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Change Makers X: Mr & Mrs Smith

Set your mind to it: paving the way for sustainable tourism – Wilbert Das and Bob Shevlin, Uxua Casa

About This Episode

In this Change Makers series in collaboration with Mr & Mrs Smith, we explore the travel industry’s role in delivering a more sustainable future in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the growing climate emergency.

This week Michael Hayman is joined by Wilbert Das and Bob Shevlin, Founders of Uxua Casa. The hotel and spa is set right on the Unesco-protected Quadrado, making it an easy stroll to the artisans’ workshops and restaurants lining the grassy town square. But the Unesco site isn’t the only one under protection: the clutch of casas were born in 2006, carved out of a collection of original fishermen’s houses and inspired by authentic craftsmanship which the founders strive to preserve.


Wilbert Das and Bob Shevlin, Founders of Uxua Casa

Described as luxury with a clear conscience, Uxua Casa is the only business nominated 3-consecutive years for Virtuoso’s Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award, and was the first Brazilian hotel accepted as signatory to the UN Global Contact. In response to the pandemic, it united its clients and competitors alike in a highly effective campaign to keep food on the table for everyone; distributing 127 tons of food and 61,000 personal hygiene and cleaning items across Brazil. Sit back and listen to how this hotel combines traditional techniques, local produce and community, paving the way for ultimate sustainable tourism.

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Lockdown List

What is a book that has changed your life?

Wilbert: The World Atlas

Bob: I’d say the Bible, even if I’m not at all a religious person. As a child in a Catholic school those stories really provoked my interest in geography, history, and ancient societies. I developed at a really young age a mental map of the middle east, Egypt and all the realm of the Roman empire, and I got a big curiosity to visit these places. It was the beginning of my travel bug and an interest in history and anthropology which never left me.

What are you watching at the moment?

Wilbert: The sloths in my garden

Bob: Very random but I’m re-watching MERU, a 2015 documentary film chronicling the first ascent of the “Shark’s Fin” route on Meru Peak in the Indian Himalayas. I love the nature and scenography, the mountains are totally another landscape, might as well be the moon. And of course I love the ambition, focus, maybe we can even say madness of these climbers.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Wilbert: Mother Nature

Bob: Well I would say Wilbert, who is my partner. He had a big influence on me especially when I began working in fashion in Europe. He was already a successful creative director with a big team but I saw how in the creative process he was always very collaborative and generous. There were certain situations I observed him actually working with quite a large talent / experience gap between himself and others at the table, be it with some young designers or even a group of marketing people, and Wilbert always treated everyone’s opinions as welcome, valid, encouraging others to get their ideas out. Wilbert’s approach is gentle and respectful and that makes others comfortable and confident, elevates them to really expose themselves and take chances. It’s a great way to work if you enjoy mixing design and travel as much as we do.

In one sentence, describe your ‘new normal’

Wilbert: Spend as much time as I can outside in nature.

Bob: I’m actually a very solitary person especially in my working approach, I like to be totally alone and surrounded by silence. The last year and a half probably enabled me to take that to a bit of an extreme and I’ll need to dial it back somewhat in the near future.

What is your best tip for life?

Wilbert: Live for the now. 

Bob: Take action. Doing things can be far less burdensome than thinking about doing them.

A quote for life

Wilbert: If every religion and theology were replaced by glorification of the value of respecting others, we’d surely have a happier world.

Bob: Gratitude is underrated. Never let a day go by that you don’t actively and consciously remember the good things in your life.

What five tracks would make up your lockdown soundtrack?


  • Ay mariposa – Pedro luis Ferrer (from soundtrack of Before Night Falls)
  • Here comes the sun – Nina Simone 
  • Sylvia – Arthur Verocai 
  • Rio Amazonas – Dori Caymmi 
  • Les fleur – 4Hero, Carina Andersson

Bob: Too much time alone during the pandemic let me go down so many youtube music rabbit holes! I turned up hundreds of live versions of some songs I love, here’s a few.

  • Ladders – Mac Miller with Jon Batiste & Stay Human (The Late Show 2018)
  • Transcendence – Carlos Santana with Greg Walker on vocals (or Soul Sacrifice performed at Woodstock, this one is a tie)
  • Train in Vain – The Clash (Lewisham Odeon 1980)
  • We the People – A Tribe Called Quest (Saturday Night Live 2016)
  • City of Ruins – Bruce Springsteen (World Trade Centre benefit concert 2001)
  • Save It For Later, cover of the English Beat – Pete Townshend and The Deep End (2010)
  • Never My Love, cover of the Association – The Fifth Dimension (MDA Telethon 1971)
  • Stevie Wonder and Tom Jones medley – This is Tom Jones TV show, 1969


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