Bee Sustainable! Fairmont leads the way with hives in Vancouver and Whistler

SUSTAINABILITY has been a buzz word for long enough, but how does this idea get translated in the luxury travel industry? Fairmont Hotels, known for its iconic properties in 26 countries, have long been a trailblazer in this respect – especially encouraging given that the Canadian brand has the world’s largest collection of hotels. Operating on this scale has meant taking social responsibility seriously, and Fairmont has done just this. In 2015 the hotel chain became the first in its field to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 per cent as part of the WWF Climate Savers Programme, and National Geographic Traveler has described the Fairmont’s efforts as “the most comprehensive environmental programme in the North American hotel industry.” After all of this praise, could there really be room for improvement?

An Observation Hive on the rooftop garden.

It turns out that Fairmont is now leading the rooftop garden revolution, with a particular focus on bee cultivation. During a recent visit to two properties – the striking Fairmont Waterfront in funky Vancouver, followed by the Chateau Whistler in the grounds of the world-famous ski resort – we learned first-hand about the vital role that bees play in the environment, and the innovative ways in which Fairmont is nurturing their activity.

The beautiful terrace at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver

Shortly after arriving at the gorgeous Fairmont Waterfront, which is positioned perfectly next to the city’s vibrant seaport, we were whisked upstairs to the rooftop garden to meet the hotel’s resident beekeeper, Julia Common. The Waterfront first introduced bees into its garden habitat in 2008 – and it is now home to a quarter of a million of them. Common co-founded Hives for Humanity, a not-for-profit organisation that is supported by the Fairmont, which seeks to support disadvantaged members of the local community by teaching them beekeeping skills.

It has proved to be an essential enterprise in downtown Vancouver, creating a real difference in people’s lives. As we discovered, Common and her group of volunteers are also excellent gardeners – the range of plants and flowers on view, not to mention fruit and vegetables, was genuinely inspiring. Then came the bees themselves, with the hives being opened up for a dramatic show-and-tell that involved us being able to taste fresh honey. 

The hives on the rooftop at the Fairmont Waterfront

Back downstairs, in the property’s spacious, light-filled ARC restaurant, which offers scenic views of the water, the bounty from the hive is fully highlighted. A special Pollinator Menu is available which features over a dozen ingredients, from herbs to fruits, that depend on bees, in order to grow and survive. The dishes we tried such as cauliflower steak with chickpea cake and a delicious burnt honey ice cream, were incredibly fresh and flavoursome. The restaurant also specialises in garden-to-glass cocktails – an absolute must-try.

The elegant ARC restaurant at the Fairmont Waterfront

After a couple of nights in Vancouver, we headed further north to the Chateau Whistler – the Fairmont’s special mountain getaway. The five-star property is like a little village in itself, with a charming outdoor shopping area and striking lounge areas. We were lucky enough to meet charismatic Executive Chef Isabel Chung, who has played a pivotal role in cultivating the property’s rooftop garden – a sprawling, wonderful sight, with rows and rows of vegetables and plants. And, of course, more bees. It is amazing to realise that these insects are helping the hotel to prosper in such a major way. As in Vancouver, the hives enable the Chateau to produce their own honey and embellish dishes, not to mention use beautiful property-grown flowers to decorate its various communal spaces. 

The spacious lobby at Chateau Whistler

The Wildflower Restaurant at Chateau Whistler

One of the most memorable moments of our stay at the Chateau was a dinner hosted at the hotel’s Wildflower restaurant, a super elegant spot that makes you want to get dressed up. Continuing the honey theme, we were entertained by the founders of Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery, who provided us with the opportunity to try out a number of their stunning and unusual wines. It was a fabulous end to an eye-opening trip that made us want to applaud Fairmont for their sustainability efforts. Taking care of bees is absolutely vital for our wellbeing and environment, and the hotel’s programme only proves that.

by Derby Jones

Fairmont Vancouver
Tel: +1 604-691-1991

Fairmont Whistler

Tel: +1 604-938-8000

More information on Fairmont’s Bee Sustainable programme can be found here and through the hashtag #FairmontBuzz.

All images courtesy of Fairmont.