Soulitude has successfully managed to provide a balance between a luxurious & personalised experience to its guests, while actively maintaining & propagating practices that promote responsible tourism.
In 2011, Soulitude Retreats started operating 2 boutique resorts in the Kumaon Hills, Soulitude in the Himalayas and Soulitude by the Riverside. Soulitude was awarded 9 times in 4 consecutive years by TripAdvisor as the Travellers’ Choice Winner for 2015, 2014, 2013 & 2012 in several categories including Hotels with Exceptional Service, Family, Hill Stations & Best Service. Both the Soulitude properties have received Certificates of Excellence by TripAdvisor for 2019, 2018, 2017 & 2016.
Remarkably, the Commercial Taxes department of Uttarakhand initiated “Honour Awards” in 2014 and Soulitude was the first ever recipient of this award in recognition for its honesty as a tax-payer.
Responsible Tourism Initiatives / Policies
- Soulitude employs only local staff, and specifically selects those without any hospitality experience, and then trains them on a multi-disciplinary basis. They are groomed to increase their confidence so that they can build on their innate warmth and develop their individual expression of service.
- Both properties are serviced by local maintenance contractors who have benefited from a transfer of skills imparted by visiting experts.
MINIMISING ENERGY CONSUMPTION:
- The buildings have been designed for passive cooling & heating. For example, at Soulitude by the Riverside, low ventilator windows in the lounge open up to allow the entry of cool river breeze which starts a convection cycle that pushes the warm air out via ducts in the ceiling. Energy efficient air coolers are installed throughout, avoiding the need for air conditioning. During winters, glass skylights let in the warm sun and the shades trap the heat for the night.
- Heated mattresses or hot water bottles are encouraged over general space heating.
- A unique solar hot water system has been developed, with a switching mechanism that diverts warm water into the geysers for top-up only during winters and directly into the taps during summers. An innovative re-circulation system avoids water getting cold in the pipes, thereby eliminating the need to release water until warm water becomes available.
- Inverters have been used as the primary back-up, and the generators are used only when inverters have been exausted and then only to re-charge them – thus reducing noise & air pollution.
MINIMISING WATER USE & REGENERATING NATURE:
- Soulitude is blessed with its own natural springs, which are meticulously maintained. We do not use RO purification systems that waste water, and have opted for a series of filters that purify water without depleting natural minerals.
- We treat our own sewage using the traditional soak pit method. No chemicals are used in this process and the grey water released is naturally filtered through the soil matrix before it is discharged.
- Kitchen waste segregation leads to wet waste composting and sensible disposal of other waste via recyling vendors.
- At Soulitude in the Himalayas, we use a highly efficient industrial dishwasher that uses minimal amount to water to generate steam for cleaning.
- At Soulitude in the Himalayas, we have an extensive rain water harvesting system that stores upto 1,00,000 litres for use during scarcity, and is used in the WCs and for gardening.
- Extensive plantation of native species has been done to prevent soil erosion and improve the water table.
- We maintain and preserve the pristine surroundings along the riverfront at Soulitude by the Riverside by regularly cleaning the area and removing trash, plastics and other waste materials that flow downstream from time to time.
THOUGHTFUL GUEST AMENITIES:
- Glass bottles and Copper jugs are used as drinking water containers.
- Shampoo is provided in a wall dispenser (avoiding single use packaging) along with large take-away preservative free soaps in natural leaf packaging and Himalayan oils in glass bottles for moisturisation. Other amenities are provided on request.
- Linen is changed only upon request, during a guest’s visit.
- Biodegradable crockery & cutlery is used for picnics.
- Propagation of environment friendly practices and “conscious consumption” is subtly done using in-room communication and its practical implementation.
- Digital pre-check procedure and paperless billing reduce paper waste
FOOD & BEVERAGE:
- Soulitude provides a genuine Farm-to-Table experience for guests and we organically grow a significant part of what we consume, and the rest is sourced from nearby farms and local markets. Our menus have been planned around the availability of seasonal produce. We make our own juice, jams, pickles, dals, bread and biscuits to serve to our guests. We offer individualised menu choices instead of extensive buffet spreads, to reduce food wastage.
RESPONSIBLE ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN:
- The structures have been designed to sit lightly on the land without disturbing the natural systems. Even existing rocks & trees were not disturbed and are aesthetically blended to enhance the interiors and exteriors (Room Sahaj is extremely popular due to the presence of a huge rock with water flowing over it).
- At Soulitude by the Riverside, the Lounge and the Cottages were designed as polygonal structures to blend with the contours of the land. The 1930’s built Village Home was sensitively restored using traditional methods of vernacular architecture without compromising authenticity. Original dry stack stone walls are plastered with mud and husk, which not only provide for excellent insulation but also acts as a natural antidote to termites. An old unused building in the guest area was meticulously deconstructed & relocated to re-build as staff quarters and the ‘malba’ waste was used to create a walking track.
- At Soulitude in the Himalayas, the Main House was designed around an old Walnut tree, so that it was not disturbed during the construction, and it now defines the character of the property. Several rooms have been adorned with ‘upcycled’ materials & furniture.
- Soulitude has received “Healthy Building” certification by Syenergy Environics for radiation management.
LOCAL COMMUNITY SUPPORT:
- Besides employment and local procurement that supports the local economy, Soulitude conducts Village Walks which enables interaction with community and supports local crafts. It traverses agricultural fields where the guests can see the origin of the food that they have consumed, and the processing of wheat into flour by an ancient “panchakki” water-mill. They also witness a local iron craftsman at work and get an opportunity to have tea at his home.