Simon Louvard in this interview introduces us to his start-up Lodg’ing, shares his experiences as an entrepreneur and his thoughts on ecotourism in France.
Simon, with Lodg’ing, The French Pop-Up Hotel you are bringing an innovative concept to the French hospitality market. What (or who!) triggered your interest in dedicating your career to this form of promoting ecotourism in France?
The company Lodg’ing was created in March 2018. It was born from my experiences during the last 10 years in the hospitality industry and tourism in France and abroad (Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Southeast Asia).
I think it was the right time to launch this glamping concept, to offer new forms of accommodation for people in search of greener tourist experiences, wanting to be closer to nature during events or holidays.
With several years of experience working at the coal face of tourism and hospitality businesses especially in South East Asia, how has your view on the (un)sustainability of tourism changed over the years?
“Sustainable development is a journey, not a destination” I always keep this quote in mind.
During my young career, I have had the chance to meet many tourism actors with different backgrounds and approaches regarding sustainable development.
Each of them has a perception of a better world and an idea of actions to be implemented within their organization to improve the well-being of employees or the community, to preserve the natural environment, while ensuring sustainability and profitability of the company.
From a personal point of view, I find it important to develop flexible strategies short-mid-long term within a project, so you can adapt them to the changing environment and build with consistency, over time.
How has your work experience with Borneo Eco Tours influenced your path – which lessons have you learned?
I am someone who learns best by reading books and meeting people. Meeting with Albert Teo, President of Borneo Eco Tours, will remain very special for me.
I knew the theory of ecotourism, but thanks to Borneo Eco Tours, I have seen and lived the daily practice of it!
My vision for the ecotourism model of the future: a travel agency, an ecolodge, an NGO, different community-based tourism initiatives, all connected to each other, with the same passion and devotion from the staff. This is the kind of ecotourism scenario which inspires me.
I developed values such as humility, patience and discipline thanks to the Borneo Eco Tours team, and especially thanks to my mentor there, Fernando Rulloda. I have rarely seen managers so committed to the well-being of their employees and the environment.
The project I was contributing to remains among the hardest of my career so far (we had to develop natural beehive fences in order to deter wild elephants from the farming plantation). I will always be grateful to have been a member of the BET team.
Albert Teo in his interview stressed that community-based tourism “goes beyond providing employment to giving the local people a sense of pride in their culture, improving living conditions, and helping them build a sustainable future”. Do you see potential that Lodg’ing might be able to achieve something similar?
The Lodg’ing company does not pretend to have such an impact on the places where we pop up our nomadic village during these first years. To be honest, it will take time: to combine our “ecotourism” goals with the expectations and behaviours of our customers requires pedagogy and a good dose of realism.
Through Lodg’ing we offer two types of services:
1) Destination events
We install our nomadic Lodg’ing village for a short time during cultural, sporting, or private events (weddings, corporate meetings, …). In this case, we are booked to offer event guests a special accommodation experience, close to nature.
We are also looking for events where the offer in accommodation is saturated, and where we can offer our innovative solution to complement existing accommodation (hotel, camping, guest house, Airbnb…) in accordance with the values of the event.
2) Nature destinations
We offer stays (short or long) in a nomadic village that we create and equip our tents with all the necessary infrastructure. To do this, we are looking for exceptional natural places, such as Luberon, in order to partner with the landowner and to create a special location for tourists looking for the experience of being close to nature while at the same time enjoying high-end services.
In both situations, but especially with the “nature destinations”, our aim is to offer our clients package-type solutions, combining accommodation and discovery of the region. This form of offer allows us to involve local actors (example: organic gastronomy, tourist equipment, the discovery of site/panorama, organizers of festivities,…) in our project and thus contribute to the development in the region.
Why did you decide to come back to France, rather than getting involved in “glamping” in SE Asia, for instance?
My desire was to develop my company in a place where I am able to understand the administrative system, so I could build solid foundations for the future.
France is also my country, my culture, and my wish is to highlight the quality of the “French” hospitality through the brand Lodg’ing.
Which aspects of starting a hospitality business like Lodg’ing do you find the most difficult right now?
Steve Jobs once said: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
As entrepreneurs we must not allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by doubts about our project. We must always continue to believe in its success.
Your advice to fellow entrepreneurs, in terms of what to focus on and pitfalls, to avoid, when starting a business?
It is difficult for me to give advice after only two years of entrepreneurship, but perhaps just this one: be well surrounded and nurture your safety net of close relatives and friends. Especially my parents have supported me throughout this project. They are solution-focused and bring me a lot of serenity in moments of doubt.
Your thoughts on the current state of tourism sustainability in France?
We are fortunate in France to have a very large number of local networks willing to shake things up and contribute to the development of a better world.
I greatly admire the phenomenon of Oasis, popping-up all around France with Pierre Rabhi as a leader. Those eco structures are great places to visit and to learn about the local culture and natural environments.
The “Gîtes de France” are also a treasure of our tourism heritage and deserve more attention from tourists who feel passionate about ecotourism.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
If sustainability is a journey, then I am still at the very early stage of it. Thank you for considering me for your series of interviews with sustainable tourism entrepreneurs and changemakers!
Thank you, Simon.
Connect with Simon on LinkedIn or follow Lodg’Ing on Facebook.
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