Meet the students who participated in the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge 2023
Silvia Gradogna, Priscilla Idro Tutua-Lelea and Viktoriia Bakshinskaite are the three Hotelschool The Hague students who, along with Daryl Chionh and Wee Wen Bin from the Nanyang Technological University Singapore, represented both schools at the Finals of the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge (SHC) in Abu Dhabi. Their strong passion for sustainability, the exciting opportunities for networking with industry leaders of the hospitality and sustainability industry, as well as the aspiration to innovate and create an out-the-box concept sparked their participation in the challenge.
How was their concept born? What teachings from their studies at HTH did they incorporate in their concept? Read the interview with the HTH team to find out!
1. Tell us about your project. How was the idea of NEXUS born?
“In our first ten-hour brainstorming session we had seven different ideas that ranged from under water resorts to hotel safaris. After that long day, we crossed out all our ideas and started asking ourselves what does “One with nature” truly mean to us. Some of us mentioned that it is the feeling of sand on your feet, hearing the waves crushing, smelling fresh flowers, or feeling so small and in awe in front of the vastity of a forest. At that moment, we realised that we wanted our concept to be a sensory experience; an immersive, interactive and awe-inspiring project,” says Silvia. Priscilla adds that, “NEXUS was born out of a desire to create an immersive sustainable hospitality initiative that blends technology, nature, and education to foster environmental awareness and action.” For Viktoriia, the idea behind their concept came from their interest to develop a totally new, never-seen-before experience. The team envisioned NEXUS as a place where people can actively engage in environmental missions, much like the ecological message conveyed in the movie 'Avatar'. This is how NEXUS was born; a green oasis where guests can immerse themselves into nature, interact with it, both in real life and virtually, thanks to the use of VR and AR.
2. How did you come up with the name NEXUS?
According to Priscilla, the name NEXUS reflects the core concept of their initiative. “It is all about the connection and integration of various elements such as education, nature, and technology,” she explains. In Latin, NEXUS means “connection”. In the team’s concept, NEXUS refers to the human connection to nature since their vision was creating a world where people live in harmony with it rather than exploiting it. “Moreover, NEXUS can also mean “center”, or in the context of technology, a “central hub.” Since VR and AR technology are central in our concept, we believed that NEXUS was the perfect name that incorporated all elements,” Silvia answers. “In essence, NEXUS revolves around the connection between the virtual and physical realm; the link between humans and nature,” Viktoriia states.
3. How was your collaboration with the students from the Nanyang Technological University Singapore?
For the HTH team, the collaboration with the students from the Nanyang Technological University Singapore was enriching! “Their fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and dedication played a pivotal role in shaping and refining the NEXUS concept,” Priscilla expressed. “Having someone with a technical background helped us understand the feasibility of our concept as we were sometimes thinking too much out-of-the-box,” Silvia confirms. There were definitively challenges with scheduling their meetings due to the nine-hour time difference and busy schedules but they enjoyed their partnership as their diverse talents brought the idea to life.
4. Can you see the project coming into life soon?
All three agree that, although the concept relies on the creation of a complex augmented and virtual reality game plot line, it is feasible. However, it is not in the plans to materialise it any time soon. “At the moment, we are at different stages of our studies and careers. Perhaps in the future we will explore the possibility,” Silvia responds. “If not us, someone else will come up with something similar in coming years. We will definitely see more mixed reality experiences in the coming future,” Viktoriia reveals.
5. What teachings from your studies at HTH did you incorporate in your concept?
Viktoriia, Silvia and Priscilla acknowledged that HTH’s devotion to sustainability, finance courses, and especially the Business Transformation course, were helpful in the development of their concept. “HTH's focus on innovation, sustainability and community engagement has been integral to our concept. The emphasis on thinking creatively, considering environmental impact, and working closely with communities aligns perfectly with NEXUS,” Priscilla mentions. In addition, Silvia said that one of the most useful teachings that helped them a lot for SHC was preparing and delivering presentations. Adding to this, Viktoriia answered that the overall collaborative mentality cultivated at HTH helped them during the development of their concept.
6. What’s the impact of SHC on your lives?
Going the extra mile, networking, and igniting their passion for sustainability were their immediate responses. “SHC challenged us to go the extra mile, explore disciplines we had either little or no prior knowledge like architecture, technology or video editing, while learning more about sustainability, business, finance, and marketing along the way. Further, it allowed us to network with industry experts and students from renewed universities across the world,” Silvia responds. In Priscilla’s words, “SHC was a transformative experience that continues to drive my passion for sustainability and innovation.” For Viktoriia, this experience was none the less unforgettable; “Not only did I make friends and connections, but also got to travel outside of Europe for the first time in my life!”
7. What are your plans after SHC?
Participating in SHC was part of Viktoriia’s career plan to shift towards the field of sustainability, and pursue a Masters degree in the field. Similarly, Silvia’s focus is on finalising her internship and writing her thesis about ESG. “I’m eager to learn more about sustainability and study a master in Sustainability and Social Innovation. In the future, I would like to explore a career in ESG.” When it comes to Priscilla, she plans to complete her pre-master and go on an internship “somewhere fun and innovative.”
About the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge:
The Sustainable Hospitality Challenge is a Hotelschool The Hague initiative, launched in 2014, with the aim to enhance the evolution of sustainable hospitality. Originally founded under the name Genio Worldwide Innovation Summit, the challenge has re-established itself by making sustainability its central theme. Established as a platform that challenges innovative hospitality approaches for the last nine years, SHC has evolved into a global knowledge-based initiative. During this international student competition, teams from all over the world take on the challenge of designing a hospitality concept that presents sustainable solutions while catering to the evolving needs of modern travelers. In its nine years of activity, SHC has collaborated with some of the most reputable CEOs of the Hospitality Industry who, from competition to competition, have been asked to judge the project proposals. SHC, owned by Hotelschool The Hague, is sponsored by NEOM, and has The Bench and Sustainable Hospitality Alliance as its official partners.