A luxury resort that starts at over $2,000 a night might seem like a strange way to bring about social change but not if you are Val Kempadoo. The 52-year-old Trinidadian entrepreneur is the mastermind behind one of the most anticipated hotel open- ings in the Caribbean: Belle Mont Farm, set on verdant hills between Mount Liamuiga and the Caribbean Sea on the island of St Kitts.
With its 84 guesthouses and 7 four-bedroom farmhouses, Kempadoo’s hotel is trying to make hospitality terms such as “sustainability”, “eco-friendly” and “social responsibility” actually mean something to the local economy. Belle Mont Farm, which opened in December last year, is part of a 400-acre Kempadoo project situated on organic farmland, known as Kittitian Hill. “This venture is about redefining sustainability and social justice in the Caribbean tourism industry,” says Kempadoo, who worked as an organic farmer in his youth.
To start, almost everything that is served in Belle Mont Farm’s Kitchen restaurant—overseen by executive chef Christophe Letard, a veteran of Relais & Châteaux properties in Europe and the Caribbean—is either grown organically on-site or sourced from St Kitts or nearby Nevis. Belle Mont Farm also features local architecture and predominantly local staff and labour (around 90 percent), and seeks to establish a centre for Caribbean culture on its premises.
It’s an endeavor, however, that goes beyond farm-to-table dining with Caribbean flavors. There’s a clear economic mission embedded in Kempadoo’s plan. In the rest of St Kitts’ hospitality industry, Kempadoo claims, only around 10 percent of revenue stays on the island. By hiring locally, Kempadoo believes he can retain 75 percent or 80 percent. “It’s a purpose with a hotel wrapped around it,” he explains. “This is my revolution.”
Even the Kittitian Hill golf course is part of his social and environmental plan. The Ian Woosnam-designed course is edible—think mango picking on the ninth hole—and closed one day a week for weeding, the easiest way to keep a chemical-free golf course in prime condition.
Naturally, Kempadoo plans to run the whole $400 million development, which will eventually include a spa, an open-air cinema and a lower-priced 200-room hotel, entirely on renewable energy.
Social activism is certainly not new for Kempadoo. In Trinidad he co-founded two political parties. Later came his more capitalist phase. In 2005 Kempadoo started Terra Forma Developments, which designed Warner Park, the national cricket and football stadium of St Kitts and Nevis.
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(This story appears in the 20 March, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)