Responsible travel: Cape Town luxury accommodation, South Africa
Our goal is to combine luxurious hospitality and accommodation with active concern for the society and the environment. We do this through every aspect of our business, such as where we source our goods from (from decoration to gifts and food), how we manage and promote our staff and the links that we have made with a wide range of local organizations (community, tour operators, organic suppliers and more.) We also have a four phase plan detailing how our accommodation minimizes its environmental impact on the Earth.
In all we do, our main focus is show that luxury and travel do not have to cost the Earth or those who live on her.
Itís often believed that a concern for the environment and luxury are somehow incompatible, but we aim to show clearly that luxurious accommodation and taking care of our environment can go hand in hand. We believe that heritage buildings can and should be adapted to an age concerned with energy efficiency and better waste management. Of course, itís much easier to build a new house with energy efficient designs, but older houses too have several distinctive elements to contribute. For a start, although the result is a grand Victorian house, the house was built with mud bricks which were only partially fired to much lower temperatures than bricks are baked today, thus using less energy. Most of the other materials used to build the house would have been locally sourced from what were then sustainable sources (local pine forest) and of course, there were no carbon miles in 1895! Add to that the high ceilings, big roof spaces and thick walls for heat insulation and you have already a fairly ecologically sound house.
But we want to go beyond the contributions made by the building of the house in 1895. Our aim is that by 2015, we will be the first and only urban eco-guest house in South Africa. Weíre going to try to be totally Ďoff-gridí for water heating, water treatment, sewage processing, electricity and solid waste management. Itís an ambitious project but thatís what makes it challenging and exciting.
Our staff are actively involved in several community projects. Some of these we support financially and some of these we work in ourselves.
We sponsor two scholarships at Ntaba Maria Primary School in the Eastern Cape. This flagship primary school was originally where Phil taught for several years. The scholarships are aimed at learners who have high potential but limited financial resources, are anonymous and cover fees, uniforms, transport and some books.
With a friend, Phil set up Makana Spears, a basketball club aimed at closing the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged youth in the Eastern Cape. Every year, we select a team of 12 boys, six from advantaged schools and six from less advantaged and put them on the same team to play at national club level in Durban. Phil manages and coaches the team in person and to date, the club has had three players playing for the national side.
Both Phil and Liz also do voluntary work at Sentinel Boardriders, a Hout Bay NGO which works with youth through a skatepark and youth centre. We also sponsor the park financially.
Business links with economically deprived areas:
We actively market and form links with tourism and hospitality related businesses in the Eastern Cape, a financially depressed area of the country. Our aim is to use the leverage of the Western Capeís financial strength to divert business and clients to less affluent areas. In this regard, we have built links with Jenman Safaris, an environmentally conscious tour operator that offers guided tours for families along the Garden Route, and set up links with craft and art markets and dealers in the Eastern Cape to bring more produce from the area to be sold in Actively buying Eastern Cape products to decorate the guesthouse (for example, a set of five wood prints from an art student at Rhodes University Grahamstown.) using Eastern Cape labour and skills in the Western Cape. We bring craftsmen (painters, tillers, carpenters) etc. from the Eastern Cape to maintain the building as far as possible.
Wherever possible, we use supplies from local entrepreneurs and actively seek links with small organic suppliers, particularly from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.
Staffing and employment:
Our three permanent staff all benefit from over three times the minimum wage for the industry. They are actively encouraged to try their hand at new areas of the business, such as stock taking, linen control and so on. Our aim is to turn our maids into housekeepers with staff who work for them. When we find staff have strength in a particular area, we organise more training and build on their success. We are starting the process of sourcing a night manager from the Eastern Cape too. This will be a previously disadvantaged black male who we hope to be able to train up to management level in two years.