Fairmont Hotels & Resorts have more than 40 apiaries and wild bee hotels worldwide.
Fairmont’s first beehives were built in 2008 at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver.
Bees pollinate 1,000 of the 1,200 crops that provide 80 per cent of human food, and the economic benefit of pollination is $326bn.
A buzzworthy brand building bee health
The plight of the honeybee, whose populations began to dwindle worldwide in 2006, might not be an expected cause for an international luxury hotel brand to take on. But in 2008, Vancouver’s Fairmont Waterfront hotel did just that. Its rooftop garden became Fairmont’s first bee colony. Four hives attract some 250,000 honeybees each year, and a bespoke “bee hotel” was created in 2015 in an effort to provide pollinator bees, a significant contributor to the agricultural economy, with a safe place to rest their wings. The nearly 91kg of honey produced annually at Fairmont Waterfront is then integrated into the hotel’s salad dressings, hand-churned ice creams, cocktails and other culinary additions. Even the Waterfront’s own Stinger lager label is sweetened with honey from the garden above. Hive by hive, this initiative is being rolled out at Fairmont properties globally, getting the world one step closer to a sustainable future.
What caused the bee decline?
The precise cause of colony collapse disorder remains unclear. Scientists believe it’s a combination of factors – climate change has certainly played a role, as have pests and chemicals used to fertilise commercial crops. Many governments have started banning such poisonous chemicals, but bees need dedicated refuges, such as the ones that Fairmont provides, in order to rebuild their numbers.
Fairmont Waterfront’s garden has been designated as a certified wildlife habitat
The bee hotel
Mason bees don’t produce honey, but they are often described as “super pollinators”. They were added to the Fairmont Waterfront’s bee garden in 2015, with the goal of bolstering local bee populations. The Canadian Wildlife Federation has since designated the garden as a certified wildlife habitat.
The bee butler
A novel addition to the Waterfront’s service team came in 2012 when the position of the hotel’s first “bee butler” was created. Nick Mackay Finn and his “bee-team” (two of whom are certified beekeepers) are responsible for the bees’ well-being, and for conducting tours of the hives from May to September.
Marketing and public relations manager, Fairmont Waterfront, and board member, Hives for Humanity
Where did the idea for the bee garden come from?
After the hotel opened in 1996, we realized that the bees would actually help our rooftop garden. We now have around 250,000 bees. This will be our 11th season in Vancouver and we’re pretty excited about that.
What impact have the Waterfront’s bee colonies had in the area?
In British Columbia, we don’t have enough pollinators for our crops, historically – particularly blueberries and cranberries. Our five bee colonies are actually used by farmers, so they’re moved out to blueberry farms in April, and they spend the month pollinating the blueberry crop and then they return to us. We like to think that we are the bees’ summer vacation place. It’s a win-win situation for us because our honey then has this rich, floral bouquet, but we’re also able to help farmers and that’s really what the message is all about.
Are there any social implications to the project?
We have helped set up beehives in communities in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which is one of the poorest postal codes in Canada. So for us, sustainability is about more than just about being green – it’s about building strong communities. That’s a natural fit for us.
Learn more about our program here.