With the theme of Sustainability at the center of today’s business agenda, hotels must take the current changes seriously. The Maya Boutique Hotel in Valais is a great example of this process in action.
Recently, a group of EHL students taking part in the elective course on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Innovation paid a visit to the Maya Boutique Hotel in Valais. The course, taught by Dr Carlos Martin-Rios and Dr Peter Varga, offers students a day-trip opportunity to get firsthand information on some of the most sustainable hotels in Switzerland. Owners, Lisa and Louis were very kind in opening their doors to our students and faculty.
The Maya Hotel has a unique architecture and an accessible location that offers special services, direct contact with the owners and lower prices compared to other Swiss ecolodges. The hotel implements several sustainable innovations which make it very appealing in the eyes of many diverse customers that span different ages and nationalities. A large proportion of clients are Swiss nationals, mostly couples looking for a wellness retreat or a fasting getaway. They do not visit the hotel on a regular basis, sometimes only once in a lifetime. There is also a segment of young professionals coming from all around Europe looking for a sustainable eco-tourism experience.
Possibly thanks to its small size, the hotel offers leading-edge sustainable innovations. Its main business objective is to decrease its ecological footprint while providing the best possible quality for their guests. The visiting students had the opportunity to learn about some of the main sustainability initiatives offered by the Maya Hotel.
Sustainable building materials
The Maya Hotel is the first hotel in Europe entirely made of straw - an agricultural by-product of a dry grain crop, such as barley, oats, rice, rye and wheat. Nearly 55 tonnes of straw bales, clay, lime and glass make up the composition of the establishment.
“Lisa and Louis took 250 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere and locked it into the walls of their straw bale hotelin the beautiful alpine valley of Val d'Hérens in Switzerland. The hotel and home was designed by architect Werner Schmidt who builds many homes from big bales (miscanthus), 1.2 m (4ft) thick. Such big bales mean the house is extremely well insulated. The hotel produces energy for the guests and for cooking. Some 60-80 Watts (200-270 BTU), plus the sunlight is enough cover around 80% of the need for hot sanitary water and heating throughout the year.”
Although not a commonly used material in construction, straw qualifies as sustainable thanks to its low impact on nature and in terms of energy consumption.
Sustainable use of energy
The hotel makes energy saving and being carbon neutral a cornerstone of its sustainable mission. It is self-sufficient in energy thanks to solar panels and a wood oven. The Maya Hotel produces 100% of the required heat by itself.
The bread oven, in addition to being used for cooking, heats the water used by the guests in their rooms. Since such sophisticated technology was not available at the time of construction, the owner designed and built it himself. Thanks to this complex yet clever system, the hotel saves on electricity to heat water and uses the generated heat in multiple ways.
The hotel is located in the Nax region, situated on the left bank of the Rhône at the entrance to the Hérens valley at 1200m. The region is a preserved natural environment where Maya Hotel clients can enjoy winter activities, including skiing, snowshoeing and ski touring. In summer, guests are invited to stroll along the many hiking and bicycle trails.
Moreover, working with local suppliers, the Maya Hotel also offers a green mobility service: a network of electric cars and charging points available to guests staying at various Val d’Hérens hotels. The innovative idea is to offer a “green” transport service at different destinations, giving clients complete independence to explore the region at their own pace. The car hire is based on the “Pay What You Like” principle, with guests deciding on the financial contribution they wish to make.
For the last few years, the Maya Boutique Hotel & Spa has also become dedicated to fasting guests, ensuring a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. The Maya Hotel promotes fasting programs alongside a complete set of spa, yoga and meditation services. The one-week program includes relaxing massages, professionally supervised fasting vacations and a full program of wellness activities: spa, yoga, walking, relaxation, etc… in the hotel´s stunning grounds.
Fasting is an ancestral practice widespread in many cultures. Fasting is a voluntary abstinence from solid food for a limited period of time. As a consequence of this abstinence, the body activates an internal system of nutrition and self-healing abilities. The body becomes detoxified and purified and the metabolic system is stimulated.
Thanks to the large investment in sustainability, the Maya Boutique Hotel has won the Innovation Award at the Worldwide Hospitality Awards in Paris, 2015 and 2016. In 2016, the award for the Best Innovation in Services in addition to Accommodation went to the hotel for its project on Green Mobility.
The Maya Boutique Hotel is a business success story that showcases the increasing relevance of sustainable establishments in Switzerland. Congratulations to the hotel and its team!