The merit in going green in your hotel
A movement has started in a bid to tackle climate change; one which is beginning to put the planet before people and which is calling into question our approach to consumption. Made ever more popular by famous faces including Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, businesses are beginning to feel the pressure to ‘go green’. So aside from consumer demand and pressure, is there merit in going green to support the bottom line? Absolutely.
Quality in Tourism launched the Responsible, Ethical, Sustainable Tourism (REST) scheme to assess and grade hospitality businesses on their commitment to the environment and also ethical and responsible practices. It goes beyond just removing single use plastics and peers into the whole approach of the business. The results are fascinating as you see the length and breadth businesses will go to create a robust strategy, but perhaps more enlightening are the strategies used to make sustainable practices pay. Everything from increased staff productivity to direct savings on energy bills, there are plenty of businesses across the UK who are doing business the right way and saving money at the same time.
One such business is the Carbis Bay Estate which overlooks Carbis Bay near St Ives, Cornwall. The Estate includes a hotel set in 125-acres of grounds, a Blue-Flag beach, beachfront lodges, secluded self-catering units and a spa among other facilities. Husband and wife duo Stephen and José Baker inherited the Estate from Stephen’s parents and have set about creating a prestigious, five-star experience at the site, but at the same time have put sustainability at the front and centre of everything that they do, including the construction of eight sustainable lodges built onto the beach. Here’s how they’ve gone about it…
Committed to their employees
Cornwall is a seasonal region; a bustling hub in the summer and a quiet calm in the winter. This makes it an ‘economically deprived’ location, reliant on summer trade, but struggling to maintain a year-round income. It is therefore naturally a place of seasonal unemployment too, but not at The Carbis Bay Estate where José and Stephen have put their staff and employment process at the very heart of their hospitality offering.
Committed to providing year-round employment they have succeeded by establishing the hotel & estate as a Destination in its own right, which just so happens to be situated in a honeypot Cornish location. This has helped to establish fairly consistent year-round occupancy, and in fact has also supported their pursuit of sustainability by helping to minimise the impact of guests on overtourism of the area. What’s more, the business seeks to employ locally as much as possible and has made training and upskilling a significant part of the process. At a grassroots level, the business has established relationships with the local college to foster apprentices and young people, keeping them living and working locally. Ultimately, this sustainable strategy means that they’ve increased the size of the team, expanded the service offering to provide more scope for employment and increased the breadth and opportunities within roles to encourage staff to grow, learn and stay.
Regardless of the success of the strategy, this is a business which also delivers authenticity in spades. They genuinely care for their staff and in return it is clear their staff care for them too. A commendable aspect is the hotel’s recognition of the local economic challenges staff face and the unexpected, short-term financial challenges this can bring. In response, they have launched a short-term loan relief scheme for staff, enabling them to borrow money from the business, interest free, to alleviate short-term challenges. This goes hand in hand with both a staff incentive scheme and an employee of the month scheme, benefits of which include cancelling any loan debts owed by team members, in correlation with outstanding performance.
Managing the local Environment & Landscape
From conception to completion, as much of the hotel and Estate as possible has been developed, refurbished and built to achieve maximum environmental efficiency.
Stephen and José have considered the role of the hotel from both a local and national angle, and have invested heavily to achieve maximum sustainability including: car chargers; an electric guest shuttle; two combined heat and power units; monitoring of gas and water consumption; renewable lighting; underground in-coming power cables; recycling throughout including provision of hotel beach patrols to remove any beach waste and plastics; natural vegetation growth with selective weeding; chef’s herb gardens; use of locally-sourced produce; and annual application for the Blue Flag and Seaside Award, demonstrating a duty of care to its coastal environment and awareness of clean bathing seawater.
Locally, the National Grid is outmoded and overloaded; as well as temporary blackouts being an undesirable guest experience, this unpredictability came at a cost and so the Estate invested in a closed-loop system to manage its own energy requirements. This includes installation of its own energy centre with two 35 kW combined heat and power units generating electricity, using turbines which are cooled with water, before the water is in turn fed into the hotel grid to provide the hot water for the property. This approach has also enabled the removal of most of the existing boilers – a process which is nearly complete – which will make a 40-50% energy saving within the property. Overall, this sustainable investment has reduced the carbon emissions of the hotel by 70 tonnes per annum – a not insignificant saving both environmentally and financially. Interestingly, the influence of the energy centre extends beyond the business and into the local community. As part of the challenge with the grid, a major fault left some of the area without electricity. The energy company was able to reinstate the supply, using the hotel’s energy centre to bring the power back online.
Within the Estate, the focus hasn’t just been on retrofit solutions, but also on moving forwards with a sustainability-first approach. 2018 saw the Estate open eight new beachfront lodges built directly and sympathetically onto the beach, which naturally brought their own sustainability challenges. To overcome this, more than 6 miles of cable was installed as part of the build to support a KNX Technology system. KNX enables the lodges to be managed remotely, including turning appliances on and off remotely, and keeping an eye on energy use. In turn, this helps reduce wastage within each unit, contributing to the overall energy efficiency of the business.
All of this has had a very real impact on the bottom line, both through cost savings, and through increased demand from a broadening guest audience. Carbis Bay Estate is definitely an example of sustainability success, changing personal passion into performance metrics.
The sustainable Guest Experience
This really is a business that is reaping rewards from ‘good dividends’ and which is proving that sustainability beyond single-use plastics pays off, both in cost savings and in consumer demand. It’s had some unexpected side effects too; despite always gaining positive reviews and having a fairly good ambience, since committing more prominently to staff, there has been a real step-change in what the guests experience. Part of this comes from pride, with the staff working harder than ever to show off a business that they are really proud of and which is really committed to them – it’s wonderful to see!
Stephen Baker, Owner of Carbis Bay Estate says “We are a privately-owned, year-round business and major employer in a unique location, with a duty of care for our own 25-acre beach, coastal environment and wooded stream valley, whilst maintaining our heritage and embracing the needs of today’s visitors. Our latest development, alongside fulfilment of our Carbis Bay Beach Project, has been the commissioning in 2019 of a new on-site energy centre to provide energy and hot water for the Estate, eliminating a multitude of boilers and producing a carbon saving of some 70 tonnes per annum. Ultimately, we see our investment and vision as preservation of a sustainable future for Carbis Bay Estate, its guests, staff and location itself”.
For those who want an example of sustainable, responsible hospitality done right, Carbis Bay Estate should be a must-visit.
To further discuss the issues highlighted here, make sure to visit the Hotel Vision Stage, in partnership with Quality in Tourism, where over 50 leading hoteliers and experts will come together to talk about company culture, mental health and working with the local community.