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Members of the public can vote for any of the hotels in the 11 categories to be named Best Smith Hotel 2016.
The Local Hotel Hero category seeks to identify a property that is “wholly committed to conserving, protecting and enjoying its environment, is fiercely community minded, has an ethical approach, strives to minimise its footprint, and does this all while enhancing the guest experience.”
The shortlist reads:
Jicaro Island Ecolodge
As soon as you arrive (by boat, naturally) you’re immersed in some wonderfully wild surroundings, and their preservation is a priority. The stilted lakeside casitas are crafted entirely from trees toppled by Hurricane Felix; solar panels heat the water and help light the nearby school and health centre, and they’ve taught local staff to be sustainability experts. This low-impact, socially aware style earned it a place in National Geographic’s list of the world’s top ecolodges.
Gayana Eco Resort
The romantic sister resort to Bunga Raya goes big on leaving little trace. Its stilted structure, fashioned from indigenous hardwood, lessens the impact on its lagoon setting, there are regular island clean-ups, a strict recycling policy and a fish farm which provides a sustainable source of seafood. All that, plus giant clam breeding and coral restoration programmes, which guests can help out with during their stay.
The lesson learnt from overcrowding at the Barrier Reef is well heeded at Ningaloo Reef’s Sal Salis, where, campmates aside, your only visitor is the occasional kangaroo. Then consider that these luxury tents rely purely on solar power, use composting toilets and have a tightly controlled water system, and you’ve got an inspiring example of how to protect a fragile ecosystem.
Mother Nature herself would be proud of the efforts made by her Belizean namesake. Perched among the trees in a protected jungle, the hotel – a series of luxe lodges made mostly from natural materials – is powered by a special hydro plant, serves food fetched from a well-stocked garden, swears by local suppliers and helps numerous community-development projects.
This fully self-sufficient stay could have been content with its market garden, organic farm and dairy workshop, but its exemplary eco approach feeds into every aspect of the resort. Locals can stock up on the farm-fresh fare from the shop, the Roman-era farm house has been restored and turned into a thermal bath, a biomass boiler keeps things sufficiently heated and plant-based materials provide insulation. No wonder it's Spain's only certified bio hotel.
Once a post office, now a striking SoHo stay paying dues to its neighbourhood and beyond. The vast blue and white south-wall mural was created by local students (under the tutelage of Jeff Koons no less), in-room minibar food- and drink-ordering is connected to Olivia Wilde’s Conscious Commerce initiative, each treat-stuffed Feed 11 bag on sale helps feed 11 low-income American families and a percentage of your booking goes straight to the Global Poverty Project. Who says you can’t find true peace of mind in the city?
Song Saa Private Island
In a game of eco top trumps, Song Saa’s own 1,000,000sq m, biologist-backed marine reserve (Cambodia’s first) should serve it pretty well. With that as the benchmark, the inventive waste- and water-management schemes won’t surprise, nor the reclaimed driftwood decor. But the balance of island paradise luxury and eco well-being is executed excellently throughout.
Sextantio Albergo Diffuso
The winner of numerous awards (including ours) for its innovative approach to restoring – with traditional methods – an entire abandoned Apennine village. Scattered across a number of honey-hued buildings, rooms keep the best bits of their 16th-century simplicity but benefit from the most mod of cons. Such is the success of this project, the team are busy scouring Italy’s southern countryside for other vacant hamlets to sprinkle their magic on.
Galapagos Safari Camp
This eco-luxe encampment does all it can not to upset the balance of Darwin’s study ground. Purified rainwater is used, native cacao is planted, reforestation is ongoing (guests can help out) and, as it’s still a working cattle farm, organic-as-it-gets meat is served nightly. The passionate staff tailor their island-exploring itineraries to ensure the lightest of footprints is left on what is still a naturalist’s utopia.
Part of the first protected marine area in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi does all it can to preserve its pristine island environment. It has a self-sufficient water supply, employs a local marine biologist and most products are sourced locally (except for the colourful fabrics in rooms, which are handmade by craftswomen in Sri Lanka)
The ultimately crowned Best Smith Hotel 2016 is entirely down to the public vote, with every hotel in Smith’s worldwide collection having a chance to win.
Voting takes place on 1–30 September at Mrandmrssmith.com/awards, and anyone who votes will be entered into a prize draw to win a £1,000 Smith gift card.