Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Award 2006 Winners

Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Award 2006

Luxury-Boutique Resorts and Hotels

A) Evason Phuket, Thailand; RT score: 100%
B) AlilA Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; 85%
C) AlilA Manggis, Bali; 84%

Eco-ventures, lodges and homestays
Nanga Sumpa Lodge, Batang Ai, Sarawak; 65%

Destination Award (Best in Langkawi)
Tanjung Rhu Resort, Langkawi Island; 65%

From luxury resorts to a jungle lodge, winners of Malaysia’s first Responsible Tourism Award prove that you can be chic or small, AND still go green. LEONG SIOK HUI checks out what makes these operators ‘responsible’.

BY 2010, a whopping 1 billion tourists will hit the road annually.* Inevitably, natural areas will make way for mega resorts, species will go extinct and traditional cultures will be massmarketed.

Short of asking people to stay at home, tourism operators are cracking their heads to ensure their products and services stay sustainable. In Asia, many tourism destinations are dealing with over-development, destruction of forests, marginalisation of local communities and unsustainable waste management.

In 2004, Kuala Lumpur-based conservation group Wild Asia (WA) introduced its Responsible Tourism (RT) Self-Assessment exercise where tourism operators (resorts, tour operators or hotels) examine how their business benefits local environment and communities.

The inaugural Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Award 2006 is given to tourism operators in Asia who are committed to responsible tourism. It is supported by the British Government’s Global Opportunities Fund.

“There are people out there making a difference,” says Dr Reza Azmi, founder and director of WA.

“They prove that profits can be made without jeopardising your business assets – the people, culture and natural environment.”

More than 20 tourism operators from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand sent in their entries. While resorts in Malaysia scored an average 50% to 60%, winners from Thailand and Indonesia averaged 85% to 100%.

Sustainable RT efforts need the support and commitment from investors, owners and top management down to the operation staff, Reza explains.

“Evason Phuket (RT award winner) shows that they have commitment at the top. They have teams on the ground to monitor things, identify problems and find solutions,” says Reza whose WA online site sees up to 6,000 visitors a day.

Winners like the classy Balinese Alila resorts – Alila Ubud and Alila Manggis – deal with the upscale market, so trumpeting “eco” messages around the resorts may seem like bad taste.
“How do you communicate to your guests about RT without making it look too tacky?” adds Reza, a biologist and conservationist.

“Alila resorts plan to use the iPods (available in all the guest rooms) to inform about local environmental issues and the resort’s RT practices.

“But what’s exciting is Alila resorts are chic and cool, yet doing something for the environment and the local communities,” says Reza.

Walk the talk
A 260-room resort with rates starting from RM770 (at low season), Evason Phuket and Six Senses Spa already has two certifications under its belt – Green Globe 21 and Thai Green Leaf.

(Backed by United Nations, Green Globe 21 is an international certification scheme for RT operators. The Thai Green Leaf Foundation certifies hotels that are committed to environmental conservation.)

“We take part in the RT award because we’ve a strong interest in social and environmental issues,’’ says Norwegian Arnfinn Oines, Evason’s environment coordinator. Oines’ job focuses solely on the resort’s social and environmental issues.

“By being eco-labelled and getting awards, it give us credibility,’’ adds Oines. Evason Phuket is managed by Six Senses, a resort and spa management company managing resort brands like Soneva, Evason Hideaways and Six Senses Spa.

The resort sources and hires locally, encourages guests to participate in projects like mangrove-planting, supports local charities such as raising funds for autistic children and reducing energy consumption. (See: Highlights – what they do best)
Small acts like changing split-type air-conditioning to a more efficient chiller system or switching all the garden lighting to energy-saving bulbs saves the resort US$10,000 per year (RM36,000) or 150,000kWh of annual energy use.

Hardly a bed of roses
Getting RT practices right involves time, effort and money says Oines.

Energy-saving equipment such as a solar thermal plant or double-glazed glass windows require huge capital investment. The availability of eco-friendly technology and know-how is limited in Thailand.

“When you import these technologies, the taxes are high,’’ says Oines. “But things are improving.”

Destination Award winner, Tanjung Rhu Resort (TRR) in Langkawi, found their operating cost increased by 11% when they first adopted eco-friendly practices like using recycled packaging, water-saving push valves (shower) and low-wattage bulbs.

“But now, our operating cost is reduced to 6% annually,” admits general manager Arnold Esmond. The 137-room resort, managed by Malaysian company Signforce Sdn Bhd, is ISO 14001-certified (an international environmental management system).

Like most resorts in Langkawi, however, Tanjung Rhu’s main challenge is waste management.
“Yes, we separate the recyclable and non-recyclable wastes. But we can’t curb the bad practices of the local contractors who just dump everything into the landfill,” admits Warner Ong, TRR special projects coordinator.

“Langkawi’s landfill problem will impact on the ecological well-being of the island.”
One of Tanjung Rhu’s biggest selling points is its natural beauty – the long stretch of sandy beach and shady Casuarina trees set amidst lovely tropical gardens.

“We like to be known as an environmentally friendly resort, and 60% of the feedback (on how to improve RT practices) come from our guests who are sensitive about what they do when they travel,” adds Esmond.

Tanjung Rhu’s room rates start from RM1,300 and above and 80% of its guests are Europeans.

Few Evason guests know about the resort’s social and environmental efforts.
“But once they stay here, they appreciate it. Some guests even return because of it,” says Oines.

Room to get better
Oines admits there is always room for improvement.
“We have to increase our staff’s environmental awareness and get more guests involved in our social and environmental projects,” says Oines. “And we try to influence more hotel operators, suppliers and government to adopt the RT approach.”
“By showing we can reduce negative impacts without compromising our guests’ enjoyment, we hope to influence others to do the same. It doesn’t matter how nice the resort is if Phuket deteriorates as a destination.”

“It’s also important to make sure the local community benefits from job opportunities, business, education and support.”

“After all, sustainability is about doing something that can be enjoyed by generations to come,” sums up Oines.

* Statistic from World Tourism Organisation,

News Source & More News : STAR

No comments:




Related Posts with Thumbnails