Nature-based initiative of the year, APAC: Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts

Luxury hotels chain Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts picked up the Asia-Pacific Nature-based initiative of the year award for its role in an innovative rainforest restoration project delivered with the Sri Lankan forest department.

Launched in July 2021, the Cinnamon Rainforest Restoration Project aims to restore a 50-acre plot of forest land located in the buffer zone around the Sinharaja Forest Reserve – considered the "last viable area of primary tropical rainforest" in the country by International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

The three-year project was developed as a public-private partnership between Cinnamon, not-for-profit Ruk Rakaganno (Tree Society of Sri Lanka), the John Keells Foundation and the Forest Department Sri Lanka. It provides hotel guests the opportunity to visit the site with a trained naturalist, purchase and plant a tree and monitor its progress as the project scientifically clears the site and then replants more than 20,000 native plants at the site.

"Many initiatives are centred on growing and planting trees, but our team had a single mission since inception: to grow and nurture a mini rainforest," a spokesperson for Cinnamon told Environmental Finance. "Our main aim of making this a flourishing habitat is the hope of replicating this model later, with more engagement from a wide range of stakeholders."

Provided enough research can be completed, Cinnamon said the team plans to publish a data-based report on their learnings from the initial stages of the project by the end of 2022. This ongoing research into the project will influence any potential future expansion of the project.

"Deployment of this project has been a tremendous effort, and acquiring sites from the Forest department requires even more effort," the spokesperson said.

"Therefore, expansion of the project to more areas needs to be carefully evaluated once learnings from the current project has been assessed."