by Nick Dickson, Chief Executive Officer

Since our inception many decades ago, Dream Hotels & Resorts has believed that it’s our responsibility to create a healthy balance between our actions, our community and the environment. At the outset, our sustainability journey seemingly began well – and well before ‘sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’ became the buzzwords they are today. It’s likely we didn’t truly understand what those words really meant and what being ‘sustainable’ actually looked like. Our intent has always been to do better and make proactive changes in how we operate to preserve all the wonderfully special destinations in which our properties are located. We have grown to understand that what we really want as an organisation is to be more accountable, compassionate, and honest. Doing so has been challenging, but we have continued to reframe our mistakes as an opportunity to learn and develop. 2022 is proving to be another transformative year for us, but we now remain focused on our shared vision: ‘To co-create memorable travel experiences which connect people for a brighter future.’

Having recognised that our portfolio of properties is located in eco-sensitive areas, a strategic decision was made in 2013 to further minimise our environmental impact.

In order to be truthful to ourselves, our staff and guests, we began the herculean task of establishing realistic and measurable goals, enlisting the help of Energy Resource Optimisers (ERO) to develop an energy management programme our on-site teams could easily implement. From there, we set to work monitoring our energy, waste and water consumption, which soon proved an incredible amount of saving could be achieved through small yet deliberate actions.

Within these early years, it dawned on us that operating sustainably was not just about the ‘big’ decisions made in the boardroom. It’s about every single person in the company making a conscious choice to live a shared vision together and fully be a part of it, every day.

Right from the start, our teams down on the ground became integral to the success of our entire sustainability process. This is reinforced by the thinking that if we look after our staff, they will look after our guests. And if our guests see each of us all working together to make positive changes, they will want to make positive changes, too.

The one crucial element that helped us to drive our sustainability journey forward, was reinventing our internal organisational structure to encourage more cohesion.

In 2021, we initiated a tested ‘RACI’ model, shifting from a hierarchical leadership style to a linear one. Designed to empower staff members to take ownership and move up the rank, responsibilities are allocated towards one’s strengths. Using RACI, we can identify who within the Group is ‘Responsible’, and ‘Accountable’ for certain tasks, which then requires a ‘Consultation’ process and then the act of ‘Informing’ all relevant parties within the organisation.

This strategic decision before the start of COVID-19 proved highly beneficial. Coupled with the sheer courage, adaptability, and resilience shown by our teams within our various departments and properties, we were able to overcome some of the darkest days our industry has ever experienced.

From our GM at Mount Savannah Game Reserve, Gliden, to Debbie and Alet at Stonehill River Lodge and Chris, our GM at The Peninsula Hotel, we have a long list of inspiring individuals who continue to live out our company mission:

‘To deliver dynamic and exceptional hospitality solutions in Africa that connect local and global travellers to our communities in a sustainable and relevant manner.’

To honour their efforts, in 2021, we launched a series of feel-good community stories entitled ‘Dream Diaries’. Each diary entry celebrates positive news, responsible tourism projects and the immense efforts of individuals who continue to make things better and actively create opportunities instead of waiting for them. At Dream Hotels & Resorts, we are actively reimagining our future together. We are constantly challenging ourselves to lead and grow with purpose, exploring new ways of ensuring a future with more accountability, inclusivity, and local impact. This underpins our most recent initiative we’ve begun implementing throughout the company – the ‘Art of War’.

Stemming from the ancient military treatise of Sun Tzu, our intention is to take our vision forward while creating a safer, more supportive environment for individual staff members to excel and for us to offer an exceptional hospitality solution for our guests. This also includes nurturing stronger relationships with local government and businesses, as well as supporting communities surrounding and providing further development opportunities.

Our sustainability journey has been a humbling experience for myself and the Dream Hotels & Resorts tribe. Looking inwards and holding ourselves accountable for our actions has made us realise that we want to be more than just a mixed-use accommodation group. The goal has never been to become ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’, but rather to be more compassionate and honest in how we operate as a business. We want our efforts to create something of valuable consequence for our communities and guests within some of the most exquisite destinations across Africa. Having a clear vision and ensuring it is articulated across every corner of the company has certainly kept us steering in the right direction. The reality is that if you want to make real change in your organisation or community, everyone must believe in what they are doing and understand why it’s important. The road ahead is long with many more challenges to come, but even if we make the smallest difference in the world, we will know we have created something meaningful. Ultimately, ensuring a brighter future depends on our choices right now. If we don’t try to do better and be better, chances are, we won’t have one.