FHR has established a variety of Eco-innovation Signature Projects that serve as unique partnering projects, relevant to local community interests. Such community focused projects address environmental issues, encourage interaction between hosts and guests, and ultimately provide examples of IRT. The conservation efforts of Fairmont properties in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to preserve endangered species, such as sea turtles, demonstrates FHR’s commitment to its rural communities. Endangered sea turtles are vulnerable to being caught and potentially dying in shrimp nets and other fishing gear. The WWF encourages the shrimping industry to use turtle excluder devices, allowing turtles to safely escape nets, as well as the use of circular hooks in Pacific fisheries, which are more difficult for turtles to swallow and do not adversely affect the catching of fish. FHR partners with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to reduce the incidental catching of sea turtles. The MSC logo is presented on FHR menus to illustrate responsibly and sustainably produced seafood (WWF, 2016).
Further to these preservation efforts, some Fairmont properties encourage interaction between hosts and guests in their pursuit of environmental agency. For example, the Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui, Hawaii has partnered with a locally owned sailing company called Trilogy Excursion’s Blue’aina Program. The programme started in 2010 and facilitates monthly excursions to remove harmful debris such as fishing line and discarded plastics from beaches and ten coral reefs. The programme enables interaction between local Maui residents, tourists, Trilogy volunteers, representatives from the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project and members of the Fairmont Kea Lani Sustainability Team. The programme incorporates elements of citizen science (e.g. checking the coral reef, fish counts and water quality) and education as both local volunteers and tourists learn from local ecologists. The programme also supports philanthropy among community members, local businesses and tourists. The General Manager of Fairmont Kea Lani sponsored a clean-up through the programme along with a US$1000 donation to the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project on Earth Day in 2015. Fairmont Kea Lani demonstrates its continued support of conservation efforts in Hawaii by selling plush birds in the property gift shop and returning a portion of the proceeds to the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project’s conservation efforts (Fairmont Kea Lani, 2015). This example demonstrates IRT as Fairmont Kea Lani facilitates embeddedness in local systems and encourages networking between stakeholders (e.g. tourists, the community and conservationists) outside of the urban landscape (Cawley and Gillmor, 2008). Such programmes make a sustained impact on landscapes and demonstrate the corporate support of FHR and rural commitments.
Regional projects specific to each Fairmont property were later termed ‘Fairmont CARES’ (Community Assistance and Responsibility to the Environment) in 2011 following a pilot project carried out in the Middle
East (FHR, 2011b). Fairmont CARES is another evolution from the initial Green Partnership Program. Where Fairmont corporate provided no financial resources in the Green Partnership Program (Reid, 2006), the Fairmont CARES programme provides seed funding to projects. For example, the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in 2011 was provided with CAD$5000 to aid with a women’s community micro-farming project (FHR, 2013). The grant funds were used to purchase rabbits and goats, which were raised by 12 women in the community. The women sold the meat and milk provided by the animals, which allowed them to provide basic sustenance for their families and gave them the financial means to be self-reliant. The basic seed funding was noted by the government in Kenya, resulting in the donation of additional lands to assist women with the expansion of their business (FHR, 2011b). Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club also supports the Nanyuki ‘Spinners and Weavers Project’, which started in the 1970s as a way to train the poor in villages surrounding Nanyuki town (the town itself is approximately 10 km from Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club) in craft spinning with the goal of making them self-reliant. A majority of the visitors at the centre are foreign tourists from Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club. Visiting the centre provides visitors with an authentic rural village experience and education about the struggles and progress made within the village, thus providing an example of IRT. Half of the proceeds acquired go directly to the women weavers, while the other half is reinvested into the centre. The weaving centre has trained over 282 women and currently 137 women are at the centre starting their own projects in the craft of spinning, knitting, dyeing and weaving, resulting in carpets, throws, bedcovers, shawls, cardigans, pullovers and scarves. As an outcome of the centre, most women involved have been able to move from being squatters in the village to acquiring their own pieces of land and building their own homes. Furthermore, most women have been able to educate their children in primary, secondary and in some instances post-secondary education with their share of profits (Nanyuki Spinners and Weavers, 2016). Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club’s role in linking the women in the spinning centre in a rural context with the tourism experience demonstrates corporate support of sustainability goals and opportunities for meaningful exchanges between hosts and visitors.
Another example of IRT in Kenya is via the Fairmont Mara Safari Club. Fairmont Mara Safari Club facilitates visits to the rural Masai Manyatta village, providing opportunities for visitors to experience traditional ways of living. Tourists can visit Masai women in their traditional huts and interact with them while they create colourful jewellery and belts. Visitors also have the opportunity to discuss customs with the male villagers and watch a traditional Masai dance (Fairmont Mara Safari Club, 2016). These examples demonstrate, at a property level, efforts to include and support neighbouring communities and empower local people specifically, stimulating local development and creating partnerships that have the ability to link previously incongruent activities and resources (Oliver and Jenkins, 2005). Furthermore, the partnerships cultivated between Fairmont Mount
Kenya Safari Club and Fairmont Mara Safari Club and their communities have clearly created economic viability and socio-cultural benefits that may help in sustaining local cultures and traditions (Clark and Chabrel, 2007). Such partnerships have the ability to democratize decision-making and empower participants (Bramwell and Lane, 2000), whilst also leading to competitive advantage (Kotler et al., 1993). Such examples represent what Saxena and Ilbery (2008) refer to as actors who may previously have been less integrated into tourism. However, the Eco-Innovation Signature Projects and the broader Fairmont CARES programme highlight how FHR has been actively involved in integrating rural communities into the success of the local tourism product. While the examples echo the goals of IRT they also promote sustainability in tourism by empowering local people (Cawley and Gillmor, 2008; Bramwell and Lane, 2000). Inviting new actors to bring in new ideas can improve the value of the product offered. Furthermore, partnerships between businesses (e.g. Fairmont property) and communities, if they are going to last, must be dynamic, and continually invite new actors to contribute their new ideas (Austin et al., 2016).