In essence, we want to establish a place for outdoor adventurers to stay and eat, while contributing knowledge and hospitality to their outdoor experience. For the majority of tourists, coming into the mountains does not mean sleeping in tents or cooking your own food, and the situation is the same for the athletes when the prices are reasonable. Most of the time, people are just too tired from their activities to worry about cooking or setting up a tent; they would rather pay a little bit of money for good, healthy food and sit and enjoy their free time with friends. In the winter, it is simply not possible to sleep outside, and with the wide number of ski resorts in the area, it is conceivable that we would have a steady flow of winter guests as well.
Our house would be a hostel, a farm, and a summer camp, providing guests with affordable accommodations, home-grown organic food, guiding and many other services. Our mission is to to create a self sufficient, sustainable living space which serves the needs of the local community and the tourism that supports it.
The land will consist of two primary buildings and some smaller cabin-style huts in the surrounding area. The first house will be the largest and will house the 12-15 full-time employees; the other building will be the restaurant, bar, and lounge, and upstairs, temporary housing for part-time workers. Lastly, their will be several smaller huts around the property that guests can rent out for a slightly higher fee. Ideally, all of the buildings would be renovated with the most up-to-date environmentally-friendly technologies, but this will probably need to be developed over time. The timeline for the first year would look something like this:
February - move onto property and begin preparing land begin construction of the main house (construction of the main house will be secondary to restaurant/bar and farm work)
March - preparing land, planting crops, begin to renovate/build restaurant and bar
April - invite guest workers to come and help with building, farm work, general land renovations/organization
May - preparing for summer camps, continue building
June - finish restaurant/bar, summer camps, guiding tours, we are beginning to have guests
July - guests are consistent, summer camps, tours, construction
August - last summer camps, guiding tours continue, house is near completion, begin harvest
September - make house liveable for winter, continue harvest and storage of food
October - storage of food and greenhouse planting (if possible), finish building of huts for winter guests
November - preparing for winter sports tourists
Depending on the location, it may be necessary either to build new buildings or drastically renovate the existing structures, so this should be a strong consideration in the budget. More than likely, in order to accommodate solar heating and other environmental building techniques, we will need to build at least the main house from the ground up; however, we are in contact with a few different environmentally-conscious architects who specialize in sustainable, energy-efficient building techniques, and they have agreed to help with the project. In particular we are researching:
- solar heating techniques
- geothermal heating
- cellulose insulation
- bamboo flooring
- micro turbines for the rivers
- land fill gas
- rain water collection.
- worm farm composting
We estimate that our house would be able to accommodate upwards of 50 customers per evening for food, and from 75-100 for accommodations. It is not, however, likely that we will maintain these sorts of numbers all the time. This would be only very special events and gatherings. Normally, we would expect to accommodate between 50-100 per week in summer, and 20-50 per week in the winter, equating to roughly 3-5000 guests throughout the year. From the best land use estimates I can find, we have a rough estimate of 3.5 hectares of land, 0.5 for the house, 1 for fruits and vegetables, and 2 for animals. The animals may not need such a large amount space, however, as we will only use them for production and not for slaughter; that is, we will use them for a small amount of milk, cheese, and egg production, but not for meat consumption.
FinanceWith enough customers, it is very conceivable that once established, the house will be able to sustain itself financially. The question remains whether it will have enough money to sustain itself and also pay off the debts incurred from startup. However, the tourist industry is already well established in this location; it is famous for climbing and basically all mountain sports, and considering how the outdoor community is so tight-knit and communicative, everyone who would come to Arco would want to stay with us. Over the years, we have established connections with climbers, highliners, and outdoor enthusiasts all over the world, and there would be almost no need for advertisement.
Income would come in several forms:
- summer camps
- percentage of guiding profits
- the shop (which includes sale of extra crops/crafts).
There is as yet no way to determine any exact figures here, but there are many other guest houses that have established themselves on much less, surviving on the sale of accommodation and alcohol alone. But given that we will have so many potential sources of income, we have more possibilities to survive. Another small portion of the restaurant/bar will be a designated store which will carry cheap necessities for those who want to cook on their own. It will carry things such as milk, butter, cheese, pasta, tomato sauce etc. In addition, this could be used by the community as another outlet for the sale of extra goods, the other farmers in the area would also be able to earn some income from our project.
We do not want to take business away from any other establishments, we want only to provide a inexpensive alternative for those who want to enjoy the area, but cannot afford the existing accommodations. The people who would come to our house are the people who would be sleeping out in the woods anyway, not staying in hotels; and when people know that a place like ours exists, they will come because they want to support it, and they might also then have money to go out for an expensive meal one night or spend money in town.
As for the initial funding, it is at the moment all still speculation. Thus, our estimate would include:
- the land
- building the house
- building the huts
- restaurant and kitchen supplies
- farm supplies, seeds, animals
- food for the first year
We are looking to get some grants and donations from alpinistic clubs, social programs, and private citizens. One private donator has already agreed to 20,000. The rest of the funding will have to come in the form of loans. We are also looking to get help from the Mietshaeuser Syndikat, a German organization which helps to get house projects started and dealing with all the legal issues.
As a GmbH, the loans will be taken out in the name of the project, and not to anyone individually. The constitution will be designed that the house can maintain itself even if all the original members decide to leave, but more about this in the legalities section.
There will be many different jobs, and the number of permanent staff will probably have to be adjusted, but we are thinking of 12-15 people working full-time, plus the temporary employees.
The first group, the permanent staff, would live full time on-sight, attending to the everyday needs of the guest house. That is, farming, cleaning, cooking, reception, serving the guests, managerial work, etc. They would be the only group to receive a regular salary, one that would be worked out according to the exact budget. Essentially they would live and eat for free while also being able to save some money. They would be divided up into teams, one team maintaining the farm one team serving the restaurant/kitchen/bar, and one team managing guests/reception/managerial tasks.
Next we have the guides, who would live semi-permanently on the property and use the guest house as a base for their guiding tours. Guides must be fully certified housing arrangements would need to be worked out on a case by case basis, depending on the permanency of the residence. The house would naturally profit from the sale of food, alcohol, and accommodation of the tour guests, and the guide would take the majority of the money. The guide would be expected to bring the majority of his guests to the house as guided tours, but guiding services could also readily be offered to current guests.
The third group would be the people who come in for the summer months, and they would also be divided into two groups. First, the summer-help. There will obviously be a lot more tourists in the summer, and in late spring and early fall there is a lot of work around the farm, we would most likely need an extra staff of about 10 people who lived part time at the house and helped with the busy seasons. This will be especially important in the first year, when most of the building is taking place. They will have semi-permanent housing, be paid slightly less than the full time employees, but also be able to live and eat for free.
The second set of part-time employees would be those who come to run the summer camps. This would ideally be a permanent relationship where we have the same people coming every summer to do a specific camp. They would reside at the house only for about 8-9 weeks out of the year, depending on the camp schedules, and would keep the majority of the profits from the camps. The guest house would take some money for feeding and housing the camps, and the trainer would receive the rest.
Lastly, we would have the guest workers. This is anyone who wants to come and live on our land in exchange for work. They would have no permanent residence, but would be expected to provide their own accommodations, a tent, van, etc. They would be able to eat and stay for free so long as they put in, for example, 20 hours of work on the farm in a week.
A large part of the mission of this house is to encourage and promote love of the outdoors, and we believe that children are naturally fascinated by nature if only they are exposed to it. Thus we want to foster this enthusiasm by providing an interesting, high-quality, educational experience in beautiful, natural surroundings. We would like to offer several different types of camps, including climbing, slacklining, hiking, farming, wilderness survival, sailing, mountain-biking and many more. We would bring in trained experts for 8-9 weeks of the year and design a wide variety of possible programs for the children, from beginners to advanced students. These camps could easily be promoted by the alpinistic clubs, school programs, word of mouth advertising, and all sorts of other venues.
We are currently underway with a plan to bring slacklining into the school system as physical education training. There is clear, scientifically based evidence for the benefits of slacklining and climbing for young children, and we can teach them about the outdoors and to a conscience for nature through these sports. The idea is to use the access in the schools to advertise also for the summer camps, to get the children excited about the sport and then give them the opportunity to go and perform in a beautiful location with encouraging, well-trained teachers.
As a GmbH, the organization of the group will be determined by a constitution, designed by the original members and written with sufficient room for adaptations. Essentially, decisions will be made by group vote, and when a decision cannot be reached, mediation will begin. Theoretically, the guest workers and guides would constitute roughly 2 or 3 votes each, with each permanent member also constituting a single vote. The entire operation will be constantly under review with bi-weekly meetings, where the different sections of the house will meet to discuss the necessities for each section and the budgeting of the house.
Budgeting will be done in terms of priority, that is, the first need is to keep the house running and functioning properly. Thus house concerns and the necessities for keeping the restaurant open are of the highest priority. The next priority would obviously be paying off the debt incurred at start up. Ideally, we would look to get the majority of the money donated, and what money needs to be borrowed, to take out on a 20-25 year loan instead paying it off with a longer loan of 40-50 years. Third priority will be the money that we invest in the programs, the summer camps, the guiding tours, and community integration. It is very important to us that we be accepted and appreciated by the community, and we want to be able to give back to the community that takes us in. Lastly, budget concerns will focus on paying the employees. We will all need to make a little personal money, and it may not be much at first, but at least we will be living responsibly.