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.
Interview: Kent Lindval (Treehotel)
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.
Interview: Luciano Lima
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.
Technology, Nature and Greninja
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!
Why migratory birds deserve their own day (twice a year)
By Luciano Lima and Peu Lage
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.