By Debbie Fletcher
The Indian sub-continent is not renowned for its eco-friendly credentials, causing headaches for other countries at eco-conferences and holidaymakers alike. According to Ambika Behal writing for Forbes: “There are no official records of multinationals entering the sustainable business market, and zero reliable figures on any gender involvement in environmentally focused enterprises in the country.”
Exploring such a fascinating and diverse country of culture and cuisine would no doubt be easier for many if they knew that waste was being disposed of properly, and that newer, cleaner fuel processes are followed. We’re all, after all, acutely aware of our carbon footprint these days. With that in mind, eco-friendly hotels are pushing ahead and filling a gap in the tourism market, offering fully-sustainable travel in the kind of beautiful surroundings luxury travellers expect – in fact, some eco-hotels have gotten so plush, they’ve been featured in the likes of Tatler, Vogue and the FT’s How To Spend It.
Here, I’ve found some Eco Friendly Luxury Hotels in India that are bound to please even the most demanding ‘green’ guests.
Kerala has long been a beloved travel destination for nature lovers, and the Coconut Lagoon in Kerala definitely caters to them. The hotel has organised a fortnightly village clean-up, where staff venture out into the local community to clean away trash. There’s a solar-powered boat, a biomass digester, and 8 acres of rice cultivation on-site. The Vechoor cow, the smallest breed in the world, was virtually saved from extinction thanks to a conservation effort. It’s a hotel that perfectly blends glimpses of old India with new technology. Accommodation is provided in three forms – Heritage Bungalows, Heritage Mansions and Private Pool Villas. No two villas are the same; they have different beds, cupboards and chests of drawers that have been sourced from ‘traditional homes’ and the ‘famed craftsmen of the region’. The hotel offers the perfect marriage of luxury and sustainability, furnishings feature natural fabrics.
he business outlook of the Dune Eco group is summed up in its name. Now 15 years old, the chain’s highlight is the Eco Village and Spa near Pondicherry which consists of 55 uniquely designed bungalows. These have an emphasis on organic living, nature and purity of mind, body and soul, with solar-heated water, reclaimed timbers and a waste water treatment plant. The food is prepared using organically-prepared vegetables, while the spa offers Ayurvedic treatments, yoga and meditation as many alternative therapies including Watsu, a form of aquatic bodywork. It also supports a charitable trust offering free tuition to underprivileged young adults, showing that it wants to give something back socially as well as environmentally.
Beach lovers have long lusted for the white sands of Goa, and Yogamagic Indian Retreat can fulfil the need for sun in a sustainable environment. As well as looking like the break from heaven in tented eco-chic lodges set in a venue surrounded by a water creek and paddy fields, the tents themselves feature solar halogen lighting, natural composting toilets and waste management using effective microorganisms. Of course, daily yoga and meditation classes are offered here, but what you’ll look most forward to are the meals: it’s all vegetarian and can include anything from bowls bursting with fresh mango, muesli and yogurt to poached eggs on a bed of spinach and masala tomatoes.
In terms of hotel chains, ITC Hotels celebrated its 40th birthday in 2015, and part of its success is in its self-made concept of ‘responsible luxury’ – integrating green practice into contemporary design.
The chain has more than 100 hotels across 70 destinations, and its ten premium hotels have each bagged LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) recognition at the Platinum level. Describing the huge number of initiatives undertaken by the company would double the size of this feature, but life-cycle sustainability and responsible sourcing are perhaps top of the list. For example, the hotels in the chain encourage working with local rural communities to strengthen their farming infrastructures and improve their income.
The exterior of the ITC Maurya showpiece hotel in New Delhi – ranked the number 1 resort in Asia and among the top 5 in the world – really has to be seen to be believed. ITC Maurya is right in the heart of Delhi, a 438-room property which includes 25 uniquely designed suites. The Grand Presidential Suite has an exclusive private entrance, a high speed (and again, private) elevator and a butler; the suite itself features a reception area, living room, study, 12 seater private dining room, mini spa and gym, high definition TVs and more.
Other hotels in the luxury chain can be found in Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. ITC Grand Central Mumbai is a hotel of considerable grandeur; it has 242 guest rooms including 19 suites with sophisticated security. Its decor is designed to reflect the colourful patchwork of the city’s cultures – its colonial past, old English charm and warm Indian hospitality. But as well as decadence and luxury, ITC is a company that prides itself in its inclusivity; it also employs differently-abled people in its staff, including people with hearing and sight impairments.