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Conscious luxury is a term which is being used increasingly in the brave new world of tourism.
In our October edition of Responsible Travel Makers, we showcased two Wayaj member resorts who are truly defining the term ‘conscious luxury’. Bawah Reserve in Indonesia and Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman. You can watch the recording here
What is luxury?
Before we start looking at the concept of conscious luxury, we should probably define what we understand as luxury itself. A number of words instantly spring to mind, such as expensive, exclusive, designer and possibly wasteful. However, the definition of luxury has been changing over the past few years. Consumers have begun to understand that luxury is not just about material things and can be in harmony with the environment.
Travelers are changing their attitudes
When it comes to tourism, growing numbers of travelers are looking for an alternative style of luxury. It’s not about designer shopping, the most expensive bottle of champagne or lavish accommodation. Conscious luxury has become desirable for people who are looking for unforgettable experiences which will also have a positive impact on the places they visit. They want to understand more about the culture and its people and engage with the local community. They want to feel that their visit has been a meaningful experience for them but also generated something for the destination.
Many research studies have shown that attitudes are changing towards how consumers make purchasing decisions. Global insights organisation, Kantar, has undertaken research that shows that people are wanting to engage with purpose-driven brands. Forty one percent of those questioned ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ with the following statement. “I am prepared to invest time and money to support companies that try to do good.”
What is different about conscious luxury?
Conscious luxury allows people to enjoy experiences which are priceless and good for their own health as well as that of the planet. The key words of the Bawah mission statement are ‘we embrace an Earth-first philosophy.’ Zighy Bay follows ‘0% Harm, 100% Love’ as their guiding principle.
It is possible to combine a luxury experience with respect for the environment and local communities. At Bawah Reserve and Zighy Bay it is instantly clear that guests delight in the close-to-nature experiences they can enjoy. They take a real interest in the way the two hotels are managed to minimize their impact on the environment. They are touched by the involvement with the local community and the overarching commitment to make a lasting meaningful contribution.
As Katja Graf, Sales & Marketing Director of Six Senses Zighy Bay explains, “There is no marble, no gold. It’s not a bling bling style resort.”
Conscious luxury is about providing the best that nature has to offer in a sustainable way. This could be a dining experience or cookery class which includes top quality organic ingredients grown locally or even at the hotel itself.
Conscious luxury hotels such as Zighy Bay and Bawah Reserve show us how it is possible to combine luxury with doing what’s right for the environment and for local communities.
Both resorts grow their own organic vegetables to create fresh, healthy cuisine for their guests. Zighy Bay has its own organic farm just outside the resort where guests can enjoy a Farm Breakfast – they can even select their own freshly laid eggs! At Bawah Reserve guests can enjoy a guided tour of the permaculture garden and pick vegetables to use in a cookery class or a private dinner.
Protecting ecosystems and habitats
Conscious luxury hotels also offer their guests the opportunity to engage with the natural world and be part of protecting it. At Zighy Bay guests can take part in an ocean beach clean-up, a collaboration with The Olive Ridley Project. At Bawah guests can dive into the pristine waters of the ocean to see coral which is being propagated through the work of Bawah’s Anambas Foundation.
Conscious luxury hotels do their best to minimize their impact on the environment where they find themselves. They will think about the habitats and natural world which surround them. During the construction of Bawah Reserve, the utmost attention was taken not to damage the ocean bed and to remove the minimum number of trees in the jungle.
Community engagement is key
The travel and tourism industry provides livelihoods for 330 million people (one in 10 workers) across the globe. It is also a harsh truth that those areas most affected by climate change are also areas that are dependent economically on tourism. It is vital that any form of tourism is built around the needs of the local economy and its people. When managed in collaboration with the local community, tourism can bring real benefits.
Conscious luxury hotels should embrace the character of the local community where they are based. They should employ as many local people as possible including in management positions and be involved in initiatives to improve their lives. It also makes sense to work with local businesses and establish a resilient local supply chain. This is particularly relevant after we have seen the fragility of global infrastructures during the coronavirus pandemic.
Both our featured hotels are intrinsically connected to the local communities. The waters around Bawah Reserve are protected, meaning that local fishermen are unable to fish. So Bawah has retrained them to grow organic vegetables. Bawah buys from them and they are also able to sell to other local markets.
The Six Senses group sets aside 0.5% of revenue every year from each hotel in its portfolio. This goes into its Sustainability Fund, which supports projects in the local communities, such as medical equipment for hospitals and facilities for local schools.
Conscious luxury is good for business
Our two featured resorts are simply inspirational examples of sustainability in action. Their attention to detail is outstanding. There are so many other initiatives that they are taking, that we encourage you to listen to the recording of their presentations here
Any type of hotel can learn from these two green pioneers and choose sustainable actions which they can adapt to their own property and locality.
We know that travelers are expecting more sustainable options and Bawah Reserve and Six Senses Zighy Bay are proof that conscious luxury travelers are a growing market. It is also evident that embracing sustainability as part of any business plan makes financial sense. As Raymond Saja, General Manager of Bawah Reserve demonstrates, “Bawah Reserve has seen substantial return business for a property that has only been open for less than two years, and is off the beaten path, with some guests having visited the island four times already!”
To watch the ‘Conscious Luxury’ edition of Responsible Travel Makers, go to our YouTube Channel