We caught up with Kirsten Aggersborg, PR & Communication Manager for sustainable hotel bookings website I Love Eco Hotels, to talk about the company’s passion for sustainability and its continued support for the work we do at the Travel Foundation.
Q: Why did you choose to partner with the Travel Foundation?
A: We were looking for a cause that made sense to us as we work in the travel industry, which is in many ways a drain on the world’s resources. We know that tourism is growing and more and more people have the means to go out and see the world, so a challenge of this magnitude must be turned into a force for good, for development and sustainability. This is exactly what the Travel Foundation works for, so it made sense for us to support this good work.
Q: Where did the idea for the initiative come from?
A: The idea for I Love Eco Hotels came from two very different directions: frustration with the dominance of large online travel agencies and their brutal commissions; we also dreamed of creating a community for like-minded hotels, where we could share best practices, ideas, contacts and generally help and inspire each other to continually improve. So we decided to see if we could create something to meet both needs, hence the creation of our booking website.
Q: What are your plans for the bookings website over the next 12 months?
A: We hope to grow large, wide and deep enough to make a difference for sustainable hoteliers all over the world, and for the guests who choose to stay with us. We hope to be a part of sustainable development that will turn present climate challenges around and make the world a safe place for future generations. We like to hope big!
Manon les Suites is an example of a modern and luxurious sustainable ‘eco-hotel’ in the heart of Copenhagen.
Q: What characteristics define an ‘eco-hotel’?
A: In terms of joining I Love Eco Hotels, a hotel must have a GSTC-approved certification (Global Sustainable Tourism Council). We do not help the hotels meet the requirements, but urge them to get certified and are happy to consult on choice of certification where we can. In time, we plan to have a system in place so that we can also welcome the hotels that are super-sustainable but have chosen not to get certified. This has to be a very thorough and transparent system, to secure our credibility and is a work in progress.
Q: What are the latest innovations in the eco-hotel industry that people may not be aware of?
A: One of the latest things that we have seen implemented in a Guldsmeden Hotels property that really impressed us, was a shower from Orbital Systems, that can save up to 95% of the water used by recycling the water after cleaning it through cutting-edge technology – average savings are above 50%. It’s based on technology developed by NASA for the Mars-mission and has now been made available for private use. We have installed the showers in eight newly established rooms and will install them in all future hotels.
Q: What key lessons has your company learnt about sustainability that could help others in your industry?
A: Sustainability efforts are never “done”, there will always be potential for improvement, as we learn more and as technology gives us new opportunities. In order for it not to feel like a chore, you need to have a passion for it, which in our experience is a positive side-effect of dedication and hard work. In the process of becoming Green Globe Certified, we became a little nerdy about sustainability, so it makes us very excited when we learn and can implement something new, instead of becoming frustrated.
Q: Do you think the eco-hotel concept can be replicated in more mainstream hotels?
A: Absolutely, there are so many things that we do that can easily be replicated in other hotels and would make sense to do so, particularly in terms of the bottom line. The focus on sustainability shouldn’t be a “gimmick” reserved for niche hotels, we all have to examine our processes and consumption if we want to turn around climate challenges. Sustainability should be the common baseline for everyone. In fact, we are sometimes contacted by rival hotel groups, asking us if we would be willing to share our knowledge and ideas, and of course we always say “yes!” – there’s nothing sustainable about keeping your good ideas and tips to yourself.
Q: Lastly, if you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go and where would you stay?
A: I was actually just taking a look at a beautiful hotel that has recently signed up for I Love Eco Hotels, the Bahia Mar Vilankulo in Mozambique, they are certified with Fair Trade Tourism. The place and its surroundings look absolutely amazing and I have never visited the continent of Africa before, but have always wanted to- so that would definitely be on the wish list! Another dream trip that would not involve a long flight, would be to Scotland. My husband and I would love to go on a long hiking trip there – hopefully we´ll find the time this coming summer.