Luxury and Sustainability – An Oxymoron in Hospitality?

At the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, we strive to achieve a symbiosis of Sustainability and Luxury.  Two concepts that were recently discussed in the August 29th Issue of the The Economist Magazine.

The first article was called “Luxury Tourism:  A place to lay your bread” and pointed out a concept that we have been implementing for over ten years now called “Experience – Learn – Connect – Relax”.  The trend in luxury travel is away from things such as gold iPads and branded purses to experiences, often in nature and culture or adventure related.  Milton Pedraza of the Luxury Institute states in the article that:  “There is only so much Champagne and Caviar that you can throw at guests.”

Lapa Rios Ecolodge
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula is a pioneer in Ecotourism. It is a great example where Luxury and Sustainability can co-exist.

Frank Marrenbach, a respected European Hotelier calls it “being generous in small ways”.  One way of being generous in one of Germany’s most luxurious Spas is a switch that will block all wireless signals.  Downtime has become a luxury for many of us…  By the way, you can have this downtime even without flipping any switches at one of our luxury eco lodges on the Osa Peninsula.

The other article was called “Responsible holiday-making:  Travelling light” and explores the question that we constantly discuss here among us at Cayuga if “Sustainable or Responsible Tourism” is indeed an Oxymoron.    The article states that a tourist flying from Britain to Kenya and back generates around a ton of carbon emissions and no matter how many times he reuses his towels or sits on a composting toilet, he could never hope to offset the burning of all that jet fuel. So from a purely carbon emission related point of view, sustainable travel probably is an oxymoron.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica
The Impacts of Ecotourism should not only be measured by the jet fuel burned to reach the destinations. There are many more much complex impacts that need to be analyzed carefully.

The only truly sustainable holiday would be camping in the back garden eating berries, says Harald Zeiss of the Institute for Sustainable Tourism at Harz University in Germany.

But of course there are other benefits of tourism that are not measured quite as easily as the exhaust of jet fuel.  Bringing cultures and people from across the world together unarguably has huge benefits.  And the positive impact by tourism done right in the destination where it takes place can have extremely positive impacts on the life of the locals.  There are numerous examples of this here in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and around the world.

Jicaro Island Eco Lodge
The impact that eco tourism done right on the local community is tangible mostly through employment. At Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua, the nine room luxury ecolodge is having a great impact in Granada.

The Economist article points out that “Keeping resorts small, and perhaps even temporary, can help resolve that paradox in favor of conservation”.  The benefits of sustainable tourism outweigh the harms, thinks Dirk Glaesser of the UNWTO.

We look forward to more discussion on this topic and in the meantime, we will continue to fine-tune our approach on finding that perfect balance between luxury and sustainability.  A great example of this is our approach to Eco Honeymoons and the development of Unique Honeymoon Destinations  in the past years.  Learn more here.

Eco Honeymoon


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