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The Eco Hotel Summit: What Is It And What Can You Expect? #030

Your dream glamping business

The Eco Hotel Summit will be held from 27th-31st July 2020 and is the first of its kind. This is an event that promises to show attendees how they can pursue business growth and sustainability in a world where we are led to believe you can not have one without the other.

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The Eco Hotel Summit In Detail

In this episode, I speak to Steph Curtis-Raleigh who is one of the co-hosts of The Eco Hotel Summit bringing over 80 experts and industry leaders to the fore to share their knowledge of the eco-travel and hotelier movement. The mission of the event is to inspire others to focus on sustainability and share best practice to help strengthen the industry.

Both an online summit and an innovative networking event, it allows attendees to learn about new industry topics and meet each other in an exciting virtual world of unique eco-travel. The event really opens up the potential for anyone to get involved, including students from

In this episode Steph highlights:

  • How the responsible travel movement is growing
  • The idea behind the Eco Hotel Summit
  • How attending events such as these can launch new eco-resort business ideas
  • Why the industry needs to unite in times like these
  • That post-COVID tourism will be a race for differentiation
  • How our planet and society needs the change

Themes for this 5-day event are:

  1. Why eco-hotels?
  2. Designing and building an eco-hotel
  3. Hotel (hotelier) management
  4. Getting noticed – marketing and branding
  5. The guest experience

Listen to the episode here:

Additional Resources And Links Mentioned

Eco Hotel Summit

Click to watch the interview on YouTube

Listen to the podcast here:

Eco Hotel Summit Sustainable Tourism

Want To Feature On The Business Of Glamping And Unique Holiday Rentals Podcast?

If you have something inspiring to offer the world of Glamping and Unique Holiday Rentals then get in touch with Sarah Riley and share it on the Podcast. For more information contact Sarah here.

Listen to previous episodes here:


SARAH RILEY: There’s a new event is called the Eco Hotel Summit. And the whole idea of this summit is to inspire others, to focus on sustainability and share best practice. And the best thing is it’s completely free. If you want to attend this summit, then you need to listen to this interview where I speak to one of the co-hosts about exactly what attendees can expect, the benefits they’ll get out of it and how it will help to influence what they do in this very exciting industry. Over the coming years, welcome to episode 30

SARAH RILEY: Glamping and unique holiday rentals are surging in popularity with the growing desire of customers to book holidays that deliver an experience. They are also the new business of choice for those wanting to improve their work-life balance. How do you build a strong business like this that gives you the life you need and a great investment. I’m Sarah Riley. And I want to share what I’ve discovered after being immersed in this industry for over 20 years, to inspire you to find out more about what’s going on. Welcome. This is the business glamping and unique holiday rental. Well, hello, and thank you for joining me today.

SARAH RILEY: It’s really great to have you here. I’ve got some fantastic stuff lined up. There is a new event, and I want to share that with you. And I did it slightly differently this time because I wanted to share it in a way where you could actually see the interview happening, but you can also hear it on this podcast. All the links are in the show notes, which are on, including the details of how you can get involved in the summit and how you can actually watch the video taking place. I look forward to having feedback. Please leave a review. We love the reviews and leave them wherever you want to leave them, whatever platform you’re listening to the podcast on, we read them all and you know, it really helps to inspire us to bring you fresh and exciting content every single time.

SARAH RILEY: And we appreciate everyone we receive. So thank you. And I hope you enjoy the interview, which today is with Steph Curtis rally from the Eco Hotel Summit. She’s one of the co-hosts and I’m excited to share with you everything about this event, which is happening very soon. So thank you so much for joining me. It’s wonderful to have you here. I understand that you are currently in lovely France. Tell me where you are, what you’re doing.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: Yes. Well, I, I feel a little bit, you know, lucky really because we arrived at the weekend. We’re in the South of France, had us here, which we share with family for 15 years now. So we drove, we drove over the weekend and we got here

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: On Saturday evenings. So hence I’m afraid you’ve got me rather underdressed today. So that will give us plenty of likes and thumbs up to this whole interview and encourage people to come and watch the video. And you are one of the cohosts of the Eco Hotel Summit, and I’m very excited about this summit. I’m really looking forward to attending. And can you tell me a little bit about the mission for the summit What’s the whole reason for it being and being able to because it’s the first one. Well, like everybody else, you know, all plans got derailed this year. we had a physical event that was due to take place. It should have taken place in June, in Slovenia. And it was going to be a very small little gathering of people no more than 70 people, discussing some of the issues around, sustainable, operation of resorts and glamping and so on.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: And of course it didn’t happen. So we found ourselves suddenly, with all this work that had gone on with speakers and sponsors and, I know the event. and then we were contacted by a gentleman who was a digital nomad. I don’t know if you, you’re probably aware of it. I didn’t know that digital nomads, he works wherever he wants to work. So he was in Vietnam and he’s Portuguese. Well, Jay and he said, Oh, I’m doing a, an online Eco Hotel Summit. Perhaps we should join forces. And I had about three weeks of really enjoying a quiet lockdown, kind of just relaxing. And I’m thinking, thank goodness. You know, and then we started this and it built and it built. And we discovered quickly that, by asking our speakers to prerecord content and they didn’t have to travel anywhere. And of course, they were all in lockdown themselves.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: They all said, yes. And then we, so we tried a few more high profile speakers and they said, yes, yes, absolutely. We’ll take parts. So we were a bit like kids in a sweet shop by that, but by that time, so we’ve ended up with over 80 speakers, for the event. And I think the original brief, which was about how do we get back open after COVID How do we become more sustainable that kind of expanded somewhere along the line. And now we have speakers tackling subjects such as diversity because the whole Black Lives Matters happened. And even before that, we had a fantastic speaker, who was talking about diversity in marketing, because this is an area that really we need, we all need to look at. we’ve got speakers, about, women in travel and tourism because that’s an intrinsic part of, sustainability is encouraging more women to be involved in tourism and to be educated, in countries where hops, they are not lucky enough to get the same education opportunities that we get.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: It’s the second most important aspect for improving the environment is educating more women. So yes, I could waffle on and on, but we’ve ended up with over 80 speakers and it’s five days of talks and it all culminates in a virtual networking event, which is a two hour, Bizzle opportunity for people to move around a virtual room, meet one another, on-screen like this, and then go and talk to other people, swap contact details, and so on and so forth and meet some of the speakers because with prerecorded content, obviously, it’s very difficult. We can’t have question and answer sessions, which is unfortunate. Yeah. I’d say, I’d say the networking is the thing that I’m really excited about. And it’s using a tool that I’ve not actually come across and there are very few tools I’ve not come across. So to be able to walk into a virtual room and be allocated a seat, but at certain points, being able to move around and discuss things with other people on other tables is just absolutely fascinating.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: So, the tools that have come out of this whole scenario that we find ourselves in are amazing. and I think new technology is one of the things that I think we’re going to see really boom, as a result of this. But in terms of your event, who is the, who is aimed at who’s going to benefit the most from this Well, I think that the small to medium size hospitality provider is probably the foremost in my mind. you know, when we’re designing the speaking program in a sense, because we wanted to combine not only the really inspirational, the big results speaker, somebody like, Sonic shifted suddenly from Suniva, for example, who operates the most incredible eco-resorts in the Maldives well, of course, you know, it’s absolutely amazing to have him on board and have him discuss how he deals with his mosquito problem, in an ethical and sustainable way, but that might not be so relevant to, some of the D operating, a smaller, glamping site, for example, in the UK.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: so what we wanted was to have a good mix, so to one end that the big resorts and the other end, somebody who’s developed an app that will help you monitor how sustainable your operation is, and, make a real difference to the way that that you can operate. and so we’ve got quite a lot of tech talks on that or tech-related people speaking, who have developed clever ways in which, operators can, really cut down their admin time or get more direct bookings, for example. so sustainability, not just in terms of environmental sustainability, but sustainability in terms of operational sustainability to so to free up more time and to make people more efficient in their operation. But beyond that, it’s also at the event is also suitable for anybody working in sustainable travel. We’ve got food and beverage, talks, we’ve got wellness and spa talks.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: We’ve got, travel agents, traditional travel agents talking. so there is something for everyone in there, as you can imagine without what that number of speakers. Mm, absolutely. And so people can actually pick and choose which talks they listen to. Is that right It’s an important point that I haven’t made actually is that this is the whole event is free to view life. So, and it’s, all on British summertime. So, for, anybody in the UK or in Western Europe, it is, quite convenient for you to just, pick and choose, but you’d just have to register on the website and then you can have access to all the talks next week from Monday morning through to Friday afternoon. And then the networking starts at 2:30 PM, on Friday afternoon. So, so yes, and it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s all free to view live with some upgrade options for, in order to store the talks or to access them at your leisure.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: and the networking is, is, is a small charge because we have limited places to the networking. So we have to charge for that. Absolutely. But I think that’s a really good point because one of the majority of people who I support are small business owners. And as you said, this is an event for small to medium business owners. And at the moment having had a time of, you know, very, very quiet because of the lockdown and people have been doing other things other than dealing with guests and the usual business. they now find themselves very busy, so it will be quite hard for them to access every talk that they may want to access next week. So that’s really great to hear that there are other options that they can store those talks and listen to them at their leisure. So that’s right.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: And we’ve given your, your supporters, your, your group, a special offer code for that very reason so that, they get 40% off the cost of watching the talks at their leisure, because exactly that nobody’s got the time to sit there. if they’re a consumer business and we understand that, but it might be something that, you’d like to watch one or two in the evening or something like that when you’re relaxing. So, you know, hopefully, that will make it easier for people obviously brilliant.

SARAH RILEY: So that code will be in the show notes, which will be, as this is episode 30. And I’ll also share it in the Facebook group where I have my business community. And that’s really fantastic. Thank you, Steph. And your co-organizers for arranging it, that’s brilliant. And I think, you know, at a time when everyone needs that little bit of extra support, it’s, it’s really nice to have it that, you are trying to do this to really boost the industry and boost everyone in the industry at a time that everyone needs that extra bit of support. So the responsible travel movement is glowing at the moment. Why do you think that is And do you think that’s been impacted by what’s happened with COVID I definitely think it’s been impacted by what’s happened.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: I think that people have realized that these threats to our way of life are real. and you know, who could have predicted that we would have been spending such a large part of this year, isolated from one another, as a result of a global pandemics. So when we talk about global warming and when we talk about getting to that point where it’s irreversible, I think that people are starting to get the message now and that we have to act and we have to act now. And yeah, so I think the two go hand in hand, I think that we were waking up to the situation that we’re in.

SARAH RILEY: I think one of the things that I personally noticed because of where I live and who I work with and the industry I’m in is people really started to notice little things when they went into lockdown, such as clever sky’s blue skies, you know, animals being more animals, being around, being in the open air for some reason, you know, all these comments on social media and amongst groups saying, you know, have you noticed how much less pollution there is in the sky And I think a lot of that help people really realize that actually, if I do change my behaviour, then I do see these positive responses in these results. Whereas maybe before it was all, Oh, me changing my behaviour, isn’t going to have an impact, but people have actually seen it happen that if everyone does a little something that we have these major amazing, really positive environmental consequences,

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: That’s the case. Yeah. I think, you know, I mean, I live normally on the Heathrow flight path you know, the skies without the constant planes going overhead, was incredible really. But I also think that as tourism, we have an opportunity to, to, to get people when they are most receptive to, to the natural world when you’re on holiday, when you go somewhere when you go glamping and you are surrounded by wonderful nature, it really does make you appreciate and take the time out from your normal, busy life, what we’ve got and what we need to protect, for, for future generations. I think. So I think we have a unique possibility, not to sort of educate our guests so to speak, but just to provide some really wonderful surroundings for people to allow the niche to speak for itself, I suppose.

SARAH RILEY: Yeah. I love that because actually the way I see it is that if we up nature and allow it to speak for itself, people grow to love it. And the people love something they’ll work hard to protect it. So it becomes an education in itself and we don’t actually have to do anything. And I love the fact that whenever I go out into nature with my family, the children, my children, they just really, really connect with everything around them. And I think that you know, everyone in this industry, who’s allowing other families and other children to do that. They are literally educating, our environmental warriors, our eco ambassadors of the future. And, I think that your event that is helping those business owners to do that is, is very, positive for everybody and we’ll have some longterm impact. So I think it’s brilliant. I’m really, really pleased that you’re doing it. And I think we’ve had some talk before about why we think how planets in society need this kind of event from your view. Why do you think that is

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: Why we need this kind of event Yes, I think because we need to collaborate more. we need to stop thinking about ourselves, and our businesses in isolation or stop thinking about other people in the same business like us, as the competition, because, together we can really affect some change and we can help each other. And so we found that’s been the most heartening aspect of doing what we’ve been doing. getting all these speakers together, who will donate that time and efforts, you know, free of charge. I have to say. and they’ve shared, they’ve all shared their own ways in which they managed to overcome problems and issues and be successful. And success should not be measured in your bottom. Mine is success should be measured in, in how happy your work makes you and those around you and what you can bring to future generations, I think, and what you can preserve. you know, we are guardians of what is here now. we want to be able to protect that for the future. So I would say the idea of collaboration, the idea that you can go out that in a couple of months, and you can say to people, do you want to talk about this And everybody went, yes, I’d love to talk about this. I’ve got this great idea of something I want to, and they’re doing it. Not, not really for any other reason than they want to help other people by sharing best practice.

SARAH RILEY: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s one of the things that has come out is that people are looking at their lives now and questioning is this really where I want to be Is this really what I want to do and looking for other options. And that’s certainly something that I’ve come across in the people I’ve been supporting recently. They’ve said, you know, they’ve, they’ve really had this experience that has been good and bad, and it has made them question everything. And one of the things that everyone seems to want to do is to get into nature, get out in nature more. And if they can develop a business where that allows them to do that, you know, in a way that is actually supporting the environment as well, even better. So that’s why I think I’m seeing so many more people coming into this industry at the moment.

SARAH RILEY: And, it sounds like it’s something that you want to really enhance through this event and what you’re doing. so in terms of what’s happening and, and one of the other questions, I get a lot, which is isn’t this industry going to become too competitive cause so many people are coming in. And one of the things you’re trying to embrace through your event is, how being different is really important. So you’re sh you’re, everyone’s sharing best practice. And, do you think people will get inspiration on how they can be different, how they can set their business differently and attract new customers

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: I, I think you’ve, you know, you’re a brilliant marketeer and I’ve listened to many of your talks and it’s a map it’s about not trying to be something that you’re not, it’s about really finding your unique selling point as, an accommodation provider, whatever is, is unique to your environment around, you know, what you offer and then selling that story to successfully to your guests, because doesn’t matter where you are, whether you’re in the Maldives or you’re in Melbourne, you know, it’s, there are guests that will want to come to your place and be confident in that. You know, there are guests out there for you, but you have to tell them what it is that you are offering. And in an honest and open way, I think. And, if you don’t want to have children, you want to have an adults-only glamping ground.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: We’ll explain that and explain your reason for it. present it in a way which is open and honest. And I think that’s, that’s the way forward, really So there is no worry competition and too many people entering the marketplace. It can only be for the good of all if we have more people operating environmentally friendly accommodation around the world. Absolutely. And, and your co-hosting this with, my identic who is, the creative founder of the world of gulping and a lot of what C has within her portfolio is incredibly different. So lots of different structures and, and lots of amazing spaces. Is this something that you think people will see more or through your event or, make connections and networks within the industry certainly I think that, we’re seeing glamping as such and glamping is a sort of, it’s a term that we’ve all discussed, because it really, it encompasses so many different types of businesses.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: each is as valid as the other. I mean this, no, not everybody is in a situation to be able to offer tree houses in the jungle with their own infinity pools. it’s, it’s wonderful and it’s very photogenic and, you know, but econ hotel covers also a and B that is doing its best to, minimize waste to, to try and have the different ethos. So, you know, yes, of course, it’s wonderful to see unusual structures, in amazing locations and this kind of accommodation allows operators to pretty much build wherever they want to build, because they’re not making that imprint then on, on the land. you know, it’s it treads likely. So you, you will always find these wonderful, incredible futuristic kind of, structures in those places, in the canyons in there, but also, what can be nicer than to see bell tents in an English meadow.

SARAH RILEY: I mean, it’s all so good. Absolutely. It’s really good to hear you say that actually, because a lot of people who maybe see or hear the definition eco-hotel may say, well, my glamping operation, isn’t a hotel. How is, how is this going to relate to me So you’re saying that it’s, it’s from the very small to, the much larger, much more five star, seven-star even, luxury, situations. So it’s, it’s really interesting to hear you say that. It’s quite reassuring actually.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: Well, definitely. And I think that people shouldn’t undersell themselves because, the moment that you open for business and you take pain guests, you’re part of the hospitality industry and you are, you know, your tents or your hotel rooms or your pods or, or whatever it is that you operate. You are effective, in my opinion, you’re a hotelier and you have all those issues, marketing, cleaning, you know, guest relations, taking bookings, the issues of the same. It doesn’t make any difference what your hotel rooms consist of. You are a hotelier.

SARAH RILEY: Absolutely, absolutely. So naming a few of the top people you are, having at your event. So I know that you’ve got someone from Conde Nast, you’ve got a

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: People from all over the place,

SARAH RILEY: Bensley Design Studios, I believe you’ve got the founder and CEO, Bill Bensley from Bangkok.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: Well he’s, he’s absolutely a wonderful, and for the top, in the most amazing way, a designer and architect, but, not, he does answer all these questions from different parts of his, incredible, studio come home in, in Bangkok. And that is, is over the top, as you can imagine. And his little dogs are running around, at the same time, so it’s quite entertaining. but he has written a white paper, called, sensible, sustainable solutions. And, he’s sharing that for free, you know, with everybody. And that is not about peacock feathers and, you know, whatever it is about how to design, a structure to minimize energy consumption. and so, and he’s, that’s a PDF that you will be able to download free of charge. So, you know, he’s, yes, he’s flamboyant. but he’s also, you know, he’s, he’s, he’s written a really incredible piece of work that, which he’s sharing with everybody.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: So he’s wonderful. and, and was very generous to come on board and supporters. what else, who else have we got that I haven’t mentioned already we have got, well, we’ve got Terry Stevens. He is, he comes from the side of promoting, destinations for example, and he, the managing director of Stevens and associates. And he does a wonderful talk about how the actual destinations themselves, go to, to have to change post-COVID and manage the numbers of people that are coming to stay, and how they are going to market themselves differently in future. So that would be an interesting tool. Well, it’s an interesting tool, a couple of, have you seen Elvis do so so that’s great. and, Ooh, gosh, out of eight people, well, another big name, which I have to give a little shout tattoo is Elora Hardy.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: I don’t know whether you have ever seen her Ted Talk. but she is the creative director of like Beaucoup and Bali. Again, one of these fantastical, situations she’s got there, she works with her father and they create, buildings out of bamboo. And, I, I alleged to go and see her Ted talk if he gets a chance because what they can do with bamboo, you will not believe. so, and it’s, it’s great to have women architects and designers, as well as you know, to see so many more women in this industry. I think that’s really important. Kinshasa, another architect who created the fantastic treehouse, prior even that you might’ve seen the sort of bamboo treehouse, Kinshasa, Baldwin, a fantastic architect as well. So we’ve got architects, we’ve got, I just, I want to go onto the website and take a look at all the speakers we’ve got there.

SARAH RILEY: Wonderful. So the owner of Player Viva has been on the podcast. So I will make sure to link his interview in the show notes for this, the show notes are, as this is episode 30. So, so if I may just finally ask you the last question, which is, what are you most proud of so far from what you’ve and your cohosts have managed to achieve from this event that you are running in July So tell me, what’s, what’s the one thing that you’re most proud of

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: Well, I do get a sense of pride when I look on the website and I see all of these fantastic speakers, that’s sure. because I remember all the hard work and emails and telephone calls it’s taken to get them all together, but, I have to say that, and this might sound a little bit, but in the last week we got, an email from a hospitality school university in Namibia. And, the tutor, had found our website to see somewhere about the event. And she thought that this would be a fantastic opportunity for her students to, learn about the industry. So, with getting them all that access, all areas free passes, and, next week, the poor devils are going to be spending five days listening to us all I’m waffling on. But for me, the idea that we’re not just navel-gazing, we’re not just talking, to each other about stuff we already know, but there might be some kids out there who will be, taking it all in and maybe thinking, no, this is an industry I can get behind.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: I’d like to be involved in this. that’s, that’s made me feel really, really proud. Yeah. And to, to be part of that journey is helping people build businesses for tomorrow in this wonderful industry, which helps to support the environment. And I think that’s fantastic. It hats off to you and your other organizers. Well, just to be positive at a time when one could argue, there’s not much to be positive about is actually an achievement in itself. Absolutely. I’ll get my degree more.

SARAH RILEY: And I think we’ll end on that positive note. I think that’s been fantastic stuff and, and I’ll leave all the details of how people can get involved in your events, in the show notes. And, you know, I, all I can do is urge people to, at the very least go and have a look at your website because you have really got some amazing speakers lined up. And I think people will really enjoy the event, which is next week.

STEPH CURTIS-RALEIGH: Yes, exactly. So, and that date is that’s the 27th of July through to the 31st July.

SARAH RILEY: Thank you so much for giving me your time. So, see you soon. Bye-bye. Now I hope you found that interview inspiring as I did. And a quick reminder about the show notes. That’s as this is episode 30, that’s always the way the links work. You can find out everything you need to know in those show notes and, you know, grab yourself a free ticket. Look forward to seeing you at the eco hotel summit. Take care. Bye

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