When guests stay at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, they have the opportunity to meet some very special guests—60,000 of them.
The hotel is home to two rooftop beehives—and two queen bees—that produce 90 gallons of honey each year. The hives are located behind glass walls, allowing guests to get up close and personal with the honey makers.
“We hold receptions in a ‘live’ classroom viewing area that is centered around the hives,” explains the hotel’s chef, Dominick DiNapoli, who works closely with a local beekeeper to tend the hives. “We showcase food items that include our sweet honey, and we might expand the program to have guests attend the actual harvesting of the honey.”
The New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge is just one of many hospitality establishments launching their own apiaries. News of the declining bee population has been circulating for the past few years, but now major hospitality companies—including Relais & Châteaux, InterContinental, and Fairmont—are jumping in to do something about it. Aligning with their sustainability practices, these hotels and resorts are keeping their own hives on rooftops and in gardens near the properties. Not only do the hives produce honey that the property offers guests, but guests can learn more about the importance of bees in the ecosystem with hands-on experiences. It’s a win-win for both the hotel and guests, and certainly achieves the goal of being local and sustainable, two popular buzzwords—no pun intended—for modern travelers.
“We are working to raise awareness of the challenges of bee protection, by encouraging our members to plant honeybee-friendly flowers, bushes, and trees to support their surroundings as well as set up hives in their properties,” says Philippe Gombert, president of Relais & Châteaux. “We encourage them to communicate to guests the fundamental role of the pollinators and the importance of protecting it.”
He refers to the declining bee population. Bees are now at risk of extinction owing to the death of their habitat and the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides and insecticides near their environments. Why does this matter? Bees pollinate 35% of our food supply, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Everything from apples to broccoli needs bees for their production, and some foods, like almonds, are pollinated solely by bees. The American Beekeeping Federation estimates that honeybees contribute nearly $20 billion to the value of U.S. crop production alone. Globally, it’s much more. “It is critical that the habitats bees thrive in are restored,” Gombert says, noting that one-third of our food supply will disappear with them.
Relais & Château currently has 73 properties that produce their own honey, including locations in Japan, New Zealand, Chile, France, and the United States. They offer the honey at tastings on the properties, which work like wine tastings. Guests can learn about the nuances of different honeys as well as the challenges facing the bee population. “By tasting several honeys, one after the other, they appreciate the effect of different botanical sources and flowers on their taste and their respective terroirs,” Gombert says. “Just like fine wine, a honey’s flavor profile is complex and directly influenced by the land.”
Guests at the InterContinental New York Barclay have access to a tasting tour of the hotel’s rooftop hives in the middle of Manhattan. After seeing the bees, guests meet with the kitchen staff to learn how the honey (as well as the hotel’s rooftop garden produce) is used in the hotel’s menu, such as pairing it with cheese and wine. Similarly, the Fairmont Waterfront, in Vancouver, BC, uses the honey it harvests from its rooftop apiary—600 pounds a year—to make beverages, including a craft beer on tap at the hotel and a gin collaboratively distilled with the local Wayward Distillation House.
“As we learned how integral bees are to our food supply and of their declining populations, we knew we had to do whatever we could to educate people on their importance and what we can do as individuals to help protect the species,” says Kristyna Vogel, Fairmont Waterfront’s marketing and PR director and an amateur beekeeper. The property also hosts a three-course dinner centered on 14 foods that would no longer exist without bees, and the team is soon launching the first season of a vlog, The Buzz on Bees, hosted by Julia Common, the cofounder of Hives for Humanity, a nonprofit that builds urban pollinator gardens.
At the Jumeirah Frankfurt in Germany, the hotel’s honey is used in everything from food to the spa. To educate guests, Juliette Schwartz, director of sales and marketing, explains that the hotel plays a video next to the honeycomb on the breakfast buffet describing the four beehives on the hotel’s roof. There, bees have access to a variety of plants and green spaces along the Main River or the nearby botanical garden. Guests can sip honey-infused cocktails at the bar—one of the most popular is called Honey Rider—or buy a jar to take home from the gift shop. The spa offers a Skyline Honey Treatment, a body scrub made of granulated fruit and the hotel’s honey. Even the hotel’s youngest guests can get involved: A honeybee mascot dubbed “Jumbee” teaches children about bees and honey.
“We have a strong focus on sustainability, and bees are very important for a balanced environment,” Schwartz says, noting the property’s 40,000 bees pollinate everything from nearby plants to the flowers on the hotel’s balconies. “The honey production is a nice benefit to the dusting of our skyline honeybees.”
Quite possibly the most innovative bee-related offering is Bee Hut Therapy, available to guests at Savannah’s Perry Lane Hotel. The boutique property partners with the local Savannah Bee Company, a 17-year-old honey and mead purveyor known for its tupelo honey. The bee hut is literally just that, an enclosed structure that sits atop bee hives. In this immersive experience, guests sit in the sauna-like space and breathe in heated, honey-infused fumes emitted from the hives. Not only is it calming and almost meditative, but the fumes are thought to help ease respiratory and skin issues as well as anxiety.
“The air is filled with microbe particles containing propolis, beeswax, royal jelly, and bee pollen, and that is what creates the magic,” explains Perry Lane Hotel’s general manager Pritpal Singh. “Feeling the vibration of the bees and thrum of the hives is very unique, transformative, and certainly memorable.”
Less adventurous guests may tour Savannah Bee Company’s headquarters as well as taste its products, all of which are unique to Savannah. “Guests are blown away by the entire experience,” Singh says of seeing the bee garden, packing facility, and tasting space. “To observe the synchronization and harmony of the bees as they work in the bee garden is awe-inspiring. We should all strive to live like the bees: symbiotically with nature and in a manner that contributes positively to the world.”
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