Interview with Ewald Biemans, founder of Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort
Ewald Biemans has a long experience in sustainable tourism. His Beach Resorts Bucuti and Tara on the Caribbean island Aruba both have the Green Globe Platinum and the Travelife Gold certification. Ewald himself was 2017 recognized with a Gold Adrian Award as Leader in sustainable tourism which is presented by Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and National Geographic Traveler.
Things we wanted to know from Ewald:
• What gave him the idea to make his business sustainable
• Where does Ewald see the benefits of sustainable tourism?
• Does he involve the local community in his business?
• What are Ewald experiences of starting his business?
• How did and does he solve problems in becoming sustainable?
• Did and does he helps other companies in acting sustainably?
• What type of tourist are visiting his hotels?
• Does he have hopes or wishes for the future?
What gave you the idea to make your business sustainable?
Necessity is the mother of invention! When I first arrived on Aruba for 50 years ago there were no issues with pollution or illegal dumping. Most things were reusable and there were not that many residents and practically no tourists. Once tourism grew, we had to import labor. With growing tourism disposables, chemicals and such things came along. Our landfill grew and ocean side locations where mangroves grew were damaged. Illegal dumping sites became a fact. The number of visitors also impacted our beaches and reefs and plastic could be found everywhere as disposables became the rule of the day.
We started to clean up! Then the price of oil increased and the need to reduce energy became obvious and so all kinds of measures were introduced. We became leaders in environmental conservation both for the community and for our visitors. We got certified shortly after the Rio Summit in 1993. Sustainability became a way of life on an island that has one natural resource – our nature! Tourism is the only source of income and if nature is destroyed – tourism is no longer feasible.
What are the benefits of sustainable travel in general and for you especially?
Sustainable travel makes it possible for people to enjoy nature and travel without impacting or destroying what brings them here in the first place. It brings a customer who is aware of the damages that can be created by indiscriminate conduct.
Do you involve the local community in your business?
The community is a key part of a good program. We promote local labor, local arts, and crafts, manufacture of local products and local agriculture. The involvement of our associates and guests in environmental conservation was a key to our success.
What are your experiences of starting your business?
It was difficult in the early years as people thought of us as greedy business people trying to save money by reducing energy consumption and doing bulk purchases to reduce trash. We started dispensing items in bulk containers to minimize trash and reduce the energy use to minimize emissions. We faced high costs of energy efficient equipment in the early days – everything that was energy efficient or produces alternative energy was very expensive.
Did you meet problems on your path? How did you solve them?
We encountered many problems from government officials who would not allow installations of solar and wind power to resistance from guests towards certain steps in conservation. But slowly with proper education, all obstacles were overcome.
Do you help interested companies that want to join your service and act sustainable?
We formed groups of hotels who helped each other to get certified. We started joint campaigns to educate people and we involved our guests as well. We offered education to schools and university and conduct periodic site inspections, etc.
What kind of tourists visit your hotels?
We cater to a four-star clientele who is carbon footprint conscious. As a matter of fact, we just published a press release announcing that our typical visitors from the Northeastern US will have a lower footprint while visiting our resorts compared to a driving vacation at home in the US, including air travel. In other words, a customer comes to our resorts and can enjoy the stay guilt free while at home they most probably spend more on energy and other emissions.
What are you wishes or hopes for the future?
We hope to become carbon neutral within 2018/19.