Jareth Vermeulen is tasked with showing tourism’s greener side at Aruba’s Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort.
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But is a Carbon Offset Concierge really the type of person you want to mingle with at the omelet station during breakfast? Aren’t vacations meant to help you get away from the stresses of life?
Vermeulen, who is also the property’s sustainability and certifications manager, said that guests are often seeking him out, not the other way round.
“I saw one guest recently with one of our beach clean-up t-shirts from 2015,” he said. “I approached him to introduce myself, and he said ‘I was looking for you’. He had questions.”
Guests are fairly environmentally aware, it turns out, as the resort has transformed itself into a carbon-neutral property over the years. And the monthly beach clean-ups have been running for 27 years.
The role is relatively new, though — so what does it entail?
Being based close to the front office, Vermeulen gets to see guests arriving and so is able to welcome them. There’s no check-in desk, so it’s part of the job, and he’s one of several concierges — including a romance concierge. It’s a nice touch when so many hotels are taking the path of tech-focused kiosks.
“Each concierge has a whole set of tools to inform the guest,” said owner and CEO Ewald Biemans.
As designated Carbon Offset Concierge, the priority is to help guests offset their travel, which can include their flights, transfers and excursions, all through certified offset programs.
The concept is that a carbon-free vacation should cover all trip elements, so it’s a door-to-door service. When guests book they are also emailed a questionnaire about what activities they’d like to do, and some come ready to quiz the concierge on the resort’s carbon-neutral program, and green stay program.
He also organizes 30-minute sustainability tours around the property, showing best practice. Groups in the past have included schools and even the Cayman Islands’ tourism board.
How It All Began
Biemans is a bit hazy on the exact details, but the creation of the role has a lot to do with the hotel’s carbon neutral status. “Even though we are carbon neutral as a hotel, people are still reluctant to fly. So we read about some of the airlines offering offsets from Europe to Aruba, so I guess somebody said why don’t we appoint a concierge who’s specialized in making sure these people have access to the offsets so they can travel guilt-free, while they can stay with us for a guilt-free, carbon-free vacation.”
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort is currently enjoying celebrity status too, with not only the UN award, but Biemans attending the recent COP26 summit in person, where he signed the Glasgow declaration of climate change. “I was the hotelier. We are acting as an example to the hotel industry of what can be done. Other signatories were airports, tour operators, among others,” he said.
He was also impressed by how 100,000 people took to the streets of Glasgow to demonstrate. “It is becoming a strong movement. They’re going to force the older generations to change the way of doing business, and damaging what we have left. It was an incredible conference in all senses,” Biemans said. “If I look at COP26, that conference woke up half of the other world.”
In an era when consumers are starting to make greener travel choices, the fairly unique concierge role certainly isn’t harming marketing efforts. Every second or third review on TripAdvisor mentions the sustainability angle, said Biemans, who added that it proves sustainability and luxury are not mutually exclusive
The resort’s also seeing 95 percent occupancy levels, although the demographic is shifting. Before the pandemic the guest mix was 40 percent European, 60 percent U.S. and Canada. Now just 10 percent of guests are European.
But with a changed mindset after the pandemic, the resort is hoping for their return. And whether the Carbon Offset Concierge is an actual person, or a service, other hotels should take inspiration from this small luxury resort that’s punching above its weight.
Photo credit: Jareth Vermeulen is Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort's resident Carbon Offset Concierge. Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort