Inge De Lathauwer first stepped foot on Sumba in 2013; she was overwhelmed by the natural beauty and authenticity of the island, yet saddened to see the living conditions of the local people. Due to its pristine beaches and vibrant culture, Sumba was poised for a surge in tourism development, therefore potentially creating an influx of indispensible job opportunities. While this was an exciting prospect, many Sumbanese youth are underprivileged and do not have access to the relevant education and training that would be required to occupy these positions. This is when the initial seed was planted and Inge’s idea of The Sumba Hospitality Foundation flourished into a beautiful reality.
Since the opening of The Sumba Hotel School on July 1st, 2016, there has been an extraordinary transformation. What once was an arid landscape is now abundant with life; the farm and gardens are blossoming with fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs, which make delicious ingredients for the meals and drinks served in the Bar and Restaurant. Additionally, the implementation of the solar panel farm and water treatment system allow the school to be self-sufficient and present the campus as a model of conservation and green energy throughout the island. Inge believed that sustainability and environmental awareness were paramount in creating the school; she also believed that this ideology should continue across the island and that something needed to be implemented to ensure other investors and developers had the same vision.
In September 2017, The Sumba Hospitality Foundation held their first Sustainable Tourism Conference where both local and international stakeholders joined together to create a Sustainable Tourism Development Plan for Sumba. The transformation and growth of the campus beautifully mirrors the confidence and progress of the students; they are now fully immersed within their chosen departments and continue to develop their practical skills with hotel guests from all over the world. It is inspiring to see the theoretical knowledge transforming from the classroom environment to real life situations and to watch the students taking the initiative with their own learning by forming study groups and peer mentoring. When the students aren’t in class, the campus comes alive with choir practice, educational workshops, family style dinners and celebrations; the relationship between the staff and students is what makes The Sumba Hotel School so unique.