In line with Preferred Hotel Group’s Beyond Green initiative that will be launched on April 14, HN spoke to Costas Christ, global sustainable tourism pioneer and cofounder of Beyond Green, and to Saurabh Rai, executive vice president for South & South Asia, Middle East, Africa and Australasia region, to learn more about the project.
Costas Christ, Global Sustainable Tourism Pioneer and Cofounder of Beyond Green:
- What can you tell us about Beyond Green?
The brand was born out of a natural synergy and shared set of values that was discovered over an initial coffee meeting between myself and Lindsey Ueberroth in 2019. Working together and in collaboration with a hand-selected group of sustainability focused innovative hoteliers, we founded Beyond Green to establish a more purposeful way to explore the world where good guests meet good hosts. We shared a common understanding that together we can make travel a force for good by creating a new hospitality brand based on sustainable tourism leadership. The result is a portfolio of iconic world class hotels, resorts and lodges that represent sustainability best practices in action together with outstanding service and unique guest experiences.
- What differentiates this project from other CSR initiatives?
While giving lectures to travelers on sustainable tourism, organizing sustainability trainings for luxury travel agents and delivering speeches at global travel conferences and events, I was met with a common refrain from audiences along these lines: “We are inspired, we care, and we want to be part of this growing movement of making travel a catalyst for protecting nature, celebrating cultural diversity and benefiting local communities, but how can we easily find a list of hotels that are truly practicing sustainable tourism?” The launch of Beyond Green answers that question. We are providing a hospitality platform for hotels in this space to come together and share their success and plans for building a more sustainable future based on travel by the people for the planet.
- Do you believe it is time for the hospitality industry to start putting green strategies?
The time for the hospitality industry to start putting green strategies into action was more than 20 years ago. Now is the time to put sustainable tourism leadership into action and take best practices of tourism as a force for good to the next level of success. That is what Beyond Green is all about. We believe that sustainable tourism is the right thing to do and it will increasingly define the future of the travel industry. The pandemic has highlighted the need now more than ever to promote a kinder and gentler way to travel. Inspired by its brand promise, Believe in Travel, the Preferred Hotel Group has always represented an unwavering belief in travel. In a time when consumers are seeking a more meaningful way of travel, the launch of Beyond Green, as Preferred Hotels Groups newest brand represents the company’s efforts in building a better and brighter travel future.
- How efficient do you think it could be?
Culture and nature is often what motivates us as travelers to explore the world with all of its wonderful and beautiful diversity. So, it makes sense for the travel industry to understand this connection to their own business success and to actively engage in efforts to protect natural and cultural heritage now and for future generations. What it takes is leadership and a commitment to put words into action, and that is at the heart of Beyond Green, and my hope is the brand will help to usher in a world where the pillars of sustainable travel – environmentally friendly practices, support for the protection of cultural and natural heritage and the economic and social well-being of local people – will become part and parcel of what hospitality means by its very definition.
- Do you have any strategic roll out?
The Beyond Green consumer launch is set to take place on April 14. As a digital-first brand, Beyond Green will deploy across multiple channels, including paid digital activity, social media outreach and key partnerships, all supported by our official website (StayBeyondGreen.com), which will be thoughtfully curated with information that is impactful and purposeful to deliver a more intuitive way for travellers to find and plan a great holiday the sustainable way. We will also be participating in travel industry events with talks and presentations together with our Founding Members to tell our story about how we can be part of the positive transformation of travel now and for future generations.
Saurabh Rai, Executive Vice President for South & South Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Australasia region:
- How are you planning to deploy the Beyond Green initiative across the MENA?
The MENA region presents a lot of potential on the sustainability front, with many more hospitality players entering the ‘conscious’ hotel space. The Beyond Green team is continuously creating brand awareness through the ambassadorship of the 24 founding members, and through various PR and marketing efforts including social media. The brand already has ten members in neighbouring Africa that are the highest benchmark of responsible tourism, and we are aiming for many MENA hotels, that are leaders in sustainability, to think of Beyond Green as an apt platform to leverage. Our efforts include proactive outreach to hotels that are already known to be established sustainability players, and within MENA we are primarily looking at UAE, KSA, Oman, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan, to name a few.
- Will you be leading coaching and training?
Beyond Green, a true leader in the sustainable space, is taking the lead in bringing together and sharing best practises from its member hotels to constantly push the envelope further. As part of this, Beyond Green plans to roll out “Best In Class” coaching and training sessions enabling the brand and its member properties to share pertinent sustainable information with each other. Furthermore, to ensure travel agents are informed on every aspect of Beyond Green’s global portfolio, the brand’s global sales team will be hosting a series of ongoing initiatives in key global markets including training for travel advisors wanting to learn more about sustainable tourism and how to sell these unique properties. These events will be orchestrated throughout the year, keeping Preferred’s valuable advisor community informed, inspired and engaged with the member properties at all times.
- What should hotels do to get involved?
All new hotel members must meet the three pillars of sustainable tourism and adhere to more than 50 sustainability indicators that align with global sustainable tourism criteria and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Beyond Green has its own stringent quality assurance and vetting process and every property joining Beyond Green is subject to a preliminary property assessment and biennial on-site inspections. The onsite inspection includes quality of hospitality services as well as quality and innovation of guest experiences and activities in addition to a well-maintained property in terms of maintenance and upkeep.