Aurore Sterling has been in contact with entrepreneurs and she too wanted to launch her own project. Now a done job, the new platform Hortense.green lists high-end eco-responsible accommodations. Let's meet her!
France.fr :You come from the world of finance. How did you end up in the travel industry?
Aurore Sterling : I was working in an investment fund, which brought me into contact with the entrepreneurs whose projects we were financing. I got a taste for it, no doubt! It made me want to take on an entrepreneurial project myself. I like to travel a lot, I like high-end hotels and exceptional places... In addition I am very sensitive to the ecological cause. Several times, I told myself that I was missing a platform that would allow me to find an accommodation in accordance with my values. So I created it!
France.fr : Could you tell us about Hortense Green in a few words?
A.S. : Located for the most part in France, it's a booking platform for high-end eco-friendly accommodations. Today, we have 60 places, but we will have 150 by the end of 2023. I first choose accommodations that I like, beautiful places that have charm and character; then I audit them thanks to a very detailed questionnaire, covering objective criteria: water and energy management, construction, purchasing policy, especially food. We make sure that the accommodation has an eco-responsible approach. Our questionnaire contains 150 items, and a minimum score of 5/10 is required to integrate the site.
Eco-friendliness is not just an unusual thing! By selecting high-end accommodations, we bring a different look to this offer by taking it out of the clichés".
France.fr : What is an eco-responsible accommodation?
A.S. : An accommodation that limits its impact on the environment as much as possible, while at the same time offering a sustainable model: for me, the notion of social responsibility is inseparable from that of ecoresponsibility. Let's take an example. Implementing an intelligent waste management policy is good. Raising customer awareness is good, too, with signs encouraging them to choose the right waste garbage can. But if you don't take the time to properly train your employees so that they are also fully involved, it's not much use. You have to think about your offer, and its impact, at 360 degrees.
France.fr : What is the current status of sustainable accommodation in France?
A.S. : It exists, but for a long time it suffered from a cliché that limited it to eco-construction: we had the impression that eco-friendly accommodation was a cabin in the woods or a trailer... But sustainable accommodation is not unusual! By choosing high-end accommodations, we bring a different look to this offer, out of its many cliches. France has so many places to visit, the hotel industry is highly developed and is evolving rapidly, with new and existing players arriving and changing their practices. The sustainable offer is booming.
France.fr : Is the offer of eco-friendly accommodation available in France visible enough?
A.S. : Not really. There are eco-responsible labels, notably the Green Key and the European Ecolabel, but they are not always well known by visitors. And some very committed hoteliers, who have really virtuous approaches, don't dare to promote themselves. Ecology is so much a part of their DNA that they didn't see the point of talking about it. Though, it's changing.
Do travelers take into account sustainability issues when choosing their accommodation?
A.S. : This is changing because customers are becoming more sensitive to these notions and are asking hoteliers about their sustainable practices. They want to know. There is a paradigm shift: two years ago, eco-responsibility was not a commercial argument. Today, it clearly is one!
France.fr : What does Hortense.green bring to this sustainable offer?
A.S. : The platform brings a different look, because we choose high-end accommodations. I want to redefine the notion of luxury. Nowadays, luxury is the experience. A beautiful place is not enough, you have to live an experience. Travelers want to be part of a place, to meet people, to create a bond. That's why we form very close partnerships with the accommodations we choose, we embark on a common adventure.
France.fr : Do you support eco-responsible accommodations in their evolution?
A.S. : Yes, thanks to our Evergreen program, 1% of our business volume is placed in an escrow account, which will be used to finance development projects at our partner accommodations. Everyone can present their project (installing photovoltaic panels, water collectors, etc.), and it will be submitted to a vote by all the partners. The traveller can also finance the fund directly if he/she wishes.
France.fr : How to travel eco-responsibly while enjoying yourself, in your opinion?
A.S. : It seems to me that when you are ecological in your daily life, you want to remain so when you travel. Every day, I take my water bottle, I prefer short showers and sort my waste. I don't want to forget all of that when I'm travelling. But travel is in essence a time when we change our habits. For example, at the hotel, we may want to take a bath, even if we never do it on a daily basis. So if the hotel has an intelligent water management policy, it's better!
Do you have three favorite accommodations to share?
A.S.: I love the Villa Saint-Ange, in Aix-en-Provence. It's a place that is as luxurious as it is committed. I also love the Victoria Palace in Paris. They are very efficient in terms of their equipment, water and energy management, and their policy of buying from local suppliers. Finally, I would like to mention the Pinarello, an intimate hotel located on one of the most beautiful beaches in southern Corsica, near Porto-Vecchio.