I didn’t realise at the time, but it all started more than 10 years ago when my family acquired a beautiful property on the small, historic hometown of Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro, and turned it into a boutique hotel.
With no prior experience in the industry, my family implemented what they saw as best practices. They hired locally, trained the team and empowered them by offering something unique: shared benefits from the business.
Read our chat with Cleiuodson “Peu” Lage, who is manager of Pousada Tutabel in Porto Seguro in Brazil, and also responsible for the RPPN Rio Brasil – a Private Reserve of Natural Heritage working to preserve and recover native forest and water sources while also encouraging environmental education and social inclusion in the area.
Bee + Hive: Tell us about yourself?
Peu: Born in Porto Seguro, Brazil, I’m the proud son of an entire family of fishermen who built life on the basis of artisanal fishing and local fish trade. I studied Forestry Engineering at college, and soon realised it was with nature conservation that I wanted to work, directing my studies early on towards the Environmental area. Upon leaving college I returned to Porto Seguro, where I worked with environmental consulting for 1 year. After the consulting, came the opportunity to work in the conservation unit (my dream job!), starting work at the RPPN Rio do Brasil in December 2013 where I am still today.
Have you noticed sustainable tourism becoming more popular?
Peu: Yes! In the last decades the concern with the environment has become increasingly present in the day-to-day agenda. Along with the concerns about less pollution, use of renewable resources, clean energies, recycling, etc … came refining and reaching other areas of life. So, people have started to integrate sustainability in their travel and experiences. I must admit that we are still far from the ideal scenario, but having companies committed to providing sustainable activity and experiences for travellers (like Pousada Tutabel) is extremely important.
Have any guests been particularly inspired by the experiences on offer at the RPPN or Pousada Tutabel?
Peu: One of the most interesting was the visit of a European guest who was intending to explore a small trail in the RPPN and ended up traveling almost all the trails. She could not stop admiring and talking about the big trees we had along the trail and how it looked like stretches of the Amazon forest. During the trails we saw several birds and a group of monkeys (macacos-prego) that passed near us. We passed a vegetable garden and orchard where she had the opportunity to taste some fruit and herbs. She was in love with the lemon balm; we picked some branches and took them to back to Pousada Tutabel so she could have tea every day (all day). We had to even get some extra balms for her to take home to Sao Paulo. I mentioned a visit to the Pataxó village and she immediately scheduled to go the following day. I acted as a guide and translator; she was charmed by the Pataxó culture and participated in an exclusive ritual with the village Pajé (sorcerer).
What benefits can operating sustainably have for businesses?
Peu: The benefits are diverse. Environmental issues are becoming increasingly relevant and nowadays are part of the decision-making process of many businesses. Companies that are sustainable are working directly for the transformation of their communities, promoting activities that are environmentally friendly, and in some cases, eradicating harmful ones. The company ends up inspiring its employees who start to make sustainability part of their lives. As sustainability is not only environmentally friendly, but also linked to the economy and social issues, sustainable companies make a difference also in the social fronts of the local community, bringing opportunity to the native residents.
Are there any more sustainable practices you would like to implement in the future?
Peu: Yes! Today RPPN Rio do Brasil is one of the most active institutions of Porto Seguro but there is always room to do more and do better. Today our actions embrace the surrounding communities, but I still have a strong desire to make Rio do Brasil a reference in scientific research, giving opportunities for university students to carry out their studies. I also want to make Rio de Brasil a space for small courses and lectures on environmental and productive issues.
What do you love about what you do?
Peu: I absolutely love everything I do in Rio do Brasil, since as I mentioned above, early in college I realized that it was with conservation and sustainability that I wanted to work on. In the RPPN I have the opportunity to do in practice all that I envisioned during my studies, I have the possibility to support the education of children, youth and adults in the communities in need in the region. The strengthening of conservation units is very important, both in terms of the environment and history; we protect the fauna and flora and still preserve one of the most biodiverse forest stretches of the planet, in a territory considered by UNESCO as a natural world heritage. Although our projects focus on our territory, they have repercussions on all humanity, as after all, nobody owns clean air, water sources and biodiversity.
In this quick chat, we speak to Eliza Raymond, co-founder of GoodTravel, a voluntary tourism agency in New Zealand and one of our early partners!
Bee+ Hive: Tell us a little about yourself?
Eliza: Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be an ‘explorer’. I have always been fascinated by other countries and cultures, and I feel happiest when I am traveling.
Bee + Hive: Why and how did you get involved with tourism?
For as long as I can remember, I have loved to travel and I have been interested in how travellers can make a positive impact when we travel. I did my Masters in Tourism at the University of Otago in New Zealand looking into good practice in volunteer tourism. I then worked for seven years with different volunteer tourism organisations in Peru and New Zealand. I loved my experiences with these organisations, but I felt that perhaps there could be a better alternative to volunteer tourism for short-term travelers wanting to make a difference. I subsequently co-founded GOOD Travel with three wonderful friends from Peru, South Africa and the USA.
Bee + Hive: What do you think of the “transformative travel” trend?
Eliza: I feel excited and hopeful about the transformative travel trend. I think travellers are demanding more from their travel experiences because they are recognising the value of connecting with local people, experiencing new cultures and learning while they travel. Tourism businesses specialising in transformative travel experiences also have an opportunity to develop experiences that have a positive impact on the places they visit. This is important from a sustainability perspective and it also provides a more unique and authentic experience for travellers.
Bee + Hive: Who’s responsible for spreading the word about sustainable tourism – tourism businesses or travellers?
Eliza: Both. Travellers are responsible for generating demand for sustainable tourism, spending their money at GOOD tourism businesses and taking the time to learn about the local culture and environment. Tourism businesses are responsible for continuously working to improve their practices in order to protect the places and people their businesses rely on. GOOD Travel’s focus is on travellers. We aim to inspire travellers to make a positive impact when they travel and we provide the information and connections to help them achieve this. We provide a GOOD Travel blog with tips on how to be a GOOD traveller, we offer GOOD trips that have been carefully designed to ensure the local community, economy and environment benefit, and we will soon be launching GOOD traveller memberships!
Bee + Hive: What do you love about travel?
Eliza: Everything! I love the way that travel helps me to be completely present. When I am traveling, I feel a different sense of awareness and connection. The most memorable parts of any trip for me are always to do with the people I meet during my journey. I have met the majority of my closest friends (and husband!) while traveling and I think this is because travel forces you to be completely yourself and to often share highly memorable experiences. The thing I value most in my life is experiences, and when you travel you get so many unique, surprising and often hilarious experiences that you’ll never forget!
On our series of interviews with people dedicated to Sustainable Tourism, we speak to Kent Lindvall, co-owner and founder of the remarkable Treehotel in Harads, Sweden. Kent and his wife, Britta Jonsson-Lindvall , opened their eco-friendly hotel in 2010, and it’s now one of the most iconic hotels in Scandinavia offering incredible sustainable experiences for guests.
Bee + Hive: How did you come to open Treehotel?
Kent: My wife and I were born and grew up in Harads, Swedish Lapland, and had no plans to move. We have always been working to create a local non-profit project to develop this area to attract more people to come. Our idea has been that you can find most ground for development from the local people, nature, history and tradition: “Dig where you stand.” You can see Treehotel as a creative twist from this kind of thinking. An important part was also that we meet the right people to work with. The three architects we started with were my fishing friends.
Bee + Hive: What was the response from local community?
We got a good response and understanding of the unique concept when we first presented the idea in 2009 for people in the tourist branch and the local government. Some local people believed we were crazy and said it would not work. Today nearly all locals are proud of what we have in the village.
Bee + Hive: What is your favourite activity at Treehotel?
I like the ice dining in winter and fishing tours in summer. Ice dining, Northern Lights tours and dogsledding are also popular with our guests. We have just created a new activity “Tree dining”. We offer a three course dinner on a platform 10 meters up in a tree with a perfect view of the landscape.
Bee + Hive: What do your guests think of the experience? Are they inspired by your initiative?
Yes, many guests get inspired and I believe it gives them inspiration to create something unique themselves. It has inspired local people to start small companies, lodges and local activities to deliver their service to our guests. The whole tourist region Swedish Lapland and Visit Sweden are happy to have a unique selling point to talk about and the local people are proud to say they are from Harads where the Treehotel is.
Bee + Hive: Are you developing any more sustainable activities or rooms?
We’re working on a new sustainable project on the river below Treehotel: the Arctic bath floating hotel. Visit www.arcticbath.se to find out more. We plan to open next winter 2018.
Bee + Hive: What do you love most about running Treehotel?
To meet guests and see them happy.
A passionate biologist and ornithologist, we speak to Luciano Lima – Bee + Hive’s resident birding expert – about his thoughts on how travellers can help protect wildlife and nature.
In the heart of the rainforest, a reserve was established by three sisters to help preserve and revitalize the original Pataxó culture. We spoke to one of the founders, Nitynawã, and heard how encouraging visitors to experience Pataxó culture rejuvenated it for generations to come.
Bee + Hive: What was the goal of Jaqueira Pataxó village?
Nitynawã: Our goal here in the village is to protect the cultural part of our people. So the importance for us here is our own culture – singing around the campfire at night, the shaman, contact with the earth, with the forest, as our elders taught us. And the space was opened for visitors to experience our culture. And it is the visitors who help us to preserve what’s here, and to strengthen Pataxó culture. Today we have a school in the village, from kindergarten through fifth grade that teaches the Pataxó language. Everything here in the village was through the visitors here, visiting us.
Bee + Hive: Tell us about the Jaqueira Paxato Village experience?
Nitynawã: Normally when the visitors come, they will listen…They will be welcomed, then they will hear about the Pataxó culture and its environment, which I or another villager will give. The history that we tell visitors is the history experienced by us. [We were] a people that always walked in this region here, from Santa Cruz Cabrália, to Prado, Barra Velha… So we still live a very traditional life, walking in the woods, planting, harvesting, and making crafts. That is our life, and that’s what we pass on to our visitor. We founded the village of Jaqueira out of the need to strengthen our culture, preserving 827 hectares of Atlantic Forest. So, just as we watched our parents doing the rituals, the sacred ceremonies, the paintings, making crafts, today we also pass on here in the community to these young people. And that’s what we also show here for our visitors.
Bee + Hive: Visitors also have the option to spend the night here, is that right?
Nitynawã: Yes. We have three tours: one about three hours long, one that lasts all day and one that includes an overnight stay. Visitors have lunch, dinner and breakfast with us, participating in clay making and craft making during the day which they can take home, and then spend the night with us. We do everything together.
Bee + Hive: How does tourism and the village help the environment?
Nitynawã: I think with planned and organized tourism, people can keep the environment preserved. Today, we do educational work and we also have a nursery of native seedlings. With this we help to reforest some degraded areas, coastal woodlands, or other spaces. My message is that the tourists come to visit us, and help us take care of these forests, help strengthen our ethnicity, and in this way, we will help others who need it. If they need us to also give a lecture in a school somewhere, in another place, we do that. We do workshops in other places, in hotels, we are invited by events to do workshops for crafts making, painting, archery, and we will also do these with visitors, too.
Bee + Hive: And what do you most about the life you lead here?
Nitynawã: What I like the most is to pass on some of the history of my people to those who do not know it. Because it’s a history that few people know, the history of the Pataxó people. And I also like to see the kids here running, playing, jumping, studying, having the freedom to be a child. To see our older people around the campfire, to see an elder sitting on his mat, this is something for us, we are very happy to see, something that in other places, sometimes they cannot experience this anymore. I’m very happy here in Jaqueira.
I am the proud father of a curious 6yo boy. He loves Pokemon (as one would expect) but his inquisitive mind combined with good parental guidance (more likely Mom’s achievement) drives him to enjoy cartoons that teach – and I am happy to say he knows as much about Madagascar lemurs (thanks, Wild Kratts) as he does about Greninja (the 1st-level evolution of Frogadier, in case you are wondering). These interests of his were somewhat combined into an app called Seek by iNaturalist – where kids can easily search the Nature around (animals, plants), take a picture and check what species it is, and if it is native or alien. His innate curiosity, boosted by these incentives and facilitated by Technology, are making him increasingly interested on the World around him.
This dynamic has been the starting point of a recurring theme I have been playing with, as we at Bee+Hive are beginning to organize with Fazenda Bananal (www.fazendabananal.com.br) the first of a series of workshops on the topic of reconnecting with our roots – being nature, culture and history – and its potential as a Touristic attraction.
A recent report from Skift (The Rise of Transformative Travel) is a remarkable account of something we have been witnessing informally: travellers are increasingly looking for experiences that transform them. This trend, that started naturally among adventure travel enthusiasts, has expanded into luxury travel – also not surprising since luxury, in its essence, is about the everlasting duo of setting people apart, while fitting them in a selective group (independent of the standards). Nothing does this as personal experiences (that cannot really be copied by a cheaper competitor), and definitely nothing does THAT as high-end sustainable Tourism. Either by chasing the brown bear in the midnight Sun in Sweden, by swimming alongside humpback whales in Australia, savouring a dinner in the Zambezi River, having a photo safari alongside the onças (Brazilian jaguars) or exploring a preserved island entirely by yourself – these unique and jaw-dropping experiences are examples of the luxurious immersion in the Environment that is the cornerstone of Bee+Hive.
Another striking article I read recently at Quartz (Technology is changing our relationship with nature as we know it), an interview with the University of Washington psychology professor Peter Kahn. Among a number of very relevant insights, I was stuck by his opinion that VR will never fully mimic Nature, since it can (yet) not replicate the full experience. You can exercise by indoor climbing, but you cannot (yet) replicate the gust of wind that takes you off-guard. It’s a more protected, shielded, experience and precisely by being so, lacks an essential element of the nature experience.
An essential part of the Nature experience is that you have to be vigilant at all times – you have to watch our for snakes, loosen rocks, gusts of wind, and the amount of time you are underwater – so that you get to enjoy the sun warmth on you face, the refreshing breeze, the grass, the sea turtle swimming by and yes – watch snakes do their non-biting-you stuff. There is a price to pay (as anything), and by engaging with it you learn more about yourself – your strengths, weaknesses (be aware!), and what are your limits to challenge (or not). The apparent contradictory insight is that, by immersing in true Nature, you end up learning more about yourself. This essential trade-off and benefit will hardly be met by a VR experience.
Therefore, embracing technology (rather than fighting against it) can have a fantastic, mind-blowing impact on our relation with NatureNot by replacing Nature or mimicking it, but by doing what it does best: heightening our awareness, increasing our capacity to learn, grow, empowering us to integrate with the Nature around us, allowing us to take larger, longer, steps to evolution – yes, like Greninja to Frogadier.
The challenge is on, @Elon Musk!
Who has never thought to leave all the difficulties behind and embark on a trip to a sunny, cozy place, full of different characteristics of what you are accustomed in your city? And why not share this journey with more companions, to give you that support during the trip, and taking the opportunity to make strategic stops during the trip? Or maybe even find a partner and enjoy this new place in the company of someone who shares the same interests as you?
Believe it or not there is a lot of animals out there that does this kind of adventure every year. Around the world diverse species move enormous distances to go to appropriate places to reproduce and/or feed. Examples of epic journeys and emotions that any adventurer would give anything to be able to do are not uncommon in the lives of these, often tiny, beings. Although many groups of animals, such as fish, butterflies and even mammals, migrate, birds have taken this phenomenon to the extreme.
A great example is thongs – anyone who lives or vacations on the beach may have seen one of them walking in the sand chasing after some crab with their thin, very agile, legs. Bollards and shorebirds form a group of birds that usually inhabit coastal regions and include diverse migratory species. Shorebirds, for example, also reproduce in the summer of the Canadian tundra and migrates as soon as the cold season begins to approach Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. On the way, it makes strategic stops to “refuel” in different points of the coast of Brazil, especially in the coast of Pará and of Rio Grande do Sul. Back and forth, annually this species runs unbelievable 29,000 km.
Bare-throated bellbird is a species of bird that inhabits the Atlantic Forest exclusively, but also likes to travel, and just as the tortoise is driven by the search for more favourable conditions for survival. In the Paraty region, research from the Bird Observatory based on Fazenda Bananal (Bee+Hive member) showed that the species moves between lower and higher areas of the Serra da Bocaina, accompanying the fruiting of the juçara palm, one of its main foods (and protection from illegal harvesting).
Sometimes we see in the paradisiacal beaches of Trancoso – where Pousada Tutabel and our Private Natural Heritage Reserve (RPPN) Rio do Brasil are located – groups of these incredible birds walk in the white sand to the taste of the breeze and the always bright sun of the extreme south of Bahia. Smart fellas, right?
But far beyond these epic journeys, as they migrate from one region to another, birds literally connect different corners of the planet – and this has important consequences for ecosystems, many of which directly affect people. Despite their importance, migratory birds must face man-made threats that are becoming almost insurmountable obstacles in their journeys. Problems ranging from hunting to global climate change have led in recent years to a drastic reduction in the populations of many species, many of which are now considered seriously endangered – including shorebirds.
In order to draw people’s attention to the importance of the phenomenon of bird migration, the World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated annually on two dates, the second Saturday in May and the second Saturday in October, which are the main migration times of birds. These events have an internet page – www.worldmigratorybirdday.org – that highlights activities scheduled to occur around the World. In addition to participating in some activity, you can help migratory birds in a variety of ways, including by supporting initiatives that seek to protect birds and their habitats, or by informing each other more and sharing information that encourage others to take care of one of the most important phenomena of the animal kingdom.