I’ve been invited to Mauritius for a conference on digitalisation and sustainability in tourism and the itinerary says I’m staying at an Attitude Hotel… Mmmm, I think, what is Attitude? Thanks to google I find that the Collins English Dictionary says ‘Your attitude to something is the way that you think and feel about it, especially when this shows in the way you behave.’ The Business Dictionary says it’s ‘a predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively to a certain idea, object, person, or situation’, and that attitude ‘influences an individual’s choice of action, and responses to stimuli’. But in actual fact, the answer is all of the above carefully wrapped up in the ethos of a Mauritian owned hotel group called Attitude Hotels.
The Attitude hotels story is a Mauritian one, from its foundation of Mauritian traditions and hospitality, it’s ethos of sustainability and authenticity to its ownership, management and employees – staff members are referred to as Family Members. There are nine Attitude hotels at present, each one offering contemporary style, Mauritian charm and committed to giving their guests the ‘opportunity to live like locals during their stay’.
The Ravenala Attitude, my home for a few days, is neatly tucked between sea and river on the north-west of the island – an easy 30 minute drive from the airport. My welcome was warm (as one would expect from family members) and the formalities a breeze. I sip my chilled lemon grass and ginger cordial and appreciate way the indoors and outdoors merge seamlessly to reveal a view over a luxuriant tropical garden and expansive pools. The Ravenala is a beautiful space where white colonial curves blend with wood, bamboo and woven rattan, and where tropical accents are complimented by large artworks depicting traditional Mauritian life.
On arrival I was welcomed with a special gift, a fabulous travel journal specially imagined and designed by the Attitude team. Flipping beyond the blank pages I discover an enticing journey illustrated by Mauritian artist, Evan Sohun. The beautiful illustrations depict a journey taking in the authentic experiences from one Attitude hotel to the other, suggesting ways to ‘discover Mauritius differently’.
As my travel journal suggests, Attitude Hotels have a very different approach to resort holidays. They actively encourage guests to get out and explore, and ‘live like a local’ with their Otentik (authentic) Attitude – these Otentik Experiences invite guests to discover the ‘real’ Mauritius. Their geolocation App – Otentik Discovery – takes you off the beaten track and introduces you to special sites along the way. Port Louis’ maze of streets and markets comes alive as the App guides you through the fish and meat market, to the bazaar, where it suggests you try a Maraz dholl puri, to the Bombay Sweets Mart and Café Shanghai amongst others. This is just one of the seven itineraries to choose from.
There’s the Otentik Bazar a small market selling ‘made in Mauritius’ local craft, where all the benefits go to the craftsmen. Guests have the opportunity to admire and purchase local handicraft, wicker baskets, home-made jams, recycled sails bags and many more. Attitude, with the Green Attitude Foundation, has committed itself to protect the environment and is therefore happy to be able to sponsor, encourage and help the local craftsmen to be both green and creative, using recycled material among others. I’m told ‘this is fair trade, Attitude’s style!’
And Otentik Music, where guests can discover the delight of sipping cocktails to the rhythm of the ‘ravanne’, the large tambourine-like instrument used in sega music. Or Otentik Cuisine where each Attitude hotel has its Otentik cart full of local goodies… rums arrangés, “glaçons rapes”, “rotis” ou “aloudas” among others, waiting for the guests to taste their local specialities, and where the Chefs are also happy to supervise a cooking class where guests can learn to cook a traditional curry, and get the recipe to take home.
But as with most memorable experiences, it is the people that make the difference. Each and every interaction with Family Members was warm and spontaneous, with nothing being too much trouble. The highlight of which was my Otentik Dinner experience, where guests have the opportunity of dining at a Family Member’s home.
Ved Bhujun and his family hosted us in their home… Rajshree, his wife welcomed us with a traditional blessing and soon we were watching chilli bites, samosas and battered brinjal being fried, and paratha being rolled – we were graciously given the opportunity to try our hand at this too… not an easy task, and I’m sure mine was relegated to the rejects pile!
With the popular rum and coke poured and starters consumed, Ved placed a green paper sheet on the table in front of each of us. ‘This is your banana leaf’, he said, ‘we cannot use the real ones at the moment as there is banana leaf spot disease on the island at the moment’. Before long we were dining on delicious Indian Mauritian food… bean curry, chicken curry, ocra chutney, cooked sousou (chayote) and pickles all eaten with the paratha the traditional way and washed down with local Phoenix beer. After much conversation and laughter we progressed to henna tattoos, sari dress up and sega dancing. The evening ended with photos taken and farewells made.
In addition to offering guests these wonderful authentic experiences, Attitude Hotels are committed to ensuring that their footprint treads as lightly as possible and that their employees are well treated and remunerated. I meet with Célina and Pamela to learn about the hotels’ environmental initiatives and the Green Attitude Foundation – the Green Attitude Foundation was launched in March 2014 to consolidate the Green Attitude program that was introduced in 2010 at the original two hotels of the group.
Celina tells that the more than 1500 Family Members (staff) are recruited from the region in which they will be working, that they are part of an annual profit sharing scheme and that social welfare is a high priority. One example is that Family Members have the opportunity of bringing their families to stay at the hotel and on their birthday they are given a birthday cake to take home.
From and environmental perspective, Celina tells me that by incorporating environmental considerations into purchasing decisions, they endeavor to make a positive contribution to the environment. And as such look for products that are sustainably produced and are are water saving and energy efficient. Fresh produce is purchased from local farmers and wherever possible ‘Made in Moris’ (made in Mauritius) products are used. Attitude Hotels also choose to do business with smaller companies when procuring goods so as to help them integrate into the economic mainstream.
Waste management is an important focus and plastic, glass, paper and used cooking oil is recycled and where possible organic waste is used for composting. Suppliers are educated about the importance of reducing packaging waste and where possible items are purchased in bulk with the least packaging. The use of key cards, sensors and energy efficient lighting, appliances and equipment ensures that their energy footprint is kept as low as possible.
With protection of the environment being one of the core values of Attitude Hotels a committee of Green Ambassadors at each Attitude hotel is responsible for carrying out their commitment to good environmental practice: preserving natural resources, evaluating and controlling water and energy consumption, consistently reducing and recycling as much waste and scrap as possible. ‘Thanks to this committee’ says Celina, ‘not only our Family Members but Attitude’s guests and partners are also conscious of and trained for good environmental practice.’
This brings me back to the question, what is Attitude? It is indeed ‘the way that you think and feel…, especially when this shows in the way you behave’ and that this Mauritian owned hotel group called Attitude Hotels lives up to its name.