Grootbos unites nature, animals and people through tourism and sustainability
In an interview with Michael Lutzeyer, founder of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
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Author: Vivien Vollmer
A luxurious 5-star lodge two hours outside of Cape Town and an award-winning private nature reserve at the same time. With this concept, Michael Lutzeyer wants to build a bridge between tourism and sustainability. Grootbos, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies between mountains, forests and the sea on the southern tip of Africa. With his Grootbos Foundation, projects are initiated that protect local biodiversity and promote the community. The associated luxury lodge is climate-negative as a hotel and company and thus helps its guests CO2 footprint to minimize.
In an interview with Michael Lutzeyer, the South African with German roots talks about his holistic sustainability concept. It quickly becomes clear that there is much more to it than a commitment to the environment. It's about species protection, social justice and an understanding of how everything in nature depends on one another and how we humans fit into it as part of the earth. A new look at the versatility of the Tourism.
Michael Lutzeyer, founder of Grootbos South Africa
Cape Floral - Exploring the diversity of nature
In 1991 the Lutzeyer family drove past a sign that read "Farm for sale". As Michael Lutzeyer describes, it was the breathtaking view and location that gave them no choice but to buy the property. "We initially have the farm for weekends and enjoyed vacations. But it quickly became clear that we wanted to share the view with the rest of the world ". The result was a Bed & Breakfast, which over the years has developed into a high-class hotel and nature reserve. The new concept should change the tourism industry in the luxury segment lastingly.
With so much untouched nature, there is one thing more and more: foreign plants. “In 1997 my father and the botanist Shawn Privett started to develop a study with the aim of protecting the native plants. Above all the fynbos, which characterize the unique landscape of the region. It was counted, identified and categorized. Seven new species have been discovered. The smallest plant kingdom in the world was and is at the same time the richest and most diverse. "Today, 880 plant and animal species can be discovered in the nature reserve, of which over 120 are endangered.
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Promote the community with plants
"We have done something for the plants, we now also have to do something for the people," says Michael Lutzeyer. As a result, he founded a gardening school in 2003. for South Africa the concept of training was new. Regardless of age, people from all over the area were able to apply and gain a professional degree as a gardener as well as important "life skills". “Many had never worked with a computer or didn't know how to write a résumé. These are important factors for later finding a job. ”In the meantime, over 200 people have completed their training at Grootbos.
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In the meantime, the Bed & Breakfast developed into a luxury hotel. The expansion offered further possibilities: later a hospitality school was opened, which teaches the unemployed the hotel business.
Environmental protection only works collectively
Michael Lutzeyer explains the importance of his overall concept as a symbiosis between man and nature. In addition to nature, this should also create a certain social sustainability. ”With this idea, several levers could be moved at the same time. Michael Lutzeyer therefore demands: "Every company should take care of the people and nature in its immediate vicinity."
"If you don't involve people and don't train them, then they won't understand why sustainability is important. Because do you want to preserve something that is valuable if you don't involve people in it?" He asks, which is why he supports with his Grootbos Foundation supports the local community. Among other things, through the establishment of a day-care center, school and the training of teachers. The foundation supports numerous projects from beekeeping and animal breeding to the recycling of candles, football training and computer courses to the clearing of non-native plant species every project should offer the local people a better future and protect nature.
Role model for sustainable tourism in the luxury segment
In addition, Michael Lutzeyer redefines the value of tourism: "Grootbos attracts tourism worldwide because this paradise has been preserved untouched as it was 30 thousand years ago." Michael Lutzeyer uses this attractiveness to promote sustainability. Because he knows from experience that sustainability also has its price: "If I offer luxury, I can ask for more money, which is important for sustainability because the processes are not cheap and have to be financed."
Source & Copyright by Grootbos
Grootbos as a company and farm carbon-negative
For Michael Lutzeyer, the direction in which tourism must move is clear: “The future of tourism is sustainable. How can I help the guest to go on an environmentally friendly vacation? We have to work towards this. This is how guests get a good feeling. Because the money they leave here is used to do something good. As a company and farm, Grootbos is carbon-negative and continues to work on reducing CO2 emissions from its guests. "
Michael Lutzeyer sees the young generation in a special role: “I believe that the pressure comes mainly from younger people. When they see something in the competition, they ask the question why it can't work the same way in other places. "The attention of the media has given everyone the climate problem and the tourism industry is now forced to change.
A look into the future: when Corona paralyzes tourism
Tourism is already in a process of change, but this will still take time. Especially after the Corona crisis, Michael Lutzeyer predicts that many people will treat themselves to a trip. The first thought would not go in the direction of sustainability, he explains. However, he is convinced that after one of the compensation phases, the focus on sustainability will return.
At the same time, the founder of Naturverbunden is aware that sustainability is not yet a unique selling point in tourism. “That will depend more on the preference of the guest. At the same time, travel agencies, for example, are increasingly turning to sustainable hotels in order to get rid of their negative image. So the target group for sustainable tourism is not yet the end customer directly, "he concludes. Travel and sustainability often seem like opposites. But with Grootbos, Michael Lutzeyer has managed to combine luxury tourism with nature.