Back to Basics with Thomas Klein

We are absolutely thrilled to announce the launch of our brand-new series of exclusive interviews featuring like-minded Movers & Shakers in the Wellness industry including plant-based and vegan influencers, businesses owners, entrepreneurs and innovators from across the globe. Expect organic and down-to-earth talks where guests will share with us their stories, their business, their goals and motivations, their journeys and so much more.

Our 1st issue of Like-Minded Talks features an insightful interview with Thomas Klein, world renowned Berlin-based travel journalist and Co-Founder of the leading Vegan & Vegetarian Hotel platforms VeggieHotels and Award Winner of the Vegan Travel Award 2021 as Best Travel Online Portal VeganWelcome.

Wellnessbymod (MOD): Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey towards becoming vegan?

Thomas Klein (T.K.): Becoming a vegetarian felt like a natural move when I was 15 years old and very much in tune with the spirit of the seventies, as it is today, the awareness of our fragile climate among the Fridays for Future kids. Then 11 years ago I made the move to a vegan diet, which felt kind of logic, as vegan certainly is the new vegetarian.

“It’s the bold energy of the young people that gives the momentum. And still today our food plays a vital role in overcoming the current crises”. T.K. 

MOD: What inspired you to embark on this Journey?

T.K.: I’ve been mostly inspired by literature about healthy living and vegan diet, that in the last years exploded in numbers.

MOD:  What are some of your go-to vegan meals and what’s your favorite cuisine when it comes to vegan / vegetarian dishes?

T.K.: There are so many dishes, that have always been plant-based and I loved as a child. My favorites are still pasta in all forms and rice-dishes with vegetables. Despite all the fancy vegan recipes that are found everywhere, I prefer simple and easy to prepare dishes.

MOD:  Any favorite Asian vegan dish?

T.K.: I really love Indian dosas (rice crepes) with coconut chutney. Fortunately, there are some Indian restaurants even in Berlin that make them really well.

MOD:  What tips would you give to someone going vegan for the first time?

“Take your time and go for what you like. Don’t strain.” T.K.

T.K.: A good idea is to take part in one of the 30-days challenges, that many vegan organisations offer, like PETA or Veganuary. Here one learns the first steps, with many tips and recipes for beginners.

MOD: What made you create this incredible Hotel platform aimed for vegans and vegetarians?

“While traveling or going on vacation everyone who is living a plant-based lifestyle has experienced the difficulties of finding good food – for what use are beautiful rooms and enticing pools when all you can order in the restaurant are the side dishes?”. T.K.

T.K.: As travel journalists my wife Karen and I were always out and about. However, it was often difficult and generally took a lot of effort to find purely vegetarian hotels and guest houses. Since at that time there was no extensive collection of vegetarian accommodation, we saw it as a motivational challenge to create a complete list of worldwide hotels, B&Bs and guest houses that specialise in vegetarian cuisine in one platform. Together with IT expert Peter Haunert we then launched the internet portal VeggieHotels in September 2011 as the world’s largest hotel directory for purely vegetarian and vegan hotels, B&B lodgings, seminar and health centers. The portal meanwhile has grown to several hundred venues in 62 countries.

MOD:  How about VeganWelcome? What inspired you to launch a second hotel website?

T.K.: More and more establishments that traditionally feature meat and fish in their menus are embracing veganism and offer their guests excellent vegan meals alongside their conventional dishes. As a result, in 2015 we created VeganWelcome as another web portal that lists highly recommendable vegan-friendly hotels. The VeganWelcome properties are ideal places for families and friends to stay when not everyone has (yet) developed a passion for strictly vegetarian or vegan menus.

With already more than 130 hotels in over 20 countries this directory provides a wide selection of vegan travel offers ranging from a 5-star hotel in Vienna, exciting resorts in India and California as well as destinations for hikers and nature lovers at Lake District in Great Britain or the Alps. The VeganWelcome selection of hotels is as exciting and diverse as the vegan cuisine itself.

MOD:  Your meat-free travellers are mainly vegans or there’s a nice ratio between vegans and meat eaters that are open and looking forward to a vegan break/holiday?

T.K.: Our VeggieHotels platform is mainly used by vegans and vegetarians, as all hotels there are 100% vegetarian or even vegan. But also people who intend to make a change towards a vegan diet choose a VeggieHotel for their vacation, to get an experience of a high-class veggie cuisine for inspiration. In the other hand, for VeganWelcome we see, that many families or travel groups (where not everyone is vegan/vegetarian), choose hotels from this selection that cater for vegans and omnivores as well.

MOD: In your opinion, what is the main reason why travellers are choosing this type of holidays?

T.K.: The reasons to choose a vegan/vegetarian or vegan-friendly hotel are the same as the choices people make for their diet at home. You can group them under three main reasons: Health, Ethics and ecological considerations.
In general, the hotels in our selection are also very eager to keep their ecological footprint as low as possible. And after all, for vegans it is so relaxing, when you stay in a vegan or vegan-friendly hotel, that you don’t have to bother about the food.

MOD:  With more countries opening for tourists and with a bigger and broader awareness and knowledge about veganism, do you see an increased interest for vegan holidays now compared to the years before the pandemic?

T.K.: We indeed see a growing interest in more sustainable holiday alternatives, which includes hotels that serve vegan food as a standard. Due to the pandemic many people realised that their choices in daily live matter. Also the great impact of factory farming on climate change becomes more and more an accepted fact.

MOD: As a vegan and world traveler what’s your favorite destination?  

T.K.: Italy has always been one of my favorite countries. But I also love to travel to Asia and other countries around the world.

MOD: In your opinion, what is the most vegan friendly Country/City in the world?

T.K.: As I live in Berlin/Germany I can say that Berlin is a very vegan-friendly city. But I hear the same from London and New York. One must distinguish between countries that always had a large variety of traditionally meat free dishes like India and the rather newly development of a vegan lifestyle in western countries like the USA, Great Britain and Germany, where new vegan products achieve enormous growth rates.

MOD: Your platform includes several hundred vegan/vegetarian hotels, resorts, retreats, B&B, and inns around the World. What’s your opinion about Asia as a Vegan destination and the link between vegan and raw foods holidays when it comes to the environment, sustainability, wellbeing, wellness retreats and spirituality for instance?

T.K.: I think that many Asian countries like China and India have a great tradition of plant-based and also raw food dishes. In the context of the growing interest in vegan food, ecological issues and health considerations, it should be very easy for hotels and retreats in these countries to pick up this trend and concentrate on the growing target group of people who look out for sustainable offers.

MOD: An increasing number of travellers consider a brand’s environmental efforts when making travel decisions. What’s your take on the demand for the travel industry to provide more suitable options for travellers?

T.K.: For many people a vegan lifestyle combines several issues that become more and more important nowadays. An ethically responsible, health-conscious and ecologically sustainable lifestyle appears to young people in particular as a necessity for solving many of today’s problems. According to an Oxford University study, people who eat meat are responsible for almost twice as many dietary greenhouse-gas emissions per day as vegetarians and about 2.5 times as many emissions compared to vegans.

MOD: What do you see trending in the vegan world overall post covid times and what’s the next big move for VeggieHotels moving forward?

T.K.: According to Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer data, “the global vegan food market is expected to reach a value of over 22 billion U.S. dollars in 2025. In 2021, the market size was close to 16 billion U.S. dollars. The compound annual growth rate is expected to be nine percent.”

For example already 54% of Germans describe themselves as flexitarians, meaning they are eating primarily vegetarian diet and only occasionally eating meat or fish.

So we are sure, that the demand for vegan offers in all areas will rise further. For VeggieHotels and VeganWelcome this will mean to expand further and extend our selection to more and more countries.

All images are Courtesy of VeggieHotels, VeganWelcome and their stunning partner Hotels – Cal Reiet  and Ethos Vegan Suites