Guest experience is everything
A guest’s experience is the most important thing when it comes to working in hospitality.
This is true for everyone, and it’s definitely the case for us as an independent property situated in rural Kent. We don’t have a dedicated marketing team and we’re far enough away from most things that few people stop as they’re passing by, so reviews and word of mouth are some of the key ways people hear about us.
But in addition to going above and beyond for guests, we also believe placing a strong emphasis on sustainability can have a hugely positive impact on guest experience.
For the longest time, emphasising these two factors might have seemed counterintuitive. In the past, sustainability in hospitality was presented as frugality and doing less – fewer room cleans, reusing towels and such. But the industry is at an exciting moment where we are realising this doesn’t have to be the case. People everywhere – including guests – are starting to see how sustainability can, and indeed should, be part of everything.
What sustainability looks like for us
Sustainability is in everything we do.
It’s in the energy we use. Over half (55%) of our energy comes from renewable sources and we’ve achieved a goal of being carbon neutral by offsetting the rest.
It’s in our approach to transportation, where our staff work together to organise car sharing and collect guests from the local train station to help them make sustainable journeys too.
It’s in the food we offer, where we locally source as much as possible, including partnering with the local dairy farm for all our milk, crème fraiche and other produce. Then we place a strong emphasis on ‘field to fork’ service, helping us cut our food waste to less than 5% while still offering guests the quality and options that bring them back time and again. In fact, we often get rave reviews for the food alone, and it’s not uncommon for guests who’ve stayed with us to pop back just to get lunch on a Sunday!
And it’s in how we go about supporting the local community, too. We’ve calculated that we support 62 rural businesses in total, from direct engagement, such as plumbers and gardeners, to additional services that guests might enjoy. For instance, we can arrange a wine tasting at a local provider for a guest, without charging an admin fee, simply to help enhance the guest’s experience while also supporting a local business.
Sustainability matters more than ever to guests
I completed an environmental science degree back in 1986, so sustainability is an area I’ve been fascinated by for a long time. But I’ve noticed it’s increasingly coming up as a reason people choose to visit us, and it’s getting mentioned more often in feedback.
Being part of Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable programme has made it easier for those who are interested to find us, but even people who don’t choose us because of our sustainable outlook and facilities say that, once they arrive and see them for themselves, they ‘get’ it.
It seems the pandemic was a bit of a watershed moment. People started to realise the value of local support, and to consider their impact on the wider world. As much as they want to travel and have experiences, there can sometimes be slight guilt over the impact that might have. By working to make ourselves more sustainable we’re offering guests a way to have a little slice of luxury in a guilt-free way.
Ensuring things are built to last
As much as sustainability is about the environment, it involves so much more.
‘Sustainable’ means being economically viable. It means making sure local communities are supported. It means changing with the times to ensure we can continue to offer guests what they really want while protecting what truly matters.
We’re a fourth-generation farm, and things have changed a lot since we started – but the essence of who we are remains the same. This continuity of offer is, I believe, hugely important.
In fact, a few years back we had a lovely couple come and stay. They enjoyed the experience so much that when their daughter was getting married they recommended us as a potential wedding venue. The daughter and her fiancé visited and had their wedding here a few months later.
Then, just recently, the daughter and her husband come back for another visit – this time with children of their own.
And who knows – if we can build something truly sustainable, then someday one of those children might bring their children, too.
- In addition to going above and beyond for guests, placing a strong emphasis on sustainability can have a hugely positive impact on guest experience
- The environment is a huge part of sustainability, but it’s not the only part
- Sustainability includes building an effective business, having a continuity of offer and supporting the local community
- The pandemic was a watershed moment for people considering their wider impact on the world and seeking to choose more sustainable options
- Done right, an emphasis on sustainability can increase word of mouth and get guests coming back time after time