SUSTAINABILITY AND ECO-LUX HOTELS

 

By Elmira Soltani

 

it is always risky to make predictions for the future, but based on our observations and conversations with guests at our sustainable luxury hotels and lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, we feel very confident that we will see the following trends and developments in near future.

 

1. Off the beaten path beats tourism clusters

Nobody wants to go where everybody else has been already.  Exotic destinations like Nicaragua are going to see a boom in 2015.  There are also destinations like the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica that have been spared from mass tourism and will be very attractive for the discerning traveler looking for something unique and special.

2.  Culinary experiences conquer eco-tourism

For many years culinary experiences have not been a priority for ecotourists.  But today, a solid wine list and locally grown and raised food is a must for anybody trying to attract the high end eco market.  Premium craft beers, bio dynamic wines, responsibly caught seafood, hormone-free poultry and grass-fed beef are just a few examples of how culinary trends have conquered sustainable gastronomy.

Fresh and high quality ingredients that are sourced locally are a great base for preparing gourmet meals for guests.

3.  Sustainability actions beyond towel change and efficient light bulbs

We are tired to hear hotels “rave” about their eco-credentials when mentioning energy efficient light bulbs and a program of not changing linens every day.  In order to impress guests and make a true difference in their communities, they will have to go beyond.  How about getting rid of all plastic drink bottles or serving only responsibly caught seafood? How about moving from recycling to “refusing” products and educating clients about consuming local products only.

4.  Personalized interpretation of nature and culture

It is not enough of an experience to just walk through a tropical rain forest, a coffee plantation or a local farmer’s market.  Travelers are hungry for “interpretation” and want to learn.  Highly educated guides at hotels and lodges that will be able to interpret nature and culture to guests will be in high demand.  We see the request for private tours skyrocket at our lodges.

It is not very likely that you will be able to observe a Jaguar or Puma on one of the nature hikes, but by going with a well educated guide, you might be able to spot prints or droppings of large cats.

5.  Eco lodge meets Design Hotel: Opposites attract

We find it fascinating how our guests love to have very different experiences within one trip.  Take a rain forest eco lodge where the focus is on putting on rubber boots and getting out to explore the tropical flora and fauna and combine it with a design hotel which is more of a place to “lounge” by the pool and relax.  Many of our guests combine those experiences as they are so different, yet complimentary.

6.  Agro tourism experiences are still hot

Agro tourism has been on the radar of ecotourists for a few years.  The possibility to experience agricultural projects that exist in harmony with nature is a very attractive feature.  The most popular experiences involve wine and beer, but there in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the coffee plantation experience is in strong demand.

While staying at a Plantation Inn, you can pick your own coffee, roast it and then prepare specialty coffee drinks like a barista in the restaurant.

7. The smaller and more intimate, the better…

If there is something that the seasoned eco traveler dislikes, it is crowds.  Therefore they seek out small hotels, inns and lodges of 3 to 16 rooms maximum.  It guarantees personalized service and special attention by management that is often harder to achieve in bigger hotels.  Latitude 10 in Santa Teresa in Costa Rica is a great example of a hotel that feels like staying over with friends, just that your “friend” is Jose Pablo, the General Manager.

8. Kids become drivers for eco experiences

What better place to take your kids than to a national park or a private rain forest reserve. A vacation could become a biology or geography field trip.  We have found though, that often it is the kids that push their parents to take them to those natural places off the beaten path.  We might be underestimating the interest of the internet generation’s interest in real nature experience.  Watch out, Disney…

Guided Rainforest Hike with Edwin Villareal at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula.  Kids absorb the information they learn on those hikes like sponges.

9. Wellness beyond a massage and facial

Many travelers are bored with spas and mainstream wellness offers that are available in the market.  What’s special about a massage in a closed in an air-conditioned room?  We find that guests are exploring the idea of wellness more and more through their nutrition, an exercise routine for body and soul, a connection with their natural surroundings and an appreciation of a sense of place.

10. Savvy guests will start to ask the right kind of questions

The well-traveled and highly educated guest that we welcome at our hotels and lodges is no longer fooled by some kind of an “eco-certification” or a green label.  They know what makes a difference and will ask the right kind of questions.  It forces hoteliers to look more carefully at their supply chains and secondary impacts on the environment and the communities that they operate in. It is no longer good enough to just recycle.  We need to avoid creating plastic trash by getting rid of disposable plastic bottles for drinks in hotels and resorts.