A Q&A With Plastiki Adventurer David de Rothschild On The WHOLE WORLD Water Campaign

Three years ago, adventurer, entrepreneur and activist David de Rothschild sailed from San Francisco to Sydney on a catamaran made of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles.

His goal with the Plastiki project was to bring awareness to environmental issues like global warming and plastic pollution, and he has continued to stay active in the environmental movement. Most recently, de Rothschild signed on as an advisor to WHOLE WORLD Water, a three-year campaign that aims to unite the hospitality and tourism industry to combat global clean water issues.

Launched on March 22 to coincide with World Water Day, WHOLE WORLD Water uses a social enterprise model to generate funds for the clean water movement. The process of signing on is relatively simple. First, hotels and restaurants sign on to the WHOLE WORLD Water campaign for a nominal per-property fee. Then, they use the suggested Vivreau water filtration system to filter, bottle and sell their own water to guests. Finally, they donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the WHOLE WORLD Water fund, which benefits safe, sustainable clean water projects in the places that need it most.

Founders Karena Albers and Jenifer Willig estimate that if the world’s three largest hotel groups joined the campaign and sold just one bottle of water per day, the campaign could raise up to $1 billion for its mission, while contributing up to 25 percent toward the company’s bottom line. The campaign has already signed on a number of well-known hotel groups, including Virgin, Dusit and Banyan Tree, along with a number of restaurants, nightclubs and Ritz Carlton properties. Advisors include high-profile names like Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson, designer Yves Behar, actor and filmmaker Edward Norton and de Rothschild.

In an email exchange, de Rothschild shared with Gadling what sailing the Plastiki taught him about the world’s water supply, why he decided to sign onto the WHOLE WORLD Water campaign and what travelers can do to get on board.

What did sailing the Plastiki teach you about the world’s water supply?

What the Plastiki taught me is sometimes it’s just as important to unlearn as it is to learn. We had to unlearn that it wasn’t all plastic that was the issue, but rather dumb uses of the material. And more importantly it was about redefining the story we tell ourselves about the value of the material – moving it away from valueless to valuable. That in turn will then have an influence over how we use and reuse. I believe the same applies to water issues; we all have to start to leave behind the concept that we have an endless supply of water, if we are to have any chance of creating a future.

Why did you decide to sign on to the WHOLE WORLD Water Campaign?

I can’t see any reason not to! I have been working for a while now to ban plastic straws across the world of hospitality so this seems like an easy and logical extension.

Why tackle hospitality of all industries?

Has to be a whole system approach to have an impact!

What will the WHOLE WORLD Water campaign achieve that other water campaigns haven’t?

That’s yet to be seen, but I have no doubt with such a great team behind the campaign it will produce something positive!

What can travelers do to support the efforts of the WHOLE WORLD Water Campaign?

Just say no to plastic water bottles! And encourage establishments that you come into contact with who haven’t engaged to sign up!

[Photo Credit: WHOLE WORLD Water]

Hotel News We Noted: September 7, 2012

Greetings from Toronto, where we’re visiting our fair neighbor to the north during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, for short). There is much to be enjoyed in this bustling capital, where hotels like the new Shangri-La, Trump, Ritz-Carlton (can you believe that’s what has opened only in the last year?) and soon-to-launch Four Seasons are dominating the luxury hotel scene, and buzzy up-and-comers like ALT near Pearson Airport and boutique-chic The Drake (no relation to the Chicago property), which rocks on in Ace Hotel-like hipster fashion on the trendy Queen Street West.

But enough about Canada, as there’s plenty of hotel news to be had around the world this week. Welcome to the first fall edition of “Hotel News We Noted.” As always, send us a note if you have tips, comments or suggestions.

Viral Video: Ritz-Carlton Showcases “The Art of the Craft”
Ritz-Carlton is showcasing their commitment to service and their “staff as family” approach with a new YouTube series that goes behind-the-scenes to highlight the work of hotel staffers. From shoe shiners to housekeepers, the videos showcase the level of commitment that each staffer has for their jobs. We love how employees at every level within the company take such a sense of pride in their job and the organization as a whole.
Hotel Openings: Four Seasons Baku and Pudong
The Four Seasons has had a big week with the opening of two new properties, Four Seasons Hotel Baku, the brand’s first in Azerbaijan, as well as the second property in Shanghai, Four Seasons Pudong. Once a well-kept secret among oil industry executives, Baku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is attracting interest of a much broader range of travelers, especially with its rich cultural history, vibrant art scene, designer shopping and developing wine industry. The Shanghai property is primed for business success, located in the newly built, 55-story 21st Century Tower. Is anyone heading that way who will report back on how these hotels look in person?

Hotel Revamp: Peninsula Hotels
YouTube videos must be all the rage this week, as Peninsula has also launched their own series, dubbed “Peninsula Moments,” offering a more film-like approach to what it looks like to go behind-the-scenes at the hotel. Part of a new brand campaign and revamp for their flagship Hong Kong property (to the tune of a cool $450 million), here’s what else you can expect:

  • Cool new city guides from LUXE, designed exclusively for the hotels.
  • The re-launch of the Hong Kong property, which features the same designer as the Getty, new rooms and suites, and upgraded technology and design enhancements. These include touch screen tablets pre-set in one of five languages offering full control of all room technology, complimentary long-distance VOIP phone calls from guest rooms and, from the hotel’s Rolls-Royce fleet, upgraded in-room technology including memory-card readers and the now ubiquitous in-mirror bathroom TVs.

Hot Amenity: Find Your Chi At Palace Resorts
This change alone is enough to let us book a stay at a Palace Resort (an all-inclusive brand located throughout Mexico) – they’ve added Chi amenities to all of their rooms. Not a woman? This means the industry’s best hair dryers (plus flat irons) in all rooms, as well as the brand’s own line of amenities. Looking good while traveling AND keeping our suitcase from going over the required weight limit? We’re all about it.

Sleeping Beauties: Westin and Diamond Resorts
People have long loved their hotel beds, and many brands, both luxury and mid-range, sell their sleeping products online so that you can enjoy the same comforts at home. If you’re a Westin fan, snag their signature “Heavenly Bed” online through September 22 for 20% off. If you’re not in the market (or the budget) to replace your mattress, we’d suggest a stay at a Diamond resort, which just launched the heaviest pillow in the hotel industry, a 51-ounce pillow that feels more like a memory foam than the typical “must fluff all night long for a good night’s sleep” variety. At just $27 on the hotel site, they won’t break the bank, either.

5 California Hotels Where You Can Learn To Ride The Waves

If you’re looking to try your hand at surfing this summer, there’s no better place to pick up a board than California. For decades, California’s surf beaches have beckoned rookies and professionals alike with their laidback atmosphere and consistent waves. Dozens of surf schools line the coast, offering instruction from beginner to advanced. But if time is limited and research intimidating, look up the following hotels, which offer surf packages on California’s gnarliest beaches to help ease the introduction.

Huntington Beach, Orange County
Huntington Beach Surf Experience at Shorebreak, a Joie de Vivre Hotel
Includes: accommodations, equipment rental, a bar of Organic Surf Wax, an “Endless Summer” DVD, and a two-hour surf lesson.

Coronado Island, San Diego

Hotel News We Noted: June 22, 2012

It’s finally summer, and outside isn’t the only thing that’s warm in this week’s edition of Hotel News We Noted. Here, we explore some of the world’s most sizzling new hotels and promotions, as well as cool amenities that can keep you traveling in style.

As always, if you have a suggestion or a comment, feel free to email us.

Hotel Trends: U.S. Hotels Catering to Chinese Travelers
Chinese travel to the United States is up 36 percent over last year, to the tune of more than $1 million. This article from the Seattle Times explored what that means for hotels. Chains like Marriott and Hilton have already rolled out special programs for tourists, while Starwood and The-Ritz Carlton have relocated managers to China to help them gain cultural awareness. Fairmont has just rolled out a new Chinese menu. Just one example includes the nation’s strict hierarchy – employees should not be placed on a higher floor than their boss, no matter the room type. Chinese guests are also not housed on floors with the number four, which sounds like the word for “death” in Mandarin – a strange request for a U.S. audience, but something that these tour groups have greatly appreciated. And, at the tune of $5.7 billion per year spent by the Chinese in the United States, or $6,000 per traveler, hoteliers can’t afford not to take note.

Cool Perk: Leave the Workout Gear at Home, Thanks to Westin
Westin is making it easier than ever to stay fit on the road (and still avoid checked bag fees). For $5, guests can get an entire New Balance outfit – from a sports bra to shoes – delivered to their room as part of an exclusive gear-lending partnership with New Balance.

Money We Wish We Had: Larry Ellison Buys Lanai, Two Four Seasons
Oracle CEO and billionaire Larry Ellison has gone and done it again. This time, he bought Lana’i, one of Hawaii’s seven islands, which has not one but two Four Seasons Resorts. Purchased are the 236-room Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay and the 102-room Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, The Lodge at Koele. We didn’t realize this was even possible, but apparently it is – he purchased the island to the tune of $500 or $600 million from David Murdock, another billionaire.

Unique Amenity: An On-Site Bagpiper
Guests at Sea Island’s (image of their luxe property The Cloister above) can relax after a day of shooting school or playing one of the resort’s three championship golf courses and enjoy the sounds of the resort’s resident bagpiper, who plays on the golf course every day at sundown. Shockingly, this isn’t the only U.S. hotel to offer the amenity – the Inn at Spanish Bay near Pebble Beach has the same thing. Who would have thought?

Soon-to-Open: Hotel BPM, Brooklyn
It’s no shock to us that Brooklyn will be the home base for the boutique Hotel BPM, or Hotel Beats Per Minute in Sunset Park. The hotel, opening August 1, has one cool program we’re keeping an eye on – guests can request one song that will be played throughout the hotel sound system at some point during their stay. At just $139 a night for the opening rate, it might be worth it to go and request something terrible like “Ice Ice Baby” or country music just to see the reaction of other guests. Sorry, we’re terrible.

Ritz-Carlton Demonstrates Customer Service Excellence With Missing Stuffed Animal

I think I must be hormonal, because this story just made me tear up. The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Amelia Island, Florida, is getting some social buzz this week because of the video posted above, which details their quest to go above and beyond for exceptional customer service.

The story is simple: a family went on vacation and left behind their son’s beloved stuffed animal, Joshie. Riley, the family’s child was notably upset at the loss of his favorite toy giraffe. Luckily, the Ritz-Carlton notified the family that the giraffe had been found safely in the laundry and would be returned as soon as possible.

But here’s where the magic happened: dad Chris Hurn, seen in the video above, asked if the hotel would help substantiate a little white lie that he’d told his son, namely that Joshie was taking a few extra days of vacation and that he hadn’t been forgotten.

What arrived? In addition to Ritz-Carlton swag, Joshie came home with a storybook binder detailing his trip, including photos at the spa, the pool, with the resort’s parrot and even in the loss prevention office (where he got an honorary security badge).

The work surrounding the story was substantial, and from what we’ve seen of Ritz-Carlton hotels, isn’t out of the ordinary – one time we entered the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown to find a photo of us and our dog by the bedside table.

But it’s certainly a heartwarming tale, and one we particularly love because it wasn’t part of a PR stunt or media blitz. It’s simply a great example of a luxury brand proving why people would want to pay extra to stay in a hotel of this class.

Kudos, Ritz-Carlton.