Socially responsible hotels means many things. Being socially responsible may mean taking care of your eco footprint. It may mean building your hotel foundations without damaging the natural environment. It may mean looking after the welfare of your staff to build and sustain their future. It always means contributing towards responsible tourism.
These 6 socially responsible hotels in the Middle East are implementing a combination of these initiatives, including one in Afghanistan where social responsibility takes on a wider meaning as a result of operating in a post-conflict development zone.
6 socially responsible hotels in the Middle East:
JORDAN: FEYNAN ECOLODGE
Feynan Ecolodge is located in the Dana Biosphere Reserve in Jordan and has been built entirely with sustainability in mind. Traditional building methods were used, but with no skimping on comfort in their large rooms.
The property is run mostly without electricity. There is no lighting. Instead it is lit up beautifully with candles in the evening. There are no fridges. All the food is vegetarian so cooling is not required. The small amount of electricity that is used (the front desk has some electricity and bathrooms have a small night light, for example) is generated by solar panels.
Water is sourced from a local spring, and drinking water in each room is provided using a traditional clay jug to help to keep it cool.
All the staff at Feynan Ecolodge are local Bedouins, creating a source of employment in the community. Some of the activities provided, including traditional coffee preparation and kohl-making, also help to support the local community. Transport to the lodge and around the area is also provided by locals.
Feynan Ecolodge is almost entirely off-grid in terms of internet, too. Wifi is only available for a few hours each day in the front reception area. With no electricity, evenings are spent laying on the rooftop, gazing up at the sky full of stars.
This is the perfect place to disconnect and relax, knowing you are doing it in a sustainable way.
– Words by Josie / Josie Wanders
AFGHANISTAN: KABUL SERENA HOTEL
With 35 hotels in 9 countries, Serena Hotels are doing what many larger chains are unable to. They combine expansion with a genuine dedication to sustainability. Across all properties, Serena Hotels work to preserve cultural and natural heritage. They keep their eco-footprint at a minimum, and they help to develop tourism side-by-side with economic growth in underdeveloped areas, or those with a fragile economy.
In Kabul – Serena Hotel’s only property in Afghanistan – socially responsible hotels takes on another meaning. Here, it means sensitive post-conflict redevelopment of a former landmark hotel. The redevelopment process has been undertaken to ensure the protection of many original architectural features. They also actively employe and support local staff and suppliers.
The hotel’s redevelopment has been backed by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The AKDN work to empower disadvantage communities in the Middle East but also in Central and South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The reopening of this hotel has opened Kabul up once more to local and international developers, investors, diplomats, and tourists.
Kabul Serena Hotel overlooks Zarnegar Park and fuses modern design with traditional Islamic and Afghan culture, pulled together by a large outdoor pool.
Wild Rice Restaurant serves up Afghan and Asian dishes inspired by the ancient Silk Route. Don’t miss the on-site patisserie for fresh bread and pastries.
OMAN: ALILA JABAL AKHDAR
Physically, what this means is that they used local materials, eco-friendly practices around water and solar power, and recycling programs. But this design and development process has far-reaching benefits for you as a guest too.
Alila Jebal Akhdar is located atop a grand canyon in the Al Hajar mountain range, and a stay here is one that truly allows you to get back in touch with nature. The thoughtful design process enhances this feeling. Inside the rooms have all the amenities you’d expect from a 5* hotel, yet the building’s exterior blends almost seamlessly into its rugged outdoor surroundings. Quite a feat for a hotel with 84 rooms and two villas.
While here, hike the surrounding terrain, visit nearby ancient towns such as Nizwa, Ebri and Bahla, and of course make some time to take in your surroundings from the hotel’s infinity pool which overlooks a canyon. As hotel pools go, it really doesn’t get better than this.
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This is Lebanon, but not as you may know it. Just a 50 minute drive from party city, Beirut, Bkerzay is entirely different in atmosphere and vibes.
All accommodation is built using traditional stone, and is furnished with vintage finds. They also use solar power, recycle their water and – perhaps most impressively – the entire complex was built without the removal of even one tree. Surrounded by woodland and olive groves, Bkerzay is the perfect retreat from city life. It’s a place to sit back and unwind.
Relaxing not for you? Bkerzay has you covered, too. Visit the hotel’s infinity pool, take some classes in their pottery studio or head out hiking with a local guide.
DUBAI: FAIRMONT, THE PALM
The Palm in Dubai, and indeed the city as a whole, are not what comes to mind when you think of eco-friendly. But you might be surprised.
Dubai Tourism has issued all hotels in Dubai with mandatory sustainability requirements to be implemented by the end of 2020. These include management approaches, performance metrics, employee training, guest education, plans for energy, food and water management and guest education.
Fairmont, The Palm has had a sustainability plan in place long before it became mandatory, and is a great example of how hotels can up their sustainability even when their original building was not designed for it. Green initiatives here include a revised corporate responsibility plan, waste reduction techniques including food composting, the installation of water-flow reducers on taps, and LED lighting.
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OMAN: SIX SENSES ZIGHY BAY
Located in the Musandam Penninsula, Northern Oman, Six Senses Zighy Bay has a backdrop to behold. Dramatic mountains frame the beach-front villas. At Six Senses Zighy Bay they’ve created a relaxing resort while caring about both the environment and their local community.
There are several eco-friendly initiatives here. A Sustainability Manager ensures projects and initiatives are actively implemented. The hotel uses local and on-site suppliers to encourage farm-to-table dining. There is a zero-waste focus, a ban on plastic bottles, and a water filtration system to utilise sea water. Rooms are equipped with LED lighting and outdoor lighting uses motion sensor technology or sunlight timers to eliminate overuse. Cleaning, gardening and other products are all non-toxic and eco-friendly.
Community projects are part of the sustainability plan. The Earth Lab showcases hoe they achieve this via on and off-site marine conservation, up-cycling, beach clean ups, consumption reduction, and conservation efforts. This hotel hires locally and contributes to educational programs and social projects. Six Senses acts as an active and positive force within their own local area.
– Words by Abbie Synan / Speck on the Globe
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