1 Hotels’ Alena Stavnjak on the importance of sustainability in hospitality

1 Hotels’ Director of Spa & Retail, Alena Stavnjak, on 1 Hotels’ commitment to sustainability and why this matters for the industry and the world.

As a luxury lifestyle hotel brand inspired by nature, 1 Hotels cultivates the best of sustainable design and architecture, together with extraordinary comfort and an outstanding level of service. 1 Hotels, which launched in 2015 with the opening of exclusive properties in Miami’s South beach and Manhattan’s Central Park, followed by Brooklyn, West Hollywood, Sanya (China), and most recently Toronto, is inspired by a simple idea: those that travel the world should also care about it, it is, after all, 1 world. 

1 Hotels sanctuaries offer sustainable retreats, exquisite escapes, and profound wellness experiences in environments where architecture echoes natural surroundings and biophilic design details soften the lines between interior and exterior. 

1 Hotels’ sustainability keystones are the foundation on which the company bases all of its design, construction and operational decisions. These include: environmental impact; advocacy, education & engagement; human health & wellbeing; resiliency & ongoing performance improvement; and food & beverage responsibility.

The Director of Spa and Retail for this trailblazing brand is Alena Stavnjak, an industry professional with nearly two decades of experience and several awards, including the World’s Spa Awards best Florida Hotel Spa in 2019 and 2020. 

We spoke with Alena Stavnjak about 1 Hotels’ commitment to sustainability and why this matters for the industry and the world.

Please tell us about your role at 1 Hotels and what you do.

I am the Director of Spa and Retail for 1 Hotels. I manage 1 Hotel South Beach and am in charge of execution of new spa developments for 1 Hotels and Baccarat. This year we are opening four new spas: 1 Hotel San Francisco, 1 Hotel Nashville, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, and 1 Hotel West Hollywood. I also serve as a Sustainability & Wellness Council member of The Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association. We help spread the awareness and adoption of sustainable & wellness practices by providing guidance, expertise and resources to association members. I am also a co-founder of the Southeast & Northeast Spa Wellness Association, the largest North American regional spa association.

Can you talk a bit about your career trajectory and how you came to be where you are today?

I have a hotel management degree. I ended up in the spa as my first job with the Ritz Carlton, thinking that I would transition to a different department six months later, but then I fell in love with the spa. That was in 2003. I was with Ritz Carlton for about 10 years at various locations. Then I was with the Viceroy for about four years, and I’ve been with 1 Hotels for six years. 

When I joined 1 Hotels, I’ll be honest, sustainability was not a big part of my life. I told the interviewer that, once I started to work here, I was sure to adopt a lot of those practices. And I have. Working for 1 Hotels has changed me. Sustainability is now very important to me. It’s the key to a better and healthier future. It improves the quality of our lives, protects our ecosystems, and preserves natural environments for future generations. I have a seven-year-old son who is already well educated on sustainability. 

Can you talk about 1 Hotels commitment to sustainability?

Our vision is to create the most sustainable, beautiful, and inspiring hotel experience. We are inspired by nature. The 1 Hotels brand is built on a foundation of keystones upon which we base all design, construction, and operational decisions. The interiors make use of reclaimed woods, bricks, marble, stone, and locally sourced glass, along with native natal mahogany trees. Comforts in each room include a yoga mat, living green elements, 100% organic cotton Keetsa mattresses and floor-to-ceiling windows which provide fresh air, stunning views, and welcome natural light into each guest room.

We try to give a second life to everything that we use in our hotels and to be a platform for change. If the guest that stays with us takes one thing home with them that they have seen or experienced that they can apply to their daily life – maybe it’s just using less plastic – then we have succeeded. 

What has changed and what developments have there been around sustainability in the past couple of years? 

Sustainability is the new norm. I have also seen a big sustainability trend in Mexico and the Caribbean. Resorts are focused on preserving our natural resources and helping with overall wellbeing. Their spas are state-of-the-art with various amenities and water features, and resorts are surrounded with a lot of greenery and environments are created from the natural habitat.

What is the biggest challenge the spa/hospitality industry is facing? 

Talent management and recruitment. Hotels and spas are busy with high occupancies and demanding guests, but there has been a staff shortage, nationwide. This has been an ongoing trend in the industry. In speaking with some of my spa director friends, some are having a challenge with recruiting service providers, while others have a challenge finding operational staff. 

With the staff crunch, we must be mindful of not burning out current staff members. We have to nurture and provide extra TLC. My hotel is doing a great job in ensuring that we do monthly employee appreciation celebrations and monthly General Manager roundtables where staff can express their concerns and feedback. In the spa we held a guided yoga meditation 0n 2.2.2022 when on this special date everyone was setting their intentions for 2022. We, as leaders, must continue to show our gratitude and recognition to our team members. 

What’s your favorite part of your job?

It will sound like a cliché but I truly love working with people. Ensuring that my staff is happy and taken care of, and has all the tools and supplies to perform their job to the best of their ability is my number one priority. Once they are happy, that trickles down to our guests and an overall successful and profitable spa operation.


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