Local Hotel Hero
Responsible travel requires more than the odd recycling programme – here we champion hotels that give a little something back; to the community and to the environment.
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.
Founder, creative director and namesake of thriving Australian jewellery and accessories brand, Lucy Folk
Former Qantas high-flier Jason is now the curator of Sydney’s most covetable lifestyle concept store
Roald’s granddaughter Phoebe is founder and CEO of conscious clothing brand Faircloth + Supply
Most Spoiling Spa
Best Family Hotel
Local Hotel Hero winners...
‘Not only is this place perfect for unwinding in paradise, they also take great care in minimaising their carbon footprint, using solar power, growing their own produce and reducing the use of plastic materials. Additionally, the owner has a foundation to support local community projects, so everything on the hotel property is crafted by locals.’
– Phoebe Dahl Founder and CEO, Faircloth + Supply
RUNNER-UP: 1 HOTEL BROOKLYN BRIDGE, NEW YORK, US
As it’s built to LEED guidelines – 22 per cent recycled materials and 32 per cent regional materials – much of this hotel’s upcycled ephemera tells tales of nearby neighbourhoods: recycled wood from the Coney Island boardwalk, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and Bronx-grown trees felled by Hurricane Sandy; a check-in desk fashioned from tornado debris… A high-water mark of sensitive urban development.
RUNNER-UP: SÃO LOURENÇO DO BORROCAL, ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL
Owner José Antonio has spent 14 painstaking years restoring his estado with an unwavering devotion to the local land (250,000 roof tiles were salvaged from buildings far and wide; 780 acres of neglected farmland restored). There are admirable commitments to recycling, renewable energy, farm-to-table fare and regional traditions – yet José still goes that extra mile, personally marking walking routes and offering balloon rides.
Here they make good with their Arts District address, partnering with the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts to host rotating exhibitions, give wall space to local collective Where Y’Art and host an artist-in-residence program that lets out-of-town talent lodge for a month to create NOLA-inspired works. It’s the little things, too: guests are encouraged to enjoy responsible stays with $5 minibar credit for every day they skip housekeeping.
Turn the corner into this luxurious campground and you’ll come face-to-face with your new campmates: Lakshmi the Indian elephant and her pals, liberated from gruelling tourist treks in the city to roam free in these wild surrounds. Most of the nothing’s-too-much-trouble staff here are from nearby farming villages and will proudly take you to visit – there's a genuine desire to show off the local lands everybody here so clearly loves.
Hemmed in high up the Himalayas, it’s safe to say this secluded stay has eco-cred to spare: most lodgings run on solar power, waste water is reused and the chef serves a strictly locavore menu. There is plentiful proof, too, that there really ain’t no mountain high enough to keep from a commitment to local communities – the buildings are leased so the owners can profit from, and have involvement in the overall experience.
Seclusion is written into Kamalame Cay’s DNA: there are only 19 rooms, spread across 96 acres of wild Bahaman island. Impressively, this also extends to the surrounding waters where invasive lionfish, who disrupt the more peaceful ecosystem by preying on indigenous fish, are captured by local fisherman and served as delicious starters at the laid-back restaurant.
Sponsorship of the town’s capoeira school lets children learn without tuition fee worries, fish is bought directly from traditional by-hand fishermen who can use the hotel’s wood for repairs and beach bar for well-earned refreshment, and they run a pioneering eco-education initiative for the community’s young people. The continuing ‘Artist in Casa’ scheme ensures a steady supply of Trancoso-inspired works to decorate the soothing surrounds.
The passage in question is the one that runs underneath this brand-new hotel. Dating back to 1878, the alley – in the heart of the textile district – was once the haunt of craftsmen and merchants. While many would have bulldozed history to squeeze in a car park or somesuch, the Yurbban collective have preserved it in a bid to ‘bring the location back to life and maintain its transient spirit’. This respect for their environment extends to the one per cent of every booking that’s gifted to local children's charities.
Proudly standing proof that everybody needs good neighbours. The hotel itself is named as a nod to beloved bakery Sandholt nextdoor – and if their easily fetched cinnamon buns don’t quite warm you up, staff will happily deliver threads from your other neighbour: Iceland’s oldest tailors. This collegial co-operation helped preserve crucial elements of the historic buildings – Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness once lodged here, too.
Local Hotel Hero award criteria
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.
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.
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.
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.