5 Hospitality Brands Leading the Way in Conscious, Environment-minded Travel
Looking for a way to vacation while helping the planet? Here’s where to stay, based on insight from the 2023 Global Vision Awards.
The Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards aim to identify and honor companies, individuals, destinations, and organizations taking strides to develop more sustainable and responsible travel products, practices, and experiences. Not only are they demonstrating thought leadership and creative problem-solving, they are taking actionable, quantifiable steps to protect communities and environments around the world. What's more, they are inspiring their industry colleagues and travelers to do their part.
Choosing the perfect accommodations is a pivotal part of any trip-planning process, and more than ever, the right fit means a property that invests in both place and people. From a private-island getaway to a mountaintop camp, these 2023 Global Vision Awards hospitality honorees value their local communities and support them in meaningful ways, such as building affordable housing and offering skills training to staff, or inviting visitors to learn about local culture in reflective, respectful experiences. We also celebrate a new portfolio of properties that organize values-driven hotels into a database that travelers can rely upon as a trustworthy source for future adventures. — T+L Editors
This new resort off the coast of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, has 14 rooms and villas on 43 acres. It was partially made from locally sourced shells and stones, offers electric-only transportation vehicles (with solar-powered models on the way), and includes herb and vegetable gardens that provide ingredients for on-site dining.
Guests can rent the entire island or sign up for self-empowerment seminars focused on themes such as “presence” or “strength.” In 2023, the Aerial Recovery Heal the Heroes program is welcoming veterans and first responders for five-day complimentary retreats to connect with peers and transition back to civilian life.
And while many elements of a typical wellness escape are in place, including health-focused snacks and superfood-infused cocktails, guests also assist in reef cleanup and other hands-on conservation projects. Profits from the resort’s boutique go directly to the Aerial Recovery organization, which supports natural-disaster relief, ending human trafficking, and education programs in developing nations. — Tom Vanderbilt
Traveling more sustainably can mean sifting through a torrent of soothing promises and varying accreditations. The Beyond Green portfolio of the Preferred Travel Group helps cut through the clutter. On its dedicated booking platform, users can search a list of PTG member hotels, resorts, and safari lodges that meet a stringent set of criteria informed, in part, by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, a set of objectives that serve as guideposts for responsible tourism. “One of our primary educational aims is to expand the idea that ‘sustainable travel’ refers only to environment-friendly operations,” says Nina Boys, vice president of sustainability. “It also means supporting natural and cultural heritage and providing tangible benefits to local communities.” The owners of Coulibri Ridge, in Dominica, for instance, helped locals rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Maria. Travelers can earn extra PTG loyalty points by participating in Beyond Green enrichment activities, such as a paleontology lecture at Three Camel Lodge, in Mongolia. — T.V.
Haida Gwaii, a temperate archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, is home to the Haida, a First Nations people leading the area’s cultural, eco-conscious tourism efforts at a time when there are still too few Indigenous-owned and operated businesses in the industry.
The Haida Tourism division of the Haida Development program oversees guided activities and two rustic properties: the Ocean House at Tlaga Gawtlaas and the Haida House at Tllaal, both open seasonally on Graham Island, the largest in the archipelago. Visitors can enroll in craft classes with Haida artisans, kayak on the Yakoun River, and otherwise immerse themselves in the ancient forests, where a wealth of fauna thrives, including North America’s largest subspecies of black bears.
“Every element is guided by yahguudang, which means respect for all living things and the interdependence that binds us,” operations manager Kathy James says. Being in a remote place makes this kind of work tricky, she says, but it’s also “a huge part of the magic.” — T.V.
Pasang Lhamu Foundation and Mountain Lodges Nepal
Named for the pioneering climber Pasang Lhamu Sherpa — the first Nepalese woman to summit Mount Everest, who tragically died on the descent — the humanitarian Pasang Lhamu Foundation was established by her family in 1993 to help improve the living standards of Nepalese women and children. In 2022, the family launched Mountain Lodges Nepal, an arm of its Sherpa Hospitality Group run by Lhamu’s son, Namgyal Sherpa.
The three entities work closely together to create opportunities in the Khumbu region, where the Nepalese side of Mount Everest is located. During the pandemic, the Pasang Lhamu Foundation launched the Learn to Earn program, which gives vocational training to locals at Lukla Lodge, one of Sherpa Hospitality’s 18 hotels. Proceeds from the lodge’s café go back into the foundation.
Other long-standing projects have included building the Pasang Lhamu Nicole Niquille Hospital, which supports scholarship programs and trains guides and mountain-rescue personnel. — T.V.
Located eight miles outside the town of Todos Santos in Baja California, Mexico, this oceanfront 103-room boutique hotel, once a poblano-chile farm, reopened in November after four years of thoughtful, sustainability-focused renovation. “I had a vision for what this could be, and I wanted to do it the right way,” founder Lisa Harper says of the land she originally bought in the 1990s.
Rancho Pescadero now has its own desalination and water bottling plant, uses no plastics, and keeps lighting on the beach minimal so as not to disturb the turtle population that nests on nearby beaches. Native plants that were moved during construction were tagged with GPS coordinates and restored at the conclusion of the project. “We tried to reuse any discarded materials from the renovation, like wood or tile, to create new structures such as the patios in the gardens,” Harper says. A solar farm is part of a forward-looking project to make the estate fully energy-efficient in the next three years.
Most important is Harper’s affordable-housing initiative: she’s leading an effort to add 21 on-property homes for staff and their families. Looking ahead, her goal is to build 170 homes and apartments in total, plus a technical school to teach skills like accounting and computer security. — Hannah Selinger
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