Cayuga Talks Luxury and Ethics in London

When it comes to sustainable hospitality, Costa Rica certainly springs to mind before London.  In fact, earlier this month Costa Rica hosted its biennial International Sustainable Tourism Conference, at which Cayuga’s CEO Hans Pfister spoke on green-washing.  Just a week later on the other side of the world, London welcomed back its annual Independent Hotel Show, a business event for luxury boutique hotels.  And on the seminar program this year, a panel discussion on sustainable luxury hospitality.  Alison Harvey Barretto joined the conversation in representation of Cayuga.

Speaking alongside Holly Tuppen, Co-founder of Bouteco and ex-Editor of Green Hotelier magazine, and Liutauras Vaitkevicius, General Manager of Good Hotel London, much of the discussion centered on the stigma surrounding the word “sustainability” in the luxury sector.  It’s a word that we’re so accustomed to hearing in the industry but also a term so broad and overused that it becomes problematic.  For first-time sustainable luxury consumers at least, it’s often synonymous with rustic eco-ness, cold showers and far-flung destinations…

One of the many challenges moving forward will be to change the rhetoric around “sustainability”, to really break the word down into what it could mean in context.  For example, words like “provenance”, “local”, “community”, “conservation” and “craftsmanship” are far easier to grasp and to perceive value.  It’s about making the term accessible and desirable, sexy and worth paying a premium for.

Sustainability needs to be become sexy like here at Kura Design Villas in Uvita, Costa Rica.

And on the topic of paying high-end prices for ethical products, we agreed that for hotels which are treated as more than just beds for the night – so where price isn’t the only qualifying factor – the key is in the experience.  Sustainable luxury hoteliers need to be able to create inspirational experiences from their initiatives and then successfully communicate them at the decision-making stage.  Guests will pay a premium if they are convinced that the hotel’s ethical values clearly play into a superior experience.

Following talk on product transparency, supplier responsibility and our favorite initiatives of the moment, discussion went from guest experience to staff experience.  On our part, it was great to share our firm belief that they’re as important as one another. “Sustainability” often makes you think of the environment before the people.

Sustainability is as much about guest experience as it is staff experience. Danilo has been a guide at Lapa Rios Lodge on the Osa Peninsula for over 20 years.

At the show, we were pleased to meet a die-hard Cayuga fan, who, having followed our progress for the last 15 years, was both surprised and delighted to encounter us in London.  We also enjoyed talking to representatives of the notoriously unsustainable Nespresso about their new global campaign which sees George Clooney talking a back seat to make way for sustainable storytelling.  Perhaps combining the two is just what we need to finally make sustainability sexy.

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Andrea Bonilla

Co-Owner & VP Operations