El Gouna’s successful transition towards sustainability in the hotel kitchen
El Gouna/Berlin/Burghausen, 27 July 2017. Food quality is often the mainstay of a hotel’s or restaurant’s good reputation. However, the times of wasteful buffets in holiday destinations have become a thing of the past in most places. German holiday makers in particular increasingly value food that has been produced and prepared sustainably from fresh local ingredients. Companies that follow this trend consequently have a competitive advantage. Futouris e.V., the sustainability initiative of the German travel industry, has launched a multiannual pilot project in the seaside resort of El Gouna on the Red Sea coast. The project is entitled “The Sustainable Kitchen” and is aimed at promoting the sustainable food offer and thus sustainable development of the hotels in the region. The project is part of a larger Futouris project entitled “Sustainable Food on holiday” which is being implemented in several holiday destinations. The launch of an awareness and training programme for the Egyptian partners in February 2017 was an unexpectedly successful start to the project with 21 participating hotels. Around 60 representatives of the participating hotels came together last week for several days of best practice exchange, further trainings and coachings in the Steigenberger Golf Resort in El Gouna.
The project on the Red Sea coast is carried out by the non-profit association Futouris in cooperation with the Egyptian Chefs Association and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The travel agency cooperation alliance QTA and the Orascom Hotel Management Group that manages various hotels in El Gouna also support the project. The trainers are provided by the Egyptian Chefs Association, including the Association’s honorary president and founder, the Swiss Chef Markus Iten.
“By bringing sustainability into the kitchens and to the buffets, we aim to raise awareness and trigger a change of mindset while preserving local culinary cultures, biological diversity and the environment”, explains Sabine Gnyp, the managing director of Neckermann Reisen Partner who is managing the project on behalf of QTA. “In this way, we are enhancing the sustainability of restaurants and hotels in holiday destinations that are important to us. Companies that follow the sustainability trend have a major competitive advantage when it comes to marketing, meeting the increasing health requirements of clients and cutting costs by avoiding food waste, for example.”
The participants in the Futouris project came together in El Gouna last week to share first achievements. “We have come a long way since the project’s start in February – from the establishment of a herb garden through to the comprehensive redesign of the buffet,” says a delighted Mirjam van IJssel of the Egyptian Chefs Association. “Now, we need to keep the pot boiling – fruitful practical implementation is much more important than theoretical discussions.”
“The Sustainable Kitchen” includes a series of seminars, a regular best practice exchange and trainings in the hotels. These trainings are based on a Futouris manual of almost 40 pages that provides basic information, checklists, tips and practical examples.
The aim of the project is not only to explain the meaning of sustainable food but also to provide insights into requirements with regard to procurement, menu composition, preparation and presentation of food and avoiding waste. “Above all, we want the hotel staff – from the manager to the kitchen boy – and customers alike to pay attention to this important issue”, says Ramy Hassan, trainer, entrepreneur and restaurant owner from Cairo. “How can we expect our guests to know that they are enjoying a high‑quality organic buffet if we don’t tell them, for example with the help of adequate signs or marketing campaigns?”
Success needs to be evaluated again and again and new goals need to be set continuously, says kitchen specialist Markus Iten: “We have made great progress in El Gouna but now, we need to draw the tourists’ attention to what measures the hotels in the region have already taken. At the end of the day, however, it takes a life’s work to bring about a sustainable change of mind.”
Gunnar Wassong, General Manager of the Steigenberger Golf Resort in El Gouna believes that it is utterly important to put new ideas into practice immediately: “We completely rebuilt our restaurant area one and a half years ago and are now frequently doing live cooking for our guests and changing buffet themes. This does not only help us to improve the freshness and quality of our food but also enables us to better control the demand, meaning that we have been able to reduce food waste. This is a positive development for everybody.”
“Our job at QTA is to start informing our partners in the travel agencies and thereby the holiday makers about this change”, Sabine Gnyp concludes. “For what good is there in training hotel staff and in sustainably produced food if the target groups who attach importance to these issues do not learn about these developments and change their own behaviour?”
The Sustainable Food industry project has shown that the training of the hotel staff is one of the key factors for realizing a sustainable food offer in hotels.