How can we build tourism businesses that are kinder and more regenerative to the environment, healthy to the worker, pleasing to the guest, engaging to the community and profitable to the owner?
We don’t operate in bubbles so we have to work together to create solutions that everyone will win from in the long term, including Mother Earth.
In this optimistic sustainability conversation, Sarah Riley talked with Professor Dr. Willy Legrand about how the eco-resort, luxury camping and glamping industries can help strengthen the bond between the hospitality and nature and how it has the potential to influence the wider tourism industry. We also discussed:
industry best practices redefining eco-luxury in hospitality greenwashing reinvesting in nature If you are a trailblazer and have been involved in sustainable best practices in hospitality that you are proud of then Dr. Willy Legrand would like to hear from you. Please contact him through LinkedIn or his email below.
The Glamping Business Podcast Shownotes
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THE GLAMPING BUSINESS PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
Sarah Riley: In this episode, we talk about how camping, glamping, and luxury, outdoor hospitality can open up more sustainable choices for the consumer to allow them to travel in a conscious and sustainable way, allowing us to have low impact adventures that don’t cost the earth. Welcome to episode 64. Glamping and unique holiday rentals are surging in popularity with the growing desire of customers to book holidays that deliver and experience. They are also the new business of choice for those wanting to improve their work life balance. So how do you build a strong business like this that gives you the life you need and a great investment I’m Sarah Riley, and I want to share what I’ve discovered after being immersed in this industry for over 20 years to inspire you to find out more about what’s going on. Welcome. This is the business of glamping and unique holiday rentals. Thank you very much, professor, for joining me today. It’s wonderful to have you here as my guest. So for the listeners, would you mind sharing a bit of background information about you, where you’ve come from, why you are now here, talking to me today about sustainability issues
Willy Legrand: Yes. Thank you so much, Sarah, for the invitation. It’s a pleasure to connect again, in fact. yeah. My name is Willie Lagon. I’m a professor at the IU International University of Applied Sciences that’s located in Germany, and I have a specialization in sustainable hospitality development and management. where do I come from and how, why do I do this So I was born in France, in a mountains close to Geneva, from a farming family. My parents had a, a, a little farm, and we produced, milk and we transformed the milk into a cheese, a blue cheese, which was one of the first organically certified cheese in France for blue cheese in any case. but my parents immigrated to Canada in a seventies. I followed, I was a little boy, and, they purchased a farm. So I grew up on a farm.
Willy Legrand: And now in hindsight, after all those years, I think this time on the farm has, has, has shaped a little bit my thinking and my views around our interaction with nature. You’re on the farm, we followed the weather pattern to do all the task we have to do on the farm, and I think that really has shaped a little bit my, my view on our interaction with nature. growing up I ended up studying geography, and in Winnipeg, actually in the center of Canada. I graduated with a degree, a bachelor degree, and I wasn’t too sure what to do. And I, I, I moved out actually to the West coast to, to Vancouver Island. And, it’s, it was the 1990s. There was a lot of tourism. There still is a lot of tourism, going on a lot of hotels, and I’ve always been fascinated by this.
Willy Legrand: And I thought there’s a nice little connection between nature and hospitality. It’s just, it’s just an extension, if you will. We, we produce food, we produce, and then it’s being prepared and served eventually, and, and it, it, it’s one long line, one chain. And so I was curious and, I ended up a bit by luck really, to, to start working in, in hotels on the, on the west coast. And I really enjoyed it. But I also quickly found out that there are lots, lots of problems in fact with hospitality. And, I ended up going to study a master’s with a specialization in corporate environmental management. I then went on to do a PhD eventually, but I had a foot for many years in the hospitality sector. And as I said, there were, there were a lot of issues that I thought we could do better in the hospitality world.
Willy Legrand: I moved to academia about 20, a little bit more than 20 years ago now. and one of my goal was to, I wanted to make some changes in hospitality. And I knew that having my own little hotel would not quite cut it. I could do what I could the best I could within my property, but if I really wanted to make a bigger dent, I either had to move into the corporate ranks, perhaps of a large hotel chain, or I go to the root, which is really education. And, I’m a big proponent of, of strong education. And I thought, this is where I have to go. I have to go to, to the education of hospitality and, and see what I can do there. and so I started to do research in the field of sustainability some 20 years ago.
Willy Legrand: And, you know, putting programs together, courses together, doing some publication, writing books. I wrote a first edition of a book on sustainable hospitality, back in 2000 5, 6, 7. It actually came out in 2009. And yeah, 20 years later, I, I still write this book. Actually, I had a fourth edition, published last, last year, last summer with 800 pages. So there’s a lot to say about sustainability in hospitality. and this is what I do. I I do a lot of research and I try to bring this, the classroom across the planet. I think I’ve been teaching in pretty much all continent, perhaps not all of them, but, but many.
Sarah Riley: So you said you shared some information with me, which actually made my jaw drop, which is very difficult to talk about this subject because it can seem a little bit negative at times. You know, we know where we are, we know where we’re going, but you said to me, humans have never existed at a time like this when things are, temperatures are getting this high and this, so share a little bit more about that and, and what’s actually happening with the environment and, and everything else.
Willy Legrand: Yeah. So I, I followed the climate scientists very closely. I, I think their work is, is, is absolutely outstanding. What the, what what they have put out over the last 30 years, in fact is, is pretty amazing. And if you look at, I mean, it’s basically a, a matter of measurements. I’m quite pretty pragmatic about this, but if you, if you look at the concentration of carbon, this is what you’re referring to really is, is the, the concentration of carbon into atmosphere. So we’re looking at, you know, parts per million, so parts of c o two molecules per million parts of air. And we at 423 parts, probably closer to 424 parts. That is 150% above the levels that was pre-industrial levels. And, and, and that concentration of carbon has, the last time that we had such a concentration was about that. It was about anywhere between 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago.
Willy Legrand: There were no humans on this planet. And if we look, I mean the scientists are very good at this. If you look at the, the industrial revolution, and before that, before the industrial revolution, the concentration of carbon was about 280 parts per million. So as I said, we’re at 420 and that has been stable. That 230, 80 parts per million has been stable for thousands of years of human civilization since we have actually introduced agriculture and then move on to, to develop cities and so on. So that has been stable. And basically that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it I mean, it comes down to having different zones on this planet where we can, develop ourselves. We can have an agriculture that provides us with stable food supply that we can then feed cities. It, it’s all linked somehow. And, and this is what we are disrupting quite heavily right now. And I mean, I think the climate science is clear on that and those disruption, you know, we think we, we can adapt, humans can adapt, perhaps we can, but the nature around us has got a hard time. And in inside we’re not separated from nature, we are part of nature and therefore is, you know, we will, we will have challenges. And that’s, that’s perhaps what I’m, I’m meant really by this is to say we live in pretty, it’s, it’s uncharted path, in fact, where we are right now as a society.
Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. And it’s one of those things, isn’t it We dunno where we’re going. We don’t actually know, you know, what our future will bring, but we obviously don’t want to feel too down and too low about it at the moment because it’s all about making things good. so maybe stuff that we’ve done all our lives, like being a tourist going away, you know, it’s about how can we do that a bit differently How can we do that a bit differently that’s more sustainable so that we’re still doing those things, but we are doing it in a more sustainable way. So it is almost, like I mentioned yesterday, it’s a little bit like going on a diet, isn’t it Whenever you go on a diet, it’s always about all the foods you have to take away, but it’s actually, no, it’s, it should all be about what can we do slightly differently so that we’re not going without, so we don’t have to give up our holiday, we don’t have to give up those things, but we’re just doing it slightly differently so it’s not as bad for the environment and, and everything else and sustainability.
Sarah Riley: So, you know, do you have any thoughts around that and what people can do and how things can change, and maybe even how, business owners can think differently about their own business in tourism and eco accommodation and, and glamping camping luxury outdoor
Willy Legrand: Yeah, I, I, I do have some, I, I was just listening to what you were saying and I thought, yeah, this is kind of interesting because in fact, that, that, the, the, the, the saying that we, you know, it’s a, it’s an insurmountable catastrophe. This is not helping anyone, in fact, right So if, if the message, this is actually one of the barrier. There’s a great, there’s great work actually that’s been not by, by a Swedish, psychologist per ESP stuckness. And he’s actually identified five barriers, he calls it the five Ds. And there is something like doom or, or denial and dissonance and things like that. And it’s kind of interesting because doom is one of them to just say, well, you know, it’s doomed anyways, and so therefore I’ll do nothing about it, right So this is a barrier to action.
Willy Legrand: Or sometimes we see dissonance, this is also a good one where to say, you know, I, I, I’m aware that, that we have to have, you know, changes, but we’re confused about how to go about this. So I’ll take my, you know, four tons SUVs drive 50 kilometers to the next organic farmer’s market, and that makes me feel good. So this is this dissonance that we’re often having in, in our, in our actions. And it’s, it’s, it’s challenging, right But I think one of the, one of, to, to go over that there, there’s something to be said about storytelling as well, you know, so to, to bring, to bring when, when we have a challenge like this is how do you gather forces to overcome that challenge And this is, I think perhaps one of the challenges that we’re having is how to communicate this so that people don’t feel it’s doomed, but rather they feel, listen, there are some entrepreneurs out there and they have solutions and they’ve implemented it and it works. It’s not amazing. I mean, this is what we’re looking at. We’re looking at, you know, how do we get, how do we get those solutions How do we scale them and how do we get people to know about them, et cetera. So it’s the positive message, but it’s hard to cut through this. It’s hard to cut through the noise with the positive messages, but there are of course, out there positive messages.
Sarah Riley: How can business owners, how can, you know, small and large business owners in this industry, in the glamping unique hospitality, outdoor hospitality industry, what can they do to try to help with this issue to try to help with this problem so that it doesn’t seem too overwhelming And as you just mentioned there, you know, I dunno what to do, so I’m just gonna do nothing. You know, what kind of things can they think through What kind of things can they do
Willy Legrand: So this area, this what you’re talking about, the, the field of, of glamping camping, ec lodges, pods and, and tree houses on this entire outdoor hospitality is amazing actually. It’s really is amazing. And I think there’s a lot of learning that’s transferable to the general hospitality industry. So it’s, that’s the way around it actually. It’s, it’s this, these guys are trailblazers as far as I can see. And, and we’ve seen this at a conference that we’re at not too long ago. you know, I’m, I’m, I’m often referring back to my class about how the, the biophilia hypothesis is, making a difference. The fact that we, you know, we, we have a connection and attraction to, to everything that’s living around us that plants the animal in the natural environment. And, and we see this a lot post covid, right When people were in quarantine and how attending to plants on your balcony or, or being in your garden is, it was so, it was so good really to just get out of your full walls.
Willy Legrand: So the, that connection to, to nature is, is very strong. And they have that, I mean, that’s what outdoor hospitality is, is they, they, they take that and they monetize that in many ways in their offers. And I think this is, this is, sort of interesting, especially in this urbanized, this heavily urbanized technology focused world. I mean, this, I think this serves a little bit as a reminder of, of that how important it is that connection to nature really, and making the, in the effort to implement natural elements into our daily lives. And I think that’s part of what they do. I’ll explain a little bit more in detail if you want to, but you know, we, we know that outdoor activities is good for us. We know it’s, it’s, and we have studies that show this. and I, and as I said, having plants, designing our home and our workspaces to have natural material around us is good to have access to green spaces is good.
Willy Legrand: And so the world of outdoor hospitality has got this amazing evolution. And, and, and we have a number of urban based travelers wishing to actually reconnect with nature. And so therefore they prioritize these outdoor experience during their trips. And I think those, those innovators that we were talking about, they have something pretty amazing in their hands. Because when we talk about camping glamping and, and this luxury outdoor hospitality, you have this unique sustainable alternatives to the traditional accommodation. And what is it that we have Well, we have low impact construction, right A lot of the, a lot of the outdoor facilities that I’ve seen, you know, the, the, some of them have got a temporary or semi-permanent structures that they have in place, right When we talk about tents, for example, or cabins, they, they’re really looking at lower environmental impact compared to a traditional built property, which sits on ground and de facto seals the ground.
Willy Legrand: So that means you remove the biodiversity forever. here we’re having those, those structure are not necessarily, they’re, they’re often built in line with nature and trying to not disrupt nature. So, so much so, and, and I think the attention to, to eco-friendly materials, less disruptive to natural habitat. This is, this is an amazing part. If we look at, I don’t want to go on forever on this, but if we look at the impact, if you just take a hotel, a normal hotel, right, a box hotel, if you look at the impacts throughout the, the building lifecycle, so we’re looking at the entire hotel. Sure, every day you are, you know, turn the lights on, turn the air con on, and you have the kitchens and the ship. So you have operational energy, we have have operational water, we have operational waste. This is certainly a fairly large impact to manage, but there is this other impact behind that, which is all the material that is needed in the construction of it, and all the material that’s needed in the upkeep of those properties over its lifetime.
Willy Legrand: And we know that hotels, I mean, they go through refurbishment cycle relatively, often, right To, to keep up with the demand of consumers and to keep up with the trend. And so therefore, you have material coming into the rooms, material, leaving the rooms. You have a waste stream. You have a very much of a linear approach to all of this. and that’s difficult to break. It’s difficult to break that linear approach, right New material, new furniture, new beds, new lamps, new, everything new. And then after a few years, it’s out. Technology’s even worse. Technological upgrades are happening at the speed. It’s unbelievable. And we have e-waste. So that is challenging. And I think what’s interesting with the outdoor accommodation sector is it’s, it’s in sim simplicity, I think it’s the ignorant simplicity of, basically it’s the experience, right It’s, it’s being out there and it’s offering an experience.
Willy Legrand: And the experience, of course, the facilities is part of it. But I think there was a great quote, I I, I would hope to, to make sure that I say it right here. and it was, it was a code by one of the attendee at a conference who said, the true luxury happens outside the building, right Building can be a window to the luxury experience, but the true luxury happen outside the building. So, and this is, I think, the philosophy of many of those out there that say, low impact building is very important. That’s only one aspect. Then you, you know, we can go on for energy efficiency, we can talk water conversa, conservation, waste reduction, food, nature preservation. I mean, the list I think is very long of best practices that we see from, the outdoor hospitality world, in fact. And I think that’s the transferability I’m looking for. I’m really looking for the transferability from the outdoor hospitality world to urban-based properties that are thinking, how, what do I do What do I do with biodiversity How do I cope with this Et cetera. Mm-hmm. Sorry. Long answer.
Sarah Riley: No, no, I love that. And I love the fact that you’ve identified those differences between a traditional hotel model and the outdoor luxury accommodation model. And one of the things that we’ve seen with some of the trailblazers is how they’re also, you know, doing really significant upcycling. So they’re using materials that already exist, that have already been used, have a lifetime use, and, and yet they’re pulling them out of jungles, like we heard from Bill Bensley and, you know, going to thrift shops and finding these amazing things like sofas, like, train carriages, like old caravans. And they are upcycling them, repurposing them, and giving them new life. And as you’re saying there, with the materials that are used to build, facilities, if we can use materials that have already been produced and have already had a lifetime, you are really reducing the, the footprint.
Willy Legrand: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, I think, and, and Bill Binley I think said it right, right off the start, because he said, it’s a quote from him, nature is perfect. We can only make the place worse. Our job is to thread lightly and mitigate the, the damages. And so therefore, I, I, I think this is a good, a good way to look at it. You’re quite right. I mean, upcycling, so that circularity is, is very important because, and again, I go back to the traditional hotel. We, we can look at this amount of, i, if we just look at emissions, like embody carbon, the amount of emission that goes into producing and manufacturing the furniture, the fixtures, the equipment, and so on. And if you think about regular refurbishment cycle and the construction of a fixed property, that could be up to 70% of all the emissions of a building.
Willy Legrand: It’s not about turning the lights on and off, that is part of it. But a big bulk of the emission is actually just fitting these places. So if we can have circularity, so if the guys in outdoor hospitality, and we have very luxurious, it’s a new form of luxury, of course, if they can do it, if they can do it by looking like Bensley has done to say, let’s have a look at the material that’s around us that exists already, and we are going to work with this, we are going to rethink a chair, we’re going to reupholster, we’re gonna work with it, we’re gonna work with existing material. And that’s going to be part of the luxury experience if they manage to do that. There is no reasons why the rest of the world cannot apply some of this more circularity in the furniture fitting. And, and for me, it’s, it’s really about, you know, and you’ve touched a little bit about this, it’s, it’s sort of this redefinition of luxury a little bit, isn’t it, in a way, that, that the outdoor hospitality is pushing for in some ways.
Sarah Riley: Hmm. I, I completely agree because of the fact that, you know, what do we consider, what do we categorize as luxurious Well, clearly the, the bensley is doing some five star, seven star luxurious properties, but he’s actually upcycling old materials from a dump, so to making a toilet, but the toilet is incredibly interesting. And that was one of the other things he was sharing, wasn’t it About how you can make these very ordinary things that we use for everyday ordinary things, and building something really quite spectacular. And it’s all recycled upcycled, old materials and, and it seems so five star, so luxurious, but it’s all totally repurposed material, and I think it’s a very, very clever way of doing it, and potentially could actually save some money for the hospitality business because they’re using something that already exists. So you are saying there that the, the biggest impact is the fixtures and fittings and the furnishings that go on inside, these, guest accommodation rather than the build. Is that what you’re saying with the hotels That’s,
Willy Legrand: it’s not, it’s not so much it, well, the, the, the ff e furniture phases and equipment is a big part. It’s not, it’s not only that, it is also the construction, right It’s the construction phase of a hotel. If you have a greenfield and you start from scratch, and you have foundations and walls and roofing, et cetera. So that construction phase plus the furniture’s fitting fittings, equipment, that may, we, we have very few studies on building lifecycle, assessment in the, hotel sector. There are a few studies, and some of the studies point out to something like 50, 60, 70, up to 80% have seen a study, of the carbon footprint of a 30 year life of a building, a hotel building, coming down to that construction phase, plus the furnishing of it and the refurbishment cycle. So the remaining 30% of 40% is the operations that we have, which is the everyday operating the hotels, you know, with, with everything that belongs to it, such as the lights on and the air con and, and the laundry and so on. So, so that’s basically what it comes down to. Yeah.
Sarah Riley: So where do you think people in this industry, which is outdoor hospitality, glamping, luxury resorts, but eco resorts, what do you think they can do the most to help towards this bigger problem that we have as humanity
Willy Legrand: I mean, it’s, it is a very difficult questions because you, you come, I mean, the, the part of the answer is, is why do we go travel in the first place right. I mean, it’s if, if we want to go to the root, and not to say the elephant in the room, but why do we go to travel and what’s our impact throughout the, the travel So knowing that we are curious, knowing that people will go travel no matter what. They might change their destinations, they might change the mode, but they would like to go travel is what, what is it that we can do How do we mitigate And at this point, we’re not even looking at how do we mitigate our impact, but rather how do we ensure a restoration I mean, how, you know, we talk a lot about regenerative travel and, and regenerative hospitality in this case.
Willy Legrand: So it’s not only about making sure that we maintain the status quo at our destinations, but it’s how do we make sure we make the destination even better through our businesses. I mean, that’s really the mindset that needs to be put into place. And I think in many ways, this is where the outdoor hospitality is perhaps a little bit, it’s, it’s ahead in their thinking about that. And I think it comes down to this biophilia and biophilic design and, and, and this idea of protection, but it’s more than protection. It’s really, you know, how do I engage in restoration of natural habitat how do I, you know, how do I ensure some form of restorations How do I make the guests participate into this I think this is where they can set, the bar relatively high for everyone else, because let’s face it, in terms of things such as energy efficiency, sure.
Willy Legrand: you know, the, many of the properties are energy efficient, but energy efficiency is a topic that’s come across the industry at wide. I mean, I, I know some urban properties that are, zero energy, et cetera. So they, they are very efficient and they use a lot renewable energy, et cetera. So I think we’ve gone a long way already in that, on that topic. I think what, what really is where, where we’re ma trying to make a difference is how do we make the place a better place And that will be, you know, working together with nature and having restoration plans. So, you know, and we know some companies are involved in coral reef restoration because it’s also natural barriers to floods or, you know, mangrove restorations, or it’s, I mean, it could be many things really that, that you are involved in.
Willy Legrand: And that’s that. And at the end, it’s always comes back to this, it always comes back to we monetize this beauty, right I mean, at the end, the customers, of course, they come and stay at our places, but they also come because of this magnificent nature and so on. And so we, we readily monetize nature, our industry does. And now is about time to say, not only do we monetize, but we reinvest. And that is the restoration work. And I think this is where the outdoor hospitality is, is maybe cutting edge at least more. I hope I still have to work more case studies and talk to more people, but I think in the thinking, they’re definitely there. So do
Sarah Riley: You think that this movement of the outdoor hospitality world, do you think it has this bigger potential to, influence the bigger industry as hotels as we know it, and, you know, all those kinds of, bus big businesses that have been operating in their own way for so long Do you think it’s something that could be a, a best practice that, could come out of this movement
Willy Legrand: Yeah, you know what I think so, and that’s, that’s part of why I am quite keen myself to, to, to write up case studies and to, to, to publish, you know, to publish them and to, to pass them around. Because ultimately, those best practices can be implemented by big chains, big corporate. And what the big corporates have that the small guys don’t have is this ability to scale. And if, you know, a, a best practice is taken from the outdoor hospitality and implemented by one of those large corporation, and we’re talking about scaling up to not a hundred but thousands of properties. This is then the scale of impact that is, you know, that we’re looking for as well. So, I do think that there is, and in fact, not only do I think there is, but it’s happened in the fact in, in the past already, the large companies have adopted best practices from smaller companies that were more cutting edge, more agile, perhaps, in their practices.
Willy Legrand: And then large companies have come around and they’ve either copied the practice and scale it, or they’ve simply bought over the small company in its own and then implemented some. So I think we’re going to see this, we’re going to see some of those practices. And I think some of the practices that we’re going to see is going to be in the field of restoration regeneration work. This is where, you know, some of the large companies are thinking, how do I go about this What do I do And I think this is where the outdoor hospitality may be able to set, you know, do the trailblazing basically.
Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. So in other words, what you’re saying there is, so for the smaller business who may have introduced a really sustainable best practice idea, and it’s working really well, and they’ve done it because in their heart they want to do that, it means a lot to them. It’s their vision, it’s their ethos, it’s how they see they want to run their business, but they may just be saying, well, this is what I’m doing, but it’s not having the bigger, wider impact. But actually it could be having a bigger, wider impact, because if it’s shown as best practice and the bigger companies pick it up and start doing similarly, then that’s going to be a multiple thing that continues to spread. And so that’s great. It,
Willy Legrand: It’s huge. It’s huge. And, and let’s face it, in the world of, of sustainable hospitality, all the corporates that I know, this is one area where collaboration and cooperation of, in one form or another, is very strong. I mean, we, while those companies really, they’re competing against each other on the market for the overnight stays when it comes to sustainability, there is this amazing willingness to share, how do we move this forward What do we learn from each other And so therefore, it’s not only learning with each other as large companies, but it’s what do we learn from, from the smaller players that are more cutting edge And I mean, thi this is, you know, talking about the positive, the positives around this, this is it. I mean, this is this willingness to, to, learn from each other and to share those best practices. And so it’s, yeah, you do have, you do make a difference, even if it’s your own small hotel, your small property, your small lodge, and you’re thinking, okay, well this is what I do. I mean, I have my small, I try to mitigate my small impact. Or ultimately, if those best practices are picked up, and they will be probably, and then rolled out to hundreds and thousands of properties. I mean, this is where we see a a an entire industry moving forward. And this is very important, of course. Mm-hmm.
Sarah Riley: Absolutely. one thing I wanna touch on, because I don’t wanna turn from a very lovely positive to a slight negative, but what do you think about greenwashing Do you think that we have a lot of it, starting to come along Or do you think people are truly trying to make a difference What’s your view on greenwashing
Willy Legrand: Well, we have, no, we, we do have greenwashing in our industry. I think we, we definitely do, with, some of it is intentional, some of it is unintentional. Unfortunately, there, there’s some greenwashing that happens simply because you’re, you’re thinking you want to do the good thing, but in fact, by using the wrong set of words, by not having looked at how words are defined, and I mean, we see a lot of that around net zero and carbon neutral and not net positive and nature positive, et cetera. So we have to be careful about how those words are being implemented in news. If they’re, if these words are not well defined, you should just keep your fingers away from it because, because it’s not helping the situation. In fact, so there is some intentional and unintentional, and there is some greenwashing in our industry.
Willy Legrand: There is no doubt about it. I think this is why the lawmakers, especially here in the EU with the new EU green flame directive, they’re really trying to tackle this down. I mean, trying to, to, to reign in the certification and, and trying to, if you use any words, whether it’s to say, I have local food or I have an environmentally friendly hotel state, then you have to substantiate those claims with proofs. And I think this is, this is a reaction, basically a reaction of the fact that we’ve abused the system. I’m as an industry, but we’re not the only one. I mean, every single other industry has done the same. If you look at the food, the food sector, oh my god. Mm. So, and so yes, it’s happening. And the, the, the bigger problem with this that I see is it’s hurting those that are truly, involved in their sustainability.
Willy Legrand: They, they suffer from the fact that others do greenwash because they have to, they have done the work, and they are out there, and the message is out there. But there is then this sense from the consumer that, we’re not too sure. We’re not too sure if what this is right. Whereas perhaps, you know, they have been doing it all the way along and they’re very serious about it. But just because there’s a sense that maybe they’re greenwashing. So, you know, I, I think, I think this is, what we’re seeing in terms of regulations coming down the pipeline is, is a reaction of the fact that there’s been some greenwashing and some abuse, and we’re gonna have to live with it. That’s it. And to substantiate your claim, I think it’s fair enough, if you say something, you should be able to prove it and live up to it. Mm,
Sarah Riley: I, couldn’t agree more. There was a very interesting piece of research that was done by the UK government during the pandemic when everything stopped, we went into lockdowns, and then there was this feeling of unease from companies and businesses about, okay, when can I start selling When can I start opening up to the consumer and say, okay, we’re back to business again. So they did some research with the consumer to say, okay, when would you be happy And who would you like to contact you, a a about this kind of thing And, and essentially, many people, in fact, the majority were saying, I’m okay with that, but as long as they’re a company that have good in their heart and they have other ideas of, sustainability projects, environmental projects, and just basically being good to the community so they have a bigger picture, rather than just making money and, and making a profit. And it was really quite significant how many people said that. And okay, we’ve got back to life as normal, but it doesn’t escape my notice that there must be this underlying theme amongst consumers that they actually do want business to do good business and to do business that is supportive to the environment and everything else. So that was really, I found that quite heartening and quite optimistic. Do, would you agree
Willy Legrand: Well, I mean, this is, this is, what you’re talking about is this is fantastic. We talk about in class about this. I mean this, this famous stakeholder theory rather than shareholder, you know, the, the, the, the emphasis on, on ensuring that the value of a business is spread amongst the stakeholders rather than just the shareholders. And I think this is something that’s, the expectations of society has gone that route for sure. And Covid has probably just made that even, even more. and so, yes, I agree. For us, when you think about the hospital, I always ask, we always talk about this in, in, in class, we, the basic question that we ask ourselves at the beginning of a class is, you know, how do we plan developed and manage a hotel sector or hospitality sector, which is kind and regenerative to the environment, it’s healthy to the workers, pleasing to the guests, engaging in a community, efficient to the operators, profitable to the owners.
Willy Legrand: I mean, you make the list of stakeholders because this is what it is really. We don’t operate in bubbles. We operate with, with partners. And, we’ve always said that, you know, the, the true value of a business is to be able to find solution to problems. This is how you make your money. It’s not about making money on the problem themselves. It’s not by making things worse, which some companies believe that that’s what it is, is, you know, by making things worse, this sound make my money and this is the best way to go at it. No, the, you know, making the money is about, is about creative invention, creative solutions, to problems that we have in society, whether it’s environmental problems, social problem, et cetera. And everybody wins from this in the long term. so yeah, I agree. I agree. And it’s, it is kind of good news to see that that’s what people really expect from their businesses. And I think this is what people expect from, from their hotels in the way that they treat their employees and from, from in the way that they interact in the communities and how much they pay their, their suppliers, et cetera. I mean, the, the list is long, really, but yes,
Sarah Riley: I just hope that consumers continue to vote with their feet in the direction towards those businesses that have a bigger heart and a bigger mind to, than just profit and, making money out of the guest.
Willy Legrand: This, and this is the difficult part, isn’t it I mean, it is the difficult part. Every single one of us have got a tremendous power because it’s the power of a wall of our wallet. We, all of us, everyone works hard for their money. And so you have, you know, and you have a choice where to spend it, especially in hospitality, which is so heterogeneous and eclectic, you can actually decide where you spend. You might, it’s not like you have only one provider. And so it’s about making the right decision and to make the right decision, you, you need that transparent information. You need to make sure there isn’t greenwashing. You need to be able to trust. All of that is very important. And there are multiple players, you have to rely on them, and you might have to rely on OTAs, you might have to rely on, on, on the hotel website themselves, on what they tell you, et cetera. So yes, very important. Mm-hmm.
Sarah Riley: . So what are you most optimistic about in terms of this topic and where things are moving into
Willy Legrand: The future well, I mean, generally speaking, I am optimistic on the fact that we have a few global agreements, even though it’s very hard to move forward. But we do have some global agreements. We have a global biodiversity framework since December, 2022, and it’s a good move forward. We have 23 targets to reach by 2030 and 2050. This sets the stage. We do have, sustainable development goals, 17 of them, 169 targets. This set the stage, it’s about the implementation. Many properties, many hotels are doing that. And so this is good. I am, so I’m, I’m, I’m keeping within our industry bubble for a minute here. so we, we do have global frameworks, and it’s about the implementation of it. And we see this happening. Some companies are implementing and they are measuring, and they are tracking, and they are setting targets that are in line with those agreements.
Willy Legrand: And that’s very, really positive. So, biodiversity for me is a big topic. we tend to have a little bit of a carbon tunnel vision. It’s important to deal with carbon, no doubt about it, but it’s not the only thing that’s, it’s the same metal, two sides, and they’re really connected biodiversity and, and climate in many ways. So we tend to have a little bit of a, not, not in, not in the outdoors, but this is what perhaps makes a difference between the rest of the hospitality world, is outdoor hospitality, I think understands really well that connection, of their impact on biodiversity and, and climate. The corporate world, although they are making progress on biodiversity, there’s a lot, a lot of going on more in the carbon. So there tends to be a focus on carbon more than anything else. so anyways, the positive stories are that we have frameworks in place, and it’s a matter of implementation.
Willy Legrand: We have KPIs in place, we know more and more we know how to measure better. Not everything, but we, we we’re getting better. The, the granularity of the data is there. Technology helps to do that. So that’s all the positive. the, but I have, I do have some worries as well. I mean, I do have some worries, and it’s partly our industry because it’s, it’s to handle the masses of people that wish to travel. And, and you know, we, we talk about outdoor hospitality. This remains for a certain type of clientele. It’s not the mass tourist. And, and not to say that one is better than the other. We, we have to manage master tourism, just like we have to manage the rest of it, and we have to be as active in the different fields. And there are people that wish to travel a certain way, others a different way, but you know, this is what I said, people are curious and they’re going to travel.
Willy Legrand: So it’s much about, you know, we’re still much about mitigating the impacts and how to do this better. And post covid, you know, we said during Covid, oh wow, it’s amazing those places that are not run over by tourists. And finally we see blue skies and so on. And now we look at those places, and of course there are a lot of tourists, again, I mean, we’re, you know, we’re back to the same mode of operations basically. So it’s, it’s those areas. I’m, I’m not worried so much about outdoors. I, I still think that, you know, we need to keep check and we need to keep looking and, but what they’re doing, et cetera. and I’m looking forward to the transferability of those practices to other areas of hospitality. but there are other areas of hospitality, which I think needs more attention and more work. So I’m interested in other hospitality, but I, you know, I’m looking at what other parts can, can learn from it.
Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. And, and the best practice that can be shared that maybe could be duplicated amongst the, the, the bigger corporate, world. So if somebody has been implementing something that they consider to be best practice, it’s worked very well. It’s very sustainable, and it’s something that they’re very proud of. Is that something that they could share with you Would you like to hear from them
Willy Legrand: Absolutely, . Absolutely. so I, there’s a few things that I do. I mean, I, I run a panel, on Hospitality net. It’s a news platform for hospitality, and I run a panel. This is just on a voluntary basis, but the, the, the base of the panel is to have experts interacting on different topics. It’s also a fairly good way to share best practices among, each other and across the wider audience. So that’s one way. And, yeah, best practice, I’m always in the lookout for best practices. and, well, I’m not the only one. I, I think there are, there are many, many people, there are networks of, of hotels that are looking for best practices. And so therefore, if anyone is interested, yes, they should just, reach out. And I will definitely also make sure that others know about those practices and, and to make sure that those are shared across the planet.
Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. I think that’s a great, great way of doing it. So how best should people contact you Is that through your LinkedIn profile Yeah,
Willy Legrand: I mean, LinkedIn is great. so there’s, this is an easy platform to reach out, email, I think on my university, my university, platform. My email is listed anyways. and, email is always good. It’s a bit traditional. It’s with old fashioned, but it works. So that’s great. . but I, but I, but just as a side note, I’m actually, for the first time, I think in more than 15 years, I, I will be off the grid for, for a little bit of time because I’m going cycling from the Atlantic Coast to the Black Sea with my brother. And so therefore, I’m not planning on doing any writing. This is gonna be the first for me in many, many years. So I’m, I’m planning to be really off grid and just enjoy the cycling.
Sarah Riley: Fantastic. Well, I’ll make sure that I’ll include all of that in the show notes. Thank you so much for spending time with me today, professor, Dr. Willie Legrand. It was an absolute pleasure meeting you o originally in Montenegro, but now, again, it’s been a, a wonderful, chat and I, I’m so pleased that you are, feeling very positive about the industry that I work within. And the people who work within it work very, very hard. And they do work from their heart and their soul on projects that they hope will benefit their community and also the environment. So, if they can share that in a way, any way at all, then that’s perfect. And I am very, very grateful for your time today. Thank you.
Willy Legrand: Thank you so much, Sarah. Have a great day.
published 2023-10-12 13:33:59