The Swedish-born chairman and founder of the luxury hotel Can Bordoy, Palma de Mallorca, Mikael Hall is determined that this year’s pandemic and subsequent enforced pause encourages the hospitality industry to reflect and reset. Now is the time, Hall believes, to ensure that we, as tourists, travellers and those in the travel industry, consume with greater care and kindness.
WHILE YOUR HOTEL CAN BORDOY IS IN THE OLD TOWN IN PALMA, MAJORCA, YOU’RE BASED IN PORTUGAL. HOW HAS THAT BEEN THIS YEAR?
It has been reasonably balanced. We weren’t locked in the house as such; we were allowed to do food shopping, jogging and so on. We live next to a golf course in The Algarve so my wife and I would go out in the evenings and walk around the course for an hour. My wife would pick flowers and I would pick up the plastic left by the golfers. I would say that compared to many we were very privileged with the space we had. I have friends in apartments with young children and had great sympathy for them during lockdown.
THE HOTEL WAS OBVIOUSLY FORCED TO CLOSE IN MARCH. HOW HAS THAT BEEN?
Of course I was unable to travel to Majorca until May, but I was in almost daily contact. In late February we had very nice bookings for 2020 and were looking forward to a fantastic year – only our second year of being open – but by the middle of March we were forced to close the hotel. From an economic point of view it has been a disaster as we weren’t able to open until mid-May. We were actually one of the first hotels in Spain to reopen as many were waiting until early July for the tourist season to begin. We decided to open because we were here anyway and could be there for locals. We have a small staff in the hotel and were thinking that perhaps those keen to break free from lockdown might want to drive 10 minutes and experience the feeling of going somewhere, to spend time with family or close friends. When we opened we didn’t have many bookings, but step-by-step it has improved. We also had the restaurant open for home deliveries during lockdown, enabling people to enjoy gourmet organic food in their homes. It was also about keeping us alive as a business. It provided a glimmer of hope for our staff and for me.
IS THERE A SENSE OF OPTIMISM THAT YOU AND THE INDUSTRY CAN RECOVER FROM THIS? ARE PEOPLE SLOWLY FEELING CONFIDENT ABOUT TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY?
I can say that 2020 will be a year to remember. From an economic view it won’t be a success, to the contrary, it’s a disaster, but I also think it can be a reset for humanity, for our planet. My vision for Can Bordoy is that we should take care of each other, to recognise and love each other and I can see that we’re on the right path because that is simply what we need to do. We can’t just put pure profit in front of everything else; I think humanity is more important than the numbers. Of course a hotel needs to make a profit otherwise we couldn’t pay salaries and run the operation, but all businesses need to rethink why we are here and not have just profit as its main target. There must be so many other values we can use. And I hope from the bottom of my heart and my team’s that we can be a little beacon in the darkness, that we can create that hope and a prosperous future.
THAT’S A BOLD STATEMENT FOR A BUSINESSMAN.
I have always cared about the environment. As a young man I participated in demonstrations when nuclear power plants were being established in Sweden. My grandparents had farms so I’ve been close to nature all of my life. Obviously, during my career, doing business, that hasn’t been my only target, but even before the pandemic I had rethought business. I had already told my wife a few years ago that I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing something good for the planet, not just make money. As a businessman you have to make money, you can’t run a business at a loss or if you do you need very big pockets. I think hospitality can be part of that change. We place other values at the hotel, more than guests might expect. Many of them can feel that we don’t just look for the bill; we actually care for them and for our planet.
WAS YOUR STAFF EXCITED TO RETURN TO WORK? WHAT STEPS HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO PROTECT PEOPLE?
There is a protocol that we have to follow, but we’re a small hotel and have large suites, so there is plenty of space, there’s a garden for outdoor drinks and dining too. The staff wears masks to serve and the main gate of the hotel is closed, so guests have to book to come to the restaurant and then ring the bell when they arrive. We had protocols already in place to be honest, so it hasn’t been a great change.
NOW THAT YOU’RE BACK AND SUMMER IS HERE, IS THE MOOD IN PALMA RELAXED?
There is definitely a positive spirit in Majorca and you now see people on the street. There isn’t a massive invasion, but it’s wonderful here and feels very romantic - tourists are so welcome to come back. I hope everyone who comes here shows the respect to each other that we need to. We can’t go back to business as usual, we are returning to a new way of acting, with a bit more care and kindness to each other.
HAVING SPOKEN TO VARIOUS CAMRON CLIENTS BASED IN DIFFERENT TERRITORIES AROUND THE WORLD, PEOPLE ARE FEELING GENERALLY OPTIMISTIC AND SPEAK OF THE AMOUNT OF LEARNING THAT THIS PERIOD HAS AFFORDED THEM. AS A COMPANY, DOES IT FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A NEW OUTLOOK TOO?
I would answer yes and no - our values were in place before the pandemic. My vision for this business is actually to be able to offer our guests of the future the possibility to not even have zero carbon impact, but instead a positive impact on carbon emissions. We have a new product coming up that will enable us to actually consume carbon dioxide from the planet rather than produce it. We have plans to develop a country estate that will be like a rural retreat for our guests at Can Bordoy. Our plans are that we will produce all of the fruit and vegetables that we can to supply both hotels. We already have a little plot on which we grow vegetables to partially supply Can Bordoy. My vision is that we will be able to produce all of the electricity that we can from renewables, from solar or wind, depending on the legislation, so that we will be able to feed electricity to both Can Bordoy and then the new place too. At the new place all grey water will be cleaned and used for crops for irrigation so that there is no water waste either. I want to make a place where we can have a positive impact on the environment: that we are able to compensate for any carbon dioxide that guests produce when they fly here, and hopefully even better than that.
WHAT ARE YOUR PREDICTIONS FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY?
I do think the industry will have a reset, but I could be wrong - I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do think we’ll see a different type of tourism in the future. Some people will be staying closer to home, others will come and travel longer distance, but perhaps those who might’ve flown to Thailand from Europe might come to Majorca instead. Those who came to Majorca might stay in the countryside of their own country. I wouldn’t say mass tourism is dead, but I think it will change. I think there will be a different tourism in the future, perhaps more environmentally focused. We’ll think more about the impact we have on the planet than we did before. That’s not something I hope, I think it’s a must. I think the presumption that travel will become a lot more expensive is probably accurate. Maybe some business travel will be rethought, as many meetings are done on video conferencing. At the same time, the physical face-to-face is still very important, but if you have met people and already have a good business relationship then video conferencing can be more efficient than to fly back and forth. Maybe tourism will change in terms of how long we travel for. Perhaps we won’t take so many two or three day trips. Now when we fly perhaps we will fly less frequently, but stay for longer periods. There might be something in that. Longer stays becoming more popular because flying will become more expensive.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR CAN BORDOY?
I feel that is important for us at Can Bordoy that we start to think in a way that enables us to give back to nature. If you take then you give back and I think the hospitality industry has to do that. Maybe we’ll be the ones to lead that. It’s probably easier for us as a small operator, but large operators need to think about the impact that they create too. When they have thousands of rooms filled with people how do we deal with that? We can’t just continue to consume without consequence; we need to rethink our patterns of consumption. It needs to be circular.
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