Where do “revenge tourism” and responsible recreation meet?
Surely, making up for lost time with loved ones – or catching up on delayed bucket lists “achieved!” – ranks high on the priorities of “revenge tourism,” which took off asymmetrically across the globe in 2022, closely following the lowering of COVID-19 restrictions within countries and regions.
But there’s another priority that ranks higher than ever: responsible tourism, on the side of the traveler as well as the destination.
Early adopter in a sunrise industry
Roughly five years before the pandemic that pent up the world’s penchant for travel—especially the kind that honors both built and natural heritage, and explicitly benefits (rather than exploits) communities—a Philippine-based couple already turned their intersecting interests in tourism, real estate, the environment, and grassroots development into a bona fide business venture.
Solidly anchored on ecotourism, the first Eco Hotel—Cabins, in Tagaytay—was established in 2015 by the entrepreneurial tandem of Alessandra Atienza and Don Ramon Bagatsing.
Early on, the Cabins by Eco Hotel business and design blueprints bore the imprint of green service, along with solar energy use, biophilic design, a strong framework for the local community’s participation and development, and the “the 6 Rs”: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, renew, redesign. Right from the start, Eco Hotel was founded on sustainable business, then a relatively new concept for the general public. (Consider, for instance, that it was only in 2019 that the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission officially launched its sustainability reporting guidelines for publicly listed corporations.)
To solar systems, and beyond
Fast forward to 2023, and the metrics that matter for Eco Hotels include expansion: from the original one-Eco Hotel business, to today’s chain of five branches (under the Eco Hotel brand), three commercial centers (under the Pops District banner), several dormitels.ph (under the Eco Hotel Management), four restaurants (under the Bahay Group of Restaurants, serving Farm to Table food), and future residential development sites in nature destinations (the Ecology Park Community).
More crucially, a very significant set of metrics has been accomplished, as Eco Hotel has been able to track and reap returns on its thoughtfully and intentionally established systems, particularly for green energy management.
“The biophilic design (of Cabins when we started, and now, of all properties in the Eco Hotel portfolio) is also eco-friendly. There’s a close synergy: we design the accommodations, amenities, and surroundings from recycled and upcycled commercial and residential waste and excess to simultaneously support human comfort while encouraging environmentally responsible behavior,” explains Alessandra, Eco Hotel President and CEO.
“For instance, all our properties maximize the use of solar power, along with energy-efficient lighting fixtures, and energy-efficient appliances. However, the rooms themselves are designed in such a way as to maximize available daytime light, and allow effective cross-ventilation…we’ve had guests who’ve described it as ‘parang naka-aircon kahit hindi’,” recalls Alessandra.
“We’re encouraging a change in mindset as well—leisurely, comfortable living that actually involves less energy consumption.”
Solar power systems are installed in all Eco Hotel branches, and all these systems are “on-grid” as power supply is consistently available in most branches.
“This has resulted in our low electricity consumption since the beginning, considering the branches are on commercial rate,” shares Alessandra.
“For example, from 2018 to 2020, our average monthly electric bills were at P23,000-plus for Villas by Eco Hotel Mataas Na Kahoy in Batangas. Villas has nine bedrooms within a 1.6 hectare area. For Cabins Tagaytay, with its 16 bedrooms and 600 square meters of floor area, the monthly average was a little over P21,100. Even at Containers Tagaytay, where we have 30 bedrooms spread across 1000 square meters of floor area, we were only averaging over P42,300 a month.”
Not just hotel chains, but beneficial chain reactions
“Those numbers don’t just matter to us as business Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), they’re telling us that green design translates to gains for everyone,” enthuses Alessandra.
Eco Hotel makes it a point to source cast members from the community where each property is located; moreover, the company consciously invests in continuing professional development and encourages growth along clear career paths.
“Just as important, we train them not only to serve but educate others on the value of our environment and sustainable practices, even as they’re working hard to reach their individual KPIs. So essentially, they are not just hotel employees, they also evolve into Eco Warriors who practice what they preach, cast members who embody in them the principles of ecotourism and sustainability, while helping spur community development in the larger context.”
Ten years after the company was set up, and eight years after the opening of the first branch at Cabins, Eco Hotel continues to expand. However, Alessandra notes that the green service and community development principles remain embedded in the corporate DNA, and are carefully replicated or adapted to the unique settings and challenges of each site.
“The long term for us is not just about business longevity, but about the lifelong sustainability journey of the company. We’ve covered a fair amount of ground already in terms of addressing key green tourism concerns such as energy use, solid waste management and pollution, water and species conservation, and so on. But we realize that this is a continually evolving commitment.”
In the meantime, Eco Hotels keeps all its door wide opens to local and international tourists—yes, even revenge tourists, who can indulge in their revenge while contributing positively to communities and the environment.
Image credits: Mila M. Lumactao