More than just the latest buzzwords, sustainable tourism is front and foremost in the minds and, more importantly, the activities of so many accommodation providers across the UK.
Whether it is reducing single-use plastics and topping-up toiletries, selecting bedding and bathroom textiles which comprise of responsibly sourced fibres that require less time to launder, there are many ways which the responsible hospitality business owner can play their part for the planet.
Your efforts won’t go unmissed by your guests and even Visit Britain agree on the benefits of sustainability for your business: “Being sustainable not only reduces your impact on the environment, but helps you to improve your customer experience, support your local economy and help you stand out from your competitors whilst also earning extra revenue for your business.”
However, once your guests step outside to explore your region, surely that’s where your ECO influence ends?
Not necessarily, thanks to the eBike initiative launched by Out of Eden at the start of 2020. The innovative scheme provides the opportunity for hospitality businesses to lease electric assisted bikes which can then be hired by guests staying at their accommodation.
A great way for guests to explore a new region, the eBikes are a great alternative to taking the car and require far less exertion from the rider when compared to a standard bicycle.
One business in the heart of the Lake District was one of the first to recognise the great potential in offering eBikes to their guests, as Rachael Thomas, Managing Director at Matson Ground Estate explained when we dropped in to see her on a glorious spring day at their location on the edge of Windermere.
“The Estate’s vision is all about the land – the sustainability of the land, the preservation of the environment, and the ecology; first and foremost, that underpins everything we do and the self-catering cottages are a great source of income for the estate which allows us to continue our stewardship programme as well, of course, providing our guests with so much enjoyment of the natural environment where we are located.”
The guest accommodation at Matson Ground Estate comprises six self-catering cottages in Windermere along with a further two in Patterdale and another at Glenridding. At Matson Ground, there is an organic farm and the Estate operates under the Higher Level Countryside Stewardship programme, with parts of the estate forming ‘green corridors’ offering sanctuary and a protected environment for species such as red squirrels, curlews and fritillary butterflies.
“The Estate’s vision for the cottages was always for them to be positioned as a green destination – something that Out of Eden were able to help with in terms of supplying sustainable products, Ecover detergents, recycling bins labelled as obviously as possible. Being able to add to this with the eBikes means we could build on this vision and get people to move around the Estate and the local area as sustainably as possible.”
Nikki Riley, Out of Eden’s Sales Manager, first mentioned the initiative to Rachael in late 2019 and, in the following January, the Estate agreed to take four eBikes.
Unfortunately, the ensuing coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns meant that the Matson Ground Estate had to postpone the launch of the bikes until the following year.
“Straight away we thought the bike hire was a great initiative and felt this was an offering that aligned well with the Estate.” Continues Rachael, “We have developed a guest app for smartphones where they have their ‘guidebook’ to help them get the most out of their stay with us, and we’ve now included the eBikes to make it super easy for them to book.”
Rachael has plotted a number of cycling routes from the Estate which, due to the geographical location above Windermere and Bowness, means there are a few hills to negotiate but the eBikes are a great help and take a lot of the effort out of cycling.
“Electric bikes in general have become much more universal; anybody can enjoy them and they are most definitely not just for older people who can’t manage hills.” Rachael adds, “For example, we recently had guests who were a very fit couple and had the day before run a half-marathon trail race; they wanted to go on a bike ride but their legs were tired. They hired the eBikes from us and had a really enjoyable afternoon exploring the quiet lanes, and gave us this great quote:
“I would highly recommend them. They open-up opportunities to explore the local area that some people would not ordinarily get due to fitness levels. I am a runner and cyclist, but I really enjoyed the extra help the electric bike gave on a day when I was tired after completing a Lakeland Trails race. Irrespective of fitness levels, they are fun and easy to use. I would recommend that guests hire one to explore the beauty of the Lakes. A great day out and an adventure not to be missed.”
The comprehensive insurance and recovery service included in the lease agreement with Out of Eden was an immediate benefit for Rachael and helped in her decision to take the bikes: “It provides both us and our guests with great peace of mind. Wherever they [our guests] are, if there is an issue with the bikes then there is a solution that will get them back here without us having to find a resource to do this or any extra effort from us.”
“This is just like Out of Eden all over – everything they do just makes life easier for people in hospitality. The whole service is ideal for us and ticks so many boxes.”
Rachael is already developing the offer for her guests by providing cycle routes and itineraries, with destinations to aim for and plenty of things to do and see along the way and, ideally, would like to have a set of bikes for each self-catering property.
“People are happy to spend on experiences like hiring the eBikes as another great element to their holiday – they can still be independent, it’s still bespoke, and they are tailoring their holiday to suit their own needs and preferences and if it can help reduce the number of car journeys around the Lakes then that can only be a good thing.”
“As a business we want to try these initiatives and are confident that they will be a great addition to Matson Ground Estates.” Concludes Rachael, “And personally, I love them and was a complete convert right from the start – I think we should get one on the Estate just for me to use!”
We would like to extend our thanks to Rachael and the Matson Ground Estate Company Ltd for their help in writing this article, and for permission to use images of their self-catering properties.