Behind the Green is all about giving you more insight into the places we feature. Our interviews reveal what happens behind the scenes, tell stories of the people on the ground, expose the challenges they face, as well as the communities they impact; essentially the bits you don’t usually hear.
Meet Douglas and his wife Insuba who own The Pavilions Himalayas. Originally, Douglas was only supposed to live in Nepal for 1 year, but 25 years later the pair run the hotel and organic farm together. They are known as social entrepreneurs, because of their relentless work and passion for giving back to people in need e.g. Right4Children an NGO they started many years ago. When he gets free time, Douglas loves nothing more than hiking, trekking and running in the mountains.
Learn more about The Pavilions Himalayas here >
How did The Pavilions Himalayas come to be eco-focused? Was it always this way?‘I grew up in London and went to a private school far removed from the life we now have in Nepal. I have always wanted to live somewhere that I could feel surrounded by nature. When I first moved to Nepal, I saw these amazing places where people lived completely off the grid, right in the middle of nature. They were some of the happiest people I have ever met and could sustain themselves without the interruption of technology, and so when my wife and I bought some land to start an organic farm, this way of life was definitely something we wanted to celebrate. We ultimately started The Pavilions Himalayas to support our social work, which is incredibly important to us and it organically grew into the eco approach that we have today.’
Can you tell us more about Pokhara, what makes it such a special place to visit?‘It’s the tourism capital of Nepal for a reason, because it is so unique and incredibly diverse. It is surrounded by three of the tallest mountains in the world, which is just incredible when you think about it, at its highest point Pokhara reaches 1,740 metres above sea level and it truly is beautiful. There’s also a diverse range of people here, of all different ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds, multiculturalism is really celebrated in this city. As well as that, it’s also becoming known as an adventure destination. Visitors can get involved in paragliding, white water rafting, trekking and so many other activities. The list of what makes Pokhara special could go on for miles.’
How can guests who stay with you engage in your green practices or do more to feel they are contributing?‘We see a lot of excitement around our organic farm where guests, especially children can go and milk the cows or pick their own eggs for breakfast and lunch. We discount meals when food has been sourced this way to encourage our guests to get involved, so that they can learn the importance of local food production and hopefully take some of our practices home with them. We also find that guests love interacting with the local people we employ here, especially our interns from the FAB school of hospitality, just down the road from us. These students tend to come from tough backgrounds, so our guests get a sense of helping out the community and influencing individual lives for the better when they stay with us.’
What green initiative are you most proud of to date?‘I am really proud of our whole water cycle which has been designed to conserve the precious natural resource as much as possible. Every detail from start to finish has been thought out. Firstly, we have designed the roofs of our buildings so that they are optimised for rainwater collection. The collected water is then purified for use in the showers and then reused in flushing the toilets. After this, the black water created is used to create methane which we use to cook the organic produce from our farm. We have created a process that recycles rainwater three times and uses it to cook food, which I am immensely proud of!’
What local dish would you recommend to guests visiting The Pavilions Himalayas?‘Firstly, our Himalayan Thali is the showstopper. It’s comprised of curry dishes, sauces, pickles, daal (a lentil soup) and sides. It’s the perfect dish to try lots of different flavourful Nepalese food and taste a lot of our organic produce. The only food we don’t produce ourselves is the salt which we import locally, we even grow our own spices! I would also recommend the tasty oyster mushrooms, lightly battered and served in spices, they’re a great option as a snack in the afternoon or evening when you’re relaxing.’
What has been the highlight of running the Pavilions Himalayas so far?‘It’s the general feedback and appreciation that we get for running a genuinely eco property. There is a difference between being truly committed to this stuff and just pretending to be eco-conscious to look good and tick some boxes. Economically, it has been a sacrifice and it’s always difficult to find the balance between sustainability and luxury, but it’s worth it, and it makes me incredibly happy when people recognise that we are really trying. Opening up the FAB hospitality school was also a highlight because helping the community is in the DNA of why we exist in the first place, so to see the changes taking place directly is so wonderful. We truly believe that the more you give, the more you get back.’
Can you tell us more about the Right4Children NGO, how is the hotel involved in this?‘It is an organisation that we set up to protect and help children and women in Nepal. When I heard that 1 in 33 pregnant women die due to easily avoidable causes, I felt compelled to help. I truly believe that poverty is not about wealth, it’s about not having a voice and not having an opportunity. The Pavilions Himalayas was always intended as a way of allowing us to help people, to use the profits to sustain social projects and make a difference, so because of this, we are joined at the hip with Right4Children.’
What’s next for The Pavilions Himalayas?‘Currently, most of our profits go towards our social causes, so expanding our business would increase the amount we are able to donate. We would never expand so much that it would impact our environment because sustainability is always our priority. We would also love for more companies to follow our ‘WWW Give back’ philosophy based on wisdom, work and wealth, at its core it is essentially about giving back to people, teaching them and helping them to flourish. Guests who see you doing it really appreciate it and in turn, they want to promote their experience with you to others. It’s a worthwhile ideology and one I really hope more hoteliers will follow in the future.’
Find out more about The Pavilions Himalayas & do your own green checks here>