Hayley Cooper, CEO of Wild Dreams Hospitality, is no slouch when it comes to knowing what guests want, whether it’s a relaxing back massage or a scrumptious jackfruit wrap. In the industry for over 21 years, Hayley started full-time employment at the tender age of 15 and has grown tremendously in that time.
Based in the greater Kruger National Park, Wild Dreams offers a unique range of services to clients from as far afield as Malawi, Botswana, and beyond, as well as closer to home, like eSwatini and Mozambique. “Being in lodge management myself means that I am on track with current trends; I know the legalities and the ins and outs of the industry fairly well,” she smiles.
“Lockdown hit us hard, as with so many other businesses, and we came to a total standstill. I decided to use the time to look at the trends, asking myself what it was people wanted. What can we give guests that is currently not available, but is something they are looking for.”
One of the answers that came up was to create more options when it came to food, specifically on the vegetarian and vegan front, prompting Hayley to do a course on vegan hospitality. She was officially certified as a consultant last year. “Vegan hospitality consulting is not something many people are familiar with,” she says.
“It is a truly unique service and has grown in popularity due to the tremendous rise in veganism worldwide over the past few years – studies show a 700% growth the last three years alone. Fuelled by ever-increasing concerns about a healthier diet, animal welfare, climate change and social media, the current global pandemic has fast-tracked this movement. People are starting to make the connection, and the reality is that more pandemics will be our future, unless we make some changes – and quickly!”
Hayley realised some of the hospitality businesses catering to the local market needed to get with the times or risk being left behind in an already challenging and exceptionally competitive industry. “The hotel and lodges sector is seeing a marked increase in requests for vegetarian and vegan food,” she says, “, especially from overseas guests. Remember that someone who visits this year as a vegetarian may well return next year as a vegan, so adding the option of vegan-friendly means that word of mouth will spread, attracting other potential visitors who prefer to have those broader options.”
To give you a few statistics as to why we are seeing this demand increase in tourism:
• Vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. The UK is the fastest-growing vegan population with an increase in the last year of 40%. Australia currently has the second-fastest-growing movement.
• In Europe, we saw an increase of 93% for vegan food/drink businesses opening in 2019, which has only recently escalated.
• There was a 600% increase in people going vegan in the USA between 2014 and 2017.
• In Germany, one in five people (depending on their age) has chosen to opt for meat alternatives.
• More than 582 000 people registered for Veganuary in 2021, and it’s estimated that over five million people went vegan in January.
“It’s not only food-related,” Hayley adds. “More and more people worldwide are starting to check whether or not products such as toiletries have been tested on animals and request cruelty-free ones, proving again that things are changing.” She is passionate about helping hotels and lodges to reach their full potential when it comes to attracting and serving the modern hospitality guest.
“Living sustainably and helping people to see the benefits of doing so is part of what drives me to provide an expert service to my clients.” Hayley is offering free 30-minute consultations to any hospitality business ready to take their company to the next level of service by not only becoming vegan-friendly but by attracting vegan clients. They can apply on her website via the ‘’vegan consulting’’ page.
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