planet. They support local artisans wherever possible by purchasing items such as soaps for use at the hotel by guests, and support local farmers by gifting their farm produce that has expired to be fed to pigs and livestock. These are small, simple, and fantastic ways to support the local community that are extremely feasible for other small hotels.

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The Maya Organic Farm at Chaa Creek

For their guests, Chaa Creek has had a farm-to-table philosophy with their organic farm since their inception, and they compost the food waste created by the lodge. While they work with their suppliers to reduce single use packaging as a whole, cardboard packaging is also used on the farm as a weed deterrent, eventually biodegrading into the soil. An in-house glass bottle crusher allows for the glass from wine and spirit bottles to assist in the building structure of new developments on the property. Cisterns around the property collect rainwater for use as non-potable water where applicable, lessening a large water impact that many hotels struggle with. While not yet fully energized by renewable resources, Roberto talked of this expansion project to do so in the coming years. As recognized earlier, this can be one of the challenges that small hotels face in their regenerative journey, but with the right resources and support, it can be achieved. Supply chain transparency is another huge challenge that Chaa Creek has worked through, and is continuing to push strongly going forward.

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Vermicomposting at the Maya Farm using worms

Chaa Creek’s marketing strategy is one that should be shouted from the mountain tops. Roberto says it perfectly, that “marketing should be about how you are impacting people’s lives and what change you are trying to make in the world through the work that you do.” Focusing on your values and beliefs should do a large amount of the marketing for you as long as you're putting that information in an easily accessible place for the traveler. The “micro-moments” Chaa Creek offers their guests that “transforms your thinking and way of seeing life” are increasingly valuable to the modern traveler. Adding this value for their guests is incredibly aligned to their purpose and values, which makes the experience that much more enriching. They have an extremely easy to navigate website with a clear path to their environmental initiatives and community engagement information, and are active on social media to extend their reach to travelers interested in lessening their travel footprint. By aligning with their philosophy and living their purpose, the profit and business successes are just a byproduct of the positive impact Chaa Creek continues to have. I can tell by speaking with Roberto that Chaa Creek focuses on their values and mission in every facet of their company—every conversation and interaction has a positive purpose and impact on the people and the world.

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Chaa Creek guests experiencing authentic Mayan cooking at San Antonio Women's Coop

Conclusion by GLP Films

Small boutique hotels are currently situated in an ideal spot right now to entice the modern traveler to lessen their travel footprint. Great opportunities follow great challenges, but none are more ready to take on sustainability as the small hotel. Being intentional about your marketing efforts to focus on aligning your values with that of the traveler can make all the difference in getting your sustainability initiatives off the ground, only leading to greater quality customers that keep coming back to support small businesses and the local community. Aspiring regenerative boutiques around the world, take note. 

For more in-depth support in marketing your sustainability and regenerative initiatives, click here to inquire about working with us.

The Team At GLP Films:

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