Hilton is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 18 world-class brands comprising more than 6,100 properties with more than 977,000 rooms, in 119 countries and territories. Dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company, Hilton has welcomed more than 3 billion guests in its 100-year history.

Travel with Purpose, Hilton’s Corporate Responsibility strategy, aims to redefine and advance sustainable travel globally. By 2030, we plan to double our social impact investment and cut our environmental footprint by half. To strengthen positive impact in our communities, Hilton launched the Hilton Effect Foundation.

The Hilton Effect Foundation is the company’s primary international philanthropic arm and funds grants to nonprofits that are improving travel destinations, creating economic opportunities for all, and helping us advance our Travel with Purpose 2030 Goals. Our dedication to social and environmental efforts have led us to be named on the 2019 Global Industry Leader on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, and was the only hospitality company to be listed on the Fortune’s Change the World list for two years in a row.

What is your impact tourism model?

All of Hilton’s hotels take important steps to reduce their environmental footprint and create opportunities for positive social impact. Hilton guides hotels on their individual strategies via environmental management brand standards that require ongoing reductions in waste, energy and water consumption. The 2030 Goals further support social impact programs, encouraging the creation of youth opportunities and team member volunteering in their communities.

Every hotel is also advised to localize its impact strategy, addressing local needs and priorities. For example, in the Africa and Indian Ocean region, Hilton’s ‘Big Five’ initiative addresses material issues across the continent, including youth opportunity, local sourcing, water stewardship, anti-human trafficking, and wildlife protection.

Hotels in this region include the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa and the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, located in one of the world’s most desirable destinations, on which we will focus this case study.

Oceanview at the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa

Please provide brief examples of some of your most impactful projects.

The Seychelles is blessed with powder sand beaches, pristine waters, and abundant marine life. Yet this alluring archipelago of 115 islands faces significant challenges when it comes to protecting and preserving its ecology. Awareness of the need to preserve the local environment is on the increase, as the islands make carefully managed conservation initiatives and sustainable tourism development a priority.

Coral Reef Preservation: Coral reefs play an important role in preserving our marine habitats and protecting our coastlines from storms and other weather-related events. With coral bleaching occurring in tropical regions such as Seychelles, the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa has partnered with the Marine Conservation Society and local environmental organizations to tackle damage to corals. These measures include maintaining coral reef nurseries, where guests are encouraged to visit newly grown coral in its tanks before it is replanted, or take a guided snorkeling trail around the nurseries. They can even “adopt” coral through the Marine Conservation Society to support the project, totaling over 300 adoptions to date. Individuals that adopt a coral even receive an adoption certificate and a growth update six months later.

Investing in Young People: Hilton collaborates closely with universities, colleges, and schools in the Seychelles to bring young people closer to the travel and tourism industry to demonstrate the vast career opportunities. Hilton delivers soft skills training through Passport to Success, a training program created in partnership with the International Youth Foundation. Hilton Seychelles Labriz is also offers students apprenticeship opportunities that lead to qualifications from the Wine & Spirts Education Trust.

Sustainable Sourcing: Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa partners with The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to help source local produce from inclusive and environmentally conscious practices, to minimize the number of imports. Through the organic vegetable garden at the resort and the IFAD partnership, the hotel now sources over 80% of its vegetables locally. Additionally, all food waste is processed and turned into fertilizer used onsite. Our garden at the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa we grow over 200 varieties of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Ten kilograms of produce is grown through aquaponics each week and we compost all organic waste.

Waste Management: As part of Hilton’s commitment to send zero soap to landfill by 2030, the Hilton Seychelles cluster, led by Hilton Northolme Resort & Spa, launched its soap recycling initiative with Diversey’s Soap for HopeTM program. The hotels work closely with the President’s Village, an organization established by the government that teaches young people from difficult backgrounds to recycle soap, which is then donated back into their community.

Plastic Reduction & Water Use: In a bid to combat plastic pollution on the island, Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa installed a water bottling plant on Mount Dauban, the largest peak on Silhouette Island. Water is filtered and placed in reusable glass bottles, as the hotel plans to one day completely eradicate single-use plastic from its operations.  The property also gifts reusable water bottles to students when planned visits are arranged. So far, we’ve saved more than 180,000 plastic bottles.

Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa Team Member filler a reusable glass bottle with filtered water from the water bottling plant on Mount Dauban.

Has your impact tourism program helped, hurt, or had no impact on your business?

Many of our guests choose our Hilton properties because of the positive impact we create for our communities.  In addition to attracting guests to our properties, our Seychelles’ environmental initiatives facilitate several cost-saving measures. For example, we source many of our goods and ingredients locally at both of our Hilton Seychelles properties, thereby reducing the hotels’ import costs.

Visitor Engagement

How is the impact tourism promoted or marketed to guests?

Our sustainability management plans are shared on the websites of our two Seychelles properties, so guests can easily access information about our ongoing impact tourism projects. Furthermore, the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa also produces a monthly newsletter for current guests that shares sustainability updates from the resort team.

What type of educational opportunities and/or materials do you give to travelers?

Our coral reef endeavors provide protection to the island community from future storms and other weather-related disasters. Communication to guest is necessary for appreciation of climate change but also for paying additional attention whilst undertaking snorkeling or diving activities.

Community Perspectives

How do you ensure that your values and approach align with the community supported?

Our aim is to support the needs of the local community with all of our environmental and social impact initiatives, and therefore, we communicate frequently with the small local population to ensure that our projects meet the community’s most relevant needs. The Marine Conservation Society is actively messaging the importance of marine stewardship to the community and many young locals are part of the team that manages the Hilton restoration project.  We support our local farmers with our commitment to buy local, purchasing 95% of seafood at the Labriz resort from local fishermen. In addition to our key environmental initiatives, the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa partners with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Tourism to provide practical training for high school students, placing them in different resort departments to acquire skills and knowledge that will lead to future employment opportunities. 

Our properties also work closely with the Islands Development Company and the Island Conservation Society to ensure its activities do not adversely affect local access to livelihoods, including land and aquatic resource use, rights of way, transport, and housing.

Lessons Learned

Why do you feel your impact tourism program has been so successful?

As a result of our impact tourism programs, Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa and Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa have become the first Hilton hotels in the Africa and Indian Ocean region to be certified by Green Globe.  We prioritize the integration of sustainability into our team culture and day-to-day operations, demonstrating the seamlessness of being responsible stewards of our planet. In doing so we are paving a way forward for the hospitality industry. We share our knowledge with stakeholders at a local and global level. In the Seychelles, this is demonstrated through a close relationship with the government’s tourism department. To share our practices with peers around the world, we are active members of the International Tourism Partnership and the World Travel and Tourism Council, with our CEO Chris Nassetta currently serving as Chairman. Hilton continuously strives to be a pioneer for positive change, being the first major hotel company to institute science-based carbon reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.

This Impact Tourism Handbook was made possible by generous financial support from Elevate Destinations, Hilton, Holbrook Travel, and Overseas Adventure Travel.