The Regenerative Travel Impact Awards 2021 — Regenerative Hotel of the Year

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The Regenerative Travel Impact Awards celebrate people and projects that embody the spirit of regeneration—improving people’s lives, our communities, and the world around us. We are searching the globe for inspiring changemakers working to solve our biggest challenges and inspiring positive action, both inside and outside of travel.

View the finalists for the Regenerative Hotel of the Year category, featuring operations that are catalysts for change and are innovating hospitality to promote positive social and environmental impact.

1. Fogo Island Inn

After growing up on Fogo Island, a small island off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, Zita Cobb decided to study business to understand the economic systems that had disadvantaged small communities like Fogo Island – bringing many to the brink of extinction. Following meteoric success in the high-tech industry, Zita returned to her birthplace and founded the registered charity, Shorefast, with the mandate to promote social, economic, and ecological resiliency for Fogo Island. Shorefast leads ocean-literacy and protection initiatives through their New Ocean Ethic program.

In 2013, Zita opened the Fogo Island Inn, a social business and an award-winning architectural landmark that has been named the #1 hotel in Canada and 3rd in the world. The Inn’s 100% social business model and commitment to community are clearly illustrated via Shorefast’s Economic Nutrition Certification Mark, which shows exactly “where the money goes” and how the cost of a stay contributes to the local economy, with the Inn and its related activities providing employment to 1 in 3 Fogo Island households. There is no private gain – all operating surpluses from the Inn are reinvested in Shorefast’s initiatives for the exclusive benefit of preserving the cultural heritage, supporting ecological sustainability, and investing in the economic wellbeing of Fogo Island. Zita’s approach to business is designed to serve the people and place for generations to come.

Zita understands that a regenerative travel experience in its true form includes human, social, economic, and environmental factors. In November 2020, to help create more globally recognized, locally driven businesses that benefit destinations, Zita launched the Community Economics Pilot, an enterprise that will apply learnings from Fogo Island to four different communities within Canada.

“I don’t want communities to become irrelevant the same way my dad became irrelevant,” Zita says. “These capacities to participate in the world are what’s going to make the difference on whether a culture or a community is going to survive.”

The Inn Team continually seeks ways to conserve and protect natural resources and to minimise waste. Lichens, plants, and mosses were temporarily relocated to reduce ecological impacts during construction. The Inn uses wood-fired boilers, solar thermal panels, and filtered rainwater, with 80% of ingredients used in the Inn’s kitchen coming from Fogo Island.

2. Volcanoes Safaris

As the pioneer in great ape tourism in Rwanda and Uganda, Praveen Moman, founder of Volcanoes Safaris and their four lodges, has contributed greatly to the conservation work to safeguard the Virunga mountain gorillas and the Kyambura chimpanzees, along with the local communities.

The Kyambura Gorge Eco-tourism Project has undertaken a series of activities since 2009 to safeguard the Kyambura Gorge ecosystem. Today, Volcanoes Safaris and Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust are the single largest stakeholders in the Gorge ecosystem after the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. Without the intervention of VS and VSPT, the survival of the gorge and chimps would be under severe threat.

Through these activities and the strategic assembling of four adjoining sites next to the Gorge over the last ten years, the VSPT helps to link Kyambura Gorge Lodge to the local community and promotes sustainable eco-tourism and conservation in one of the most important areas for avian, primate, and wildlife biodiversity in Africa.

Initiatives include not only those listed below but also a series of smaller projects with the local schools, teaching them the benefits of tourism and the natural value of wildlife diversity in the area. The project is the first of its kind in the area and is an example of the pioneering work conducted by the VSPT.

The VSPT has worked on purchasing the 3km long buffer along the northern part of the Gorge since 2009. With the purchase completed at the end of 2018 and following the Kyambura Eco-Tourism Project launch event in February 2019, a 3-hour guided walk was developed and is offered to guests to showcase the buffer created by the project, the scenic views over the Gorge, the Park and Kyambura reserve, and the chance to experience the local homesteads.

With the help of the community and of Volcanoes guests, approximately 3000 indigenous trees have been planted in the Kyambura Buffer area.

3. Mana Earthly Paradise

Established in 2019, Mana Earthly Paradise was founded to reimagine and redefine sustainability in business, especially in the tourism industry, which constitutes 80% of the Balinese economy. Co-owned by Aska and Tomo Hamakawa, Mana is managed by Earth Company, an award-winning social enterprise that empowers paradigm-shifting changemakers in the Asia Pacific and offers transformative training programs to professionals and students. Mana is the most recent social business of Earth Company that aims to host these training programs on sustainability and social innovation. Thus, Mana’s key objective is “edu-tainment” – education and entertainment.

Mana incorporates regeneration in every aspect possible, with the entire resort constructed using natural building techniques with ethically sourced materials. Combining comfort and consciousness, the villas are all earthbag walls with bamboo roofs that have natural ventilation, 100% solar-powered lighting, water-efficient toilets and showerheads, and eco-friendly toiletries in reusable containers. Offering an affordable dormitory was a deliberate design choice to enable the next generation to experience the future of tourism.

Given severe water shortages in Bali primarily caused by the tourism industry, Mana makes every effort towards responsible consumption of water: rainwater is harvested in a 60 cubic meter tank underground and filtered to serve potable water to the entire property. After usage, the wastewater goes through one of the four wetlands constructed on-site before being released to the neighboring water systems.

The restaurant uses only fresh, local, organic ingredients, many of which are from Mana’s own permaculture gardens. Organic waste from the kitchen is fed back to the gardens to create compost, resulting in a circular farm-to-table-to-farm concept. The Mana store embodies the values of regeneration and localism by only selling products that are socially and environmentally conscious and locally produced.

To amplify its impact on stakeholders, Mana has embarked on the B Corp journey, with an aim to become the first B Corp-certified hotel in Asia by the end of 2021. With its cutting edge eco-tech, sustainable environmental practices, and a locally responsible business model, Mana represents a leap forward for regenerative tourism in Bali and Indonesia.

4. Rockhouse Jamaica

The Rockhouse Hotel Jamaica, led by Founder, Chairman & CEO, Paul Salmon, is an award-winning boutique hotel perched over Pristine Cove on Negril’s west end. While prioritizing guests and developing an all-Jamaican team, the Rockhouse undertakes environmental best practices (certified for over 20 years) while putting back into the community through the Rockhouse Foundation.

In 2004 the Rockhouse Hotel team established the Rockhouse Foundation, a US charity that has invested over US $6 million in building, expanding and renovating seven Negril area public schools and the Negril Community Library. All administrative and fundraising costs of the foundation are underwritten by Rockhouse and Skylark Hotels and their owners, so all donations go directly to the projects. Guests are actively engaged in the foundation’s work through volunteer opportunities, scheduled weekly school visits sponsored by the hotel, an awareness campaign, and communication in guest rooms. The vast majority of funding for the foundation comes from the support of regular guests.

Over the past four years the foundation’s major focus has been building the Sav Inclusive School, inspired by a conversation with a Rockhouse team member who, as the mother of an autistic son, was confronting challenges with a lack of services in Western Jamaica and the stigma attached to disabilities. Working with the Ministry of Education, in 2017 the Sav Inclusive School was established, becoming Jamaica’s first public institution serving typical learning children and those with special needs in a full inclusion setting.

In response to the COVID pandemic and the closure of schools, the Rockhouse pivoted its program to provide weekly distributions of food staples to the most vulnerable families at the partner schools. Many families rely on the school breakfast and lunch programs as a primary source of nutrition. The COVID Relief Food Distribution Program has delivered over 100 tons of food, helping sustain over 1000 people throughout the pandemic.

The objective of Rockhouse is to create a regenerative balance between all the interested parties, by constantly reinvesting in the guest experience, the team, the environment, and the community.

5. Mashpi Lodge

At the forefront of rainforest protection, Mashpi Lodge is a center of conservation and biodiversity research that continues to break boundaries in sustainability. 

The lodge is located in the heart of the Mashpi Reserve in the Andean Chocó cloud forest, bought in 2006 by Roque Sevilla to prevent the nature reserve falling subject to deforestation. Mashpi Lodge was subsequently built off-site to minimise the negative environmental impact on surrounding biodiversity, before being airlifted into the cloud forest. Sevilla set about re-educating those that had been contracted to deforest the region, offering them work at Mashpi Lodge and increasing community engagement, and the hotel that was founded on the concept of conservation and sustainability opened in 2012.

First and foremost, Mashpi Lodge is a leading example of sustainability in the tourism industry; a protected space where the line blurs between what’s green outside and inside. Guests can reconnect with nature in its purest form and get involved with research and conservation efforts, learning how to be a guardian of the forest.

Thanks to Metropolitan Touring, Mashpi’s sister company, the lodge is going carbon neutral; the Mashpi Reserve has expanded from 1,200 to 2,500 hectares, with the longer-term aim of protecting a further 15,000 hectares by 2040. To reach this target, Mashpi Lodge has partnered with Rainforest Connection to place ten pioneering ‘Forest Guardians’ around the reserve to detect sounds of illegal deforestation and poaching, record sounds of animal species to track movement patterns, monitor endangered species, and make new discoveries.

Guests at Mashpi have the chance to join conservationists in the lab to learn more about the data and head out for guided hikes, birdwatching excursions, and night walks to spot particular species. They are also invited to visit the recently launched MashpiLab, exploring the culinary potential of the Andean Chocó region, to sample new ingredients, see the chefs at work in Quito, and join experts in the forest on community-led cultural and gastronomic forest-to-table experiences.

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