Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel was one of the finalists in the Earth Changers category of the 2017 National Geographic World Legacy Awards hosted at ITB Berlin.
“As a pioneering ecohotel in the Galapagos, Finch Bay has created its own contained agriculture farm just half a mile from its doors. The pilot project for closed-loop sustainable technology produces organic, water-efficient food on the hottest, driest part of the island. Its high-yield process reduces water inputs, cuts the need for pesticides, trims land use, shrinks spoilage waste, and curtails the carbon footprint of production.” National Geographic
For this interview, which is part of a series with all the finalists for this year’s National Geographic World Legacy Awards, Anula Galewska speaks with Klaus Fielsch, Product Manager at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
ANULA: Why is applying to the World Legacy Awards important to Finch Bay Eco Hotel?
KLAUS: The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is thrilled to have been selected as a Finalist in the World Legacy Awards. Every day, our team zealously works to provide a supremely fulfilling travel experience while reducing our environmental footprint in this unique, inspiring nature and wildlife destination. At a personal level, being selected as a Finalist recognizes our constant effort and motivates us to continue to improve our work. And at a broader level, it allows us to highlight our best practices and, hopefully, galvanize others –both in the archipelago and around the world– to replicate them.
ANULA: What positive impacts have your efforts to be a sustainable tourism business had on the communities and region where you operate?
KLAUS: As the first eco hotel in Galapagos, the Finch Bay has been a pioneer in implementing technologies that help it reduce its own very specific environmental impact, and the hotel continues on this path with its Chakrita project, designed to scale down the amount of imported foodstuffs required on the island through hyperlocal organic vegetable production. At this stage, the project is in a pilot phase, and we hope it will follow a similar successful course of local adoption as we saw in the solid waste management programme in which we participated as part of our holding group’s Fundacion Galapagos Ecuador.
In this project, which we see as our group’s – and therefore our – greatest accomplishment, the Foundation worked as a stakeholder, along with the Municipal Government of Santa Cruz and the Galapagos National Park, to develop an incredibly effective recycling programme. This programme achieved an over 36.5% reclaim rate, 3-6 times that of any other programme in Ecuador and close to levels seen only in Germany and Switzerland. It began as a local grassroots initiative in 1998, and with private and public sector support, grew to a point where 70% of the populated areas on Santa Cruz Island had access to municipal recycling collection. Organic materials were turned into compost for local agricultural production. Glass was crushed for shipment to the mainland’s processing centers or used in paving stones right on the island. Citizens of all ages gained awareness of the need to lessen consumption of plastic, paper and cardboard and the project recovered many of these materials for new uses. Today, visitors and island locals have become far more conscious of the need to reduce, reuse and recycle, and all work together to keep the archipelago garbage-free.
ANULA: How do you communicate to guests about your responsible tourism practices?
KLAUS: Upon arrival, our guests receive an eco-friendly welcome speech that teaches them how they can play a conscious role in our conservation efforts. And throughout their stay we aim to inspire them through our actions, both large and small: it is not uncommon, for example, to see our general manager picking up litter on the public walking paths around the hotel. Our people constantly go the extra mile to show how sustainable tourism serves as a key element in conservation.
ANULA: What’s the best lesson you have learned over the years of developing a successful sustainable tourism business?
KLAUS: The Galapagos Islands represent a treasure trove of information for humanity as well as a truly inspiring opportunity for personal transformation. The communion of human beings with intrepid, unusual wildlife that occurs here in the archipelago can be found in very few parts of the world. For us, occupying a very small role in island dynamics is a privilege, and we believe that with this privilege comes the responsibility to protect this unbelievably rich environment for our children, our country and the world. Sustainable tourism offers an unequalled opportunity to “do well by doing good,” and we know that by acting in line with our personal and professional ethics, we contribute to maintaining this extraordinary space for the long term.
This article is part of the interview series with the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017 winners and finalists, with whom we explore the best practices in sustainable tourism communications and stakeholders’ engagement.