Local Hotel Hero

What makes a hotel a local hero? It's wholly committed to conserving, protecting and enjoying its environment, is fiercely community minded, has an ethical approach, strives to minimise its footprint, and does this all while enhancing the guest experience.

Winner: Salt of Palmar, Mauritius

Our judges say ‘This isn’t a hotel that begrudgingly makes concessions to the environment – Salt of Palmar literally exists to serve the community and reduce the carbon footprint of the area. And it does it creatively and with tonnes of style, from the beach baskets made of recycled flotsam to the guidebook of the island, written by a team of talented locals’.

Bawah Reserve, Indonesia

Bawah Reserve may be remote (tantalisingly beyond reach in Indonesia’s Anambas Archipelago) but that hasn’t stopped it forming ties with communities on neighbouring islands whose livelihoods rely on the sea. The hotel’s marine biologists work tirelessly on relocating turtle eggs and managing the fish stock of surrounding reefs. The site itself was built without the use of machinery including the asymmetrical jetty, which jauntily sidesteps the fragile coral.

Borgo Pignano, Tuscany

Respect for the land is not a rarity in these parts but the way the team at Borgo Pignano impart their passion to guests is as organic as their methods. Learn how to mill flour from just-picked wheat (then make your own pizzas with it), spend time with the bee whisperer (really), pluck herbs and flowers to make into soap (or use in your cocktail if you prefer)... Elsewhere, the sensitive restoration continues with some pioneering touches – for one, they’re the first in the region to successfully use swales: a natural system for retaining rainwater.

Arima Hotel, San Sebastián

Everything at Arima Hotelfrom the aluminium tiles to the bath products, were chosen for being as kind to the planet as possible, contributing to the creation of one of the most eco-friendly hotels in Europe. And don’t just take our word for it, it adheres to the rigorous energy efficiency standards set out by the Passivhaus movement, innovatively using geothermal and aerothermal energy, water-flow reduction filters and selective waste management. Proof that less really can mean more.

Casa de São Lourenço, Serra da Estrela

'We are committed to the mountain because the mountain is our house’ – the simple value that underpins life at Casa de São Lourenço. Designer touches are from local Portuguese craftsfolk (with a sizeable spotlight shone on artist Maria Keil) and sustainability drives most other efforts but the hotel’s most remarkable achievement is with burel. The region was once the major producer of this tactile textile until recession rendered the factory all but shuttered. Spotting its architectural potential, the owners incorporated the rough-hewn wool liberally into their plans, helping it back on the map and reversing its fortunes. A touching story, indeed.

View previous winners

We've more heroes dotted across the globe. Check out our winners from previous Smith Awards…

Local hotel hero award criteria

DOWN-TO-EARTH

Guests don't always need to know how their waste water is used, or what kind of lightbulbs the hotel has chosen. An eco-friendly hotel will inform, share, show and guide where necessary, and there should be transparency – but nobody wants a lecture.

COMMUNITY-SPIRITED

Does this hotel give something back? Does it employ local staff and support local projects? Ethical awareness, conservation of all kinds and respect for the larger regional community count.

INNOVATIVE

Buildings that are not just carbon-neutral or low-impact but which lead the way architecturally; pioneering use of new technology or a showcase for traditional methods; trailblazers in the eco-hotel sphere.

INSPIRING

Watching turtles hatch, or rare sharks swim over a protected house reef; marvelling at a pristine landscape sound in the knowledge that you are not also polluting it; meeting people who have benefited from community projects – a hotel that can make these moments happen is to be celebrated.