Danhostel Ribe is uniquely located in Denmark’s oldest town with access to the Wadden Sea National Park and a beautiful view of Ribe Cathedral, the city and the stream through Ribe. The current manager, Jens Philipsen and his wife, Gudrun Rishede took over the hostel in 1986. As former schoolteachers they possess certain core values that they want to implement in the management of the hostel. Personally and as managers of the hostel they hold a sustainable and eco-friendly mentality, by which the place is greatly characterized.
From the beginning the couple has focused on moving away the traditional hostel-image with dormitories, bunk beds, smelly socks and fleshpots. Instead they want the hostel to be a modern and sustainable hostel for all target groups. Moreover, they focus on eco-friendly and sustainable solutions and in 1997 they became, as first movers, members of Green Key, an international environmental label in Danish tourism. The label is an expression of comprehensive environmental considerations. The hostel is one of the few accommodations in South Denmark with this label. The hostel is also a member of “Environmentally Friendly Hotels”, which has put the hostel on the list “Best Green Hotels” – this list has put the hostel among the 40 most environmentally friendly in the world among more than 3500 hotels, inns, hostels etc.
The management and operations of the hostel have gone through a lot of changes since 1986 due to both the guidelines of Green Key and the managers own core values. The hostel has a fundamental environmental policy that, amongst others, states that:
- Only rustic and maintenance-free materials are used
- The place uses energy management to reduce the amount of electricity and heat and practices water conservation by using water and shower filters
- All cleaning detergents etc. are eco-friendly
- All staff members are trained in being and acting ”green” and in communicating the green way of thinking to the guests
- The guests are informed about the green way of thinking and are encouraged to conform to the green thinking and also to come up with new initiatives
- The kitchen uses partly organic products, bakes and makes a lot of foodstuffs, uses also partly homegrown herbs, fruits and berries and local products
- The place has an effective waste separation
- The hostel has a sustainable location from where one can walk or ride a bike to most attractions
Jens Philipsen and his wife, Gudrun Rishede consistently focus on finding new ways in which the hostel might become even more eco-friendly and sustainable. The green way of thinking has never been just a trend the couple chose to follow. It is a core value and a lifestyle they have incorporated in the concept of the hostel since they took over in 1986. There is no doubt about that the couple is on the right path and that green values gain ground with more and more tourists. Lots of tourists are impressed with the eco-friendly approach, but it is not just environmentally conscious guests who visit the hostel. It is a mix of those who are very environmentally conscious and chose the hostel due to the environmental policy, those who do not chose the hostel due to the policy but appreciate the initiatives and those who do not care at all.
The guests at the hostel are tourists, school classes and conference- and course participants. Surprisingly, the tourists represent most of the overnights stays and not school classes, which might have been expected. Most tourists are from Denmark, but a lot of international tourists also visit the hostel – more than most other hostels in Denmark.
At arrival guests will receive information about what to see and do in and around Ribe town and the Wadden Sea National Park – A plethora of environmentally friendly expierences.
The hostel has a lot of loyal guests and the percentage of guests revisiting or recommending the place to family and friends is between 70 and 80. School classes are also extremely loyal and several schools have visited the hostel every year for over 20 years. The current challenge is to attract more conference guests and the hostel has become a part of Green Conferences and hopes that this membership will lead to more companies and organizations arranging conferences and the like at the hostel. Attracting green tourists is also challenging, since the repeat-visitor percentage among tourists are due to the atmosphere, service and location and only occasionally due to the green initiatives.
Furthermore, it is also a great challenge to be green, as it entails a lot of rules and self-regulation. It is, for instance, difficult to manage rules from respectively Levnedsmiddelstyrelsen (governing body of the food industry) and Green Key, as some of the rules may seem contradictory. Another challenge with working with Green Key is the perception and use of locally produced products in proportion to imported organic products and whether to use homegrown organic vegetables and fruits that do not have the official eco-label and therefore is not a part of the norms of Green Key.
For that reason it can be demanding and challenging to follow the rules of Green Key and to develop the business both environmentally and financially. The leaders of Danhostel hoped that the membership of Green Key would be beneficial, but they expect the membership will become a part of the future success stories. Hereby, they pass the ball on to the organization managing the Green Key concept, as they believe that Green Key ought to become more visible to tourists and companies through purposeful marketing.
Though the output of the membership of Green Key is not positive and clear yet, and the increase in overnight stays by green tourists is not noticeable so far, the leaders still see the green profile as an advantage. The green way of thinking is innovative and noteworthy compared to competitors in the area and forms the basis of differentiated marketing. Danish interest groups have also shown interest in the hostel. And the hostel has increasingly attracted international attention, as Danhostel is featured on numerous English-speaking homepages about green tourism. For instance at Best Green Hotels and Environmentally Friendly Hotels
In the long run the development of a national park in the Wadden Sea area will benefit the hostel. Danhostel expects that most of the tourists visiting the national park will have a green mindset with great emphasis on nature and the environment. For that reason the hostel hopes for an increase in green tourists in the future. The manager, Jens Philipsen has a great wish for adding more rooms and also for expanding and improving the conference facilities. Such buildings must be built with emphasis on an energy effective and eco-friendly “zero” solution.
You can also read about the hostel and find a lot of eco-friendly activities like a historical town walk in Ribe and “Black Sun” (migration starlings performing air ballet) on the hostel’s own homepage: Danhostel Ribe and discuss with us here on innotour, on our blog: Danhostel Ribe blog and our facebook
Danhostel Ribe at the border of the Wadden Sea National Park has “Sea view”, when the Ribe marshland is flooded due to accumulated water from the hinterland, – logged water that cannot reach the sea due to the closing of the Kammerslusen (Ribe Waterway Lock) in stormy weather