Hotel Etico: Where holidays create opportunities and impact

Photo of two men as part of the Hotel Etico program.
Not many hotels or hospitality venues have a guiding mission of shifting community perceptions of people with disability, but Hotel Etico , Australia’s first social enterprise hotel, is taking on the task.

From crafting delicious meals in the hotel kitchen to stewarding positive customer experiences, Hotel Etico, located in the Blue Mountains of NSW, has created a business model that provides value for both people with disability and hotel guests alike.

Measuring what matters

Established in late 2020, and officially opened to guests in 2021, Hotel Etico is at a very early stage in its journey but General Manager, Stella Sgambellone, is thrilled with its impact so far:

"We're supporting our first cohort of six trainees to discover their potential and develop their capacity for independence,” says Stella.

“For our trainees, it's about being empowered to make their own decisions and supporting them to step into independent work in the hospitality industry."

To ensure their impact is scaled, while also balancing purpose and profit, Hotel Etico recently took up an opportunity with UNSW Sydney with the goal of enhancing the hotel’s capabilities and scope for achieving even more impact into the future.

Following an initial consultation with a team of UNSW staff and students - who were part of the university’s Social Enterprise Practicum convened by the Centre for Social Impact - Hotel Etico discovered that what they in fact needed at this early stage was an understanding of what to measure in terms of the enterprise’s impact on trainees.

Laying this foundation would be crucial to first building an impact measurement culture within the organisation, which could be expanded to strategically include other stakeholders in the future.

Over a university term, a framework was created by the team of students, one of whom was Tess Deverall, a UNSW Business School student who was looking for opportunities to apply her skills in the social entrepreneurship space.

"I wanted to be part of an industry experience before I finished university, and I'd never opened myself up to social enterprises before so I thought it would be a great opportunity," says Tess (pictured below, standing on the right, with her teammates and staff from Hotel Etico).

Combining learning with impact

Alongside her teammates, Tess worked closely with the Hotel Etico team over two months to determine how best to measure their impact on their trainees' lives.

The team conducted extensive research on similar organisations, both domestically and internationally, and looked closely at the requirements for the hotel, its partner organisations, trainees and their families. Tess and her team also conducted interviews with other for-purpose organisations to understand their impact measurement parameters.

Above all, having conversations with Hotel Etico's staff and trainees as part of the research, was an insightful and unforgettable experience for Tess:

"I can't tell you how many people I've spoken to about Hotel Etico. It’s had such an impact on me and it was such an important part of my student experience."

One trainee, Katrina, made a particular impression on Tess:

“Katrina is highly ambitious and focused on becoming an advocate for people living with disability, and she sees the Hotel Etico program as a way for her to gain the experience that she needed for her career,” she says.

“We ended up quoting Katrina in our final course presentation to the management of Hotel Etico as she had said to us, ‘I'm here to create more experiences for myself and in a way widen my horizons.’ which was really powerful for us."

Together, Hotel Etico, their trainees and the team of students landed on four key impact domains that could be measured by the social enterprise's team on an ongoing basis: my purpose, my potential, my health, and my relationships.

A long lasting impact After a semester of collaboration, learning and gaining insight into the world of social enterprise, the CSI UNSW students presented Hotel Etico and other external stakeholders with their final impact measurement framework.

Stella and the hotel's team were thrilled with the process and the outcome of their partnership:

"It was like I'd just hired consultants who had been in the game for years, the professionalism and standard of work was right up there,” says Stella.

“It's provided us with a valuable resource that we will use and can build from."

For Tess, the project was a fantastic way to apply what she learnt in the classroom in a real-world scenario, while also creating tangible social impact.

"Our facilitators would teach us the theory, and at first we might not be sure how it related, but then we would be shown how to apply it and it was super useful. Every activity related back to our project.

"Knowing that you're making an impact on the performance of a real business is the best part, it makes you want to put in 100% because we felt accountable."

A new group of CSI UNSW students will now collaborate with Hotel Etico to support them to further expand their measurement initiatives, with a focus on investigating the hotel's impact on its partners, community and local economy.