Provenance and sustainability offer hotels more than just eco credentials

Holly Tuppen, former Editor of Green Hotelier and eco travel expert explores why provenance is important for hotels – and not just when it comes to the food…

Nobody brags about their hotel suite being kitted out with China’s finest, mass-produced furniture. Nor do they praise the freshness of their fish – having been caught, frozen and transported hundreds of miles before reaching their plate. Provenance is intrinsically linked to quality, authenticity and uniqueness – and never before has it been so important in the hospitality industry.

Conveniently for eco enthusiasts like me, provenance also goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. It’s about transparent and simplified supply chains. Understanding where everything in your hotel comes from and how it got there – the interiors, art work, drinks, food and staff – removing the risk of being unknowingly linked to exploitation, unethical practices or environmentally damaging processes. Simplifying a supply chain and exploring provenance also often means ‘going local’, which is not only good for brand reputation but is a quick way of reducing your hotels’ carbon footprint.

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Soneva Fushi bathroom             Soneva Fushi kitchen gardens

Implementing a provenance-focused ethos or sustainability strategy also makes good business sense – and not only from a reputational perspective. Operating costs are easier to reduce by buying bulk from local suppliers, demanding reduced packaging and buying seasonally. Building strong relationships with suppliers also reduces environmental and health risks as well as improving loyalty, staff morale and community support.

Food is an obvious starting point when it comes to provenance. Sourcing food responsibly is becoming more commonplace, even in large hotel chains. A couple of years ago the Sustainable Restaurant Association found that 70% of diners would prefer to eat at a sustainable restaurant, and menus now often include sourcing notes. Few places do this better than 2016’s Sustainable Restaurant Association winner Poco. At this tapas bar in Broadway Market only the lemons are imported and Chef Tom Hunt’s ‘root to fruit’ eating means that waste is minimal.  At the opposite end of the chain, Marriott Hotels was the first large hotel group to achieve the SRA’s 3* rating – recognised for its ‘Future Fish’ programme to promote responsible fish sourcing and working with schools to educate children about food provenance. Going one step further, hotels are increasingly producing food themselves – from rooftop bee hives to mushroom-growing caves. Soneva Kiri in Thailand produces approximately USD 10, 000 worth of produce a year from their kitchen gardens and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons produces over 90 types of vegetable.

Looking beyond food, the importance of provenance can extend to all parts of a hotel – a sense of place and authenticity can’t be bought off the shelf. Art sourced locally creates a talking point for customers, furniture built with local materials often feels more in keeping with its surroundings and upcycling everything from roof tiles to corks helps refurbished or new hotels achieve instant gravitas.

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Green House Hotel                 Nikoi Island Resort

In Santa Barbara, Belmond owned El Encanto used a sustainable development strategy to ensure their rebuild was in keeping with the local history – using salvaged floor and roof tiles, restoring a trellis lined arbour and preserving the mature gardens and trees. Spanish hotel group NH Hotels recently ran a Cork2Cork initiative – recycling 1994 kg of bottle corks from 77 hotels across Europe and turning them into 8000 square meters of floor and wall coverings in new and refurnished hotels. Similarly, when Soneva Fushi discovered there were no appropriate glass recycling facilities in the Maldives, they decided to innovate – crushed glass is mixed with concrete to create bespoke furniture and a glass sculpture and jewellery shop provides guests with a sustainable retail experience.

The Green House Hotel in Bournemouth made sustainability and provenance key components of their refurbishment – and this is now what they are most famous for. Wallpaper is locally sourced, paint is eco friendly, wood floors are reclaimed and bath tubs have been salvaged and restored. The origin of everything has been thought through and the building feels more sophisticated for it. In a very different setting, Nikoi Island in Indonesia has done the same – built using traditional building techniques (by local builders) that rely on natural ventilation and use driftwood and the indigenous alang alang grass as primary building materials. And when it comes to the small details, back in the UK, The Scarlett Hotel provides guests with locally made toiletries and all feature artwork and furniture has been created by local artists.

For all the hotels and resorts mentioned above, being aware of the provenance of the food they serve and the products they use not only helps them act more sustainability, but provides them with an ethos. Something that more and more customers are looking for – whether its millennials and their insatiable thirst for a back-story, eco enthusiasts trying to do their bit, baby-boomers looking for the next quality indicators or simply people demanding a little more than the ordinary.


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