Choosing to stay somewhere that gives back to its local community can leave an impact on the places you visit – and there’s no need to forgo style for substance, as these seven hotels are as beautifully designed as they are philanthropic.
When it comes to travel, sustainability is about much more than choosing eco-friendly accommodation – ensuring that no negative impact is left on the communities within each destination is equally important. Put some positivity into planning your next trip by booking a stay at one of these seven hotels, all of which are working to change things for the better, one guest at a time.
Good Hotel Antigua in Guatemala more than lives up to its name – it offers hospitality training for the unemployed and donates its profits to Niños de Guatemala, a charity supporting the education of children from low-income families. Built to boost local business, everything you see in the hotel comes from either Antigua or the towns dotting the volcanic mountains that surround it – including the deliciously scented all-natural soaps in the bathrooms and the hand-moulded tiles covering the floors. In contrast to the vividly coloured, colonial casas that line Antigua’s streets, the hotel’s airy rooms are minimalistic and full of pale wooden furniture and geometric designs. Book the Patio Room for its private terrace and outdoor rain shower, and don’t check out without making the trip across town to pick up your own artisanal crafts from the city’s market.
While the trend-driven hotels of London boroughs like Shoreditch are full of curated contemporary art, few support the industry as authentically as Green Rooms. Located in a repurposed Art Deco office block in North London – which is, of course, filled with timeless mid-century furniture – it runs a gallery and a diverse roster of exhibitions, theatre events, comedy nights and workshops that support local artists (the hotel is always open to collaboration proposals, too). Rooms are simple but thoughtfully furnished and range from hostel-style dorm rooms to en-suite doubles and a studio apartment; whichever you choose, you’re encouraged to get to know the other guests over a local beer or homemade cake in the bar – or a plate from whichever irresistible restaurant pop-up is in residence.
In Vienna, magdas HOTEL offers a training scheme and employment to help refugees settle into a new life. Combatting the stigma that new arrivals often encounter, it’s a social enterprise that aims to make positive social change, with an optimistic ethos running through everything from its staff to its design and décor, which has upcycling at its core. There are plenty of vintage armchairs to sink into (with a book from the in-house library) and in rooms you’ll find wardrobes rescued from the compartments of old Austrian Federal Railway Trains and bespoke artwork by students from the Academy of Fine Arts.
Located in Vancouver, Skwachàys Lodge (pronounced skwatch-eyes, the traditional name of the territory on which it was built) describes itself as “Canada’s first Aboriginal arts hotel”, celebrating the country’s indigenous roots. Décor has been drawn from different elements of indigenous culture and mythology – in the Moon Suite, you’ll be watched over by the gold motif of the guardian moon spirit, while in the Forest Spirit Suite you’ll sleep surrounded by a mural of white birch trees. But its mission is about more than awareness. The hotel was created by and for a social housing organisation and funds an indigenous artist residency programme that subsidises 24 artists to live and work from on-site studios. You can see the artists in action, purchase their creations from the on-site gallery (which fights cultural misappropriation and pays artists fairly) plus take part in traditional ceremonies in the hotel’s sweat lodge and smudge room.
Hotels don’t come more dramatic than this: lounging in the moonscape of Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth, it’s a luxuriously remote retreat and a lesson in the art of getting away from it all – literally. Rooms are designed to mirror the topography in sandy shades and neutral natural materials, but days (and stargazing nights) are far better spent venturing out into your surrounds, where the hotel’s excursions can take you wandering through billows of geyser smoke at sunrise or hiking through other-worldly rock formations by moonlight. Eco-conscious (its electricity comes from solar power) and socially responsible, money spent here helps fund a local technical school, where the hotel trains apprentices in tourism, electricity and agriculture – many of whom are offered employment after graduation.
Set on the edge of the jagged Atlas Mountains just outside Morocco’s capital Marrakech, Fellah Hotel is a maze of cacti-filled gardens and turquoise swimming pools. Its rooms and villas – an expert combination of contemporary furnishings and Berber motifs from local artisans – are spread across the property’s 11 hectares, which also encompass a restaurant serving organic local produce. The hotels most impressive amenity, however, is its 10,000-book library, which is free to use for both guests and the public. It’s run by the UNESCO-recognised non-profit Dar Al-Ma’mûn (‘house of wisdom’), which is supported by the hotel and provides educational and cultural activities to the local population, including literacy classes for women and support for emerging Moroccan artists.
As the gateway to Peru’s Sacred Valley, colonial Cusco has no dearth of accommodation, but few offer the chance to support to the region’s local communities. Mountain Lodges of Peru is committed to hiring locals, and funds social initiatives in education, medical care, counselling and female empowerment in and around Cusco. If you’re in town to begin one of the high-altitude treks to magnificent Machu Picchu, this organisation runs several – including along the classic Salkantay route with one night at Salkantay Lodge which is spectacularly surrounded by snowy peaks. Back in Cusco, rest aching limbs at one of the organisation’s art-focused boutique hotels like El Retablo. Its rainbow-hued interiors include a sun-filled breakfast lounge and peaceful courtyard, both of which offer a welcome retreat from Cusco’s lively streets.