Long-awaited new builds, nature conservation projects and regenerative travel initiatives are among the sustainability projects leading the way in 2024
Sustainability rightfully remains high on the agenda for 2024, with mounting pressure on hotels and resorts from both travellers and tourism boards to implement environmentally-friendly practices, and lead by example. The hotel industry must reduce its carbon emissions by 66 per cent by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2050 compared to 2010 levels in order to comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change, agreed at COP21.
“We have a huge impact as hoteliers, owners and architects and I only hope the numbers of those attuned to that will grow,” comments Bill Bensley, a leading force for good within the hospitality industry, whose Shinta Mani properties are renowned for blending beautiful interiors and thoughtful architecture with regenerative practices in extraordinary surrounds. He cites a growing need for “hotels that are genuinely eco-friendly, with initiatives such as community empowerment or nature conservation.”
In short, a crackdown on daily linen changes alone won’t cut it, and hotels need to demonstrate decarbonisation and net–positive goals. A select few hotel groups are setting a new bar in sustainability standards, through innovative, eco-sound architecture and waste management to regenerative initiatives, which safeguard nature and local communities. These are the hotels and resorts leading the way for a greener, cleaner future in 2024.
Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea
What: A desert resort promoting regenerative tourism in Saudi Arabia
Another worthy Six Senses mention, Southern Dunes, The Red Sea opened at the tail end of 2023, emerging from a backdrop of Arabian desert plains and the Hijaz Mountains. The hotel has established a benchmark in regenerative tourism in the region, and has been certified as the first LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) platinum resort in Saudi Arabia. One hundred per cent of its energy is sourced from an onsite solar farm, while the architecture is designed to maximise natural light and minimise energy requirement. Don’t expect to find even a whiff of plastic across its 36 guest rooms and suites and 40 pool villas (The Six Senses hotel and resort group has been plastic-free since 2022). There is also a fund to support rewilding in the region, as well as supporting local Umluj Sadu weavers.
Fogo Island Inn, Canada
What: A seaweed cultivation project at Fogo Island Inn, a forward-thinking, fully social enterprise in Canada
Fogo Island Inn has put a rural fishing village off the northern coast of Newfoundland on the map. Designed by Norway-based Saunders Architecture, the 29-room hotel sits on stilts on a remote rocky island, hugging the North Atlantic coastline. It is an entirely social business, which was launched in 2013 to preserve the local fishing and arts community and support the Shorefast Foundation, which invests in securing a resilient future for Fogo Island and its natural resources. Innkeeper Zita Cobb is committed to complete financial transparency and a fully regenerative model ensures that every penny from guests is reinvested into the local economy.
Shorefast Foundation also supports the Seaweed Cultivation Pilot Project, which is leading research and development in Newfoundland and Labrador’s first licensed and active seaweed cultivation operation, which aims to improve the habitat for native species while sequestering carbon. This will come to fruition in summer 2024, when Shorefast, alongside partners at Marine Institute at Memorial University and the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation, plan to harvest the seaweed.
Fogo Island Inn’s sustainable mindset is met by impressive design with bespoke furnishings, all of which have been created by members of the community, from patchwork quilts to furniture.
1 Hotels, Melbourne
What: 1 Hotels rolls out upscale, eco-minded properties in Melbourne and beyond
Part of the SH Hotels & Resorts portfolio, 1 Hotels launched in 2015, led by hospitality veteran Barry Sternlicht. The group has built a reputation for building sustainable luxury hotels in unlikely locations, including Miami’s South Beach and most recently, London’s Mayfair, as well as New York, Toronto, Nashville and Cabo San Lucas. Melbourne is set to open in December 2024, set on the banks of the Yarra River. As per previous locations, you can expect a soothing palette of locally sourced timber and stone and generous greenery, met by waterfront views and direct access to a public park.
“Our 1 Hotels properties serve as a platform for change. We believe that prioritising sustainability does not mean having to sacrifice design, functionality or luxury,” says Raul Leal, CEO of SH Hotels & Resorts. “We do not preach to our guests but instead create moments to educate our community on the little things we can all do to make the world better.”
Austin is also on the horizon, alongside an expansion into Europe with sites planned for Copenhagen, Paris and Crete in 2025. 1 Hotels also counts Treehouse within its portfolio, considered a more playful and equally eco-minded sibling hotel. The London flagship will be joined in 2024 by openings in Sunnyvale, California and Manchester, UK.
Soneva Secret, Maldives
What: barefoot luxury, world-leading regenerative initiatives
Indian-British hotelier Sonu Shivdasani and his Swedish wife, Eva, were the original minds behind Six Senses when they opened the first resort in the Maldives in 1995. They instilled its values as a pioneering eco-wellness brand for luxury travellers, before selling the group in 2012. They now run Soneva, which operates a similar model of responsibly minded barefoot luxury, with properties in Thailand and the Maldives. They have always been ahead of the curve regarding environmental architecture, employee diversity and giving back to local communities, with sustainability at the heart of each property. All resorts are carbon neutral and employ renewable energy, and place a mandatory two per cent environmental levy on all stays. These proceeds go to the non-profit Soneva Foundation, which supports impactful conservation projects in Mozambique and Thailand, as well as coral restoration in the Maldives, among others.
Opening in January 2024, Soneva Secret is 30 years in the making, perched on the picturesque waters of Maldives’ Haa Dhaalu Atoll. Fourteen picturesque beach and overwater villas make a case for the good life, while private butlers, sunset dolphin cruises, guided snorkelling and castaway-style picnics are all par for the course.
Voco Zeal Exeter Science Park, UK
What: IHG Hotels & Resorts backs a new net zero carbon hotel in Exeter, UK
The majority of hotel brands on this list are undeniably luxurious and available to only a small percentage of travellers, so it is refreshing to celebrate a more affordable hotel brand doing good in 2024.
In the south-east of England, Exeter Science Park will be home to a new life net zero carbon hotel, created in partnership between Zeal Hotels and IHG Hotels & Resorts (which includes Intercontinental, Vignette, Kimpton and Hotel Indigo among its portfolio). Set to open in Q4, the partnership demonstrates IHG’s commitment to sustainability within the tourism sector and will open under IHG’s Voco brand, noted for its environmentally-minded properties.
“The aim is to create a sustainable and repeatable hotel concept,” advises Tim Wheeldon, managing director of Zeal Hotels. “We hope to share our knowledge to help move the industry forwards and achieve our net zero carbon targets together, and accelerate the net zero carbon process within the hospitality industry.”
What: An ongoing partnership with EarthCheck will ensure Belmond can transparently measure social and environmental impact
2024 is set to be a big year for Belmond with the return of the Eastern & Oriental Express train in Malaysia in February, and the 125th anniversary of Cape Town’s Mount Nelson Hotel, alongside new openings and expansions across Mexico and Italy. A global partnership with EarthCheck, the world’s leading scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group for travel and tourism, will ensure that all Belmond properties can transparently measure impact, and meet sustainable standards across energy and water consumption, as well as waste management. This is set to be implemented during the first quarter of 2023, while a ‘think global, act local’ mindset will lead to partnerships and regenerative practices across the Belmond portfolio. New environmental initiatives include increasing the use of renewable energy, reducing freshwater withdrawal and creating a Gastronomy Academy to guide how food and beverage is managed, which will be piloted at ten properties in 2024, before being rolled out globally.