Mark Bibby Jackson takes a sneak preview of Hotel des Brasseurs in De Haan, Belgium, which is the first carbon neutral hotel in Flanders.

It is on a journey to coastal Belgium that I meet Thibaud Hermans and Guido Francque at their amazing Hotel Des Brasseurs in De Haan. At the time the hotel, the first climate neutral hotel in Flanders, is yet to open – it did on 8 July.

Walking over cables and exposed floors, the pair explain their vision for the project.

“Hotel des Brasseurs is the ultimate proof that respect – the key word of sustainability – in its broadest form can produce fantastic results,” says Guido, who is sustainability executive for Thibaud’s company, as well as sustainability coach for the whole hospitality sector.

Hotel Des Brasseurs
A green room at the Hotel des Brasseurs, photo by by AS Deldycke

From the offset, Guido is at pains to point out that the project is no visionary pipedream. The plan is to recoup the initial investment within a few years and then to make a healthy profit – both for Thibaud, its owner, and for the planet. These are green entrepreneurs.

“Thibaud Hermans is living proof of this, and I am very grateful to him for having the courage to be my brother-in-arms on the road to the entrepreneurial model of the future: sustainable and CO2 neutral,” adds Guido.

De Haan – the Belle Époque

I meet Guido at the tram station at De Haan, which is just across the road from the Hotel des Brasseurs. A short ride from Ostend, De Hanne has a similar feel to Deauville in France as well as a spectacular beach with wonderful sculptures as part of the Beaufort Triennial project. This is the Belle Époque.

De Haan blossomed at the turn of the last century. The Hotel des Brasseurs is in a 120-year-old building within the town’s heritage area. This has presented certain challenges, such as restrictions on the use of solar panels.

Hotel des Brasseurs is in a 120-year-old building within the town’s heritage area
Hotel des Brasseurs is in a 120-year-old building within the De Haan’s heritage area

In 2016, Thibaud decided to focus on sustainability, bringing in the guidance of Guido, who had a sustainability diploma for the POM-West Flanders.

The pair soon put Guido’s expertise and their passion into action. They restored the historic Villa de Torre in De Haan, to its original 1902 model, making it a seafood restaurant, with holiday flats above.

Creating Hotel des Brasseurs

Two years later, Thibaud bought the neighbouring property – Hotel des Brasseurs.

As Thibaud explains, the intention was to go “one step further by opting for CO2 neutrality within our now familiar philosophy of sustainability as the basis for healthy and future-oriented hospitality entrepreneurship.”

Thibaud explaining the project in what is now the brasserie.
Thibaud explaining the project in what is now the brasserie.

Part of their logic is to work with local and organic suppliers and workers wherever possible. Their products are fresh. The meat is all organic, and the fish is fresh from the local fishmongers direct from their boats, focusing on the less fished fish, so as to avoid the consequences of over-fishing. They also deliberately choose local suppliers who share their own philosophy opting for more expensive products that are locally produced rather than importing from places such as China, which would generate a far greater carbon footprint.

Two years after commencing work on Hotel des Brasseurs, they received a CO2 neutral label from CO2-Logic.

Carbon Neutrality

“What does this CO2 neutrality refer to?” asks Guido, before answering his own question. “The CO2 neutral label focuses on infrastructure emissions, company cars, waste, commuting and incoming materials.”

Guido believes that at Hotel des Brasseurs, they have gone further in their measures than required by CO2-Logic.

Terrace at Hotel des Brasseurs
Terrace at Hotel des Brasseurs, photo by by AS Deldycke

This has included, “generating their heat and cooling via geothermal energy, circular reuse of all grey water, extensive automation of the work systems, and reduction, sorting and cooling of waste flows,” as well as focusing on the “health of the managers, employees and guests.”

“This search for perfect harmony between history and hospitality aims to offer our visitors an unforgettable, healthy experience with a special story,” he says.

It is also good business, as Guido explains, once more the entrepreneur. Meeting their energy need via geothermal and photovoltaic means that they are protected from the price fluctuations as have beset so many small companies in the last couple of years.

A Journey Through Our Future

My tour of the hotel continues through the rooms and down into the dungeon where the geothermal energy is produced. I am profoundly impressed.

We then climb up the building to see where the solar panels will be located. The plan is to be totally energy sufficient within a year, currently they must offset part of their energy needs.

Hotel des Brasseurs might only be small in stature; there will be 12+1 rooms as the potentially superstitious Guido puts it, but it is big in both heart and vision. According to Guido, the only other climate neutral in the country is in Brussels, with a further one in The Netherlands.

Guido Francque (l) and Thibaud Hermans (r) on the roof of Hotel Des Brasseurs. Photo by Mark Bibby Jackson.
Guido Francque (l) and Thibaud Hermans (r) on the roof of Hotel Des Brasseurs. Photo by Mark Bibby Jackson.

On the roof as I take one photograph of the brothers in arms, Thibaud opens up.

“This does something to a person… as an entrepreneur, a family man, a team player with a sense of responsibility for the future of everyone we live and work with, whom we may welcome and hospitably pamper. Alone, I will not change the world, but surrounded by the right partners and confidants, we have come a long way. We are not going to change the world but if we can help that is good.”

Hotel des Brasseurs

Opened on 8 July, 2023. For more information, click here. All photos taken by by AS Deldycke and supplied by Hotel des Brasseurs unless stated.