Sun, Jul 21, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Social enterprises spread the wealth from tourism

By Sarah Shearman  /  Thomson Reuters Foundation, LONDON

With its panoramic, riverside views and perfectly Instagrammable interiors, on first appearances, the Good Hotel seems to be another of London’s many trendy boutiques.

However, the neon sign that reads: “Sleep Good, Do Good” on the floating hotel’s entrance wall is not just a backdrop to guests’ selfies — it signals the company’s mission as a social enterprise: to give back to the community as well as make a profit.

“Hotels are often internationally owned, and often times filled with people who are quite far removed from the local setting,” Good Hotel founder Marten Dresen said. “They mostly serve people who are not local to them.”

Ethical tourism is increasingly popular among socially conscious travelers who want to minimize their environmental footprint and boost local economies, rather than global hotel chains or cruise companies that repatriate their profits.

Growing numbers of people are on the move, with 1.4 billion international tourists last year, UN data showed — equal to the population of China and up 53 percent in a decade, as travel becomes cheaper and easier.

Yet, locals often bear the brunt of overcrowding in popular sites, pollution by cruise ships or soaring rents driven up by tourists paying more for accommodation via services from firms like Airbnb Inc.

London’s container-like Good Hotel started out as a detention center for illegal immigrants in the Netherlands before becoming a pop-up hotel in Amsterdam in 2015 and then towed up the River Thames by tug boats in 2016 to its new home.

Situated in East London’s Royal Docks, where ships unloaded their cargo a century ago, the 148-room Good Hotel invests all of its profits in training and education to create jobs and opportunities for locals in one of the city’s poorest areas.

“The more we grow as a business, the more we can reinvest,” said Dresen, who runs a similar Good Hotel in Antigua, a city in the highlands of Guatemala, with a scheme to train and hire single mothers and provide apprenticeships for local schools.

More than 80 London locals who struggled to find work have completed the Good Hotel’s four-month hospitality training scheme since 2016. Almost all are now in full-time jobs, including nine who work at the hotel.

Shaqueen Wilson set her sights on working at the Good Hotel after her mother completed the training course and got a job in the kitchen.

Two years on, Wilson is one of the senior bar staff, and managers have made sure her shifts do not clash with her mother’s so they can share the care of Wilson’s young daughter.

“The job means so much to me. I feel very comfortable here,” Wilson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We are definitely on a good path and helping others.”

The funding for the training schemes is included in the Good Hotel’s operating costs, and the business donates any profits after that to its charity partner, Ninos de Guatemala.

It has given more than US$100,000 to the charity, which runs three schools for poor Guatemalan children and was founded by Dresen during a 2006 trip, but is no longer run by him.

London’s Good Hotel sources food and drink locally when possible, offers Newham residents a 20 percent discount at its bar and restaurant and occasionally hosts open bar events for them.

However, many guests do not know about its social business model until they check in, choosing to stay at the hotel because of its proximity to London City Airport and the ExCeL center, host to events such as the 2009 G20 summit and the London Boat Show.

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