Travelers Want More Sustainable Vacation Experiences. The World’s Top Hotels Are Answering the Call.

sustainable vacations
Image courtesy Galen Crout on Unsplash

Vacations that support conservation efforts and low-impact sustainable tourism are more in-demand than ever. Here’s how hotels are rising to the challenge.

The travel landscape is changing. Travelers have adapted to life with Covid, which can mean canceled flights or those that were once direct, now involving multiple stops to get to their final destination. And as consumers seek out vacations, some for the first time in more than two years, they want those trips to matter—and not just for their own gain.

four seasons hotel
Image courtesy Four Seasons

According to the recent 2022 Kind Traveler Global Impact Tourism Report, 96 percent of travelers said it’s important that their travel dollars help make a positive impact.

More than a third of respondents said their greatest travel challenge is reducing their carbon footprint. Nearly half said their greatest challenge is finding sustainable and socially responsible accommodations, and nearly all travelers said they wanted their travel dollars to make a positive impact on the places they visit.

“Trends give us direction, while solutions give us better pathways forward,” report author and Kind Traveler CEO Jessica Blotter said in a statement. A former science teacher, Blotter said “education and positive change are interlinked.”

Sustainable hotels

The report comes as hotels are adapting to their more sustainably-minded consumers. Efforts across vacation destinations such as The Maldives and Monaco are seeing sustainability metrics become more than a hotel perk—they’re woven into guest activities and attractions. In the Maldives, for example, a growing number of hotels now employ marine biologists who are working with the local government and NGOs on conservation efforts for marine wildlife. But they’re also building out education curricula for guests interested in more than typical vacation activities.

Similar efforts are underway in Turkey and Greece, and in Mexico, where the Four Seasons’ newest offering is ultra-luxury glamping, that immerses guests in nature and culture.

“The Naviva Resort will be an exceptional retreat for those seeking highly individualized service, curated wellness experiences and artful culinary offerings that reflect the culture and character of Mexico,” Bart Carnahan, President, the Four Seasons Global Business Development and Portfolio Management, said in a statement. “This is an ambitious and innovative new project for our brand, with every detail focused on the wellbeing of the guests, the sustainability of the design and the celebration of the destination.”

hilton hotel galapagos
Image courtesy Royal Palm Galápagos Hotel

Destinations where stays are most often flanked with visits to national parks or nature reserves, such as The Galápagos Islands and Costa Rica, are also seeing an influx in sustainable offerings. The Hilton Hotel has become the first points hotel in the Galápagos Islands. It’s taking over the long-standing Royal Palm Galápagos hotel.

 “Nestled in a life-changing destination, this picturesque boutique hotel will offer guests a truly unique travel experience while continuing to protect and preserve the destination’s ecosystem,” Juan Corvinos, senior vice president, development, architecture and design, Caribbean and Latin America, Hilton, said in a statement.

West London’s Room2 ‘hometel’ says it’s the first net-zero hotel, with emissions nearly 90 percent lower than most traditional stays.

Last November, a group representing more than 25,000 hotels worldwide, including Louvre and Radisson, formed an alliance to develop unified sustainable hospitality standards. Last year also saw Small Luxury Hotels of the World release its first collection of sustainable boutique hotels prioritizing conservation and biodiversity at locations around the world from Bhutan to Italy.

Cruelty-free accommodations

The New York Post reports that luxury hotels are making changes to attract vegan guests, too. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, now includes two vegan guest rooms.

“We’re seeing a notable rise in veganism’s popularity,” Michael Koth, Emirates Palace’s general manager told the Post. “Supermarkets are well-stocked with plant-based products, international airlines offer vegan meal options, and even luxury car brands are debuting leather-free interiors. Veganism is omnipresent in our daily life and continues to drive societal changes. So why not offer a vegan luxury hotel experience?”

The Emirates Palace offers vegan toiletries, vegan minibars, and vegan in-room dining.

While there are a number of smaller boutique hotels that have long catered to vegan and vegetarian guests, as well as those sustainably minded, larger chains and points hotels are new to the space. In 2019, the Hilton London Bankside opened its first vegan suite that featured all vegan furnishings, including a vegan leather headboard made from pineapple leather.

Image courtesy Ovolo Hotels

Ovolo Hotels, with a dozen locations across Hong Kong, Australia, and Bali, announced earlier this year that it was removing meat from all of its menus for at least the next year. The chain tested a meatless option in 2020, removing meat and fish for a year.

“Meat is being removed for a second year in a row at Ovolo Hotels. With a number of our Ovolo venues already serving plant-based cuisine, we have decided to go the full 100 percent,” Ovolo Group’s founder and CEO, Girish Jhunjhnuwala, said in a statement.

“It’s been a strategic move, but Ovolo prides itself on being an industry leader. We believe that the world changes, therefore we continue to evolve – we want to ensure we are doing our bit to help preserve our environment, promote healthy eating and enhance the image of amazing vegetarian and plant-based dining.”

Blotter says that by creating and offering more kind choices, “it’s possible to create tourism opportunities that drive positive impact and trip satisfaction.”

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