Have you ever wondered what it’s like to stay in a small sustainable lodge in a country as beautiful as Tanzania? Do you want to know more about the sustainable practices smaller hotels implement in their day-to-day operations? After announcing our partnership with the ecolabel Responsible Tourism Tanzania, we were lucky to talk to the owner of one of their certified properties – Mangrove Lodge in Zanzibar. In our interview with Marina, the owner of the Lodge, she talks about the responsible practices they incorporate, unique aspects travelers can expect when staying at the Lodge and the importance of sustainable operations, especially in smaller hotels.
1. bookdifferent.com is delighted to welcome Mangrove Lodge as a Responsible Tourism Tanzania-certified accommodation on our website. Which benefits do you get from this partnership?
It’s essential to get an influential certification of our efforts in being responsible, as well as a guidance in our lodge operation. Julius has been extremely inspiring and supportive, yet a sever auditor. We’ve learnt a lot and are willing to go on with our collaboration for new achievements. We are so glad of the idea of an OTA which is dealing and highlight the responsible hotels. I hope it’ll contribute to expand the related principles and give rooms to responsible hotel, differentiating hotels by soul, not only rates!
2. How does Mangrove Lodge implement sustainability overall and also in day-to-day business?
The Sustainability plan is the key to keep track of our efforts and ideas, and plan the further steps. From many exiting ideas only few are doable for a family run local business at a time. We have our written annual plan which has been recently shared with our staff, a new concept for them. Our goals: saving of water and power, avoid packaging in our shopping routine, bond and support to the local community,
accurate pool management with chemicals, hiring and training of local staff, keep our lodge as greener as we can, growing trees and plants, managing our trash. The goal is to have the biggest positive impact and lower the negative. Always thinking with a green mind-set, as much as possible.
3. A growing number of travellers are looking for authentic experiences for their holiday. What unique aspects can they except when visiting your hotel?
As a local business, we are full of soul and naturally bond to the local daily life and vibe:
1. Guests are welcome in a warm familiar atmosphere, they never feel surrounded by a fake touristic vibe. From the kitchen organised by Zanzibari ladies cooking tasty local food; to the restaurant team getting the opportunity to work in the tourism industry as the start of their new life; housekeepers and gardeners taking care of the lodge since the very beginning; and the living in-site managing family always present, sharing their life with their guests.
2. A cooking lesson with our mamas, a Swahili lesson sitting on the sofa, a “making your own batik or soap” workshop, and many other activities and trips organised directly with free-lance captains, guides and drivers. The village tour has not to be missed with Haji!
3. A long chat with Haji and Marina, the lodge’s owners, both so passionate to share their knowledge, definitely help connect, and feel ready to start to explore independently. They provide guests with a lot of info on past, present and future of the Country, including the code
of conduct to better respect culture and traditions, and of course the places to visit.
4. A direct support to the hosting village, for health, education and all initiatives there’re in. A give-back as appreciation of the opportunity to stay in Chuini.
5. It’s a real getaway from the daily routine, life and mind-set of the western countries, where you can experience the day by day life (hakuna matata), inshallah mind-set (don’t take anything for granted) and pole pole pace (slow and gentle, no stress).
4. In your opinion, why is it important for hotels, especially smaller ones, to incorporate responsible practices?
Responsible practises are important for all hoteliers, as it’s time for all of us to no longer disrespect nature and developing countries. Big hotels have bigger impact, of course, but small ones are faster and more flexible in introducing policies and can be the best example for the industry and start a trend. Small hoteliers can be more attractive, up to date over the modern travellers’ needs, closer to the local community to live together in peace and respect each other. Mainly big hotels are soul-less, responsibility practices are part of our soul! However, for small hotels it’s a bigger effort!
5. Mangrove Lodge is already certified by an ecolabel. However, there are many smaller accommodations out there that do not see the value in becoming certified yet but still aim at becoming more sustainable. What do you recommend to them? Are there any practices they can easily implement?
I can understand their choices because being certified involves a big effort, in particular for small hotels. Mainly the hotel is just considered a business, so getting guests is the most important goal, no need for a certification if your business is going well. In our case, instead out hotel is our home place, our “kid” so we need to raise it as a special place mirroring our family’s values. Being certified is a choice. The win-win situation is to see certification = more business!
6. Which challenges does Mangrove Lodge face when competing in the market of smaller sustainable accommodations?
In Zanzibar, there’s not so much competition, sustainable accommodations are not so many. However, the competition is about the goal the hotel wants to achieve. It’s too hard for a small family run hotel being 100% sustainable, some big investments have to be done (for example solar panels), but other hotel can be strong in being connected with the village and culture. It’s essential to identify the specific
hotel’s features. However, I think the worst competition is against the non-sustainable ones, as guests tend to compare services. For example, when savings of water and power is a goal the guests will see the difference and may complain if they’re not ready for it (for example, less water pressure, less lights…). It’s important that guests are really choosing the sustainable hotel, instead of booking according with other features like price.
7. Do you believe that Tanzania is a great destination for sustainable travelers? And if so, why?
Sure, it definitely is. Still not so developed, many things are still genuine and human based. Culture is still strong. Nature is wonderful, but has to be protected. Tourism has still a scale that can be regulated not to affect so much negatively the resources. I hope it’s the trend, as the government is kept saying!
8. To conclude: where do you see Mangrove Lodge and tourism in Tanzania heading in the future?
We are working hard to follow responsible principles, I hope the tourism industry will be able to separate the responsible and the non-responsible/standard hotels. It’s important to give a good level of information to tourists, let them choose according with the hotel features, avoid negative competition and foster diversification, instead of standardising. If so, the Mangrove Lodge will flourish! If responsible tourism is encouraged also all destinations, not only Tanzania, will be raised.
Thank you Marina for this insightful interview! To book your stay at Mangrove Lodge, click here.