There is a lot of talk about sustainable luxury in the hotel business: debates on the need to adopt environmentally responsible business models have been going on in the industry for some time now, in synchrony with discussions that also affect many other economic sectors. The luxury hotel industry is certainly no stranger to this truly epochal climate, which calls for immediate action to launch a green revolution to counteract the worrying consequences attributed by the scientific community to global warming.
What is sustainable luxury?
At first glance, the concept of sustainable luxury may seem an oxymoron, since luxury and its main manifestations are usually associated with certain notions (excess, exuberance, wastefulness) that seem to go against the grain of environmental sustainability. Indeed, it is in this apparent contradiction that the great challenge facing the sector lies: how to adjust these very high standards to a model of responsible development.
Perhaps the answer lies in a genuine rethinking of the idea of luxury to give shape to a new formulation that accepts the limits imposed by environmental responsibility and assumes new standards of exclusivity, such as high quality local gastronomy or unique natural environments in which the impact of man is minimal.
Luxury and sustainability, an alliance
There is no doubt that the quest to reconcile luxury and sustainability in the hospitality sector is now much more than a passing fad or a lure to attract customers who are aware of and committed to greener tourism. The commitment to sustainable luxury is nowadays pure necessity and constitutes an unpostponable challenge for a sector that also has a responsibility to contribute to the fight against the progressive deterioration of our planet. The forecasts for growth in mobility and the use of tourism services at a global level over the coming decades are certainly an enormous opportunity for the industry, but above all they pose a real challenge: how to manage this growth in a responsible and sustainable way.
When we often come across news about the opening of new top luxury hotels around the world, it is inevitable to wonder whether we are heading in the right direction. For example, we are puzzled when a resort with ultra-luxury overwater bungalows with plunge pools is built on a tiny island or on a remote atoll with an ecologically priceless coral reef, whose construction involves inevitable damage to the coral reef and whose operation involves the management of all kinds of waste resulting from the operation of such an establishment. While it is true that these projects generate jobs and provide new opportunities for the local population – a very positive and desirable aspect – the planning and implementation of any initiative of this magnitude has to assume and put into practice the already unpostponable paradigm of sustainable luxury.
Case Study: Denis Private Island, a sustainable luxury hotel in the heart of the Indian Ocean
A successful example of environmental management in the hotel sector is Denis Private Island in the Seychelles, a tiny island surrounded by the vastness of the Indian Ocean, with a spectacular coral reef and unique flora and fauna. Denis Island, owned by the Mason family, has adopted the spirit of what is known as barefoot luxury, that is, austere, sober luxury, without excessive or superfluous excesses. At Sergat we have had the privilege of being their representatives at the communication level for years in Spain.
The firm's commitment to sustainable luxury is embodied, for example, in its own farm on the island, which produces more than 50% of the food necessary for its exceptional gastronomic offer, including meat, vegetables, dairy products and fruit, among others, all in a remote location, in the middle of the ocean and far from everything! And it is not a myth that the cooks go out in a small boat in the morning for fresh catch, we have experienced it ourselves.
On Denis there are no cars, but electric buggies powered by energy produced on the island itself, and the machinery and tractors run on biofuels. Obviously, solar energy is used for energy production, and waste management is exemplary and pioneering for such an island.
On the other hand, instead of building 22 private plunge pools (i.e. one per cottage), a beautiful beachside pool was chosen. And the spa service is offered in the bungalows themselves, all built with local and autochthonous materials, and at the request of the clients, which allows a complete personalization of this service while dispensing with the need for an additional complementary space.
We could go on naming many of the ecological and environmental successes of this hotel's management and also of its exemplary conservation and awareness programme for guests. A stay in this little paradise is not for everyone's budget: luxury comes at a price, and sustainable luxury is no exception. Enjoying high-end tourist experiences and, at the same time, contributing to the preservation of the planet can complement each other thanks to projects like this one, an example to follow.