Hotels and Resorts in Mountain Areas

The year 2002 has been designated International Year of Mountains. As the number of people wanting to visit remote locations grows, whether for sport or simply to appreciate nature, preservation of the environment and the ways of the people who live there should be our primary concern

Because of their inaccessibility, mountain areas often support fragile ecosystems and flora and fauna that cannot be found elsewhere in the world. Opening up wilderness areas for trekking or skiing can endanger sensitive wildlife habitats and threaten to overwhelm remote village communities with imported cultures. Below we list some of the many issues to be taken into account if mountain tourism is to be sustainable.

Design and Development

  • Before commencing any plans for hotel or resort development, ensure that members of the local community are fully involved and consulted. Villagers should be allowed to decide if and how they wish to participate in the tourism business. Consultation should be maintained throughout the planning and development process.
  • Ensure that a full environmental impact assessment (EIS) is carried out.
  • Buildings should be designed to blend into the natural contours and colours of the landscape and built in the local, traditional style.
  • Materials should be natural, and, if possible, sourced locally (e.g. local quarries).
  • As far as possible, make sure that local stone masons, carpenters and labourers are employed.
  • Consider how the development can be used to help the community, through improvements to roads or water provision. Make meeting rooms available for community events or clinics. Provide recycling facilities for local people as well as for the hotel's waste.
  • When fitting out the hotel, find out what the local craftspeople and businesses can produce - such as textiles, furniture, lamps, pottery, art and sculpture. This will not only benefit their economy but give a more welcoming local 'ambiance' for guests.
  • Where goods cannot be produced locally, rather than importing from abroad, see what is available through the local market or bazaar.

Hotel and Resort Operation

  • Provide opportunities for training and recruiting the maximum possible number of local people.
  • Maintain respect for those living in local villages. Ensure that guest interaction with the local community is managed sensitively, is not exploitative and is designed to maintain the self-esteem of your neighbours.
  • Inform your guests about the surrounding communities and environment and encourage them to respect them.

Case Study: Banff Springs Hotel, Alverta, Canada

Associated with the building of the nation and the creation of Canada's oldest national park, the 770-room Banff Springs Hotel is a national symbol and National Historic Site. Situated in the Bow Valley, the hotel's principal environmental goal is to protect and share the natural and cultural heritage of Banff by providing guidance and opportunities to employees and guests. In addition to its standard employee and environmental training, the hotel provides a half-day session on heritage orientation on the cultural and historical significance of the hotel and the Banff National Park.

Ongoing communication is provided by the green committee through a monthly newsletter and e-mail updates on initiatives and opportunities to participate.

The hotel aims to keep alive employee understanding, focus and performance about the role that Canadian Pacific played, and will continue to play, in the developing history of the Canadian west. It also works to tie the strategies of Canadian Pacific's Mountain Hotels operation into a tourism destination model that complies with the direction of the Bow Valley Task Force report as it relates to heritage tourism.

The hotel has an active recycling programme and distinctive blue recycling bins are in every guest room. A minimum of 300 lbs of paper is recycled every day. Each week, approximately 4000 lbs of cardboard, over 8000 glass and 2000 plastic beverage containers and more than 5000 aluminium drinks cans are collected, in addition to newspapers and magazines, batteries, aerosol cans, printer cartridges, coat hangers and motor oil. All old towels (including bathrobes) and bed linen are donated to local charities. Shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and soap is collected daily from guest rooms and a barrel of each is sent to local food banks each week.

On an average day, over 1800 towels are sent to be cleaned. This equates to more than 1000 lbs of laundry, requiring over 1000 gallons of water (not to mention the associated washing powder and pollutants to the water supply). Because of this, the hotel has optional towel and bed linen initiatives under which guests choose when they want new towels and can opt to have bed linen changed every other day.

This helps to conserve water, electricity and natural gas. Annual electricity savings of over 22,000,000 kWh and over 13,000 GJ in natural gas have been made through an extensive lighting retrofit that included 90% of all light fixtures together with modifications to the hotel's gas boilers and HVACs. All guest rooms have low-flow shower heads and a water circulation system has enabled annual savings of 672,000 gallons of water.

By eliminating dripping taps, 6,289,920 gallons of water can be saved each year. A sensor system in the urinals in four public areas is also saving 1,456,000 gallons of water a year. The hotel's swimming pools use re-circulated water and a chlorine generation system to convert table salt (NaCI) into chlorine. Once the chlorine has destroyed any contaminants found in the pools, it converts it back to a low level of dissolved salt which remains in the pool and repeats the process. All the pools are monitored by a computer system that automatically adds disinfectant as required. Staff and management gather twice yearly for a clean-up of the hotel grounds.

They are joined by many enthusiastic volunteers and approximately 60 bags are filled with rubbish each time. Donations of food are made at regular intervals to charities operating in the Bow Valley. Typically, more than 200lbs of food (which in the past went to landfill) is donated each year.

The hotel has initiated donations by the Canadian Pacific Charitable Foundation to the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGBP) and the Central Rockies Wolf Project. $2S,000 Canadian dollars a year, over three years, has been given to both organisations for their research into wolf and grizzly habitat and migration. The hotel made its own donations to the Wolf Awareness Program which has conducted 'wolf howls' - fun and educational presentations to the children of hotel guests in the Bow Valley.

Case Study: Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Winner of the Canadian Pacific Hotels Environmental Hotel of the Year award in 1997, Chateau Lake Louise has many environmental achievements to its credit including:

1. reducing the amount of chemicals purchased by switching to natural cleaning products such as water and vinegar for cleaning windows and around the pool area
2. purchasing energy-efficient vacuum cleaners with reusable bags
3. eliminating the majority of individually-wrapped condiments (except for picnic and take out use) and working with a leading china company to design a china sugar pourer to eliminate the need for sugar packets at all its restaurant outlet
4. introducing a 'reg-cardless' check-in system and many other initiatives to reduce paper use in the executive and front offices and within human resource
5. the re-use or sale (where possible) of construction materials removed from rooms during renovation
6. retrofitting reflective windows to help save energy. In 1997 the Chateau organised a community clean-up and sent letters to all businesses in the area seeking their involvement. Clean-up zones were allocated to groups of volunteers and over 900lbs of garbage were collected. The hotel then hosted a barbecue on the terrace and presented each volunteer with a house plant by way of thanks.

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Energy and Water

  • The provision of resources, particularly in remote and wilderness areas, must be thought through very carefully. Consider which non-fossil fuel alternatives are feasible without detriment to the landscape.
  • Can use be made of solar, wind or small-scale hydro-electric power?
  • Mountain water is pure and often precious. Take care not to pollute it for those living further down the slopes.


  • Nowhere does the disposal of waste become more of a logistical problem than on a mountain. At every step, you should seek to eliminate waste at source, rather than transporting it to the hotel. Recycle and reuse everything you possibly can

Case Study: Canadian Pacific Mountain Resorts

In the autumn of 1990, Canadian Pacific Hotels, now known as Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, developed an environ-mental programme for all its hotels in Canada. The aim was to achieve the highest standards of environmental responsibility in the industry.

Data was compiled on the supplies and energy used at each hotel, waste reduction and recycling, and, perhaps most importantly, on employee attitudes towards environmental reform.

Over 10,000 surveys were distributed, and of the 2,600 employees who responded, over 90 per cent stated that they would strongly welcome the introduction of more environmentally-friendly practices within their hotel.

Since the official launch of their 'Green Partnership' in 1991, the company's employees have remained the driving force behind the success of the programme. The three Alberta properties which make up Canadian Pacific Mountain Resorts - Banff Springs Hotel, Chateau Lake Louise and Jasper Park Lodge, are within or bordering the national or provincial parks of Western Canada.

The landscape is one of towering mountains, high meadows, rushing rivers, glaciers and valleys. All three hotels have developed programmes to help preserve the environment and the results are impressive. In 1998, their recycling efforts resulted in the return of three million beverage containers and the collection of 20 metric tons of cardboard and more than 50 metric tons of newspaper, office and computer paper for recycling.

Other initiatives include:

  • the installation of more efficient lighting systems
  • towel and linen programmes
  • the phase-out of all styrofoam
  • the development of strong composting programmes (to divert more than 9 million lbs of annual food waste from Alberta landfills)
  • the implementation of the company's environmentally sensitive and 'no-waste' conference plan called 'Eco-Meet'.


  • If your hotel is situated up a mountain, you may have a limited number of options for how to transport your guests to it. Bicycles and donkeys may not be feasible with suitcases so, if petrol or diesel-fuelled vehicles are essential, make sure they are properly maintained and that emissions are minimal.
  • Check with the coach or taxi company that is transferring your guests to and from the airport that exhaust emissions from their vehicles are minimised. Ask the tour company to make control of emissions a stipulation of their contract.
  • In ski resorts, make use of the public transport systems and infrastructure already in place. In many ski resorts in the United States, buses around the resort are free and run frequently.
  • Use ski cabins, cable cars or railways to lift produce up to the hotel in the evening, after passenger services have finished for the day.

Case Study: Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Kathmandu, Nepal

Perched at 3,900 feet (1,200 metres) on a spectacular hilltop ridge overlooking the Himalayas, Tiger Mountain Pokhara

Lodge offers guests a small-scale Himalayan village cultural experience. Accommodation is in thirteen individual hand-cut stone bungalows with views of Machhapuchhare and three of the worlds' 8,000 metre peaks -Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Annapurna.

Opened in October 1998 by Sir Edmund Hillary, the lodge has already several international awards including the Conde Nast Traveler Ecotourism Award 2000 (hotel! resort category), PATA Heritage and Culture 1999 Gold Award and highly commended in Conservation International's Ecotourism Excellence Awards.

The design of the buildings was deliberately kept simple and in line with local practice so that the maximum number of village workers (even those unable to read) could be employed in the construction phase. Skilled stone masons and carpenters, as well as labourers, were employed from surrounding villages. During construction, around one third of the people employed on site (up to 250) were women, as local custom dictated that men would not carry materials.

Stone from a nearby existing local quarry was hand cut and secured with mud mortar. The use of concrete and cement was restricted only to essential damp-proofing.

Roofs are of local slate, insulated with pine planks and tar felt sheets, and the main lodge has pitched wood ceilings and a local slate floor. Rooms have wooden ceilings and floors, and some walls are red mud-plastered by village women in the local style to add diversity to the clusters of bungalows.

One of the biggest challenges was the supply of water, which had to be brought up 1000 ft from the valley floor below. A spring and well were purchased on the banks of Bijaypur Khola. A two-pump system was designed and installed by local engineers with a mid-station on land purchased to house the slow sand filtration units and pumps for the second stage. In the first phase, two 5.5 kilowatt electric pumps take the water up 600ft (180 m) to the mid-station sump. From there, two 3.7 kilowatt pumps send the filtered water 400 ft: (120 m) up to a main reservoir of 90,000 litres (one weeks' supply at full capacity). This is situated beneath the lodge's main courtyard. Rainwater and shower waste is collected and recycled for gardening, landscaping and construction. Laundry is done at the mid-station.

The electricity supply is a hybrid system of solar and wind turbine, a 100 kilowatt generator and the mains electricity supply. Surplus electricity from the generator powering the four water pumps goes into storage batteries (with a capacity of 1320 amp hours @ 48 volts), which also store the power collected from the photovoltaic panels and the grid. A wind turbine is planned to supplement the solar panels.

Sewage goes into a septic tank system. Biodegradable waste from the kitchen is composted and used as fertiliser on the site, while paper, plastic and glass are sold for recycling.

Wood in the lodge and bungalows is treated only with natural products, such as linseed oil and turpentine, and paints are red earth, rather than chemical-based.

The lodge aims to give non-trekking guests the opportunity to experience traditional Himalayan mountain village communities, without impacting negatively on their daily lives. Guest interaction with the local people is managed sensitively to avoid the spread of negative tourism influences such as begging. Visits to village houses and schools, and local dance and music experiences at the lodge are kept as natural, uncontrived and authentic as possible.

Currently around 50% of the lodge staff are from local villages, but with training, the aim is to take this figure eventually to 95%.

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Environmental and Wildlife Protection

  • Ensure that the operation of your hotel is not to the detriment of the surrounding wildlife. Consider issues such as noise and light emission and how to keep this to a minimum.
  • Inform guests about the local wildlife and tell them also not to disturb or feed it and to stay on marked trails. Encourage them to keep as quiet as possible and avoid brightly coloured clothing and perfumes.
  • Tell them not to buy souvenirs made of or from wild animals and endangered species.
  • Make it clear to guests who plan to trek or camp that they should not wash clothing, dishes or hair in natural rivers and streams, and that picnic and other waste must be taken away.
  • Encourage them not to build campfires as they destroy the habitat for many small animals. Use cook stoves instead.

Case Study: Grand Chateau, MT. Ruapehu, New Zealand

The Grand Chateau is situated on the edge of Mount Ruapehu in the Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand's best known conservation and top ski areas. A gift to the nation from the Ngati Tuwharetoa people, whose land surrounds and includes the Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro volcanoes, the park was recently granted recognition as a World Heritage Area.

Built in1929, The Grand Chateau was modelled on the style of the Canadian Pacific hotels, with huge floor-to-ceiling windows in the lounges to make the most of its panoramic views.

It was granted heritage status in 1996 for its aesthetic, architectural, historical and social significance and value. The land on which the property sits is leased from the New Zealand government's Department of Conservation by Bayview International Hotels and Resorts under an agreement which imposes stringent obligations to ensure the conservation of the National Park and the hotel.

These include:

  • The hotel is not permitted to plant any trees or shrubs of any description on the land or in the park. Neither can any existing native trees, plants, bushes or other indigenous vegetation be trimmed, damaged or destroyed.
  • Staff and residents are forbidden to keep any pets or other animals or to harm or kill any indigenous wildlife.
  • No water waste, fire or any hazardous or potentially hazardous substance must be allowed to escape from the land or from improvements into the park.
  • Adequate and appropriate measures must be taken to advise guests about activities prohibited in the park. This is carried out during check-in and noted in the guest compendia -all promotional material and information provided to guests promotes awareness of the need to protect the park.
  • All signage must conform with the Department of Conservation's guidelines. Only relevant information can be displayed and the colour and size of signs must be consistent.

During its 71 years of operation, the hotel has undergone major internal changes. However, any changes to its exterior have only been carried out in close consultation with the Department of Conservation (DOC) - including painting the exterior walls and roof, where colours are in keeping with the environment. The hotel plays a major role in the Community Services Group which is responsible for sewage disposal and treatment, water supply, rubbish collection, village signage and landscaping, the volcanic warning system, snow clearing, village lighting, roads and visitor car parks.

As a member of the group, the hotel is helping to finance the complete renovation of the village's sewage treatment plant. This is being upgraded to a state-of-the-art cyclical activated sludge process system with disposal of treated effluent by ground soakage in shallow trenches.

The operators who lease the nearby ski area at Whakapapa and Turoa at 1630-2500 metres are also subject to stringent controls set by the DOC, such as the numbers of skiers allowed on the mountain at any one time.

For Further Information

Case Study: Lisu Lodge, Thailand

Lisu Lodge is situated 50km north of Chiang Mai at an altitude of 450 metres. It was built in 1992 - the result of a collaboration between a visionary businessman and an environmentalist involved in the tourism industry.

Between them, they felt that the 'hill tribe' tourism on offer in northern Thailand was exploitative and culturally damaging.

The hill tribes were seen as a resource to be used and some-times abused. As a result, the experience was becoming unsatisfactory for tourists and demeaning for the mountain people.

Lisu Lodge recognises that responsibly-managed tourism can provide a valuable addition to the economy of the mountain people. To this end, it operates on the following principles:

  • Villagers are regarded as equal participants 111 the lodge operations, which must be discussed with, and approved by, the village elders.
  • The lodge must be permanently sustainable, so will remain small scale. There are currently six rooms, accommodating up to 12 people per night. So far, the lodge has received between 1,500 and 2,000 guests each year.
  • Wherever possible, local materials are used and local people employed so as to contribute to the indigenous economy.
  • The food served to guests is influenced by Lisu cuisine. Ingredients are either grown in the village or bought at the local market. The coffee is also grown locally. Picnics are wrapped in banana leaves and supplied in wickerwork boxes made in the village.

Interaction between villagers and tourists is encouraged in the following ways:

  • through trade, such as their handicraft industry
  • through 'family visits', when guests meet with a Lisu family and discuss their lives through a guide/interpreter
  • by employing villagers at the lodge (a manager and five members of staff trained by the general manager)
  • by providing Lisu music and dancing shows designed and performed by the villagers.

Fact sheets are placed in guest rooms and trained local people are employed to act as guides. A booklet on hilltribe cultures and guidelines for visitors is given to all guests. Another book, 'Life in a Lisu village', written by the lodge's co-founder, John R. Davies, gives guests a deeper insight into Lisu culture. Not only do these activities help to preserve the Lisu culture, they also give guests a more meaningful, authentic and enjoyable experience.

In October 99, the more basic Lahu Lodge was opened in a nearby mountain village. Situated at 1500 metres, it was built by the villagers and equipped with facilities such as furniture and showers by Lisu Lodge. The village receives half of the nightly room charge.

Local Communities

  • As far as possible, purchase produce such as poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruit and flowers locally. Tell your guests that you serve locally-produced food in your restaurant.
  • Sell locally-produced art and crafts to your guests.
  • When organising visits to local villages, keep the group numbers small.

Centres of Exellence

A number of organisations are looking closely at how tourism can be developed in mountain regions in a sustainable way, without negatively impacting on minority cultures or wildlife. The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Thailand Chapter commissioned experts to produce comprehensive guidelines for tour operators, tour guides, hotels and restaurants and also members of the community.

In the United States, 160 of the largest ski resorts (70% of visits) have endorsed the 'Environmental Charter for Ski Areas', produced by the National Ski Areas Association. It was developed with support from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and in consultation from environmental non-government organisations (NGOs). Ski resorts following the charter principles may display a 'sustainable slopes' logo. The EPA is providing technical assistance through its Water Alliance for Voluntary Efficiency, Waste Wise, Energy Star, and Smart Growth programmes. Also in the United States, the Ski Area Citizens Coalition (SACC) works to counter environmentally-damaging ski area expansion plans.


Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT)
252 Moo 2,
Tambon Sansainoi Ampur Sansai,
Chiang Mai 50210,
Tel: + 6653 492544

Mountain Agenda
Heightens awareness of mountains on the global environmental agenda
Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)
University of Berne Hallerstrasse
12, CH-3012 Berne,
Fax: + 41 31 631 8544

Mountain Forum
The Mountain Institute
245 Newman Avenue Harrisonburg,
VA 22801,
Tel: + 1 540 437 0468

National Ski Areas Association, USA

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)
Thailand Chapter
Tel: + 6653 6582000

Ski Area Citizens Coalition (SACC)
Colorado Wild,
P.O. Box 1525 Boulder,
CO 80306,
Tel: + 1 303 5469911

Southeast Asian Mountain Peoples, Culture and Development Programs (SEAMP)
Tel: + 6653 276194

Thai Ecotourism & Adventure Travel Association (TEATA)
133/14 Ratchaprarob Road Makasan,
Tel: + 662 6425497
Fax: + 662246 5679

The International Ecotourism Society
PO Box 668 Burlington
VT 05402,
Tel: + 1 802 651 9818

Tribal Research Institute (TRI)
Chiang Mai University,
Tel: + 6653221933
Fax: + 6653 222494

Resources and Further Information

Community-Based Mountain Tourism:
Linking Conservation with Enterprise Available from the Mountain Forum (see above)

Environmental Charter for Ski Areas
Produced by the National Ski Areas Association (see contacts, above). Includes elements of sustainable planning and design, stakeholder relations, environmental facility management, wildlife and forest management, and ways to integrate visitor environmental awareness with the resort experience

Guidelines for Interaction between the Tourism Industry and Northern Thailand's Mountain Peoples

Mountains of the World:
Tourism and Sustainable Mountain Development Available from the Mountain Forum (see contacts, above)

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