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The Rise of Vegan Hotels

In 1944, a concerned vegetarian and Englishman named David Watson received a lesson about the dairy industry. This experience caused him to pause.

Watson, who had been avoiding meat for ethical purposes all his life, had discovered that the dairy industry was no more saintly than the meat market. Mr. Watson and several other non-dairy vegetarians gathered for a meeting to discuss their lifestyle.

The group agreed to remove all animal products from their diet. As a result, the group created a new word to define themselves, and a new Society to represent this new identity. That word was “vegan,” and the organization was the UK Vegan Society. The direction that Watson and the others took this new lifestyle is history. Plant-based alternatives are an exploding trend in our modern world. Consider this as your introduction to Vegan Hotels.

Veganism is now 75 years old. Despite the relative youth of the vegan movement (and its never-ending use as the punchline for bad jokes) there’s never been a better time to live a plant-based lifestyle.

Industries across the globe have been hard at work creating solutions, products, and choices for people who identify with the vegan code. Restaurants, grocers, artisans, and homemakers are all looking for ways to create plant-based versions of everyday products like soap, rugs, and foods. In particular, the hospitality industry is taking big steps to cater to a growing population of vegans worldwide, by collecting all these products together under one roof.

The Seeds of Vegan Hotels

The desire to be vegan has exploded in recent years. From 2014 to 2017 alone, the amount of US consumers identifying as vegan jumped 600%. So, what does it mean to be in this number?

Vegans are a motivated bunch who avoid the use of products made from the exploitation of animals. If it is derived from or tested on animals or insects, it is not vegan approved. In the beginning, this was problematic. Vegans can’t use leather or consume staples like honey, eggs, and dairy. Some of which (as you probably know) are important to make a crispy, buttery croissant. Fortunately, as popularity in veganism has grown over the years, the market has grown to meet it.

“It’s not the hemp-clad abstinent lifestyle that many still think it is.”

– Vegan Hotel owner Sandra MacLaren-Stewart

Vegans are still looking for all the creature comforts of life: a warm pastry, or a well-crafted, reliable bag. Vegans want to eat out, travel, and participate in the economy. As hotel founder Sandra MacLaren-Stewart said of veganism, “it’s not the hemp-clad abstinent lifestyle that many still think it is.”

An alternative economy has bloomed from the needs of this community. Makers have dreamed up nut-derived butter, plant-based “beef,” and oat milk ice cream, all to meet the growing taste of vegans. You can furnish your home with cruelty-free furniture, linens, leathers, and soaps. And, when you travel, you can stay somewhere that’s focused on all of this too. Vegan hotels are on the up-and-up, and their timing couldn’t be better.

The History of Vegan Hotels

Vegan hotels are a relatively new concept in the world of plant-based alternatives. So new in fact, that there is neither a certification or an official guideline of what qualifies as a vegan hotel. There are a lot of questions, such as what percentage of a hotel’s materials should be vegan in order to be abiding by standards. Or, will vegan hotels cross-certify with trusted sustainable-building certifications, like L.E.E.D?

In January of 2019, the world’s first 100% vegan hotel suite opened. Six months later, the first fully vegan boutique hotel opened with 11 rooms. The openings have given the industry examples of what the vegan hotel concept looks like in practice. And fittingly, the first plant-based accommodations come from the birthplace of the vegan movement: The United Kingdom.

Plant-based Lodging Grows Roots in England

In January of 2019, the Hilton London Bankside opened a luxury suite that was vegan from rug to roof. The Vegan Society collaborated with design firm Bompas & Parr to make the room fully conform to an animal-friendly, plant-based ethos. For example, designers used a pineapple leaf material called Piñatex to make the headboard, couch, and furniture in the room. But the vegan experience starts long before guests even reach the room. The Bankside had a special, sustainably-sourced vegan desk made for those checking into the room, and the keycards are made from Piñatex as well.

From the toiletries to the mini-fridge snacks, the accommodations of the room are for any who consider their commitment as “plant-curious” on up to those who wear the vegan badge proudly. The hotel restaurant is vegan as well, offering a deluxe room-service menu that is in line with the values of the room.

Only six-months after the Hilton Bankside emerged on the scene, Sandra & Jack MacLaren-Stewart co-founded Saorsa 1875, the world’s first fully vegan boutique hotel. The hotel has 11 rooms and operates with vegan principles engrained into all operations.

Jack McLaren-Stewart has said that with Saorsa 1875 “the vegan philosophy extends through every aspect of the hotel. Furnishings, toiletries, cleaning products are all vegan as well as the food and drink.”

The inn is located in the village of Pitlochry, a common stop on the way to the Scottish Highlands. At Saorsa, even the energy has the blessing of the Vegan Society. Power comes from Ecotricity, a green energy company. Judging by the press and the reviews, both Saorsa 1875 and The Hilton London Bankside have given the industry a good direction to follow in the shift towards vegan hotels.

Vegan Hotels Across the World

Vegan hotels have yet to find conventional staying power as a significant alternative for plant-based travelers. However, there is no doubt that the concept brings big potential, and the hospitality industry is watching. Various sorts of boutique lodgings, bio hotels, and wellness centers might be the quickest to make the change. Travelers can anticipate the accommodations at future vegan hotel concepts to be comfortable and intimate.

One example is Coroncina, an Italian Agriturismo lodging that claims a vegan kitchen as a big draw for guests. Another is bio resort Yoga Magic Eco Retreat, a company in India where your room is created from traditional mud sculpting, and animal-friendly means that wildlife may roam as close as your open bedroom window. While the food here is marked as vegan, it’s unclear if details like linens and furniture are. Brands advertising as 100% vegan hotels are still rare.

Coincidentally, most travelers are focusing on hotels that feature prominent vegan menus as they wait for the full thing.

With so much excitement on the plant-based hotel front, the years to come are sure to be formative. The trends are shifting to favor green travelers, and vegan hotels will be around for them to rest their heads in.