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Responsible tourism Awards

Best accommodation for responsible employment

Best Accommodation for Responsible Employment
BelizeSponsored by:

Belize Tourism Board

The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) is a statutory body within the Belize Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, and it is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation.

The BTB is dedicated to developing and implementing tourism programs that will help strengthen and grow the Belizean tourism industry in a sustainable manner; promote good destination stewardship; and instil high quality standards for accommodations and travel experiences.

Best accommodation for responsible employment

The Best accommodation for responsible employment is for a hotel, ecolodge, campsite or other accommodation that has an exemplary responsible approach to the employment and treatment of staff.

Award explained: The Best accommodation for responsible employment category is looking for accommodations that create places to work which are supportive, fair and empowering. This category is for accommodations which fundamentally believe in fair wages and working conditions, and which celebrate the skills of local people; employing local staff and offering training and progression opportunities..

What the Judges want: An accommodation with a clear emphasis on fair working conditions. The winner will demonstrate a holistic approach to the welfare and skills development of its staff.


Our gold winner this year is, Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge, and there are two silver winners: Matava, Fiji and Shangri-La's Villingili Resort & Spa.

Gold award: Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge

Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge

This eco Kasbah was built from scratch in 2009 in the Argan Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO site to protect the endemic argan tree. But this Kasbah was built with a view to protecting and proud-sharing the Berber heritage, that of the owner, Hassan Aboutayeb. Pride, protection and pristine beauty oozes from every hand crafted corner of this 11 bedroom Kasbah, just twenty minutes from Agadir in the High Atlas Mountains.

The Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge has the appearance of an ancient Berber fortress, even though it was built from scratch over a period of two and a half years using only traditional techniques and locally sourced, natural materials. All created by local craftsmen using ancestral knowledge of traditional architecture. The owners Hassan Aboutayeb and his wife Helene both have Masters degrees in sustainability, but they are also both masters at creating a business that segues seamlessly into the Berber communities all around. Employing staff from the Berber community is a fundamental aspect of the Kasbah's work, and they have led sensitive training within the community to change the mind-set of traditional families that women should not work outside the community. Consequently, 100% of staff is hired within the community, from hiking guides to hammam assistants and the communities supply produce for the Kasbah including food, local handicrafts, argan oil, and also bathroom products made by Berber women. Masters students produce papers. With 81% the Kasbah's income spent within a 50kms radius of the Kasbah, these masters of responsible tourism simply produce. And keep producing.

For more information see the Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge website.

Silver award: Matava, Fiji


Matava Eco Resort on Fiji describes itself as 'Fiji Untouched'. In fact, in the case of local communities, Matava actually touches the lives of many people on Fiji. Because this prestigious resort, with its already impressively light environmental footprint, sources everything locally. And if they can't, they grow it on their own organic farm. With the exception of things like PADI diving administration, and flights, if they can't get it in Fiji, it just doesn't feature. So if it's Moet you are after, best keep moving. If it's Fijian quality you enjoy, Matava is a marvel.

So many accommodations say they source locally, but usually it is tokenistic. The jam at the breakfast table or herbs tossed through an imported salad. But Matava, on the remote, undeveloped Kadavu Island, is the main employer, and with small Fijian villages along its mangrove coastline already experts in subsistence living, through farming and fishing, they knew that they had to make their local sourcing sustainable. And they have done it. With ten traditional thatched Fijian bures accommodating24 guests, they have no TV's, minibars, Italian designer furniture and so on. Madava is blessed with a spring source for water, which helps, but their work with local communities has stretched to creating a seed bank, and training people to grow new crops that can be used at the resort. Even their aluminium diving boats and skiffs were designed and built in Fiji, as are the lifejackets. The only main commodity which has to be imported is petrol for the boat engines, but they do also use bio-diesel made locally from coconuts to run the dive compressor. So, in short, if they can't source it locally they don't use it. Because they think inside their box, not outside it. Consequently, this beautiful box overfloweth.

For more information see the Matava website.

Silver award: Shangri-La's Villingili Resort & Spa

Shangri-La's Villingili Resort

When a five star luxury resort opened on the Maldives' Addu Atoll, it proved quite a challenge for farmers and fishermen on this island. But Shangri- La's expertise in sustainability led to a five star strategy to solve the issues as best they could. Best being a nine fold increase in what they buy locally between 2013-2015, and a lot of local people returning home to work there.

Shangri-La's Villingili Resort & Spa resort is 541 kilometres away from the capital city, Malé, and so on so many levels it makes sense for them to hire people and source produce locally. As well as encouraging farmers to grow new crops, or fishermen to fish sustainably, the resort initiated the creation of Addu-Meedhoo Cooperative Society, a partnership with local farmers from neighbouring Meedhoo island in 2010. Since then it has attracted 140 farmers, many of whom are women, who sell back to the resort as well as a market on Meedhoo.

In addition, the resort has helped finance four greenhouses to support these farmers' dedication to diversification and development. We think, at Responsible Travel, that this is fine example of luxury resorts, where often the default status is to import and then import some more, is highly replicable, in terms of creating sustainable living for small communities. Not through tokenistic buying of craft work and the odd pot of jam, or charity donations to simply build a school, but through long term investment in farming and fishing. They also employ a high percentage of personnel from the island, over 20 of whom are trained to management level, so that islanders can sustain a future for themselves and their children on these remote atolls.

For more information see the Shangri-La's Villingili Resort & Spa website.

Previous winners

2014 - Best city hotel

Hotel Verde was awarded gold, and two silver awards were given this year in this category; ITC Grand Chola in Chennai, India and Jurys Inn, Brighton, UK.

2014 Gold award: Hotel Verde

Hotel Verde

Airport hotels aren't usually considered sexy, soulful or indeed sustainable, which is one of the reasons why Hotel Verde, just 400 metres from Cape Town International Airport in South Africa, stands out. With 145 rooms, this 4-star hotel combines eco chic with eco switched on, both in terms of its hospitality and sustainability.

The other thing that is unusual about Hotel Verde is that it is family-run. Not usually a feature of airport conglomerates. Built by owners Mario and Annemarie Delicio, their responsible tourism policies emanate from a family vision and philosophy to create a more sustainable world, guiding them to infuse responsible practices into all areas of the hotel. Such as their grey water recycling plant, subsoil drainage water collection tank, wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. Most impressive is their 13km network of underground pipes to provide ground source heat. Specifically designed for Hotel Verde, they use the earth as a heat source in winter and "heat sink" in summer, boosting efficiency and dramatically reducing operational costs and the need for one of the greatest carbon criminals of all - air conditioning. Hotel Verde is also ahead of the game in terms of communicating its greening techniques, running engaging campaigns on social media, and offering original ideas to their guests, such as inviting companies to host their 'Carbon neutral year end' event at the hotel. So, sustainable? - tick. Sexy? - check out the living plant filtered swimming pool for starters. Soulful ?- this family run hotel lives and breathes sustainability, and shares this with every employee by integrating sustainability into every contract. Oh, and the walls and roof are alive, literally, which is music for the soul of any responsible traveller.

For more information see the Hotel Verde website.

2014 Silver award: ITC Grand Chola

ITC Grand Chola

You know that ITC Grand Chola in Chennai, India, is serious about its sustainable practices when the main thing it boasts about is the fact that zero waste water goes into the sewers. They use their own sewage retreatment plant, which brings the water back to an almost potable state, but is then recycled into the building for horticulture, cooling towers and toilet flushing. As part of the ITC Hotel chain, one of the largest in India, the company as a whole promotes its responsible luxury above everything else. It isn't tucked away on the back page of its website, like many multinational hotel chains, but is there for all to see. And yet, we like the fact that Grand Chola chooses to shout about its sewage system first, rather than its wind farm that provides the entire hotel's electricity, or the solar panels that power 25% of hot water or the mandatory environmental training for staff. Oh, and then there's the tiny detail of it being the largest LEED Platinum Luxury hotel in the world. With water issues being crucial to India, they rightfully shout about that first and foremost. Because being sustainable is often about getting down and dirty, being open and honest, and Grand Chola is a leader in that respect.

For more information see the ITC Grand Chola website.

2014 Silver award: Jurys Inn, Brighton

Jurys Inn

Fitting into Brighton and Hove's aim to be the 'green capital' of the UK, Jurys Inn has taken exceptional steps towards being a highly responsible hotel. It is also proof that going the extra mile to make a difference to the environment, local community and culture is almost always down to the individuals working in an organisation. And with a full time sustainability manager on site at all times at Jurys Inn Brighton, you can see what a difference this makes. Nicola Cunningham is not only responsible for maintaining its high status as a Gold rated hotel in the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS), with environmental strengths like having a remote access air conditioning system that can be controlled by reception when the bedrooms are not in use, impressive recycling of food waste, and the promotion of sustainable travel, but also its community commitment. This is when the personal touch kicks in, with the hotel taking on initiatives such as giving beds to Brighton YMCA, sleeping bags to local homeless charity Project Antifreeze, fundraising for local charities and sponsoring a child in Gambia as part of its international social commitments. Having a good relationship with local suppliers is key too, in a produce-rich region like Sussex. Which is why Nicola is able to march confidently forward with Jurys Inn's policy to use locally sourced and grown, seasonal foods to reduce the carbon footprint of their supply chain.

For more information see the Jurys Inn website.

Read about our winners