Did you know that according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, hotels are responsible for 1% of global carbon emissions?
Finding ways to reduce our impact on the environment is not only vital to combat the current climate crisis, but to attract leisure, MICE and corporate travel business. Now as we approach recovery, event professionals, event attendees, and travellers are more conscious than ever of how their choices affect the world around them, and the impact they have on the environment.
We spoke with industry professionals to understand the choices they and their businesses are making to bring hospitality and events into an eco-conscious era.
Tell us a bit about you and your role at Gaia Hotel Basel.
"Since February 2020, I've worked as a Manager of Sales, Marketing and Sustainability in the GAIA Hotel. I am a career changer actually in the hotel industry: previously I worked as a project manager for a business development organisation and for various start ups.
I have a Master of Science in International Management and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. At GAIA Hotel, I am part of the management team, responsible for everything that has to do with sales and external communication.
It's also my job to find and implement new measures that will make the hotel even more sustainable. I love my job precisely because of the versatility. One day I'm negotiating new contracts with corporates, while others I'm discussing new sustainability projects with colleagues or trying to digitise processes to improve our services.
What I particularly like about the GAIA Hotel (apart from the fact that it is a beautiful hotel with great staff) is that here I can implement projects quickly and that I have the feeling that I am really making a difference with my work."
What was your experience of the pandemic?
"I started at GAIA Hotel and two weeks later the pandemic began. Hence, I do not really know the “normal state”.
In addition, from my previous jobs I was used to uncertainty and constantly changing circumstances. As a result, I did not struggle in a way as many of my colleagues did. The city of Basel is a destination, which was quite successful during the recent 10 years and was a sure-fire success.
This was mainly due to business travelling and the rising popularity of river cruises on the river Rhine. With the pandemic, flexibility and adaptability became very important.
And the customer segments have also changed. Compared to the past, a larger part of the guest are leisure guests. These guests have different expectations and need more care. For example, leisure guests want to know much more about the destination. Where is the best restaurant, how do I get to the art museum or where is the harbour?
However, because we have always had a high standard of service and we have very friendly staff, we have been able to offer this more intensive support. In the end, it was even an opportunity, because during the pandemic we climbed from 5th to 1st place on TripAdvisor."
The topic of sustainability has never been so prominent. What steps has GAIA Hotel taken toward being more eco-friendly?
"To begin with, an increasing number of corporates ask for sustainability measures or labels in their RFPs, so it's not just a nice-to have, it's a must.
The hotel is very much inspired by a sustainable way of living and love for our planet. We've implemented a zero-waste strategy and are on a continuous mission to reduce our ecological footprint. We're fully organic and source natural ingredients for our food offerings, organic and locally-sourced bathroom supplies and ecologically certified cleaning products for housekeeping purposes.
GAIA actually means "Mother Earth" and we think it represents our commitment to do our part for the well-being, happiness and hope of future generations. That's why you will find only organic and biodynamic products at the hotel. That includes the breakfast buffet, minibar, part of our conference service, or in the sauna.
We do not have a restaurant. However, we put a lot of effort in our breakfast buffet which is a 100% organic. Even the coffee we procure from a small nearby roastery which imports the coffee directly from its own “Demeter (even more sustainable than just organic) ” plantation in Brazil.
Already in 2015, we replaced all products at the breakfast, in the minibar or in the bathrooms with sustainable organic products. In addition, we have several implemented Zero-Waste measures.
For example, on our breakfast buffet you won’t find any prepacked mini portions of butter, marmalade or spread. In general, the quality of the breakfast is very important to us. Hence, we offer many vegetarian and vegan alternatives.
A start-up company uses our coffee grounds to cultivate mushrooms and our stale bread is donated to the elephants of the nearby Basel Zoo."
What's on the horizon where sustainability is concerned? Are there any milestones or goals for GAIA Hotel?
"We see sustainability as a process which never ends. It's a way of life. We do not really have milestones, however, we do have an annual action plan with several goals. Those goals can be very small steps, for example to replace single packaged coffee cream to more complex actions like installing solar cells on the roof.
Recently, however, it turned out that this is diffciult to realise because the roof does not allow for efficient production. And since we already get 100% green electricity from the city, the effort outweighs the ecological and economic benefits. With every measure, you must weigh up whether it makes sense because greenwashing is a trap you need to avoid."
What advice would you give to other hotels who are trying to be more sustainable?
"My advice would be to partner up with other like-minded stakeholders such as suppliers, service providers or other potential partners."
Looking to be more sustainable but need a bit of inspiration?
Check out our detailed guide on how hotels and venues can be more sustainable. Discover why sustainability matters to your buyers, interviews with sustainable hotels and creative ways to get your eco on!