Professional Comment

Why Boutique Is Best When It Comes To Ethical Travel

By Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel (

Travelling ethically is being mindful of the consequences of being a tourist, from taking conscious actions to reduce your carbon footprint to considering the morality of any activities or attraction visits.

The demand for ethical travel is on the rise. However, a ground-breaking report by Ethical Consumer assessing the practices of leading travel businesses has revealed that just 10% of those surveyed are reasonably tackling their carbon impacts and can be regarded as highly ethical.

But this doesn’t reflect the entire travel industry. When it comes to booking a trip, independent boutique hotels often represent the ethical and self-sufficient choice when compared to a corporate chain hotel, where a candid approach to sustainability can be hard to come by.

Think boutique for the self-sufficient leader
Sustainable and ethical travel options are must-haves to succeed in today’s competitive hospitality industry.

Here, boutique hotels have the advantage of autonomy as their profits are not directed to a potentially distant corporate owner who has little direct involvement in the day-to-day running of the hotel. This means boutique is often best when it comes to investing time and money into ethical practices, building connections and supporting local industries.

For example, at Burgh Island, one of the leading self-sufficient independent hotels in South Devon, almost 80% of the produce used in our kitchens is from locally sourced outlets, both reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint and helping local businesses to thrive.

Taking a candid approach
According to a report from, over 70% of respondents plan to travel greener this year, up by 10% from 2021. However, almost 60% of travellers noted difficulties finding the information they need to make an informed choice about where to go and where to stay.

Similarly, over half are wary of hotels making claims that simply aren’t true – and guests are rightly concerned. Despite the straplines of major hotel chains, such as Hilton’s “Travel with Purpose”, and grandiose sustainability claims such as Marriott’s target to reduce its carbon footprint by 15% by 2025, many are struggling to meet green targets.

However, for independent boutique hoteliers, running an establishment is often a labour of love, rather than solely for profit. Their efforts to cater to the ethical traveller are typically more candid and often built into the very ethos and foundation of the hotel, acting as the clincher that strengthens reputation and secures bookings.

This is certainly the case at Burgh Island, a recipient of the Green Apple Organisation for Conservation since 2007, where sustainability is truly part of the hotel’s identity. Here, we generate clean energy from our own solar array, source cleaning water from our own borehole, and even train our staff in energy efficiency and awareness.

Travelling with a purpose
While ethical travellers are conscious of the impact of their adventures, these guests are still travelling with a purpose: to get away from everyday life, try something new and create long-lasting memories. The independence boutique hotels possess put them in the perfect position to tailor their offerings to meet the dual desires of conscious guests.

Often you will find that boutique hotels that build an ethical ethos into their character also offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences and opportunities to engage and learn about the local environment, people and industries.


For example, at Burgh, we offer guests the chance to embark on shark tagging trips to aid in scientific research to protect local shark populations. Not only does this provide guests with a unique experience but allows them to do some good in the process.

Connecting with nature

For travellers looking to connect with nature and enjoy a stay off the beaten track, boutique hotels are a sure choice over urban chain hotels, typically found in polluted cities and nearby busy roads.

Often located in remote and unique areas of outstanding natural beauty, boutique hotels provide guests opportunities to connect with nature and immerse themselves in the local flora and fauna. From experience, this is a sure way to help travellers consider their impact on the environment more closely.

At Burgh Island, we are located just off the 630-mile Southwest Coastal Path, providing hours of stunning walking tracks to explore and enjoy, abundant with archaeological sites in the surrounding areas of Burleigh Dolts, Bigbury-On-Sea, Westcombe & Wonewell and the iconic Avon Estuary.

Of course, being an independent boutique establishment makes our job far easier. We cherish the landscapes and community we occupy and, free from corporate pressure, can put ethics and sustainability first to ensure it continues to flourish. Rather than an afterthought, this attitude has been built into the very core of establishments like Burgh Island, providing destinations that truly share the ethical traveller’s desire for impact-free adventure.