The Eco Aesthete: The Kindness of Strangers

The Eco Aesthete: The Kindness of Strangers

Boutique hotel expert Juliet Kinsman reckons being a
considerate traveller is as good for your mood as having a steamy
holiday romance. Here, the founder of Bouteco highlights the heroes and
shows you how to make the world a better place through your

is the Greek word for hospitality. It translates,
roughly, as showing kindness to a stranger, since “xenos” meant
“guest” before the word evolved into meaning “foreigner”. In
, philoxenía was prized as the most important of virtues:
the respect and honour shown from host to guest were the geneses of
hospitality. But the hotel business has changed dramatically in
recent times. It’s less about kindness, more about property assets,
management contracts and, of course, revenue and profit margins.
Chances are if you’re in a renowned five-star hotel and there’s a
chocolate on your pillow, someone in a suit somewhere has
calculated the return on that confectionary investment. It’s not
there because it gives them joy to surprise and delight you; more
likely, a data-boffin analysed their customer base with scientific
scrutiny to calculate how such gestures might make you spend more
money with them in the future. Not so heart-cockle-warming when you
look at it that way, is it?

Which is why it’s important for hoteliers to demonstrate they
genuinely care about us, and the wider world, and why us guests are
becoming more adept at working out who the good guys are. Pardon my
flagrant showing-off, but earlier this week I was at a reception in
capital, Rabat, in honour of the Duke and Duchess of
Sussex – the royal couple being keen advocates of sustainable
travel. It was heartening to hear Prince Harry, patron of African Parks, showing such passion for conservation.
(Yes, yes, Meghan looked utterly radiant in that long, silk
sandy-toned jewel-trimmed Dior dress; I know that’s what you were
really wondering.)

Harry and Meghan’s visit to North Africa was included honouring
an incredible initiative in the Atlas Mountains, Education for All,
for an MBE investiture for its founder, Michael McHugo. Declared
“one of the most remarkable projects I’ve seen,” by British
Ambassador to Morocco, Thomas Reilly, who feels Education for All
is truly changing people’s lives. The boarding houses for girls
aged 12 to 18, allow girls from remote rural settlements to get a
secondary education – and often they are the first in their
village. By providing comfortable dorms, meals and study support
all overseen by kind, kind housemothers, sometimes this is the
first girl from a whole village to pursue her studies. Despite the
Moroccan Government’s support of education policy and women’s
rights, half of the country is not literate and, in rural areas, up
to 83% of women are illiterate.

So at a time when our Instagram feeds are teeming with
plastic-entangled turtles and motivational quotes reminding us to
kick our planet-bashing habits, it was encouraging that the sixth
in line to the throne is so remarkably tuned in to pushing purpose
higher up the agenda. Prince Harry recognises that the travel
industry has become much too much about profit and that we all need
to be talking more loudly about sustainability. In our fleeting
exchange, I managed to throw in my “philoxenia” reference and chime
that I concur there needs to be a stronger emphasis in hospitality
on being more human and kinder – I was delighted it resonated.

Education for All built its first boarding house from donations
made through bookings at their luxury eco-lodge, Kasbah du Toubkal – exemplifying how the kindness of
hoteliers, and guests who have chosen to stay there – can be such a
force for good. Kindness is what sustainability is all about. Being
kind and considerate to each other, to the planet, and to future
generations by leaving things not merely as we found them but,
where we can, better. If my humble bragging wasn’t enough to have
you roll your eyes, forgive me for going one step further and drop
a well-oiled Native American proverb down as my final

“We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it
from our children.”

Project: Changing Worlds in the Atlas Mountains

Juliet Kinsman is an independent journalist and although
her column contains affiliate links, this in no way influences

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