7 Hotels Around the World With a Positive Purpose

The money you spend at Tierra Atacama, in the Atacama desert in Chile, helps fund training for locals in tourism and other skills
The money you spend at Tierra Atacama, in the Atacama desert in Chile, helps fund training for locals in tourism and other skills | Courtesy of Tierra Atacama / © James Florio
Photo of Sofia Vyas
4 November 2020

Choosing to stay somewhere that gives back to its local community can leave an important 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 ethically minded.

When it comes to travel, sustainability is about much more than choosing ecofriendly 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 properties that are working to change things for the better, one guest at a time.

Good Hotel Antigua

Map View
Deluxe room at Good Hotel Antigua
Courtesy of Good Hotel Antigua / Expedia.com

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. It’s intended to boost local business, so everything you see in the hotel comes from either Antigua or the towns in the volcanic mountains around 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 (houses) that line Antigua’s streets, the hotel has airy rooms that are minimalist in style with pale wooden furniture and geometric designs. Book the Patio Room for a private terrace and outdoor rain shower, and don’t check out without taking a trip across town to pick up your own artisanal crafts from the local market.

Green Rooms, London

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Green Rooms
Courtesy of Green Rooms / Hotels.com

While the trend-driven hotels of London boroughs such as Shoreditch are full of curated contemporary art, few support the industry as authentically as the Green Rooms. Located in a repurposed art-deco office block in north London 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 standard and corner rooms to ensuite doubles and a studio apartment; whichever you choose, you’re encouraged to get to know other guests over a local beer or home-made cake in the bar – or a plate from whichever irresistible restaurant pop-up is in residence.

Fellah Hotel, Marrakech

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Guest room at Fellah Hotel, Marrakech
Courtesy of Fellah Hotel / Expedia.com

On the edge of the Atlas mountains, just outside Morocco’s capital, Marrakech, the 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 11ha (27 acres), which also encompass a restaurant serving organic local produce. The hotel’s most impressive amenity, however, is its 10,000-book library. Free to use by guests and the public, it’s run by the Unesco-recognised non-profit Dar Al-Ma’mûn (house of wisdom), and supported by the hotel. It provides educational and cultural activities to the local population, including literacy classes for women and support for emerging Moroccan artists.

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  • Magdas Hotel, Vienna

    Budget Hotel, Independent Hotel
    Map View
    Courtesy of Magdas HOTEL, Vienna / Expedia

    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 a positive social change, with an optimism that’s evident among the staff, and even in the design and decor, which has upcycling at its core. There are vintage armchairs to sink into with a book from the in-house library, and in the rooms you’ll find wardrobes rescued from the compartments of old Austrian Federal Railways trains and bespoke artwork by students from the Academy of Fine Arts.

    El Retablo, Cusco

    Map View
    Superior Deluxe room at El Retablo
    Courtesy of El Retablo

    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, which is committed to hiring locals, funds social initiatives in education, medical care, counselling and female empowerment in and around Cusco. If you’re in town to join a high-altitude trek to Machu Picchu, this organisation runs several – including along the classic Salkantay Route with an overnight at Salkantay Lodge, surrounded by snowy peaks. Back in Cusco, rest your aching limbs at one of the organisation’s art-focused boutique hotels such as El Retablo. Its rainbow interiors include a sun-filled breakfast lounge and peaceful courtyard, both of which offer a welcome retreat from Cusco’s lively streets.

    Skwachàys Lodge, Vancouver

    Boutique Hotel
    Map View
    Courtesy of Skwachàys Lodge / Expedia

    Skwachàys Lodge (pronounced skwatch-eyes, the traditional name of the territory on which it was built), in Vancouver, describes itself as “Canada’s first Aboriginal arts hotel,” celebrating the country’s indigenous roots. The decor is 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 by a mural of white birch trees. But the hotel’s mission is about more than awareness. Created by and for a social housing organisation, it 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, buy their works from the on-site gallery (which fights cultural misappropriation and pays artists fairly), and take part in traditional ceremonies in the hotel’s Sweat Lodge and Smudge Room.

    Tierra Atacama, San Pedro de Atacama

    Boutique Hotel, Spa Hotel
    Map View
    Tierra Atacama_pool view dusk_James Florio 2
    Courtesy of Tierra Atacama / | © James Florio

    Hotels don’t come more dramatic than this: lounging in the moonscape of Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth, this luxurious remote retreat is a lesson in the art of getting away from it all – literally. Rooms are designed in sandy shades and neutral natural materials to mirror the topography, but days (and stargazing nights) are better spent venturing out, on a hotel excursion that can take you through geyser smoke at sunrise or hiking among otherworldly rock formations by moonlight. It’s ecoconscious (its electricity comes from solar power) and socially responsible, and any money you spend 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.

    These recommendations were updated on November 4, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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