Hotel Etico - an Australian First 

VFFF is excited to be the co-seed funder of Australia’s first social enterprise hotel staffed by industry professionals supporting hospitality trainees with intellectual disabilities.

Hotel Etico opens this November at the newly refurbished Mount Victoria Manor. Guests of the hotel will not only stay in elegant rooms, dine in at Niccolò’s Restaurant and Bar, find spaces for socialising, a quiet read or favourite flick; their holiday experience will contribute toward a proven employment training and social inclusion program that transforms lives.

The vision for Hotel Etico came to life a decade ago in Italy from the dream of a young man with Down Syndrome called Niccolò Vallese, who started working as an intern at his local restaurant. It was the Head Chef’s first experience dealing with a person who had an intellectual disability and he was unsure about what to expect. But Niccolò was soon flourishing and the Chef quickly realised the remarkable potential his new star intern had as a hospitality professional. The Chef asked Niccolò one day what he hoped for in the future and his reply was, “My dream is to work in a Hotel”.

Niccolò didn’t know it at the time but his dream became the inspiration that transformed his wish to a reality. The first Hotel Etico (Albergo Etico), opened in his home town of Asti in the north of Italy in 2015 and by the end of 2020 there will be six hotels open worldwide with more opening in 2021. Across the operating hotels, 80 hospitality interns are in training and 184 have graduated with 68% of them moving on to open employment. Hotel Etico Australia follows the success of its European counterparts by adapting the Albergo Etico business model to the Australian context.

Hotel Etico’s trainee program is based on a holistic model of learning over 12 months through on-the-job training and coaching in life skills that facilitates a pathway to open employment. At the core of the training program is the Academy of Independence, a trainee residence that will provide a peer-based, supportive setting to experience independent living. The inaugural group of six trainees will start in February 2021.

VFFF has been engaged with Hotel Etico’s start-up team for many months and supported its efforts as the business model was refined and adapted to the Australian context. COVID-19 delays were worked through and the search for the ideal property eventuated in securing a lease for the historic Mount Victoria Manor.

Seed funding for Hotel Etico completes a compelling cycle of Fairfax family legacy for VFFF. Mount Victoria Manor was built as a mountain retreat in 1876 by Sydney Morning Herald founder, John R. Fairfax and remained in family ownership for its first decade.

Hotel Etico will commence operations at Mount Victoria Manor this November and Niccolò’s Restaurant and Bar will open in March 2021.

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