Toni Stoeckl is the chief marketing officer of SH Hotels & Resorts, a global agency representing Treehouse Hotels, 1 Hotels and Baccarat Hotels. Born into an Austro-German family of hôteliers and educated at Cornell University, Stoeckl has become a pioneer in the management of lifestyle hotels, shaping the brand strategies of Marriott International and W Hotels before assuming his current role. 1 Hotel Mayfair, 1 Hotels’ new flagship which opened in July 2023, reimagines the luxury hotel with a decidedly eco flavour. Built on the site of a former Holiday Inn, the new development utilised 80% of the original building structure, sourcing local British oak for its flooring and Yorkshire dry stone for one of multiple wall installations. Entering the courtyard, guests are greeted by a mass of ferns covering the outer wall; at 500 square metres, it is one of the largest trellis installations in London, and the first of many examples of the hotel’s commitment to sustainable practices.
Interview by Caroline Issa
Portrait courtesy SH Hotels & Resorts
CAROLINE ISSA On the 1 Hotel Mayfair website, you describe the hotel as “where nature finds its home, uniting sustainability and luxury in a way that has yet to be explored in London”. What are the new approaches or methods you’re bringing to the city?
TONI STOECKL We don’t think about sustainability as an added corporate responsibility, nor do we think that we’re just a lifestyle brand. We have one planet and we all want to take care of it – we want to pair that with the ability to deliver a luxury experience. Our guests don’t need to sacrifice luxury to live a more sustainable lifestyle, though sustainability has to be a common thread throughout the entire experience, from a marketing, organisational and inspirational standpoint. For us, the biophilic design and features within the hotel showcase how you can bring a lot of nature inside. We kept the old structure of the building rather than demolishing and rebuilding, reducing the amount of embodied carbon produced. We also have an incredibly large trellis exterior wall: as you walk through the yard, you can see it at the back of the building as well as at the front. In the hotel, we have over 200 different species of plants, and 1,300 individual plants in total. Every single guest room has a moss wall with a water dispenser. These are not things you typically see in a luxury hotel.
CI The trellis wall certainly adds another layer to the building, bringing the inside out as well as the outside in. In the past, consumers had to decide between luxury and eco credentials: now it doesn’t have to be a choice.
TS From our perspective, 1 Hotels are trying to be a platform for change and to challenge ourselves. We have a plan in place for every one of our buildings, whether it’s a 100-year-old building or a brand new hotel, to be constructed from the ground up, ensuring that each one is as sustainable as it can be. What our guests love about the brand is that we don’t preach to them. Sustainability can feel very daunting or difficult. We try to show them that every small decision can make a positive impact, putting the idea of taking care of our planet in a positive light.
CI What are the biggest challenges that the hospitality industry faces in terms of sustainability?
TS Consumption within hotel life is a big challenge. We are trying to unpack and analyse every little touchpoint: how do you go truly plastic-free in the guest’s room, and how do you take that ethos into different parts of our business, like meetings, events and weddings? We created a new program called Certified Sustainable Gatherings that certifies the event as close to zero-waste as it can be, including talking about waste as part of the event itself. Whether it’s hosting a wedding or a corporate meeting, we can give the client a checklist to ensure that the event can be as sustainable as possible. We work with a third party to certify the results too. Food waste isn’t an often-raised topic, but in every one of our hotels, we focus on getting to a 90% conversion rate for food waste. At the moment, we’re at about 70% and pushing ourselves. It’s about the partners who you align yourself with. The coffee grounds from Neighbours – our little cafe to the right side of the reception desk – find their way into our espresso martinis. There is a way for us to have zero-waste cocktails on the menu as a result of that practice.
CI There’s a wooden plaque on the desk in the room that tells the guest, if you’ve over-packed, you can leave any clothing and the hotel will donate it. Has anybody taken you up on that?
TS Absolutely. Every single one of our hotels is working with a local charity to redistribute the donated items. It’s called 1 Less Thing: just leave with one less thing and then we will donate that to a local partner. For 1 Hotel Mayfair, our partner is Traid. They are focusing on reducing this idea of consumption and disposal, on turning unused or unneeded items into an opportunity. We also have a partnership with Cercle, a British organisation focused on sustainable fashion, which has a garment rental programme where guests can get a personalised consultation. We think it’s a great opportunity to inspire people to think differently. In several of our hotels, we have a little hourglass in the shower that tells you how long to take a shower for. How about a 4-minute shower instead of 25 minutes? We’re not judging you if you take a longer shower, but it’s a little whimsical piece of inspiration. At least you can make a conscious decision, right? We also partner with organisations like Eco-Age, a sustainability consultancy, to make sure that our practices are locally relevant, and that when challenged they remain credible and compelling. The last thing we want to do is have this as a marketing gimmick. We’re never going to say, “We are the most net-zero brand.” We will just do what we can every single day, do all the good we can within our community, and inspire through design, the artwork and the practices we have in place.
CI I would imagine that through the platform, you’re also attracting a very different kind of staff who are interested in and perpetuating the idea of certified sustainable gatherings.
TS Our team members want to be part of this mission. At every one of our hotels, we do paid-for team-building events and activities. As a result, our staffing turnover is among the lowest in the industry. People join for that mission-driven approach and stick around because they get to contribute.
CI In London, you have the Treehouse, and now 1 Hotel Mayfair. There are many flagship brands opening up in London. What is it that still makes London so exciting and a worthwhile investment?
TS We have multiple brands in London because people have different tastes and different desires. From our perspective, London continues to be attractive as a tourist and leisure destination due to its industries. Being part of that growth is certainly important for us. Treehouse Hotel London is much more playful and has a little bit of that nostalgic childhood mythology infused into the experience. It is a very different experience from what you see at 1 Hotel Mayfair. We don’t want to forget that we have locals as well as travellers, which is why we have partnerships with local communities. You see our produce being sourced from local regions. You might see a lot of brands come to London, but which ones are really connecting with the community and becoming part of London’s fabric?
CI Post-Covid-19, there’s been a boom in travel because everybody wants to commune with interesting local communities. That’s great for hospitality, but what are the biggest challenges that you face with this as a hospitality group? How do you keep people coming to the hotel after the boom dies down?
TS Even before Covid-19, we saw that people were seeking to collect experiences instead of just things. Travel has an impact on the planet in terms of carbon emissions, but if we find a way to do that more sustainably, then that helps bring our mission to life. During lockdown, people were traveling more locally, so there was a domestic travel spike. We might not have these spikes anymore, but we continue to see growth post-Covid-19 across the globe. It is also about being very thoughtful, about having the right hotels in the right locations with the right partners. The owners of our real estate need to be in line with our mission, otherwise it won’t be authentic. Globally, there is certainly a more sustained growth than the spikes that you might have seen during the wild times of Covid-19. World events can always put a wrinkle in anything but that is part of the game. ◉