High-tech meets green thinking meets contemporary styling meets warm South African hospitality.
Just around the corner from the stately Huguenot Monument, tucked down a picturesque suburban road in the epically beautiful town of Franschhoek, you’ll find a hotel called theLAB LIFESTYLE Guesthouse. Named in honour of the founder and CEO’s pooch, theLAB (as in Labrador) employs smart technology and an eco-consciousness of abyssal depth in order to offer comfortable, modern accommodations that are carbon neutral and environmentally friendly.
To stay here or in any of theLAB Guesthouses’ three properties (Hout Bay, Robertson, and Franschhoek) is to immerse yourself in a wholly unique experience that is a nutritious smoothie of comfort, convenience, warm hospitality, and high-tech. I’ve never stayed in a ‘smart hotel’ so the experience had me squealing with delight at each tech-forward discovery, at the heart of which is a deep commitment to saving energy and, ergo, the environment.
Echo? Is it me you’re looking for?
As mentioned theLAB LIFESTYLE Guesthouses are all smart hotels, which embrace high-tech, eco-centric living powered by green energy, courtesy of a roof full of solar panels. Other manifestations of this philosophy include, amongst others, a free solar-powered electric car charging station; no plastic water bottles, only glass; friendly-to-nature toiletries in rooms; and water and energy conservation principles, appliances, and guest education. But the star of the show has got to be the in-room smart technology called Echo, an unassuming ceiling-mounted white box with a central circular sensor. No, don’t worry, there’s no camera.
Echo – you’ll be more familiar with the name Siri or Alexa – is essentially a voice activated, in-room assistant that, short of trotting your bladder off to the toilet to be emptied, will do absolutely anything for you, from turning on the TV and playing Ed Sheeran’s latest hit to dropping the blinds and turning out the lights when you’re ready to hit the hay. She’ll even make you a cup of coffee and tell you the meaning of life. All you need to do is ask!
Technologically challenged? No problem!
If you find this degree of tech a little intimidating, you can easily operate the various in-room features yourself using the usual assortment of buttons and remote controls, all of which come with easy-to-follow instructions. It might take a little orientation and getting used to but, unless you’re already so familiar with using AI that this all sounds “so-last-season”, it is my most ardent recommendation that you play around with Echo. It blows my mind that I can lie in bed and have a machine make coffee for me without having to set foot outside my warm sheets.
Other items on the menu
Impressive technology aside, theLAB LIFESTYLE Guesthouses offer modern, attractive, and affordable accommodation in spectacularly beautiful locations. The staff takes excellent care of guests, with everything you could want and need to enjoy a comfortable and adventurous stay within close reach. There are bicycles and e-scooters for hire; spa treatments and massages; an impressive home theatre complete with popcorn machine, which you can rent out for the night; a warm swimming pool and jacuzzi; a sundeck and outside bar area with amazing views of the embracing Franschhoek mountains; and, that essential of 21st Century offerings: free, high-speed Wi-Fi. At Hout Bay, the offering is matched with only the cinema being slightly smaller (but who cares?) and the views being a little different yet no less beautiful.
TheLAB LIFESTYLE Guesthouses also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner prepared from locally grown ingredients, and maintain a truly impressive list of hyper local wines. With each of the three smart hotels being located in or nearby the Cape’s most loved and lauded wine regions – Franschhoek, Robertson, and Hout Bay (10-minutes’ drive from the Constantia wine route) – these wine lists are veritable works of art: creations of sublime beauty to any wine lover.
Other fun things
Being in Franschhoek, is was our duty and privilege to enjoy the fruits of one of the Cape’s most astoundingly beautiful wine routes. And we were treated to a wine tasting of Holden Manz’ wine range (hosted by proprietor and owner Gerard Holden himself). Similarly, during our stay at the Hout Bay branch of theLAB LIFESTYLE Guesthouse, we did a tasting of Beau Constantia wines under the guidance of winemaker Megan van der Merwe. And when we weren’t lounging about the pool, pickling ourselves in the jacuzzi, sipping on wine, and feasting on healthily delicious meals, we were be treated to massages in the spa or exploring the luscious surrounds on the back of electric scooters, which are readily available for hire by guests of theLAB.
The bigger picture
TheLAB’s smart hotels are so much more than a mere curiosity or a tech-lover’s braingasm. This is not about being ahead of the technology curve or trying to impress guests with shiny state-of-the-art-ness. At the heart and soul of theLAB LIFESTYLE Guesthouses is a powerful message and a pervasive philosophy: the importance of having a zero carbon footprint. All of the power used here is generated cleanly by solar panels and any excess is fed back into the grid. Guests are also encouraged to save water and dispose of waste in an environmentally friendly fashion. This approach, coupled with the technologies mentioned earlier, has managed to bring theLAB’s carbon emissions down to below zero because they feed more energy back into the grid than they use.
There is no Plan(et) B
What theLAB LIFESTYLE Guesthouses are doing serves as a crucial model for other hospitality establishments. They are actively demonstrating that you don’t have to restrict or sacrifice comfort, quality of service, and travel experience in order to be kinder to the environment. With the right investment and training, it is possible to operate a hotel with a zero-carbon footprint and send guests home glowing with happy travel memories, which is a fundamental message for today and for the future because there is no plan(et) B.
Cape Town | Tarragona
Address: 4073 Valley Road, Hout Bay, Cape Town, 7806 South Africa
Phone: +27 (0) 21 790 5080
Address: 15 Nerina Street, Franschhoek, 7690, South Africa
Phone: +27 (0) 64 928 5626
Robertson | Rosendal
Address: Klaas Voogds West, Robertson, 6707, South Africa
Phone: +27 (0)23 626 1570