With holiday season at a peak, deciding where to stay tends to depend on occupancy. But if you’re planning a trip to Israel off-season, then keep the Fauzi Azar Inn in Nazareth on your checklist.

This 200 year-old Arab mansion-turned-guesthouse recently won the Best Accommodation for Local Communities category at this year’s Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2011.

The hotel was the idea of tourism entrepreneur Maoz Inon, who together with Suraida Shomar Nassar, granddaughter of the original owner of the house, helped transform the old town of Nazareth into a tourist destination hotspot.

“Set in the old town of Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, the opening of the Inn has helped to facilitate interaction between tourists and locals – part of [Inon’s] goal to transform a neglected area through tourism and promote communication across boundaries of race and religion in the Middle East,” the judges wrote. “The Inn has designed, produced and distributed 50,000 maps of Nazareth to enable exploration of the old town, and organizes a free tour experienced by 2,500 people per year.”

The central tenet of the Responsible Tourism Awards is that all types of tourism – from niche to mainstream – can and should be operated in a way that respects and benefits destinations and local people.

“We are thrilled to receive this award in recognition of our community impact,” said Shomar Nassar, manager of the Inn. “It has been our privilege to serve the local community of Nazareth as well as travelers from around the world.”

Fauzi Azar Inn is already on the “voluntourist” map — socially conscious tourists use this hotel as a base for their volunteer work in the Nazareth community and at the nearby Jesus Trail.