Dutch Entrepreneur Martin Dresen once said, “One day all business should be social business”. And in 2015 he put words to action with a new venture.
The municipality of Rotterdam, a port city that naturally looks seaward for solutions, found a way to temporarily house arriving refugees by constructing a floating “hotel”. Once the refugees left to settle into their new lives on land, the floating barge structure was put up for sale. Martin Dresen’s Good Group purchased and redesigned it. And in 2015 he started a pilot project in cooperation with the City of Rotterdam and Rotterdam’s local Hospitality College, to run a hotel and train long-term unemployed locals for a career in hospitality. The pilot project was a huge success, with most of its trainees finding positions upon completion of the program.
With that success under his belt, Martin realized his venture was literally portable. Looking south to London, a city in which he had long thought of opening a hotel, Martin formed a partnership with the city to recruit trainees, so he took his hotel on a voyage to the south. In its first year, 100 people were trained, with 70 of them moving off welfare and securing permanent jobs in the industry.
Now with those two successes, Good Group has launched even bigger plans. Their next venture is a partnership with Niños de Guatemala, a Nicaraguan nonprofit that provides 400 children an education. A boutique hotel in Antigua Guatemala staffed with Niños de Guatemala graduates opened this year, and eight more are slated to open worldwide by 2020.
Do Good, Stay at the Good Hotel
Good Hotel London is docked at the Royal Victoria Dock about 8.5 miles east of London Bridge. The docks have a rich history dating back to the 19th century. They were created to accommodate the large steamships that helped create the British Empire’s great wealth.
In the 1960s and ’70s, with the decline of British industries, the docks fell on hard times, as did the communities that made a living on them.
An initiative in 2000 to revitalize the areas east of London created new communities and office developments and the docks came back to life. Good Group’s team was eyeing a berth on the Thames, but with daily tidal movements of about seven meters, docking a hotel was quite costly. The docks, separated from the Thames with locks to maintain a constant water level, were perfect and a mooring location was decided on for a five-year trial.
If you look up Good Hotel’s location it seems quite out of the way, but the dockland light rail and Jubilee line take you there in no time. And there are loads of things to do along the way that visitors to Central London rarely see.
Good Hotel offers breakfast, lunch and a simple dinner menu in the lobby. There is plenty of open space and large tables if you need to get some work done, and lounge areas, if that is more your style.
The rooms are cozy but a good size for a city hotel, all outfitted in a simple Nordic style. I stayed in a “standard” room which came with a double bed, complimentary Wi-Fi, a writing desk, tea and coffee maker, and a pretty spacious en-suite bathroom.
In the summer months, the upper deck, with its bar, is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the outdoors, with a view over the docks. On the docks a variety of activities are available. We took advantage of the adjacent open-water swimming facility which runs year round. It’s a great way to exercise with an activity unique in a major metropolitan city like London (stay tuned for that story published soon). And next to the hotel is the Emirates Airline Cable Car that takes you over the Thames to the Greenwich Peninsula Terminal in just six minutes.
What I liked about Good Hotel was the great diversity of travelers. It was summer, so the guests included young students coming to London, families looking for a budget stay, and older tour groups discovering London. And if you want to make a social impact with how you spend your money, Good Hotel offers a great opportunity with all profits going into the staff training scheme. Good Hotel works with local suppliers as much as possible and when you book directly on their site, 6.50 will go to their Niños de Guatemala project.
With the exchange rate in your favor, it’s a great time to see London’s sights and do some good with your stay at Good Hotel.
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