Making responsible tourism a team challenge

Team work is dream work

The Lodge at Atlantic Beach has an established management and staff team. Chantal Steward has been managing it now for almost ten years, and the most recent addition to the staff has been working at the lodge for four years. This is an enviable position for a tourism business to be in as there’s none of the high staff turnover characteristic of tourism businesses. After many years on the job, staff know the ins-and-outs of their jobs, work efficiently and are more aware of issues in the business. Many of these issues become a team objective, like the need to save water and turn off appliances that are not in use (where practical) so that the lodge’s utility bills are reduced.

Developing your staff

lodge at Atlantic beach, responsible tourism
A sign in the kitchen motivates staff to work as a team.
lodge at atlantic beach, responsible tourism
The lodge team work together to deliver breakfast in bed to a couple celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary.

Developing staff skills is not only a part of being a responsible business, it also makes for happy employees. We spoke about why happy employees are important for tourism businesses in the blog post about how to make your staff and business shine. Apart from the manager, The Lodge at Atlantic Beach has only eight staff members in two positions, housekeeping and reception, so there isn’t much scope for job progression. However, employees who want to develop their skills are sent on training courses or are signed up for computer courses. To date, the receptionists have completed a formal reception course at a local college and one receptionist completed an online Microsoft Excel course.

One housekeeper was promoted to reception but only after having asked for it. In a business this small, promoting an employee is also difficult because it can cause tension among staff, so skills training for the purpose of a promotion is only offered if an employee takes the initiative.

All staff are regularly taken on educational trips to other tourism attractions in and around Cape Town so that staff learn more about tourism operations as well as the Western Cape’s attractions.

Training is not only limited to employees. The lodge regularly accepts interns from CPUT and local colleges do on-the-job training at the lodge. Depending on the time of year and the length of the internship, this could be paid and the lodge has had at least one paid intern per year in the previous few years.

Apart from the training it offers, we think that The Lodge at Atlantic Beach has managed to keep its staff for so long because it offers induction training to equip employees to do their job, Chantal and employees give input about their performance and job satisfaction at an annual appraisal, and good work is rewarded with discretionary performance-related bonuses.

Cost-saving responsible tourism practices

Chantal admits that many of her purchases and actions for the lodge is price-driven and this is important for healthy profits. Without realising it, many of these money-saving actions are also sustainable. For example, the lodge does its laundry on-site and the staff know to use cold water cycles on the washing machine and check the tumble dryer regularly to test if the laundry is dry. Laundry is also air-dried as much as possible, and all of these actions are taken solely to reduce the electricity bill – with the upshot of this being that reducing energy use is part of sustainable operations.

Using the bus to reduce hassle – and carbon emissions

lodge at Atlantic beach, responsible tourism
A Facebook post on the lodge’s profile encourages guests to use public transport.

The Lodge at Atlantic Beach are the Challenge’s carbon emissions champion, albeit not deliberately. Chantal thinks that driving into the Cape Town city centre and finding parking is a hassle, so she takes the MyCiti bus instead if she has to make the journey. The lodge also encourages guests who haven’t arrived by car to use the bus, going so far as to take them to the bus terminal and showing them how to use the service. Chantal also does shopping on her way to work and combines chores so that there’s fewer car trips she needs to make. In this way, the lodge reduces carbon emissions from transport.

Where to from here?

We recorded existing responsible practices at the Backpackers in Green Point during the first site visit. This helped us establish a baseline which we then used to draft a responsible tourism action plan for the business, basically ideas of what more the business can do to operate responsibly. We will also use the baseline to compare the success of the action plan.  

You can read the full results of the initial sustainability evaluation here. However, here are other pictures of the good work the lodge is doing.

lodge at Atlantic beach, responsible tourism
Most breakfast food is offered in bulk instead of as single servings. This reduces packaging waste.

lodge at Atlantic beach, responsible tourism
The condiments offered are also not single serving, again reducing packaging waste.

lodge at atlantic beach, responsible tourism
The jam provided is locally produced and organic.
lodge at atlantic beach, responsible tourism
The heater in the dining room is small and energy efficient.

lodge at atlantic beach, responsible tourism
Cleaning materials are bought into bulk, reducing packaging waste.

Signage in the bathrooms encourages guests to save water and gives them ways to do so.
Signage in the bathrooms encourages guests to save water and gives them ways to do so.

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Signage in the staff area reminds employees when is the only time to water the garden.

Signage in a staff area reminds staff when is the best time to water the garden.
Coffee percolators are less wasteful than coffee pods and use less energy than espresso machines. They are also very convenient for guests to help themselves.

lodge at atlantic beach, responsible tourism
Paint used is low in volatile organic compounds, a group of chemicals that can be harmful to health.
lodge at atlantic beach, responsible tourism
Signage in the laundry reminds employees how much detergents to use.