Photo courtesy of E+ / TriggerPhoto
With sustainable tourism on the rise, the expectations for hotels to adapt to the eco-standard have also risen. While many global properties have tested the waters with meeting minimum standards in eco-tourism – reducing single-use plastic or assessing waste management – some hotels are choosing to look beyond trending initiatives to keep up with the industry standard, as they pioneer projects to ensure a positive impact with longevity.
From establishing a carbon neutral footprint to restoring reefs and partnering with local schools, these hotels not only pride themselves on giving back to their locales, but also take pride in raising awareness and educating guests on how to directly get involved in conservation during their stay. And it's all while providing take-home lessons for a positive impact beyond their vacation.
Photo courtesy of Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Tabacon - Costa Rica
Positioned on 900 acres of rainforest reserve, Tabacon is dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of its surroundings with a seven-pillar sustainability plan targeting governance, internal public, environment, suppliers, responsible marketing, community and public politics.
Practices such as relying on the local thermal springs to feed its renowned thermal spa and educating guests on environmental protection during their stay have gained the 105-room boutique 'five leaves;' the highest category in the Certification for Sustainable Tourism awarded by the Costa Rican Board of Tourism.
Photo courtesy of Playa Viva
Playa Viva - Mexico
As the founding property in Regenerative Resorts’ portfolio, Playa Viva takes conservation a step further by committing to the regeneration of its local ecosystem. The 100% solar-run property protects its immediate environment through permaculture farming, mangrove restoration, and even considers the locals with a strong community impact program.
In addition to a percentage of guests’ payment funding local projects, like the Playa Viva Turtle Sanctuary, the resort encourages guests to understand broader conservation and regenerative efforts. That way, they can identify resorts with a similar ethos, so that their future trips have as much positive impact as their stay at Playa Viva.
Photo courtesy of Pikaia Lodge
Pikaia Lodge - Galapagos Islands
While many Galapagos adventure itineraries are offered as live-aboard cruises, Pikaia Lodge constructed 14 suites out of recycled materials to revitalize the islands’ economy through their land-based tourism model. In turn, both locals and the environment benefit from the job opportunities created here, including fishermen who once illegally poached sharks for their fins, and now run day-tour dives.
The resort itself is also entirely carbon neutral, operating on alternative energy resources to reduce environmental impact and the negative human footprint. All this in the midst of a private wild giant tortoise reserve where the owner contributed 12,000 trees to accommodate this animal sanctuary.
Photo courtesy of Baker's Cay Resort
Baker's Cay - Florida Keys
After suffering a blow from Hurricane Irma, the re-opened Baker’s Cay restructured their approach to sustainability through conscious partnerships with the likes of Lather (a carbon neutral bath products company) and Patron Tequila (commended for their water recycling program and production of 5,500 tons of fertilizer per year).
The resort provides guests with reusable water bottles, which can be refilled throughout the resort, and are available in the gift shop where a portion of proceeds go to the Coral Restoration Foundation. Lastly, Baker’s Cay encourages regular beach cleanups and opportunities to interact with staff to learn more about ocean health throughout Key Largo, the dive capital of the world.
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui
Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui - Thailand
As a popular dive and beach destination, Koh Samui infamously struggles with reef health and coral bleaching. Thus, the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui took conservation efforts into their own hands by offering Coral Talks for guests; intimate discussions that educate and raise awareness about the current state of the globe’s coral reefs, while honing in on Thailand’s most affected areas.
After this overview, guests can choose to join a marine biologist on a sustainable snorkeling tour where, oftentimes, they are encouraged to collect Drupella snails. These gastropods feed on coral tissue and ultimately contribute to reef deterioration.
Photo courtesy of Bawah Reserve
Bawah Reserve - Indonesia
As the first resort in the Anambas archipelago to sign a commitment with the World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia, Bawah Reserve is grounded in marine and forest conservation, as well as community development. The resort, a part of Regenerative Resorts, works closely with the Bawah Anambas Foundation to protect the fragile ecosystem of the isolated island, which is 30 nautical miles from any other land.
Efforts include an ongoing reforestation project to replenish damaged canopies, relocating turtle eggs to protected nesting beaches, using Bawah branded reef-friendly sunscreen, and creating safe drinking water from seawater via a desalination plant.
Photo courtesy of Vakkaru Maldives
Vakkaru Maldives - Baa Atoll, Maldives
Located in the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll, Vakkaru Maldives ensures its tourism footprint is minimal with guest education, guest activities and sustainable operations. The property offers House Reef Clean Ups, where guests can join a local team member to rid the surrounding reef of floating and submerged debris.
To further support reef health, Vakkaru encourages guests to partake in Coral Planting; Vakkaru collects fragments of coral from the local reef and grows them until they are mature, and this is when guests can plant their own coral, which Vakkaru will monitor for years to come.
Lastly, Vakkaru uses an on-site water treatment facility to provide clean drinking water – both still and sparkling – which are distributed in reusable glass bottles to each guest villa.
Photo courtesy of Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Petit St. Vincent - St. Vincent and The Grenadines
This boutique, 22-cottage resort inhabits the 115-acre private island of Petit St Vincent within St. Vincent and The Grenadines. The resort, therefore, bears the brunt of responsibility of conservation on the island, which they address through resort initiatives and activities.
That includes a reverse osmosis desalination plant, an ongoing reef restoration project (which guests can get involved with upon asking), and an organic chef’s garden to embody the “farm-to-fork” movement. In planting the garden, the team was able to remove the poisonous and invasive manchineel trees to replace them with the likes of banana and papaya trees.
To provide for the local community, the island’s owners established the Children Scholarship Fund, a financial opportunity to give back to their employees and assist with their children’s ongoing education.
Photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company
The Bushcamp Company - Zambia
Since its founding in 1999, The Bushcamp Company has been dedicated to improving the East African region of Mfuwe, as well as South Luangwa National Park. In the company’s early days, founder Andy Hogg recognized the importance of community and wildlife preservation, thus established the Luangwa Conservation and Community Fund (LCCF).
The Fund has since generated $2.5 million for improving the local community, including the sponsorship of students, payment of teachers, construction of classrooms and staff housing, access to clean drinking water and, in 2013, a school feeding program to feed 2,000 students at two local schools.
In addition to giving back, the camps and main lodge are all eco-conscious with the use of solar panels for power, lighting, charging and pumping water.
Photo courtesy of Le Meridien Bora Bora
Le Meridien, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
In 2000, a guest found and brought an injured turtle to a Le Meridien team member. Motivated by the guest’s desire to help injured marine life, the resort used this opportunity to start The Turtle Center project as a way to protect its surroundings.
Since then, the resort grew the program into the Ecological Center, where a museum, touch pool and tours of the inner lagoon expose guests to the island’s most at-risk species. The center also allows guests the chance to feed the rehabilitated turtles and to interact with local marine biologists, including an opportunity to shadow one of them for a day, while actively participating in the care of the injured sea turtles.