As some of you might know, 3 years ago I set out on a mission to help Green the Hospitality industry. I love tourism, I have worked in the industry all my life and it has helped shape me into the person I am today.
But I am also painfully aware of how polluting the Hospitality industry is, and while we hear more and more stories about hotels trying to reduce single use plastic use, or control their energy use, we are still miles behind from what we could achieve if we put our minds and time to Greening our businesses.
So this week, I wanted to highlight and write about a business, and a man, that has put sustainability at the forefront of it’s business model.
Rasika Perera is the Chairman and founder of Ravana Garden, a sustainable, luxury, boutique Hotel in Sri Lanka. I got in touch with Rasika to find out why we had set out on the mission to build a Sustainable Hotel:
"Tourism is one of the most polluting industries, majority of the industry experts are least bothered as long as they reach occupancy targets & absolutely frustrating to convince them that sustainability is the way forward, so I've decided to prove it by making Ravana Garden a successful business venture. If I succeed, then there's a much better chance of convincing them to follow the sustainability path”
I love this quote. For someone to actually take the risk to build their business with a sustainability model, to prove the point that I Green business can be successful, is a bold, brave and honourable move.
When I asked Rasika for some examples of how they had embedded sustainability into Ravana Garden, the list was quite extensive! But here are some highlights:
“I've taken some bold decisions, such as not to cut a single tree during construction, reduce the number of rooms to 9 from 15, not to use printed business cards, serve mainly plant based organic/semi organic food, avoid highly unsustainable food such as Lamb, pork, beef, smoked salmon & processed food. Ban single use plastics, introduce/promote sustainable concepts (sustainable luxury, sustainable souvenirs, sustainable honeymoons, sustainable weddings). Remove Air conditioners/ TV's from rooms & offer incentives such as private gardens/ out door bath tubs, private dining, picnics etc.. for the guests to spend more time in out doors which directly contributes to saving energy & also to re-connect with nature and loved ones.”
Sustainability and the outdoors have been a passion of the founder of Ravana Garden since a very young age, “I also took to planting vegetables from a young age, and I vividly remember how watching them grow brought me a lot of joy. As an active member and the Chief Editor of my college Environmental Society, planning trips to the Sinharaja forest was not only a task I took on with genuine enthusiasm, but also probably my favourite part. To-date, the scars left on my feet from leech-bites, never fail to remind me of those great memories.”
It is not surprising that the cutting of trees and deforestation in our modern world, was one of Rasika’s major pain points “The rate of deforestation in most countries today makes this is an incredibly urgent topic as our fragile planet collapses under human strain. Should we continue at the same pace, there is absolutely no coming back from the damage we will cause. As per my observations over the years, it has mainly been a case of shifting the weight of responsibility onto someone else, wrongly assuming that they will do something about it instead.”
Very much like me, Rasika loves the Tourism industry, but he is also painfully aware of how damaging and polluting this industry is, and some years ago he decided to take the plunge and invest in what his dream business now is:
“It was many years before I finally knew where I had to start, and eventually after much thought and deliberation, saw an opportunity within the tourism sector in Sri Lanka as it had entered a boom after the end of the 30 year civil war. In the midst of this rapid growth within the tourism sector, I keenly noted the negative impact on the environment, and realised that unless there is a shift towards sustainable tourism, the country is undoubtedly and in its own time, headed towards a major environmental disaster. This led me to make a personal commitment towards sustainable tourism, and I decided to risk it all towards the cause so I can ensure that sustainable tourism is the way forward for the future; not only in Sri Lanka, but indeed the rest of the world. This journey has been strongly backed and intently supported by renowned local architect, Sunela Jayawardena who is also incredibly passionate about the environment. Her passion and direction have been invaluable, and I am proud of the outcome that is Ravana Garden. She brought to life a concept which is in perfect harmony with my vision; it was almost as if she read my mind. The property’s functionality, aesthetic beauty and environmental connection is because we always made sure to put nature first from day one. For me, it is sustainability that gave birth to Ravana Garden.”
Most of his employees arrive with none or little experience in the Corporate world, but Ravana Garden firmly believes in giving it’s local people a chance to develop new skills and to come out on the workforce. I asked Rasika to give me some personal insights into some of his employees, and he spoke to me about his employee Lakshitha
“Lakshitha didn’t have any experience whatsoever working in a cooperate environment, but when Lakshitha approached us showing his interest to join Ravana Garden, we identified that he’s a talented individual who’s highly creative too & wasting his time as a daily paid security guard. Despite of lack of proper qualifications, we decided to take him on board & exposed him into various training programs, today he’s a well-trained room boy who could do the rooms unsupervised. Considering his potential, we are training him on butler service as well. Lakshitha led the construction of “sustainable SPA”, which predominantly made from recycled materials keeping inline with Ravana Garden ethos.
I personally think, that when someone is putting their money, and courier, where their mouth is, the least they deserve is recognition. To say I am honour to have discovered the story of Ravana Garden is an understatement. I only wish, that other business owners could follow suit. That the Hospitality industry started taking steps towards a more sustainable future, at the end of the day, that is what our customers and our young generations demand more and more.
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