In the world of Swiss hospitality, Ibex Fairstay stands as a beacon of sustainability. Spearheading this initiative is Anita Gschwind, a veteran in the hospitality sector, with a deep-rooted passion for sustainable development nurtured from a background in agriculture and a career spanning various roles in the industry.
We caught up with Anita to explore the evolution of Ibex Fairstay, and the role it plays in shaping a sustainable future for Swiss hospitality providers.
Anita, can you tell us about your journey in hospitality and gastronomy, starting from your early roles to becoming the CEO of Ibex Fairstay?
My love for hospitality and gastronomy probably stems from my youth. Growing up on a farm, I experienced a conscious and respectful approach to food and collaboration in the field. I enthusiastically completed my training in cooking and service.
In the subsequent professional years, I specialized in patisserie before further educating myself at the Hotel School Thun to become a Hotelière-Restauratrice HF. This opened doors for me to work in all areas of hospitality, gastronomy, and community catering, up to managing a small hotel business in the mountains.
Further education and solution-oriented coaching supported my career. I can now bring all these experiences practically into my role as the CEO of the leading sustainability label in the Swiss accommodation industry.
You have been associated with Ibex Fairstay since 2016. How has your role evolved, and what have been some of the landmark achievements so far?
At the beginning of my time with Ibex Fairstay, sustainable responsibility in the industry was only present in some pioneering showcase businesses. This was probably the biggest change over the past seven years.
Today, a hotelier cannot avoid engaging with and actively setting a mark on this topic. Accordingly, we have also been able to expand our activity and support and take on an important role in raising awareness in the industry. This fills me with pride.
Being actively involved with hiking and snowshoeing tours, how do you integrate your love for the outdoors into your professional role?
Respect and restraint are key words for me in relation to sustainability.
When I discover, experience, and enjoy the wonders of nature on hikes, it fills me with gratitude and new energy. It also shows me that only a respectful and conscious approach to our resources – including human resources – can preserve this wonder and make it accessible to the next generation.
This is the driving motivation – both in my leisure time while hiking and in my professional and private everyday life.
How does Ibex Fairstay work towards encouraging sustainable practices among accommodation providers, and what criteria do you use to award the sustainability label?
The certification methodology of Ibex Fairstay is actually a management tool with which the sustainability manager in the hotel can examine the entire operation. Supported calculations and analyses give the hotelier a clear location determination – also in comparison to other hotels of the same star category.
A comprehensive catalog of measures with numerous practical improvement possibilities helps the operation to initiate targeted measures which improve performance and also save money. And this in the five dimensions of sustainability: management, ecology, regional anchoring, social aspects, and finance.
Unlike other labels, Ibex Fairstay does not have mandatory criteria, except for legal requirements. The methodology is based on a points system. The business collects points where it is realistic and sensible for them.
The businesses are checked by an accredited auditor and evaluated by an independent certification committee. The initial certification is valid for two years, after which the criteria and measures are reviewed every three years during re-certification.
Ibex Fairstay emphasizes the need for ‘living sustainability’. Could you share some practical examples of how hotels in Switzerland have embraced this philosophy?
The key to living sustainability is sensitizing the employees. Only if the team understands the meaning behind it, is allowed to actively think along and participate, and highlights the regional specialties with pride and joy, will this spark also jump over to the guest.
This often manifests itself in the decoration, in the composition of the menu, and in the communication along the customer journey. All this leads to a special atmosphere in which guests feel welcome and at home. This is enriching on all sides and literally leads to sustainable holiday experiences. The guest is happy to come back, and employees become thinkers.
How do you see the role of sustainability labels like Ibex Fairstay evolving, in the Swiss context? How does it relate to the Swisstanable initiative?
Sustainability is here to stay. It’s not a trend but a shift in perception and responsibility.
Ibex Fairstay has supported the industry for 25 years and is looking forward to continuing to do so actively in the future. To address the accommodation industry more individually, last year the methodology was adapted for camping and holiday apartment providers.
Additionally, the restaurants in the hotels and hostels are also evaluated. An annual training and networking day brings the industry together, provides valuable inputs in future-oriented lectures, and promotes the important exchange among like-minded people.
Switzerland Tourism has taken up the signs of sustainability at the right time and launched the Swisstainable program. It’s important to know that Swisstainable is a signet and not a certification. This means that Swisstainable recognizes other, already established certifications and accordingly classifies them.
With the five dimensions and its neutral review, Ibex Fairstay is recognized from the start for Swisstainable Level III – leading, the highest of three levels. This gives the awarded businesses an additional valuable marketing effect.
Which are the next steps that Ibex Fairstay is planning to undertake to further promote sustainable hospitality in Switzerland?
In the industry, there is a noticeable conscious promotion of sustainability in destinations. This is very welcome. For a destination to be perceived as sustainable, it is essential to get service providers on board. With our support and certification of hotels, hostels, hotel restaurants, camping, and holiday apartment providers, we sensitize a large part of the service providers.
In addition, with our methodology, we promote sustainable mobility and leisure activities for both guests and employees.
Thank you, Anita for sharing your insights.
To discover more about Ibex Fairstay’s commitment to sustainability and how it supports Swiss accommodations, visit ibexfairstay.ch.
Explore more sustainability changemaker stories here.