Discover the hotel that is setting the new standard, where sustainability meets luxury.
Monroyo is not only home to the Morella Castle, but also scenic hike trails and the Santa María la Mayor Basilic Church which is believed to date back to the Roman Times. This small mountain village is the perfect escape to nature. Since 2018, when the option is available, over 70% of travelers choose sustainable hotels that minimize carbon emissions without sacrificing the experience, according to Ecobnb.
Torre del Marqués Hotel & Spa – Small Luxury Hotels is a splendid and sustainable escape nestled in the Matarraña mountain ranges of Spain. The hotel was a medieval tower before a complete renovation with locally-sourced materials that presently encapsulates 18 rooms distributed between three floors. Peeping through the rustic walls are bricks from the original tower, as if history continues to embody the spirit of the estate, like small surprises in ancient nooks and crannies.
The 18th century farmhouse transformed into the hotel’s gastronomic restaurant, La Atalaya del Tastavins, utilizes produce from its own organic vegetables garden. Featured on the menu are: Wild boar stew with mushrooms, topped with black truffle, and potato soufflé, Aragon lamb slowly cooked for 17 hours, and dark chocolate brownie with strawberry marshmallows. In addition, the wine cellar includes 40 labels from local wineries that are situated within close proximity from the estate.
Oscar Garcia, the owner of Torre Del Marques, answered some of our questions regarding the estate as well as the integration of sustainability and luxury at Torre del Marques.
JST: What inspired you to start a sustainable hotel?
OG: The very location of the hotel demanded immediate action in this sense. We are located in the nature preserve of the Ports of Beceite, where isolation and depopulation have allowed us to maintain a great diversity of fauna and flora. The region received its name from a nearby river in these mountains, which is one of the least polluted in Spain.
Likewise, the area has a rich gastronomic culture, with high-quality raw materials, where small producers try to get ahead with difficulties to maintain their livelihood. We are aware of the situation the planet is in, and we think that we should contribute to the extent of our possibilities, to reduce the impact on the planet.
JST: Do you source all resources, supplies, and employees locally?
OG: We have made a firm commitment to small local organic producers, incorporating them into our accommodation and restaurant processes. 80% of the employees who work full-time with us lived in this region before we opened, and 65% of the service and supply providers are located at a maximum distance of 100 kilometers from the hotel.
We find the energy for heat by feeding boilers that supply heating and hot water to the hotel with wood chips gathered from the forests of the farm where the hotel is located. About 60% of the electrical energy we consume is obtained from solar power. 100% of our water comes from collecting rainwater and purifying the water for consumption and irrigation.
JST: Does the Hotel Torre del Marqués support any local charity or project? If so, why?
OG: We support small local producers, both with the direct purchase of their products and with the promotion of their services among our clients. Likewise, we are patrons of the sustainable restaurant foundation, which tries to facilitate the development of sustainable restaurants among producers, restaurateurs, and consumers.
For us, the economic and social development of the region where we settle is very important, to fix the population, and provide a fair and coherent way of life in the environment in which we live. Likewise, it is key to promote among consumers the need to adapt our consumption habits to facilitate the economic and social development of underdeveloped rural areas.
JST: How does the Hotel Torre del Marqués have a positive impact on the environment and the local economy?
OG: On the one hand, we recycle most of the water we consume, to reuse it to irrigate the gardens. Likewise, we use renewable energy to cover up to 80% of the hotel’s needs. We use suppliers in close proximity to reduce the Co2 footprint in the supply of raw materials on time, and also to strengthen the local economy.
The staff lives in a house we have rented less than 4 kilometers from the hotel, to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels for their commute to the hotel, and we contribute income to the families that own the houses, and these employees purchase in the shops where we are located, increasing local wealth.
JST: What advice would you share with travelers to be more eco-conscious?
OG: Try to understand the consequences of consumption habits, and value the importance of favoring the local economy, even if that means paying a little more for the products. Bread made in a large bakery in Barcelona, which uses imported wheat and is delivered deep-frozen, may be cheaper, but the impact on the environment of transporting wheat thousands of kilometers, the energy required to freeze food, the transport in special vehicles throughout Spain to finally reach consumers, is very significant. In addition to the impact, it creates on rural communities, by not being able to compete with large companies and then having to stop producing bread in small firewood ovens that use local non-transgenic wheat.
JST: What are the biggest challenges of a sustainable luxury hotel like the Hotel Torre del Marqués?
OG: Being able to remain faithful to our principles. It is increasingly difficult to find nearby organic producers. In some cases, the pressure of the market is making them disappear, and in others the non-existence of generational relief. The new generation does not envision a fair future in rural areas, and they have to emigrate to the big city.
Along the same lines, it is increasingly difficult to have local professionals, and it is a constant struggle to attract talent from other areas of Spain, to continue providing a high-quality service to our guests. However, it is becoming easier to reduce the impact of hotel operations, as technology is becoming more advanced and efficient. It consists of reinvesting in this new technology, to be more efficient, and to use fewer and fewer resources for the operation of the hotel.
JST: How is the Hotel Torre del Marqués honoring the history of the old farmhouse?
OG: The principles of the rehabilitation of the old medieval tower belonging to the Marquesses of Santa Coloma were based on the enhancement of all the historical payments that we could find in the building. The idea was to integrate coherently and consistently the remains of the first construction from 1703 until the new actions carried out in 2020. The guest has the possibility of enjoying 300 years of history of this building, finding pleasant surprises in every nook and cranny.
JST: What green certifications does the Hotel Torre del Marqués have?
OG: We are behind the CO2 stamp promoted by the Ministry, but they have asked us for complete and highly varied information for a whole year, and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, until 2022 we will not have complete annual information. Keep in mind, we opened in July 2020, and in our first two years of life, we have had to repeatedly open and close the facilities. In any case, our focus is not on obtaining certificates, but on the execution of reasonable and balanced policies that lead us to reduce our impact.
The objective that we set ourselves when applying for the CO2 seal was to analyze in detail the operation of all the hotel operations, to measure the impact of each of them concerning CO2 emissions, and to assess what actions we could take to reduce this emission significantly. Likewise, even though this label does not allow for the possibility of compensating with our own actions, it has been our interest to take CO2 compensation initiatives, such as the reforestation of abandoned terraces, the implementation of high CO2 consumption plants, solid waste compasses, and reduction in the use of fossil-fueled vehicles.
JST: What advice would you give other hotel companies to become carbon neutral?
OG: Take into account the design of their operating procedures, and the generation of CO2 that they could have, and look for reasonable formulas to reduce it to the best of their ability. Do it from a holistic point of view because, for example, the impact on the CO2 footprint of putting Chilean salmon on the menu of their restaurants could be more significant than investing in an electric car to move people around the hotel.
JST: What plans are in store for the future of the Hotel Torre del Marqués?
OG: The Hotel store is in a very early phase, where only non-perishable products are sold that we already use in one way or another in the services provided by the hotel. It is not our intention to expand the store but to promote the visits of our guests to the shops of local products that already exist in the surroundings.