2020 is slowly coming to an end. At the same time the winter season in the Swiss Alps is right about to kick-off. Known as one of the most sought-after ski-holiday spots in the world, The Alpina Gstaad is looking forward to opening its doors and welcoming guests (back) to this elegant resort.
The Alpina Gstaad is not just a luxury hotel in the Swiss Alps; it’s a haven of wellbeing, where purpose-driven innovation and creativity meet culinary experiences and unique sustainable practices, which you won’t experience anywhere else in the world. This is a place you’ll leave feeling relaxed, re-energized and with the inspiration to (also) take your steps in making this world a better place.
I met with one of the masterminds behind the hotel’s uniqueness, Nachson Mimran, Creative Director and Chairman of the Board at The Alpina Gstaad, and to.org co-founder and Provocateur in Chief.
It was an unexpectedly incredible summer season for us. We had no idea what would happen when we reopened in July, but we were at full occupancy almost all summer. The Alpina Gstaad is a very special place, we focus on wellness and regeneration, on the best waking experiences and the best night’s sleep. We’re constantly looking for new innovations in those spheres, and sustainable ways of providing cutting edge solutions for our guests. Of course Gstaad is always popular and the Alps have been particularly appealing this year – clean mountain air and some of the most awe-inspiring vistas. This is an extraordinary part of the world, where visitors can indulge in the wonders of nature, hiking, and skiing, and exceptional meals made with local produce; I feel very privileged to be able to spend time in this outstanding region and to be able to share it with our guests.
It’s interesting that you mention privilege, I’ve heard you referred to as a chameleon – you indulge in and cater to luxury on one side, but you also spend a lot of time working with grassroots organizations addressing Earth’s most pressing challenges. How do you combine the two?
Our work at to.org, which I co-founded with my brother Arieh Mimran, focuses on accelerating innovative solutions to some of humanity’s biggest challenges. I spend a lot of time visiting refugee camps and urban slums in Uganda and other places across the African continent. There, we mostly focus on creating opportunity and supporting budding entrepreneurs and artists, as well as providing newly arrived refugees with mattresses and teddy bears so that they too can sleep more comfortably. In Senegal, a country that has been a home to us all our lives, we are working on mangrove reforestation and collecting and upcycling ocean plastics as part of a to.org series of initiatives housed under our collection. We will soon have a new installation at The Alpina Gstaad from this project; Fabrice Monteiro’s The Prophecy is an endeavour I have been privileged to support.
Of course, I also spend much of my year in Gstaad and other parts of the world that couldn’t be further from the experience of being in a refugee camp. It’s an interesting combination, but my experience with both means I am committed to offsetting my indulgences, and I encourage my friends to do the same. This summer in France, I started thinking about how much water we could provide for communities in need if we made it easy for people to offset their spend in bars and restaurants. And I started to think about how we can redefine indulgence; if we consume something, such as champagne, when others don’t even have clean water, then that indulgence should also be offset. For the price of a bottle of champagne at a bar, we can provide clean water for a vulnerable community, and more than 300 million bottles of champagne are sold each year – imagine what we could do by offsetting even a fraction of those! There are so many ways we can offset lifestyle for the benefit of others, for example we’ve recently been offsetting guests’ stays at The Alpina Gstaad with mattresses for newly arrived refugees in Uganda’s Nakivale refugee settlement.
The wellbeing of people and planet are fundamental to my identity and to the identity of The Alpina Gstaad. In recent months, we have boosted our measures to ensure that safety and hygiene come first for both our guests and hosts, without compromising our core values or the standards that everyone expects from us. We also work closely with EarthCheck and NOW Force for Good Alliance, to make sure we are on the cutting edge of what a luxury hotel can do in the sustainability space, from the philosophy behind our menus to our fleet of hybrid and electric cars and our commitment to using locally reclaimed and renewable energy throughout the hotel.
The Alpina Gstaad is a dynamic space, from the rotating art collection to constant innovations in sustainability and wellbeing, our focus is now as always on providing our guests with a safe, elegant, and bespoke experience with a respectful approach to our planet.
We can’t instigate change if we aren’t engaging with our audience, but many fundraisers are cookie-cutter and impersonal to the donor. I started asking myself, why is the fundraising sector largely still using the same methods it’s used for decades? A tick-box culture with standard operating procedures; I want to provoke this model. The same way good hospitality is all about guest experience, our foundation is always tailored to the interests of each individual or brand. For our indulgence campaigns, we use QR codes and NFC chips paired with specially produced digital content; the experience of giving is fast, simple, and unobtrusive thanks to the team at HEROE5, a company we have been incubating at to.org. With HEROE5 we design bespoke landing pages for each campaign, and they make sure the user experience is effortless. You could have the coolest and most innovative campaign but people won’t donate if you make them jump through hoops, nor will they promote your campaign to their friends.
I have no need for single use plastics in my life, but that isn’t always easy with small children. To be fair, I’m not perfect, but I drive an electric car and I scrutinize my purchases to make sure my money is being spent at the right companies. At The Alpina Gstaad we also do what we can but we aren’t where we should be, yet. It’s an ongoing process, but every year we get closer to our sustainability goal. The most important thing is where a hospitality company – or any company – cannot be sustainable, they need to be transparent about it as well as actively encouraging innovation directed at solving their sustainability challenges.
Absolutely, the offsetting campaign we launched this summer took root much faster than we ever expected and we’re seeing a necessary mindset change within luxury. We’re talking with several big companies in the sector about building their own bespoke campaigns, and the to.org team is working on scaling this concept even further. We all should be more aware of the residues our lifestyles leave, and I would like to see this type of lifestyle-offsetting become normal. If we provoke, collaborate, and innovate we have the best chance of reaching our ten-year goals for the health of the planet and people.
Founded in 2014, re-launched in 2019 – by Nel-Olivia Waga. It is an international luxury lifestyle blog, that features stories under the aspect of a conscious mindset. It collaborates with leading brands and specialists who share the idea of generating a positive impact in the world. Based in Zurich and London, it covers local hotspots and global trends around sustainability, innovation, well-being, health, beauty, travel, time, art, business and charity.
Nel-Olivia Waga is the Founder & Publisher of HER/etiquette. She is a Brand Consultant, an Author and Entrepreneur, most passionate about well-being, travel, nature and art. Her work can regularly be seen in her column on FORBES. Her consultancy YMPACT LAB, creates innovative marketing projects for luxury brands based on passion, purpose and sustainable impact.
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