Very often holidays are all about a little pampering, having fun with loved ones and exploring new and exciting destinations.
But what if you could enjoy a holiday that directly benefits a larger social good? Sounds contradictory? We present to you four charity hotels around the world whose purpose extends far beyond profit-making to a strong focus on developing and aiding its community at large.
Want to help? Stay at these hotels for a good cause during your next holiday.
The hotel focused on the development of the local community
Soria Moria Hotel, Siem Reap (Cambodia)
“Local people are hardworking, loyal, friendly, eager to learn and want to move forward. And at the end of the day, it’s the people who make a place special”[caption id="attachment_2978" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]The founders with staff at the Soria Moria Hotel[/caption]
Distance and cultural differences were no factors in stopping Ken and Kristin from flying halfway across the world to establish the Soria Moria Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Hailing from Norway, the Scandinavian couple set out to build the hotel based on the principles of sustainable tourism, where profits are reinvested back into the community and used to drive the local culture and economy. In a country where workers earn an average of $4 a day, Soria Moria is a much needed project to help initiate the change that the people and its society needs.
In fact, the Soria Moria is the first employee-owned hotel in Cambodia, with local staff accounting for 51% of the shares through the hotel’s Employee Ownership Scheme. “The long-term goal is to maximize the social and financial benefits for the local staff by exploring ways to transfer the remaining 49% of the shares to them, expand the business, or a successful combination of both,” Ken explains.[caption id="attachment_2979" align="aligncenter" width="1177"]Soria Moria Hotel[/caption]
In addition, the hotel set up an Educational Development Program that offers staff higher education opportunities, on-site language lessons, management training and international hotel exchanges. Now home to a close-knit team of 38 local employees, 9 are currently pursuing their bachelors and another 3 their masters.
What is fundamental to the work of Ken and Kristin is their belief that the country needs to “facilitate economic growth, create secure workplaces, provide higher level education and encourage development of socially responsible leaders to bring the country forward,” Ken shares. “In the long-run, this proactive approach will prevent many other problems from occurring.”
The hotel which provides employment for refugees
Magdas Hotel, Vienna (Austria)
“Our goal is not to maximise our profits, but to maximise humanity, openness, tolerance and understanding”[caption id="attachment_2968" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]A photo wall of Magda Hotel’s employees[/caption]
Identifying themselves as “fresh, open-minded and courageous”, you’ll soon realise the Magdas Hotel is not your usual type of lodging. Based in Vienna, Austria, this former retirement home was transformed into a chic boutique hotel using a 1.5€ million loan extended from Caritas, a Catholic organisation with the aim of promoting charity and justice throughout the world. In addition, an extra 60,000€ was raised through crowdfunding.
“It’s a new concept of social business”, says Sarah, the hotel’s sales and marketing manager. Functioning just like every other hotel, Magdas employs full-time staff and accepts online bookings from travellers looking for affordable and comfortable accommodation. The only difference: its staff are mainly made up of former asylum seekers.[caption id="attachment_2970" align="alignleft" width="480"]Sarah, the hotel’s sales and marketing manager[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2969" align="alignright" width="480"]Dini, the hotel’s receptionist[/caption]
Of the 28 employees, 20 first arrived in the country as refugees coming from around the world. Dini, a 30-year-old political refugee from Guinea Bissau, is one of the hotel’s staff and now puts his fluency in five languages to good use at the front desk. But the road to Magdas wasn’t easy – for ten years he wasn’t allowed to work in Austria due to permit restrictions so often plaguing those seeking refuge in Europe.
It is cases like Dini’s that inspire Magdas Hotel to continue its focus on offering real career prospects, and even more crucially, a secure future for these individuals. And they are not alone in their quest to help solve some of our biggest social and economic issues today – many who knew about the hotel’s social work have stepped forward to ask how they can help. “We have dozens of volunteers who have already worked and laughed with us, and helped make our day more radiant,” Sarah shares.
The hotel that was built to fund a school
Stella Maris Lodge, Moshi (Tanzania)
“Our aim was to create a business that would generate enough funds to feed and educate 350 children at our school.”[caption id="attachment_2971" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Stan Taylor with volunteers helping to build the Lodge[/caption]
Just a ten minute drive from Moshi, a Tanzanian town situated on the lower slopes of the beautiful, snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, stands Stella Maris Lodge. While it serves as a popular transit rest stop for travellers climbing Kilimanjaro, the story behind this unassuming 25-room lodge in the village of Mailisita is nothing short of special – it was built specifically to finance a school for 350 needy children.
Funded by the Mailisita Foundation, a US-based orphan and vulnerable child relief organization, Stella Maris was built though the efforts of local volunteers and members of the foundation, including founding member Stan Taylor.[caption id="attachment_2973" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Drawing class in session[/caption]
Stan recalls the daunting task of having to spread word of the hotel after it was built, having run out of both building funds and further support. “It was only when a friend from the US mentioned that her son was going on a volunteer medical mission in Tanzania, that I realised their group could stay at our hotel,” says Stan. “I told her about our story and since then hundreds of students have stayed with us, and dozens even left very positive TripAdvisor reviews. Now, our business has grown incredibly.”
Today, the Stella Maris English-Medium Primary School stands adjacent to the hotel and welcomes guests interested in learning more about the lodge’s social work. The school has also seen an increase in the number of guests interested in contributing, either by volunteering as a teacher, or helping to construct additional classrooms in an ongoing project.
The hotel as a home for furry friends
Aloft Asheville Downtown Hotel, North Carolina (US)
“Some dogs are very shy when they arrive, but we see great improvements as soon as they realise it’s a loving and affectionate environment here”[caption id="attachment_2974" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Aloft Asheville Downtown Hotel Lobby[/caption]
Many hotels around the world offer dog-friendly services, but the Aloft Asheville Downtown Hotel in North Carolina, US, takes this to a whole other level. Without charging any extra fees, the hotel treats their furry friends as actual guests, providing an all-round service to ensure happy and contented pets. Healthy food, signature pet beds, dog toys and locally-baked doggy treats are some of the perks the guests’ pets can enjoy. There is even a rooftop park with an artificial turf for dogs to roam about without having to leave the hotel.[caption id="attachment_2976" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]“Will you adopt me?”[/caption]
However the hotel’s love for dogs expand beyond the generous services it provides. Since 2014, Aloft Asheville partnered with Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue (CAAR) to foster rescue dogs, housing one pooch at a time who wears an “Adopt Me” vest while he awaits adoption to a wonderful home. David McCartney, the hotel’s general manager, explains: “The dog stays an average of ten days before he is adopted. It has happened several times that when guests arrive and check-in, they see the dog in the playpen and fall in love with him instantly!”
In other cases, the hotel puts up an adoption ad on its Facebook page to find its current resident a home it deserves. Potential owners interested in adopting will have to register with the CAAR and go through a thorough screening process before the pup is brought to its new home.