ByKimberly Button

Mar 6, 2015

What’s the first image that comes to your mind when pondering Fairmont Hotels and Resorts? Hospitality, luxury and elegance may come to mind. Chances are bees were not even remotely on that list.

The importance of honeybees

Honey Harvest at Fairmont Waterfront Hotel
John Gibeau, founder and president of the Honeybee Centre (beekeeper), Coline Burslem, restaurant chef de partie at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, and Shannon Wrightson, executive chef at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel at the inaugural Honey Harvest at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. Image courtesy of Raj Taneja.

Bees have an unlikely ally in their fight for survival: Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Through the chain’s Green Partnership Program and beekeeping program, rooftop spaces are being transformed into havens for honeybees who are experiencing habitat decline around the world.

Across North America and in several other countries, beehives can be found at 22 different Fairmont properties. Concern about Colony Collapse Disorder prompted the hospitality brand to place beehives on some of their resort’s rooftops, as well as in ground-level gardens.

In fact, the company has gone so far as to install the first pollinator bee hotel.

Located at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, Canada, guests may check in at the lobby downstairs, but it’s hoped that solitary pollinator bees will check in to their own hotel on the rooftop. Designed to resemble the Toronto skyline, the hotel is a collection of natural nesting materials that bees would find in more rural areas. By creating a hotel of wood, soil, twigs, fallen branches and pith-filled holes, pollinator bees will have a protected site to breed and lay eggs.

The Fairmont Royal York was the first hotel in the world to have a rooftop apiary, and was the site of the first hives for the Fairmont brand.

This bee hotel is just the first for local pollinators. Five bee hotels are installed in the Toronto area in a partnership with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Burt’s Bees, WILD FOR BEES campaign, Sustainble.TO Architecture + Building, and Pollinator Partnership Canada. (The Fairmont even has DIY instructions to make your own bee hotel.)


Executive Chef Shannon Wrightson and Beekeeper John Gibeau - The inaugural Honey Harvest at The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel
Executive Chef Shannon Wrightson and Beekeeper John Gibeau at the inaugural Honey Harvest at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. Image courtesy of Raj Taneja.

Why do bees need their own hotels in this world? It is estimated that 80 percent of all flowering plants, fruits and veggies are pollinated by bees. That accounts for one in every three bites of food that we consume. However, Colony Collapse Disorder is quickly decimating natural bee populations. Until scientists can unequivocally prove what’s causing Colony Collapse Disorder, providing protected habitats for pollinating bees is vital for their survival.

At the Fairmont Royal York, a rooftop garden also provides an oasis for local pollinators outside of the bee hotel. Herbs are planted in 17 four-poster beds, and six honeybee hives have already been producing honey for the resort for seven years. More than 800 pounds of honey are used in the hotel’s kitchens from the hives, as well as in a local microbrew.

Twenty-eight properties have organic herb gardens that are cultivated by the Fairmont chefs, which adds chemical-free pollinator plants for locations with apiaries.

Worldly travelers

Not all of Fairmont’s beehives are on rooftops. At locations such as Fairmont Mayakoba in Mexico, a massive hollowed-out log hangs in a protected space where guests can see rare Melipona bees. The honey being harvested from these native Yucatan bees is known for its medicinal purposes, and is integrated in the spa treatments on site, as well as in food.

Each Fairmont property with beehives caters to a specific type of bee that makes sense for their climate. Local beekeepers are often used to tend the hives.

While Fairmont is providing much-need habitats for the pollinators, guests of the resorts are benefiting, too. The honey produced at each resort is used by chefs for culinary dishes, pastries and specialty cocktails, as well as spa treatments.

Feature image courtesy of Raj Taneja

By Kimberly Button

Kimberly Button is the author of The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home and the Editor-in-Chief of GetGreenBeWell , featuring modern, sane ideas for living a non-toxic life. A professional journalist for nearly two decades, Button has written for magazines such as Martha Stewart's Whole Living, American Airlines, AAA, Sierra, National Geographic Traveler, and Vegetarian Times. Visit for more information.