As savvy travelers re-evaluate how they engage with local communities while traveling, here are some of the amazing initiatives showcasing how hotels are supporting and developing their local communities in this time of extraordinary need.
The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa
The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa is an exclusive 5-star, all-suite hotel located in Johannesburg’s affluent suburb of Sandhurst that emulates the essence of the city with a property that is a unique blend of rich, cultural history with contemporary touches throughout. More than just an upscale hotel, the Saxon takes pride in supporting the local community and cultural heritage, and training and developing their team. The Saxon has developed a people culture, where staff are encouraged to continually grow, learn and develop. The Saxon accepts a bi-annual intake of trainees in the kitchen, and across other skills and competencies throughout the hotel. The Saxon Wine program has helped offer employment to college graduates looking for a stepping stone into the professional beverage industry. Over the years, many of the country’s certified sommeliers have been beneficiaries of this training program and some have moved on to pursue international opportunities with the skills and knowledge acquired through this program. The Saxon also emphasizes the importance of supporting local businesses and celebrating the heritage of the community. The kitchen makes use of the hotel’s onsite organic garden and sources sustainable items for inclusion in the menus across the hotel. Additionally, produce, food and goods are sourced from local suppliers, with quality ingredients supplied by farmers, herders, fishers, butchers, bakers and artisans, who preserve traditional knowledge and techniques; while also working with the same respect for the environment and animal welfare as the Saxon.
Fregate Island Private
Head Gardener, Agricultural Manager and Landscaper Simon Love has overseen all the plants at Fregate Island Private since 1999. Now as one of the few people on the island, Simon continues to look after the diverse flora and fauna found on the island. Simon also manages the extensive hydroponic system at Fregate, the largest system of it’s kind in the Seychelles. With more than more than 130 different plants of vegetables, fruits and spices, the complex gardening system produces food for guests, staff, and sale to Mahè. The farming is completely organic, as there is no use of weed killers, pesticides or fungicides at all.
To do their part and support the local community, Simon is coordinating Fregate Island Private’s efforts to ship two tons of pumpkin, eggplant, and three different varieties of bananas to the main island Mahè and deliver it to the local supermarkets, allowing the residents of Seychelles access to some of Fregate’s homegrown organic veggies and fruits- without having to worry about being cut off from the rest of the world.
The Singita Lowveld Trust has supported Early Childhood Development Centers across Singita Sabi Sand and Singita Kruger National Park for many years, funding specialist training, supporting schools, and providing school materials at many schools. However, with the closures of schools across the South Africa, access to vital meals at school have been cut off and food insecurity has increased in all villages surrounding the Singita reserves. In response, Singita has developed the Emergency Food Relief Program providing food relief to the neediest families during the COVID-19 lockdown. So far, eighty-Five families have received their first food parcel, which feeds a family of four for a month.
Continuing their community efforts in Tanzania, the Grumeti Fund and Singita are now planning for the 3rd annual Girls Run in October 2020. Comprising all-inclusive stays at one of Singita’s lodges in Tanzania, the itinerary includes a variety of activities and a run that will see participants complete 13 miles daily over 3 days, traversing some of the most iconic wilderness areas in Africa. The exclusive, purpose-driven experience is aimed at raising funds for empowerment programs for girls and women, which are focused on providing opportunities for women to become leaders in conservation. Each donation assists in funding numerous non-profit initiatives, including scholarships for local girls in secondary school, vocational studies and university; training girl mentors and providing life skills and internships; as well as enterprise development training for women and environmental education for girls from local secondary schools. Serengeti Girls Run offers participants various opportunities to engage with the women who benefit from these programs.
Ellerman House, Music for Meals
Ellerman House, the exclusive 5-star resort in Bantry Bay is proud to support the Cape Town community through their new “Music for Meals” initiative. The staff of Ellerman House and many local partners have kept busy by preparing hot meals for the local community at the hotel in partnership with South African rugby superstar, Cheslin Kolbe and his charity, Be the Difference. The community response has been overwhelming, with both need for meals and support from charitable partners growing with each meal delivery.
To support their efforts, Ellerman House has launched the “Music for Meals”, a livestreamed concert series to raise urgently needed funds. With the incredible talent of renowned South African musicians, these concerts, streamed on Facebook and YouTube, help raise vital funds to support the growing demand in the community.
Tracker Academy at Tswalu Kalahri
The academy was created 11 years by guide Alex van den Heever and tracker Renais Mhologo who worked together at Londolozi for 25 years. The two wanted to start a tracker school that would give formal qualification to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. The one-year, full-time program lead by experienced trainers operates under Peace Parks Foundation and is a division of the South African College for Tourism. Following the successes of the campuses at Londolozi and Samara, a third campus was established at Tswalu Kalahari three years ago.
The Tracker Academy at Tswalu is the only tracker academy that allows female students as well as male students. A total of 24 students taken from disadvantaged backgrounds are chosen after a rigorous process from well over 500 applications to participate in the program, with intakes in January and June when students are rotated after six months to another campus to increase their exposure to different habitats.
A whopping 94% of the Tracker Academy’s graduates have found permanent employment in the fields of ecotourism and conservation. In addition to opportunities provided to the students, the program contributes to the preservation of indigenous knowledge in South Africa.
Quasar Expeditions offers luxury trips around the Galapagos Islands on their fabulous yachts, the M/V Evolution and M/Y Grace (Princess Grace Kelly’s former yacht). By operating in an ecosystem as sensitive as the Galapagos Islands, Quasar Expeditions is committed to giving back to the community. The Ecuadorian-based company founded and supports the Galapagos Scouts, a group dedicated to the children of the Galapagos, providing the leaders of tomorrow with the resources needed for conservation education. The Galapagos Scouts were established in San Cristobal in 1997 with the vision to make a true contribution for the creation of a better world. This vision, also shared by Quasar Expeditions, has driven the company to support the scouts, providing them with resources for the organization to be able to confront the challenges for their future on the islands and to achieve sustainability.
Tschuggen Hotel Group
Earlier this year, the teams at the Tschuggen Grand Hotel, Valsana Hotel and Hotel Eden Roc in Switzerland joined together to purchase and deliver groceries and medications to locals in Arosa and Ascona who have a high risk of getting sick. Employees and their families at the three hotels have been pitching in so that older adults and people with underlying medial conditions don't have to leave their homes. They are making purchases and delivering straight to doorsteps without any physical contact in the hopes that their neighbors will stay safe and healthy. And, for those who need it, the teams are also cooking and delivering special meals throughout the community.