Luxury hospitality doesn’t need to be wasteful to please guests: Six Senses’ Jeffery Smith [Video]

by | Jun 9, 2019 | Experts

Six Senses proves day in and out that high-end luxury experiences can be delivered to guests in a way that’s good for the local community and the environment, says its Vice President of Sustainability J. Smith.

Jeffery Smith is a nerd who loves reading environment impact assessments reports. And not only Six Senses but also the hospitality industry at large is better off for it.

Thanks to this, Six Senses Fiji has protected habitat for the Fijian Crested Iguana. And that’s just the beginning of the green success story for Jeffery.

Since joining Six Senses in 2016, Jeffery spearheaded the redevelopment of the group’s Earth Lab concept with sustainability leaders from across all Six Senses properties and lead the first Six Senses Sustainability Conference.

Jeffery draws upon a decade of experience launching community-based tourism programs where he focused on capacity building and facilitating connections between travelers, indigenous peoples and the natural world. He is a strong believer in the hospitality sector’s capacity to engage with sustainability, to welcome guests and communities to join in rebuilding a better future and foster the authenticity and optimism that the world seeks.

On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Singapore, Jeffery spoke exclusively to TOPHOTELNEWS on how luxury hospitality and being eco friendly can go hand-in-hand. The future of the planet depends on it.

No need to be wasteful to please guests

Jeffery: For the industry to move forward, I think what it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the box more. There’s still a bit of this theme of, “Well, the customer’s always right. To be able to provide good hospitality service, we have to be wasteful.” At Six Senses, we don’t believe that at all.

I’m proud that we’re proving day in and day out that we can deliver high-end luxury experiences for our guests, and we can do it in a way that’s good for the local community and good for the environment. That’s something that I welcome everyone working in hospitality to think about — it’s that it doesn’t have to be wasteful, and guests don’t need that. They’re not looking for that.

How Six Senses built a culture of sustainability

Jeffery: I think where a lot of that comes from is the culture that we’ve built. And I think it goes all the way back to the beginning. I don’t take any credit for this, it goes back to the founding of the brands. We set out from the beginning with Six Senses to deliver luxury hospitality in a way that’s good for the environment, good for local communities. I do see it as part of my mandate as in my role, I’m VP of Sustainability for our group. I see part of my mandate as educating the industry, because we’ve got to move forward together. And we’re not going to do it without great consultants who understand what sustainability is and what we’re looking for, and how does that apply differently to each role. Because sustainability should mean something slightly different, to different people, depending on on what they’re focused on.

Environment impact assessments reports a treasure trove of great info

Jeffery: I’m a bit of a nerd and I enjoy reading environmental impact assessments. They are a great wealth of knowledge for us, especially as the operator of the hotel, about what endangered species are nearby, what kind of plants, fauna, flora that we have to work with. So often they get shelved, and they’re seen as like a hurdle and just like, we’ll tick the box, but there’s actually great content, there’s great value in there.

Not just about wildlife, sometimes a good impact assessment will also survey the local communities. So, you can learn things about what are the challenges in the local communities, where can we focus our efforts to improve, improve the local communities. We don’t have to start from scratch. If there’s a good impact assessment to go from then even before that hotel opens we can identify public health issues, sanitation, maybe it’s education, whatever that may be and we can already start planning what we’re going to do for projects in the community.

A green success story at Six Senses, Fiji

Jeffery: In the case of Six Senses Fiji, they identified the critically endangered Fijian Crested Iguana. It’s a big cool lizard, it’s got stripes and we’ve protected some habitat for them at the resort. So there’s these iguanas living there. We’ve got some scientific research happening around those iguanas, some conservation biology and, of course, we can bring our guests into that reserve, to look at the iguanas and experience wildlife right there at the resort. So it adds value, to the ultimate guest experience, which is of course, the aim for any resort.

IHG acquisition & future growth plans

Jeffery: There’s still a lot of buzz around that. We’ve been acquired by InterContinental Hotels Group. I’m thrilled about that – I think it just opens up more opportunities, especially in my role for sustainability. We want to move the whole industry forward, so now we’re part of a bigger family and I see it as more opportunity, more opportunity to get the message out, to help all hotels, all hospitality professionals shift. It has to happen.

At Six Senses, we’ve gone through a lot of growth. We’ve doubled the number of hotels in our portfolio over the last 3 years and with the pipeline we have now, we’re set to double again in the next couple of years. So it’s been very exciting, it’s been a wild ride.

Thoughts on the TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR

Jeffery: TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR has been fantastic for networking: it’s great that it’s organized. There’s no time when you’re kind of floating around and unsure of where you’re supposed to be. It’s effective in the sense that you meet someone, you find out what they do quickly. You’re not wasting time with small talk as much because it’s focused. I’m expecting the outcome is I’ll come out with lots of good contacts and people that are engaged in sustainability, hopefully, and that I’ll be able to work with in the future.

Jeffery Smith was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Singapore 2019. To attend, address or sponsor future TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR events around the world, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.

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