SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Love living it up on holiday as much as the environment? Now you don't have to sacrifice your green credentials, with an advisory group naming the world's top environmentally friendly luxury hotels.
EC3 Global, an independent industry environmental group that certifies hotels according to their sustainable tourism efforts, handed its inaugural, annual "Seed Award" to the Banyan Tree's properties in the Maldives, which it said have a comprehensive program to protect the environment.
The island nation off the tip of India, best known for luxury tropical hideaways and unspoiled beaches, is among the most threatened by rising seas, with the United Nations predicting that a rise in sea levels of up to 58 cm (23 inches) could submerge many of its 1,192 islands by 2100.
"With the current focus on climate change, it's fitting that the winner is located in one of the world's most spectacular -- yet vulnerable -- destinations," EC3 Global said in a statement.
"Banyan Tree's four resorts in the Maldives -- Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Angsana Ihuru, Angsana Velavaru, and Banyan Tree Madivaru -- don't limit sustainability experiences to guest activities, they can be seen in every facet of operations."
Singapore-based Banyan Tree, a developer of luxury hotels, manages or owns 26 hotels and resorts in Asia, most of them under the Banyan Tree and Angsana brand names.
The firm has been expanding aggressively in recent years and is in the process of opening hotels in Bali; Hangzhou, China; Acapulco, Mexico and Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.
Runner-up for the 2009 award was the luxurious Al Maha Desert Resort in Dubai, which includes a sanctuary for several species of animals including the Arabian Oryx, the rare Arabian fox and the tiny desert hare.
It has previously won the World Legacy Award for nature conservation.
EC3 Global said it had already assisted more than 1,000 hotel operators in more than 60 countries become more environmentally friendly, but added that with tourism being one of the world's largest industries it will take "the commitment of all to help preserve the beauty we travel great distances to enjoy."
Writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by Alex Richardson