Can a large-scale resort truly go green???
Small eco-lodges, eco-villas and nature retreats are nothing new, with more popping up
everyday. But, is it possible to apply a holistic sustainability approach to a large-scale 4-star resort? Gerardus Dirks, CEO of Parrot Resorts Management Group in Granada, Nicaragua thinks so.
The Green Revolution is here, and the big resorts want in. A decade ago, sustainable accommodation meant rustic eco-lodges and retreats. But, as consumer demand continues to push responsible tourism forward, it is no longer just a niche market but an economic necessity for businesses. As Fran Brasseux, Executive Director, Hotel Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Foundation, said, “Green is no longer just a trend. It’s a way of life.” A 2011 survey by Conde Nast Traveller showed that 93% of readers felt that travel companies should be responsible for environmental protection and 58% said that their hotel choice was influenced by the support the hotel gives to the local community.
So, now, the big boys want to join the party. Large hotels are ‘going green’ in an attempt to lower costs and attract discerning travelers. But, herein lies the problem. These hotel chains are changing light bulbs, asking you to change your towel less often and giving small donations to local charities for the benefit of their bottom line not because of any real commitment to sustainability. Many of these actions directly save the hotel money while giving little benefit to the overall sustainability of the enterprise.
Can they do more?
After working 27 years in the resort industry in Central America and the Caribbean, Dirks believes that it is indeed possible to combine a large 4-star resort with truly sustainable practices: from construction to operation and even long-term investment in community development.
Dirks’ plan is to create a 4-star eco-resort outside of Nicaragua’s tourism epicenter, the colonial city of Granada. The 90-room hotel will feature all the luxuries of a normal high-end resort, but with sustainability at its core, not as an afterthought. His vision will blend traditional knowledge from the neighboring indigenous communities with modern innovation to create a symbiosis of culture and nature.
Imagine a luxury resort located on the outskirts of a major city where you can lounge by the pool, lie in your air-conditioned room, relax on a terrace overlooking a vibrant nature reserve and learn how to make organic chocolates to nibble on while dining in a first-class restaurant serving delicious meals made from organic, locally-produced ingredients. Now, imagine that every aspect of this experience was designed sustainably, creating long-term benefits to the local indigenous community.
This is Parrot Resorts.
Many of the technique Parrot Resorts will use are similar to those used by smaller-scale eco lodges:
- No plastic bottles
- Rainwater and filtered grey water to water organic gardens
- Solar powered air-conditioners, pool pumps, energy grid, backup batteries
- Sustainable construction materials and techniques
- Composting of food waste
But, to be able to replicate these practices in a 90-room resort is something that could revolutionize the industry.
I don’t think it’s idealistic, it’s realistic. It’s realistic to work on a business to make it as sustainable as possible. I think we are going to create a new standard.
Dirks’ goal is to redefine the standard for 4- and 5-star resorts and create a model to be replicated not only in future Parrot Resort locations, but throughout the industry as a whole. He believes that private organizations, not governmental bodies, must drive the push towards truly sustainable business practices if the world is ever going to see a meaningful shift in current industry trends. And he wants to lead the way.
The Parrot Resorts will be located in and around nature reserves and indigenous communities in order to allow intellectual and cultural exchange between the indigenous communities, hotel management and even the guests. The resort will provide educational and economic development opportunities to the local community, while at the same time integrating educational programs for guests on local culture, the surrounding nature reserve, healthy and sustainable living, traditional craftsmanship and even hosting workshops of cigar, coffee and chocolate making. They will even feature their own brand of products from coffee to chocolate made organically by surrounding communities.
The resorts will not only offer quality accommodation, but act as a transfer center for knowledge that inspires a change in thinking of the guests and indigenous community in order to create a higher environmental and cultural awareness for everyone.
“It’s really that complete circle,” he explained.
It’s an advantage for all people. It’s not like: ‘I’m blazing in with a resort. I’m putting 50 -60 people to work, and that’s it.’ It’s so much more.
While large resorts offer to donate a small portion of their earnings to charity, Parrot Resorts will invest an initial $250,000 into community development projects. Financers scoffed at this amount as excessive and unnecessary, but Dirks realizes that the investment will pay for itself.
When you come up with $30,000 or $40,000 they will say, that’s nice and thank you very much. We’ll make a community center, the money is gone and that’s it.
With a larger investment, he can enact long-term projects that make a substantial difference in the community which, in turn, will aid the overall success of the resort.
In a very unconventional move, Dirks has rejected offers for traditional financing in order to pursue a blend of crowd-sourcing and lead investors.
What we are trying to do with this concept is to get constant innovative and creative input. And you get that when you involve a lot of people that are interested in (your project).
Lead investors will be encouraged to give not just funds, but input into the development of the project and ways to stay on the cutting edge of sustainability, quality and community development. These lead investors would have experience related to the project, a passion for its mission and a desire to be involved. In exchange for their financial, intellectual and creative contributions, they will receive four times the share value of their initial financial investment.
Crowd-sourcing will add the dual benefit of raising both funds and awareness for the project. The crowd-sourcing campaign will allow the public to become active shareholders in the project and receive a 10% return on their investment in the form of dividends. Crowd-sourcing will also serve to create a community of people to help spread the word about the project and raise consciousness on the issue of sustainability in travel.
Parrot Resorts has passed the planning phase and is now moving towards action. Decades of experience, solid financial analysis and a passion to start a movement that could completely alter the face of the tourism industry are coming to fruition. To be part of either the crowd-sourcing campaign, invest as a lead investor or just learn more about the project, visit: www.parrotresorts.com.