As co-founder of Positive Luxury – the organisation that doles out the coveted butterfly mark to sustainably-minded brands – Diana Verde Nieto has her eye on hotels. In addition to covering everything from fashion to booze, the company keeps on eye on the travel and hospitality industry. We chatted with Nieto to get the scoop on how we can travel more responsibly and find out which retreats she truly admires.
What does ‘luxury’ mean to you?
Luxury to me is a unique experience, along with an element of dream and aspiration.
What are the biggest things a person can do to be a responsible world traveller?
Be respectful of the place you’re visiting, and what I mean by that is, don’t disturb local communities or the natural ecosystem.
Is ecotourism still on the rise? What about voluntourism?
I really believe that we need to stop using labels such as this, as the best thing that’s happened to the industry is that people in general – especially the younger generation – truly care. We’ve moved from location or destination to ecosystem. People are interested in the culture of a place, the local food, local customs and much more interested in getting involved, if they can, rather than simply spectating.
Positive Luxury’s mission is to inspire brands to do better. In general, how do you think the hotel industry can do better?
The biggest thing the hotel industry can do is think about impact before they build – that means incorporating the local ecosystem and community into the experience. I understand that for existing hotels and resorts this is more difficult, but investing in renewable energy without disrupting guests’ choices, and choosing to benefit the local community as much as possible, is key.
What specific hotels do you admire for their commitment to sustainability?
Song Saa Private Island, Soneva resorts, and Banyan Tree Mayakoba are just a handful of those that I really admire, as their commitment to sustainability is really at the heart of what they do. Song Saa, for example, combines luxury and conservation seamlessly – the resort was born out of the desire to support the local community and weave itself into nature, rather than disrupt it.
Do you have a favourite holiday destination?
It has to be my home, Argentina. Though it’s not a holiday spot for me, I love going back to my country. If I had to pick a true holiday destination, it would be somewhere I’ve not been yet.