A conversation on how ecotourism works in practice with the GM of a 5 star eco-resort in Thailand.
The Climate spoke to Oliver Suvantamee, General Manager of Krabi Province’s 5 star luxury accommodation Anana Ecological Resort in Thailand, for a deep-dive “behind-the-scenes” of ecotourism.
Established in 2018, Anana is Green Globe certified and is entirely committed to The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) sustainability mandate. The resort features an on-site eco-farm, a fleet of entirely electric cars to shuttle guests from the resort to the nearby beach and a 50ft “eco-cruiser” yacht that uses just 12 litres of diesel/hour and operates a carbon reduction strategy through funding the coral reforestation programme Oceans for All. For the staff at Anana, “regenerative tourism”, as they call it, is at the very heart of what they do.
The Climate: Thanks for having us, Oliver. Could you tell us a bit about the foundations of Anana?
OS: Of course. At our core, we believe it is not enough just to have the heart or just to have the operational resources to commit to sustainability, you must have both. We are focused on fusing the two. The question is, how can we show our guests who we are and what we stand for? It cannot be just our marketing. And how can we maintain our 5-star status while still ensuring we are committed to our goals?
The Climate: What are your sustainability goals and how are you achieving them?
OS: We are one of very few resorts in Thailand that are Green Globe certified. As an independent auditing body, they first certified us after we met their requirements. They now ask us to send monthly reports back, proving that we have met established goals and quotas. Additionally, they come periodically for inspections of the resort to ensure we are maintaining the standards. Our certificates are hanging in the lobby and restaurant areas so guests can see we are adhering to our extensive sustainability management plan.
“In reality, it is impossible for a resort to reach true net zero; the only place you will find net zero is the forest!”
The Climate: How does this work operationally?
OS: We have eliminated single-use plastics entirely throughout the resort. Additionally, our electricity usage is centrally controlled from the reception area, and is automatically turned off after one minute when any door in the hotel is closed in order to conserve energy. Our air-conditioning units are all set to 22 degrees, with the option for guests to adjust for their convenience, but reset back to 22 degrees every day. In our luxury pool access suite rooms, we have efficiently designed the interior such that the room feels bright and spacious, while maximising space as much as possible. For example, the furniture and utilities are reduced, as we do not use cupboards or wardrobes for luggage storage; rather, we prefer to reduce materials by using clothes racks only.
Our eco-farm building was constructed using locally sourced, handmade bricks. The process of making the bricks does not use any polluting energy: they are created, then kept on rice while they form. This way, the bricks are strong enough to withstand for 400 years. This building houses our on-site cooking and yoga classes, all of course run by local people. Operationally, we ask how can we involve guests and help them contribute to our SMP without having to go out of their way to do so?
The Climate: So guests can contribute passively?
OS: Exactly, passive contribution is key. We are the ones operationally reaching our goals, but we would like the guests to know the positive impact their occupancy and engagement with our activities is having. Since a lot of our produce is sourced on-site from our farm, guests can take comfort in knowing they are consuming sustainably. We also compost all food waste extensively.
Anana Ecological resort is framed by Krabi’s “famous limestone cliff” (Image provided by Anana Ecological Resort Krabi)
The Climate: I see. So why, overall, do you think it is important now, more than ever, to promote ecotourism in Thailand?
OS: I do not think it is relevant now. I believe it was relevant 10, 15 years ago. Five years ago, when the hotel was built, our founder had the vision that we would be ecological and sustainable through action, not just marketing. Many of our European and North American guests are very interested in sustainability, and thus this is a major attraction of our resort. This way, we market ourselves through what we do. It is a win-win situation.
The Climate: Very interesting. What changes have you seen in the “ecotourism industry” in the past decade? Do you think things are getting better or worse?
OS: I think things are, slowly, getting better. But it will still take time for people to realise that if you want to achieve net-zero, it requires more than just hope: it requires implementation. Willingness is the key power to continue. In reality, it is impossible for a resort to reach true net-zero, the only place you will find net-zero is the forest! But getting the closest you possibly can should be your projection.
END OF INTERVIEW
So, what next for Anana Ecological Resort? Oliver tells me the next customer experience project involves an entirely farm-to-table menu, with scope for guests to take a tour of the eco-farm and truly learn what the process involves. As the interview concludes, we discuss the reality that one cannot “change the world” through one resort’s efforts. However, Oliver believes that it is vital not to be discouraged by this; he and the rest of the team at Anana are proud to operate their “neo-cell of change”.