How 5 eco-friendly resorts survived the pandemic without guests
- As tourism began to decline during the pandemic, some hotels and resorts have used the time without guests to harvest crops, take care of their land, and improve upon the customer experience so they’re ready for when business picks up.
- Workers at Within the Wild, an eco-lodge in Alaska, have experimented with making kombucha and sausages from scratch, while staff members at Guana Island in the British Virgin Islands have stayed on site to care for coconut, mango, and papaya orchards, as well as over 100 chickens.
- Although many of the resorts are eager to welcome guests once it’s safe to reopen, they’re making the most of lockdown by revamping their sustainable and eco-friendly practices.
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While global jet-setters have stayed safely at home these past few months to plan the next trip of their dreams, hotel and resort properties across the globe have continued working hard to care for onsite gardens, orchards, livestock — even beehives and baby goats — to ensure that they’ll be prepared to welcome back visitors when travel can safely resume.
From a Tanzanian organic coffee farm to an eco-lodge nestled in the Alaskan wilderness to a private island in the Caribbean, these five hospitality properties have turned their recent vacancies into the opportunity to learn new skills and contribute to their local communities.
Gibb’s Farm is an organic coffee farm in Tanzania, Africa
The historic Gibb’s Farm is an organic farm and coffee-growing estate that spans over 80 acres of land on the forested outer slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater in Africa.
The entire organic farm — which consists of 30 acres of coffee, 10 acres of vegetables and fruit, five acres of flowers and herbs, and a working dairy and pig farm — is based upon sustainable farming methods.
And the most unique aspect of the property’s self-sustaining livelihood is happening right now, during coffee harvest season. Every year from June to September, 30 acres of rich Arabica coffee are organically cultivated, cleaned, and roasted at the estate — even during this time, while it’s temporarily closed.
Produce from the farm has been feeding the property’s onsite crew, and each staff member receives a basket of food to take home every week.
“I like the collaboration with the team here and how we all work together,” said Pius Daniel, the agricultural manager at Gibb’s Farm. “I am proud of what we produce, not just the variety but the abundance and quality of the produce.”
Within the Wild is an eco-lodge located alongside a wild Alaskan fjord
Located in remote Southcentral Alaskan wilderness, the two family-owned and operated eco-lodges run by Within the Wild Adventure Company — Tutka Bay Lodge and Winterlake Lodge — have little choice but to produce their own food onsite, and so foraging, fishing, and hunting in surrounding wilderness is a daily part of life.
Most of the produce used in the lodge kitchen is grown in gardens on site in poly-hoop greenhouses, which are greenhouse structures made of metal semicircular rods that are mounted into the ground and laid over with plastic and use heat from the sun to increase the inside temperature.
Using these greenhouses extends the growing season in the extreme Alaskan climate and allows for year-round cultivation. At the Tutka Bay Lodge, which sits along a private cove up against a rugged nine-mile fjord at the edge of the Kachemak Bay State Park, the Dixons also source Alaskan seafood from the bay.
While the lodges are vacant during the pandemic, the onsite team has been taking the opportunity to learn new skills like shrimping, foraging, making kombucha, experimenting with pickling, and hand-making sausages.
“I said, ‘We’ve got some time. Let’s go do and learn these new things,'” said Kirtsen Dixon, Within the Wild co-owner. “Let’s learn new stuff while we have this free space, and not waste time worrying about what we can’t control.”
The Newt in Somerset Hotel & Spa is located in southwest England in the county of Somerset near the town of Bruton, which is about three hours west of London.
Somerset means “land of the summer people.” It’s known for its flourishing farmland, and for being home to many traditional country estates, which in England have historically served as second homes and quiet retreats for people who live in larger, bustling cities.
The Newt itself is a 300-plus year old historic country estate that offers wide cultivated gardens, acres of apple orchards, and parkland.
When the property is open to visitors, there’s an array of talks and workshops for guests about organic gardening and beekeeping. During the lockdown, while the property was closed to guests, growers continued to plant and harvest from the kitchen and market gardens multiple times a week.
Head beekeeper Paula Carnell still regularly tends to the onsite beehives, and cellar master Greg Carnell continues to press cider on site.
The Newt refocused its business to support locals by offering free, next-day delivery to nearby towns. The deliveries include fresh food items from the gardens, estate kitchens, bakery, butchery, and creamery. They also offer fresh-pressed cider, as well as other goods from local growers and artisan producers.
“We’ll continue to celebrate Somerset, the apples, and the traditional cider apple orchards.” said Greg Carnell, cellar master of cider operations at The Newt, on the absence of visitors.
Guana Island is a family-owned resort island in the Caribbean
Guana Island is a private, family-owned island resort in the heart of the British Virgin Islands spanning 850 acres. The property is home to seven beaches and miles of tropical forest, mountains, and dramatic flora and fauna.
With acres of privacy per guest (no more than 35 guests are allowed on the island at any time), and no marina or public facilities of any kind, Guana Island has plenty of secluded open space.
While the property has been closed due to the pandemic, a core team of workers has been living on the island and enjoying fresh produce from the onsite orchard, which is housed inside multiple greenhouses.
The island grows everything from microgreens and herbs to fresh vegetables, as well as a wide selection of tropical fruit, like coconut, mango, soursop, and papaya. Guana also keeps over 100 chickens for eggs and sources fresh fish from the sea nearby.
“The waters around Guana Island are home to a wide variety of seafood, including grouper, yellowfin tuna, and mahi-mahi, as well as the local Anegada lobster,” said executive chef Kael Mendoza.
Carmel Valley Ranch is a valley ranch retreat in Carmel Valley, California
Carmel Valley Ranch is located in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains along California’s Central Coast. This 500-acre resort is especially known for its onsite farmstead of organic gardens, pinot noir vineyard, apiary, salt house, hen house, goat barn, and creamery. There’s even an on-property cheese-maker that hand-produces fresh cheeses from goat’s milk for guests to enjoy during their stay.
When the resort closed, a small crew continued working on site to tend to the gardens, chickens, goats, and bees. They continued harvesting honey and planted a variety of tomatoes and melons for future use and took on tasks that they might not have been responsible for in their previous roles.
“It’s been a really humbling experience for everyone,” said executive chef Tim Wood. “This time has enabled us to return to nature and really understand the beauty of what we have here at the ranch and to celebrate it.”
Wood chronicled his newfound responsibilities outside of the kitchen, including caring for the resort’s animals and gardens (which are flourishing more than they normally would this time of year since there’s no visitor foot traffic to disrupt growth). Additionally, Wood has been bottle-feeding the onsite newborn goats, fetching hay, sprouting oats, and tending to farm duties as well as overseeing his kitchen to ensure it’s properly safe and clean.
While these properties have recently been short on overnight guests, they’ve been full of opportunities for those remaining on site to celebrate the land’s natural, undisturbed beauty. The properties will continue to make improvements to their onsite offerings — and when it’s safe, they’ll welcome back visitors for an experience better than ever before.