Behind the Green is all about giving you more insight into the places we feature. Our interviews reveal what happens behind the scenes, tells stories of the people on the ground, exposes the challenges they face, as well as the communities they impact; essentially the bits you don’t usually hear.
Meet Marcus, the owner of Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge. Marcus has worked in Nepal for over thirty years. A keen sailor and horse rider, neither of which is possible in Nepal, he thoroughly enjoys his hobbies when back home in rural Devon in the UK.
Learn more about Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge here >
How did Tiger Mountain start? Was it always eco-friendly focused?“Tiger Mountain was formed by two pioneers of tourism outside Kathmandu in Nepal – Tiger Tops and Mountain Travel, hence Tiger Mountain. I was offered a job in Nepal for 6 months, I was working in London at the time. 6 months turned into 30 years! From there I joined Tiger Tops, where I worked in a variety of roles. Eventually I became CEO of the group. Later on down the line I became the owner of Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge I felt the company at the time had a lot of talk and enthusiasm but less action towards sustainability, I was tasked to change this. Being eco-conscious has always been a part of this place, before people even became aware of the word ‘sustainability’, we offered flasks of water rather than plastic bottles. These sorts of practices have always been normal for us, it’s just that now there’s a word for it.”
Is there anything you would do differently if you could start again?“Yes, there is. Our current water tanks only hold about 4-5 days’ worth of water in the dry season, meaning we have to rely on a regular water supply. If we had installed bigger tanks in the beginning we could have taken advantage of the monsoon season when it rains for 3 months. This would enable us to be more self-sufficient”
Tell us about the most recent green initiative you have implemented there?“In June 2019 we installed a biogas plant in the staff kitchen, so that their kitchen could run on a renewable source of energy. A new firm in Pokhara has started commercial production of bio-gas and we hope to partner with them for the guest kitchen and so use this energy on a bigger scale.
We like to be creative with our green initiatives and one that I particularly enjoy is the way in which we give water to our guests who are leaving us. Once we realised that we had wine bottles we were struggling to recycle, Sujan, our barman figured we might as well re-use and re-label them, to send our guests off with a bottle of water for their journey. The label explains what we are doing to spread the word.”
How would you best describe the lodge to potential guests? Is there anything they don’t expect?“We try to stay as true to reality as possible in our photographs, we’d like our guests to come in and say, ‘this looks just like the pictures!’, but I don’t think a picture quite does our lodge justice.
As guests walk up the steps towards our main lodge, they’re often taken aback by the beauty of the view and we almost have to have someone standing behind them to catch them in case they stagger backwards! I also don’t think guests expect our staff to be as kind and attentive, yet discreet, as they are. 87% of our staff have been here for 20 years and even helped to build the lodge, so they are genuinely passionate about this place.”
How do you engage guests in being eco-friendly and make them feel part of your efforts?“Mainly through conversation. We like to engage our guests in our eco- approach in a natural and very subtle way, rather than lecturing people. Our staff are naturally inclined to make people feel comfortable, so will offer to shed more light on our eco-friendly practices if asked. We often have volunteers staying with us from projects we are involved in, and if guests want to, we can introduce them to the volunteers to learn more. But it is most definitely all about how much our guests want to know, rather than how much we want to tell them.”
What have you observed regarding impact on the community there, has it changed their awareness and attitudes towards sustainability?“You have to engage people the way they want to be engaged, not the way you think they should. Tiger Mountain offers a certain amount of luxury and holds a certain prestige, our community recognises this and knows that we have the ability to support local projects, and this engages them.
We focus on the community’s perceived needs (not our own), which is improving education in the local community, but we will only provide resource once there is support from the ministry of education and the community themselves. This way everything remains community-focused and community-led.”
What is the most challenging aspect of running a green, sustainable lodge?“It’s impossible to be completely green and it’s difficult not to fall into the vortex of that. For instance, eco-friendly paint isn’t available in Nepal and by the time you think about importing it, you have to consider the carbon emissions of doing so and whether it is really worth it. There is nothing that is completely environmentally benign, and it can be difficult to accept that. You always have to think about more ways to be green, so it is a challenge, but a rewarding one.”
What’s next for Tiger Mountain?“The next initiative is the plan to introduce electric cars. This seems like a particularly good idea in Nepal as the country mostly runs on hydroelectric clean energy.
We’re also considering a hiking trail, so that guests can hike to the camp and stay there before hiking back to the hotel. But it is early days for this plan. Generally, we wouldn’t want to change the lodge itself, we don’t want guests to come back to a different place, we want it to feel familiar.”
Find out more about Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge & do your own green checks here >