This week saw the European Hospitality Awards at the Hurlingham Club in London; the Green Award went to the Inspira Santa Marta Hotel in Lisbon. Congratulations to them. I am keen to know what initiatives and activities they employ to stand above others and have emailed the organisers to find out.

The press release naming the winners hit my inbox whilst sat in a place that is on a different level of sustainable and social responsibility to the majority.

Chai Lai Orchid is in the hills of Northern Thailand about an hour from Chiang Mai. They call themselves Nature Bungalows, which is the only fitting title. The roof of our bungalow is made of bamboo and leaves, as is the dining area the and use of concrete is kept to the absolute necessary to provide comfortable lodgings. And they really are comfortable; we are not slumming it here.

The business is a social enterprise. They are partnered with a local non-profit organisation called Daughters Rising which provides free education and paid vocational training to women at risk of sex trafficking. The staff here is made of paid trainees some of whom were subject to that risk others of whom are refugees who have fled ethnic persecution and war in Burma.

As well as learning among other things English, the vocational training teaches these women the basics of the hospitality industry; from housekeeping to guest relations.

As a guest you do not mind that their english is often poor and sometimes things don’t go quite to plan; as well as being a guest you feel part of the process of education and development. Its a great place to stay. As if that were not enough Chai Lai Orchid in collocated with a local family run elephant sanctuary.

As a guest here we get to spend the days getting to know these intelligent beasts up close; riding them bare back in the jungle, feeding them and bathing them in the river. The latter is very wet and fun time of day. Our stay here has not just been a wonderful few days with trekking in the hills with swimming in waterfalls but one that is supporting two very worthy social and environmental enterprises. I mean no disrespect to any European firm when I say that sometimes we should be careful how much we pat ourselves on the back for our green and socially responsible activities. By that I don’t mean that you need to have bamboo huts to be green or elephants on the premises to be responsible; but that we should be asking “Is this really the very best we can be doing”.

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