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