Responsibility to the planet, nature and local communities are driving forces of the Habitas brand. In conversation with Eduardo Castillo co-founder of Habitas
Habitas’ luxury hotel in Tulum
Habitas was born in 2016. The brainchild of Oliver Ripley, Kfir Levy and Eduardo Castillo. Their mission was to create a community inspired by the sense of togetherness found at alternative cultural gatherings, such as Burning Man in the Nevada desert. «We did not set out to create a hospitality company» explains Eduardo Castillo.
«We started by bringing our friends together for experiences in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. Together we wanted to create experiences that we would enjoy and our friends would, too. When we opened our hotel in Tulum, we had no idea what to expect. This was key, because we approached it differently to a hotelier. We wanted to create a feeling of home and belonging, and it attracted other like-minded people».
Today Habitas operates most recognizable as a hotel group, with locations in Mexico and Namibia. Yet, its mission and offering strive to set itself apart from this term. «Habitas is Latin for home. We chose this name as we call our hotels homes. We also believe in creating safe spaces where our guests and community can feel authentically themselves».
Habitas’ core values
Habitas’ purpose is «to bring people together while creating deeper human connections and lasting experiences in nature, to instil a profound sense of empathy for our planet». For the brand, sustainability as well as a heightened awareness of its own carbon footprint are core values. Since its inception, in fact, its fundamental goal has been to unite similar beings, celebrate in shared ideals and offer unique experiences while ensuring the integrity of the planet is upheld throughout, says Castillo.
«Our goal is to create empathy towards our planet and one another. Over time, we’ve seen this develop into a community of like-minded individuals around the world who share in our ethos. From our programming to off-site experiences and sustainable initiatives, we bring people together in spaces that foster connection».
Lampoon review: Habitas’ environmental commitment
To Castillo this newfound style of hotel and hospitality group is a response to the present zeitgeist. «The way we travel is changing. We prioritize experiences over material possessions and seek out brands that reflect our values». Care for the planet, nature and local communities are driving forces.
«Responsible tourism means actively participating in the preservation of our planet and the local communities we visit. It means giving back and doing our part to ensure a sustainable future. We host action-based events and on-site panels, educating staff and guests on best practices while working with our in-house sustainability director».
At Habitas, this mission infiltrates the brand’s DNA. From the design of the properties to its facilities within, environmentally sound solutions take precedent. «Sustainability is at the core of our brand and thus paramount in how we design each of our homes. Whilst the design of each home differs depending on the location, we create an aesthetic that blends seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. We don’t build through nature but rather around it. Each of our homes is designed to leave minimal impact on the existing surroundings».
«For example, at our home in Tulum, we designed around trees instead of cutting them down, and [we] planted two-thousand during the development process. We [apply] sustainable building practices, using natural materials and lightweight construction methods to protect nature. We source and buy from the local community and [this] creates micro-economies. This is integral to our ethos. Helping local farmers and artisans, and training and teaching the local workforce».
Habitas Design Labs
As for the materials, Castillo states that these vary from location to location yet consistently depend on the primary objective. To be as sustainable as possible. Whether that be in the construction, supply chain or operations. «The pieces in our rooms are handmade in neighbouring communities. They are made with natural, locally sourced materials, like Tzalam and Ziricote wood». The rooms in question are constructed using an innovative technique seldom seen in the hotel industry.
Devised by Habitas Development Labs in Merida, Mexico, the brand uses a multi-dimensional printing process for creating its eco-friendly rooms. They are designed, constructed, and flat-packed before being shipped to the Habitas locations. «As a result, the development cycle is four or five times faster than typical hotels. While we are in the manufacturing and production [stages], in parallel, we are doing on-site work. In construction, one [process usually] comes before the other. We have created a system where we engage multiple disciplines at once» says Castillo.
«Habitas Design Labs is our design team based in Yucatan, Mexico. It consists of in-house architects, designers as well as engineers, leading the development of each of our homes. Habitas is the owner, architect, engineer, management company and operator of its properties. This eliminates the reliance on second and third-party stakeholders to interpret the vision at any stage of development. Unlike standard hotels, in fact, Habitas can control every aspect of the process. Our construction methodology minimizes our environmental impact. Our modular construction allows us to build in an efficient way without compromising design integrity and guest experience».
Habitas’ commitment to sustainable initiatives
«We are committed to eliminating single-use plastic throughout our homes. We have also been awarded the Oceanic Champion Badge for adopting The Oceanic Standard. We’ve partnered with Cooperativo Ambio’s Scolel’te Program, supporting reforestation from proceeds from our concerts and screenings. This initiative offsets carbon emissions from our operations. Waste classification is a key step directed to better waste management. We work with local organizations to manage excess waste as a result of daily operations by recycling and composting».
This commitment to sustainable initiatives also seeps into the guest experience. Carbon offsetting is a tool utilized by Habitas to ensure environmentally-friendly operations. «At Habitas AlUla, which will open this Fall, there will be zero carbon emissions from the moment a guest enters the resort. Further, special events happening at our upcoming Mexico property, Habitas Bacalar, will be carbon neutral, encouraging the audience to know and compensate for their own footprint with the goal of having negative carbon events. This will translate into having a positive impact on the global climate as well as the planet ́s regeneration».
Future development at Habitas, Habitas Bacalar in Saudi Arabia
For Habitas, each site is individual. «Discovery, adventure, nature, learning as well as giving back are the key pillars that unite our locations. It’s a contrast to be soon unveiling a property in AlUla, a living museum amongst dramatic sandstone canyons in Saudi Arabia, with our forthcoming launch of Habitas Bacalar, [which is] set on a freshwater lagoon that looks like the Maldives. Our vision is to continue to grow destinations that are off the beaten path, in natural surroundings with a strong sense of community and cultural heritage».
Elements including dining, music, wellness and adventure are inherent to the Habitas brand, yet differ with each location. «We tap into the local communities at each of our homes, ensuring our programming respectfully celebrates traditions and customs, while giving, through action-based events and local outreach», explains Castillo. «Our intention and goal is to harness the essence of the locations we choose to inhabit. We want our experience to be immersive and not intrusive».
RISE – Habitas’ impact initiative
The concept of giving back extends beyond the hotel walls. RISE is Habitas’ impact initiative, in fact. Its mission mirrors Habitas itself. Giving back to the local community, safeguarding mother earth as well as promoting social sustainability and conscientious tourism. «RISE leads with culture, art, self-expression and community infrastructure. Wherever we go, it’s our responsibility to understand, respect, and preserve the local culture and environment. In every location we build our homes. Our mission is, in fact, to give back».
«In Namibia, we have partnered with Saira Hospitality to support Namibia’s communities by empowering locals through job opportunities and hospitality training. In Tulum, we have launched Tulum Proactive Response in partnership with Papaya Playa to support those affected by Covid-19 and the travel restrictions. One of our biggest learnings is to focus on our local communities. We want to ensure we have an impact on the communities we build our homes in. Thus focusing on creating local micro-economies and supporting through what we source and buy».
Habitas Tulum accommodation
Habitas, Tulum, is where this started. It is the brand’s flagship. With thirty-five guest rooms, including jungle and ocean view huts, guests sleep alongside undisturbed wilderness. Rooms are complete with outdoor rain showers as well as custom-made natural amenities created by Habitas. The resort also features a three-story lounge with a restaurant, mezzanine and rooftop, a courtyard with a cinema and concert space, a swimming pool and a wellness centre that offers holistic spa services and massages.
Further, daily, rooftop yoga, music sessions, concerts, and family-style dinners take place too. Guests are also provided with a complimentary bicycle to move at ease around the resort. Moro is the resort’s central meeting space. «A ground-floor restaurant helmed by Chef Horacio Dardano, with a menu that focuses on Spanish cuisine with a strong Moorish influence, heavily utilizing spices from North Africa like cumin, black peppercorn, cloves, and cinnamon».
Habitas Tulum’s culinary proposals
With an all-dietary-friendly offering, Castillo details the menu. «Ingredients are sourced locally and used when in season. Dishes include a variety of seafood plates like black shrimp ceviche, iron-skillet octopus, smoked pork belly, carrot hummus as well as other dishes made with ingredients sourced from the region. Our Executive Chef is from Uruguay. While, the rest of our kitchen team is from neighbouring communities in Quintana Roo and Yucatan».
Accommodating seventy guests at full capacity, Habitas, Tulum, is an intimate adults-only experience. Leaning into the idea that guests are at home when at Habitas, Castillo signs off by saying «it is key for us to have homes worldwide that reflect our philosophy and continue to support local communities through education, job creation and creating sustainable opportunities, instilling pride and purpose». As for the future, Habitas has announced a series of developments across Mexico, Central America, the Middle East and Asia. All of them will remain woven in the same thread. With sustainability as its heart and memorable experience and wellness its offering.
KM 4.5, Av. Boca Paila, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Habitas Tulum is an Eco-resort hotel. It boasts a year-round outdoor pool and a private beach area. The structure is situated in Tulum in the Quintana Roo Region, three-and-a-half kilometers from Tulum Archeological Site.