These Hotels Are Making Remarkable Contributions to Their Local Communities — and Travelers Are Taking Notice

For many hotel operators, it’s no longer enough to delight visiting guests. These days, hospitality brands are deepening their efforts to serve locals.

<p>Justin Nicholas/Courtesy of IHG Hotels & Resorts</p> Hotel X Brisbane Fortitude Valley, in Brisbane, Australia.

Justin Nicholas/Courtesy of IHG Hotels & Resorts

Hotel X Brisbane Fortitude Valley, in Brisbane, Australia.

The hotel in Brisbane, Australia, had all the hallmarks of a modern boutique property when it opened in December 2021. The sleek, minimalist décor with pops of color was right on trend. The rooftop bar had creative, Spanish-influenced gin and tonics. An app for guests recommended nearby shops, like the chic menswear store a block away. But Hotel X Brisbane Fortitude Valley distinguishes itself not with these attributes but rather its Youth Xcellence Program, an initiative aimed at high school students looking to pursue careers in hospitality.

Hotel X has already hosted 15 students for a full-day immersion into the daily operations of the hotel. Some of those kids have now moved to the next stage of the program, with paid work experience in human resources, sales, and marketing. A third phase will see students move up to in-depth, paid vocational training, all conducted on site.

The ambitious program is a hallmark of Vignette Collection, a division of IHG Hotels & Resorts that launched in 2021. “This brand is for that next generation of luxury travelers and thoughtfully weaves responsibility, community, and locality together,” explains Jane Mackie, a senior vice president at IHG.

While each Vignette hotel has the freedom to develop its own initiatives, Mackie says, all the projects “build brighter futures for people in the communities our hotels call home.” They might be skills-building programs like Youth Xcellence, or hotels could instead host community events or coordinate volunteer activities. More than a dozen hotels will join Vignette in the years ahead, IHG says, including the Dona Filipa Hotel, in Portugal’s Algarve region, and properties still in the works in locations including Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

<p>COURTESY OF SMALL LUXURY HOTELS OF THE WORLD</p> Barracuda Hotel & Villas, which funds social programs in Bahia, Brazil.


Barracuda Hotel & Villas, which funds social programs in Bahia, Brazil.

Small Luxury Hotels of the World also stepped up its community efforts in 2021 with the launch of its Considerate Collection, which highlights member properties engaged in good works. One example is Barracuda Hotel & Villas, in Brazil’s Bahia state, which has introduced the Porto de Trás Cultural Center and the Yandê Itacaré Institute, which host community programs and preserve natural riches. In Venice, another SLH hotel, Ca’ di Dio, stocks its boutique with bags and accessories from Rio Terà Social Cooperative, a group that offers job training to prison inmates and those recently released from incarceration.

These laudable efforts are as much about driving business as giving back, says Daniel Luddington, vice president of development at SLH. “Faced with the choice of two similar hotels, many travelers will opt for the more sustainable option,” he notes.

<p>COURTESY OF CUYAMA BUCKHORN</p> A community dinner at California’s Cuyama Buckhorn hotel.


A community dinner at California’s Cuyama Buckhorn hotel.

Independent hotels are also making major moves. In a rural stretch of California’s Santa Barbara County, Cuyama Buckhorn has positioned itself as an unofficial town hall. The property has hosted meetings between residents and government officials to discuss topics like real estate development. “These meetings are pivotal for our small community,” says Buckhorn co-owner Ferial Sadeghian.

Another rural resort, Maple Grove Hot Springs & Retreat Center, in southeastern Idaho, has made numerous investments, starting with its solar-powered, net-zero operations. The wellness retreat hosts suicide-prevention training sessions, something general manager Jordan Menzel describes as “a huge need in our community.” The property is also helping raise awareness and funds for the Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center, which aims to erect a Shoshone-managed memorial on the site of the Bear River Massacre. “We’re normalizing a culture of stewardship,” Menzel says. “We’re blurring the lines between community, guest, and business.”

A version of this story first appeared in the May 2023 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Hotels Lend a Hand.”

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