Issue 3 ! September 2012 ISSN 2227-4065
Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism
Travel Philanthropy – Connecting People and Places
Cooperative Tourism – A Model for Sustainable Rural Tourism Development
Point of View Sustainability A Lifestyle Choice
- El Nido Resorts, Philippines - Polwaththa Eco-Lodges, Sri Lanka
Kumud Sengupta Managing Editor email: SOST.firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor email: SOST.email@example.com
SOST September 2012
Anita Martins Art Director
20 Point of View:
Sustainability – A Lifestyle Choice
SOST gets feedback from around the world
05 Feature: Travel Philanthropy – Connecting People and Places
08 Feature: Cooperative Tourism – A Model for Sustainable Rural Tourism Development
12 Best Practices in
Sustainable Tourism: - El Nido Resorts, Palawan, Philippines - Polwaththa Eco-Lodges, Gomagoda, Sri Lanka
22 Market Intelligence: SOST shares survey findings on sustainable tourism from Portugal
23 Green Showcase: Moinhos da Tia Antoninha, Leomil, Portugal
24 Market Vision: Sustainable Travel Development – Advisory Services
ABOUT SOST Spotlight on Sustainable Tourism (SOST) is a complimentary journal published by Market Vision, for internal circulation and to our clients and subscribers. Market Vision Research & Consulting Services FZ-LLC 902, Grosvenor Business Tower, TECOM C Zone P.O. Box 32394, Dubai, UAE Tel: +9714 3911241 Fax: +9714 3911245
Kumud Sengupta Founder-Director, Market Vision
03 COMMENT Editorial
Welcome to the third issue of Spotlight on Sustainable Tourism, a journal for stakeholders in the travel and tourism industry. SOST’s mission is to motivate stakeholders in the tourism industry to adopt sustainable business practices with the message that sustainable tourism is ‘Good for the Planet and Good for Business’.
SOST showcases destinations and travel companies which are making a conscious difference to the Planet with their sustainable business practices. In the first two issues, we travelled, physically and virtually, to India, Nepal, Thailand and Tunisia to share best practices in sustainable tourism from two eco-resorts, a dive resort and a tour operator. In this current issue, we continue our journey to showcase two businesses, one a group of ecoresorts in the Philippines and the other an eco-lodge in a small village on the outskirts of Kandy in Sri Lanka - fine examples of sustainability in action. In ‘Green Showcase’ we also highlight Moinhos da Tia Antoninha, a Green Key certified ‘Guest house-farm’ in Leomil, Portugal. The travel industry is recognized as a means to advance social justice, economic development, biodiversity, environmental protection, cultural preservation, volunteerism and philanthropy. However, only a fraction of travel companies are currently engaging in any form of travellers’ philanthropy. Our lead feature Travel Philanthropy – Connecting People and Places – makes the case for engaging in ‘giving back’ programs, with a Quick Guide, especially for tour operators. Our contributing writer Corrine Doff, Programme Director at consultancy firm Dunira Strategy, writes about Cooperative Tourism and explains how it can be effectively used as a tool to promote a more equitable and inclusive growth model, particularly in less developed countries. C. B. Ramkumar, promoter of Our Native Village - an eco retreat for holistic health in India, writes on Sustainability – A Lifestyle Choice, for the column Point of View. In the research section, Vicente Bento brings you key findings from a consumer study in Portugal on Green Hotels and Eco Labels. We hope you enjoy this issue. We hope to inspire, educate and guide small, medium and large companies every step of the way on their journey towards responsible, sustainable and successful businesses. As always, we look forward to your comments and feedback. Let us know what else you would like to read about. Happy Reading!
Kumud Sengupta Managing Editor Certified Assessor & Consultant for Sustainable Tourism Founder-Director, Market Vision
Feedback SOST was launched in March 2012. The second issue was published in June 2012. We are delighted with the very encouraging and positive response we have been receiving from around the world. Professionals across the tourism value chain and members of the academic community from different parts of the world have written to us with their feedback and suggestions. Thank you so much. - SOST Team Thank you so much for featuring us in SOST. I am very appreciative. The article was fantastic and a great result. I liked the way it was written with a positive tone but at the end it gave recommendations on what any particular organisation needed to do to be more ‘eco-friendly’. I am looking forward to trying to work toward some further developments at Eco Koh Tao in the not too distant future. Nathan Cook, Managing Director Eco Koh Tao, Thailand A very informative read, which I have also passed on to a friend who is embarking on her own sustainable tourism business project. Thank you. Fiona Gordon, Partner Intriguing Africa Holidays and Safaris, South Africa Many thanks. Very interesting articles and nicely laid out. Tom Buncle, Managing Director Yellow Railroad, Scotland, UK
Thank you! Great reading. Ferdinand Weps, Director of Membership and Operations The International Ecotourism Society, Washington, DC, USA Thank you very much for sharing the latest issue of SOST. I particularly liked the article on the Tunisian eco-resort. Emili Budell, Programme Coordinator, ITP & YCI International Business Leaders Forum London, United Kingdom I have read both issues of SOST, and find it is well researched, and presents content in an engaging manner and style. Motivating and inspirational – keep up the good work. Arynn Frankenberry Maryland, DC, USA This is a very good initiative - congratulations. I have passed it around within UNWTO. Sandra Carvao, Coordinator - Communications World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Spain
The ANU article in the June issue of SOST was particularly impressive, and an eye-opener. That’s what we need – the younger generation to be sensitised to sustainability at the learning stage. Well done. Puja Batra New Delhi, India The diversity of topics and issues you cover in SOST is excellent. In particular, the article - A More Sustainable Future for the Events Industry – in the June issue was very useful and offered some excellent suggestions and practical advice. Binu Mohindra, Event Planner Goa, India Thank you for forwarding me your newly launched SOST; it is informative and makes a pleasant reading.. Honggen Xiao, PhD, CHE, Assistant Professor School of Hotel and Tourism Management The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
COMMENT Feature 05
Travel Philanthropy – Connecting People and Places Small efforts make a big difference Travellers’ philanthropy is tourism businesses and travellers making concrete contributions of “time, talent, and treasure” to projects in tourism destinations beyond what is generated through the normal tourism business. 1
SOURCE 1: Martha Honey, editor, Travelers’ Philanthropy Handbook, Washington, DC: Center for Responsible Travel, 2011, p3
ravellers’ philanthropy is not a new concept, but as awareness and access to sustainable tourism increases, environmentally and socially conscious travellers are more likely to visit destinations that are working to serve the greater good. And together with pioneering companies and organizations, travellers are leveraging the travel industry as a significant force for social good. The travel industry is increasingly being recognized as a means to advance social justice, economic development, biodiversity, environmental protection, cultural preservation, volunteerism and philanthropy. Although only a fraction of travel companies are currently engaging in any form of travellers’ philanthropy, this movement has the potential to improve millions of lives worldwide. At its core, it’s about enriching the lives of others, caring
for the environment, and forming mutually beneficial relationships between locals, businesses and travellers. Travel philanthropy is represented in almost every sector of the travel and tourism industry. Many altruistic initiatives that exist today were created by small and medium sized tour operators and lodges as well as non-governmental organizations (NGO). Companies and organizations are motivated to give back for varying reasons, from pure altruism to practical business considerations. Innovators in the industry see their efforts as an extension of civic values, while others seek to build loyalty among customers and employees. However, the underlying objective is to protect local environments and cultures, while at the same time providing invaluable opportunities to connect people from across the globe.
of ideas and foster an open dialogue with local specialists. This technique supports capacity development and the transfer of specialized knowledge to local communities. 6. S upporting Charities and Foundations Support existing charities and foundations through funding, memberships or corporate partnerships. By and large, travel philanthropy programs promote altruistic initiatives that serve five key purposes: • Promote cultural respect, collaboration and cooperation in addressing the needs of communities involved in tourism initiatives • Inspire individuals, philanthropists and business leaders by highlighting success stories encompassing the entire realm of giving back initiatives • Increase awareness, volunteerism, involvement and donations to environmental and social efforts • Minimize dependency of social entrepreneurs, social and ecological initiatives and grassroots efforts on external sources of funding and management • Encourage continued involvement from social entrepreneurs currently engaged in travel philanthropy efforts
Quick Guide for Tour Operators – How to Support or Implement Travel Philanthropy Millions of travellers rely on tour operators to coordinate complex travel logistics and provide quality experiences. The choice of guides, attractions, accommodation, food services, transportation, and attitudes toward sustainable tourism directly and indirectly impact the destination visited and leave a lasting impression on the traveller. Tour operators that are committed to community development, culturalheritage preservation and environmental conservation can help to maintain the quality of the experiences they provide in the destinations they serve. Those that are implementing travel philanthropy initiatives and educating their clients about local environmental and social issues are positioning themselves as industry leaders.
There are many ways tour operators can engage in giving back programs such as donating a percentage of company revenues to worthy causes, soliciting charitable contributions from clients or providing them with volunteer opportunities, establishing a non-profit organization/foundation as a philanthropic extension of the company or developing partnerships with local nongovernmental organizations which have a better understanding of local needs and are often in a better position to address them.
Short-Term Travel Philanthropy Initiatives for Tour Operators 1. Donation Inclusion in Trip Expenses - donate a certain percentage or amount of client trip expenses to worthy causes 2. S hort-term Volunteer Vacations - Offer short-term volunteer experiences that give clients the opportunity to see the highlights of the destinations they visit, while helping to improve local infrastructure and living conditions or support environmental conservation projects like construction or reforestation efforts 3. Liaising, Coordinating and General Management - Acting as liaisons, introduce travellers to local communities, allowing them to decide for themselves how to support the community. Coordinate the donation of goods or financial support and ensure proper distribution. 4. Purchase of Equipment or Resources – Determine community needs by involvement with local leaders, purchase necessary items and take responsibility for any maintenance or additional resources that may be required. 5. I dea Exchange –Include knowledge experts on tours to facilitate an exchange
Long-Term Travel Philanthropy Initiatives for Tour Operators 7. Non-profit Organization or Fund – Establish your own non-profit organization or fund to enhance your commitment to travel philanthropy. This will allow taking on and supporting diverse projects, such as health care, education, community development, preservation of cultural heritage, environmental and wildlife conservation, etc. 8. Long-term Volunteer Vacations – Offer long-term volunteer experiences requiring a commitment of two months to a year in duration. Travellers participate in community work projects, wildlife and ecosystem conservation projects and educational initiatives. 9. S upport Local Initiatives – Establish long-term partnerships with existing local organizations to support education and training, healthcare initiatives and community development. Management and staff buy-in, and client education and awareness are vital to the success of any philanthropic initiative. Tour operators that actively promote their altruistic initiatives and create multiple ways for travellers to give back tend to be the most successful. The success of philanthropic initiatives also requires close collaboration between hoteliers, local communities and other businesses. Involving all of these stakeholders in developing and supporting projects and programs that facilitate cultural heritage preservation and environmental conservation helps mitigate the negative impacts of tourism and affect lasting change.
Content sourced from: Best Practices in Travel Philanthropy manual, with permission from Sustainable Travel International
Ethiopia Travellers’ Philanthropy Fund Visitors to Ethiopia feel a strong connection to the people and places they visit, but lack a reliable channel to give back in a meaningful way. To support these efforts, the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA) and Sustainable Travel International have created the Ethiopia Travellers’ Philanthropy Fund (ETPF). Through the ETPF, tourists can now make secure donations to help Ethiopian communities generate income and conserve their environment. These donations are integrated into authentic and interactive Ethiopian travel experiences. ETPF’s two pilot projects involve tree-planting and the donation of energy-saving stoves. The former, run through local NGO Konso Development Association (KDA), was launched in April 2012. Tourists who make a donation are provided a guided tour of the Gersale village nursery, and then select a seedling to plant in a nearby degraded area. A donation of US$18 per tree goes toward the cost of the seedling, and helps village members water and maintain the tree. The second Travellers’ Philanthropy experience, run through local NGO partner Sustainable Environment and Development Action (SEDA), was launched in May 2012. On trips to historic Tulu Gudo Island (or villages on the Lake Ziway shore), tourists get to visit households which are utilizing energy saving stoves. They can also see the stoves in use at the high-quality, community-run restaurant on the island. A US$34 donation purchases an energy-saving stove, which reduces the amount of wood needed for cooking, while stemming deforestation and the need to walk long distances for wood collection. The experience is part of a fascinating lake boat tour, which also includes hippo sightings, bird watching, and a visit to a monastery housing millennium-old relics. Both Ethiopian and international tour operators play a critical role in the program, facilitating and promoting the philanthropy experience. Participating tour operators pay an annual fee in order to ensure there are resources available to keep the program operational well beyond the course of the ESTA project. Participants include 20 prominent Ethiopian tour operators and top international tour operators such as Intrepid Travel, G Adventures and Dragoman. Successful implementation of these pilot projects could lead to expansion of the project into other parts of Ethiopia.
More details on the project are available on: http://rootsofethiopia.com It is also on GlobalGiving: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/travelers-philanthropy-ethiopia-konso
Cooperative tourism can be effectively used as a tool to promote a more equitable and inclusive growth model, particularly in less developed countries. Our contributing writer for this special feature is Corinne Doff, Programme Director at Dunira Strategy, a consultancy firm with a focus on the sustainable development and environmental management of tourism. Corinne provides an insight into the principles and motivations behind the journey to the Edge of India, a three-year project to pilot rural tourism cooperatives, funded by the Scottish Governmentâ€™s South Asia Development Programme.
tourism A Model for Sustainable Rural Tourism Development By Corinne Doff
The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2012 as the ‘International Year of Cooperatives’, highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to socioeconomic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The year sees the Edge of India, a project to pilot rural tourism co-operatives for sustainable economic development in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya, in its final development year.
Tourism can stimulate and augment the rural economy The growth of India’s economy in general and of its tourism in particular has been remarkable, but the benefits have not been universal, with income primarily accruing to large urban and international operators, rather than the host communities and with many of the most socially and economically disadvantaged areas being excluded altogether from the remarkable achievements of Incredible India. It is also recognised that the trend of urbanisation has led to falling income levels, lesser job opportunities in rural areas leading to an urban migration from the rural areas. Tourism is one of the few activities that can stimulate and augment the rural economy and provide a viable solution to these problems. If well planned and managed for the benefit of all stakeholders, tourism can be a highly effective tool of sustainable development, delivering enduring economic benefits across all social classes.
Without effective planning and stakeholder participation however tourism can be inequitable, contribute to environmental degradation and be unsustainable, even becoming a source of conflict.
Emergence of Destination Management Organisations The process of decentralisation in tourism management and ever-growing access to new distribution channels for more marginal destinations has led to the emergence of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) as drivers of tourism development. For DMOs to be effective (and also sustainable) they must meet the needs of stakeholders. Members and staff must have clear roles and objectives and the DMOs must be founded with a comprehensive business plan, a clear financial plan, a budgeted action plan and a realistic fundraising strategy. But, as with any enterprise, DMOs are also affected by their external environment. This
is particularly relevant within the context of today’s global economic crisis, which has had negative impacts on the majority of enterprises; cooperative enterprises around the world however have shown resilience to the crisis. There is historical and current empirical evidence which shows that the cooperative model of enterprise survives crisis, and more importantly that it is a sustainable form of enterprise able to withstand crisis, maintaining the livelihoods of the communities in which it operates.
Rural Cooperative Destination Management Organisations (cDMO) Cooperatives have not yet really penetrated the tourism industry, but through their member-owned, democratic structures and strong foothold in local rural economies, they are in an ideal position to mobilise and stimulate inclusive local tourism supply chains, providing authentic experiences increasingly sought by tourists.
There is historical and current empirical evidence which shows that the cooperative model of enterprise survives crisis, and more importantly that it is a sustainable form of enterprise able to withstand crisis, maintaining the livelihoods of the communities in which it operates.
Whilst partnership and cooperation are critical to any successful DMO, the co-operative model can be applied to emphasise the principles of co-operation and, when faced with operating tourism in a challenging economic environment, can help to ensure sustainability. Thus a co-operative DMO (cDMO) can support members by providing standards, marketing, lobbying and access to global markets. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the needs of two-thirds of rural Indian households are covered by co-operatives. With such wide reach, cooperatives also have a unique opportunity to educate rural communities on the benefits of tourism, thereby engaging vital stakeholder support and creating opportunities for network building and the
development of integrated and sustainable supply chains. The grassroots nature of co-operatives can ensure that products and services are unique and authentic, and tourism development can enable a positive valuation of cultural and natural heritage, both rapidly growing tourism segments. By virtue of their member-owned, collaborative structures, co-operatives have demonstrated that they encourage entrepreneurial activity through the sharing of risks, knowledge and resources.
The Edge of India Project Edge of India is about building local capacity: by training people in local communities such that they are able to manage their own area as a tourism destination, equipping
Edge of India is a co-operative tourism network of rural villages, which are led by locals and enable communities to make the most of their cultural and natural heritage in order to achieve sustainable economic growth through tourism. Working with communities, Edge of India builds local capacity and uses local resources to develop their own destinations and offer visitors a taste of life in some of the most picturesque and untouched parts of India. The project is funded by the Scottish Government’s South Asia Development Programme over three years and involves partners Dunira Strategy and Queen Margaret University in Scotland, and YES BANK in India. http://www.edgeofindia.in
them with the skills to develop efficient supply chains and market their destination to visitors through effective distribution channels. The overall aim is to create viable rural tourism destinations which can be developed as sustainable businesses, thereby building strong and healthy rural communities with a bright and confident future. It should also help to spread the economic benefits of tourism more evenly throughout the country. The concept for the project is based on the ‘co-operative principles’ developed in the 19th century by the social reformer, Robert Owen at Scotland’s New Lanark, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a leading tourism attraction. Robert Owen was one of the founders of the co-operative movement and it was his philosophy of building strong communities and successful businesses that turned around the fortunes of the people and the industry in New Lanark. This is a very timely project for the ‘International Year of Co-operatives’. Following the registration of the first tourism co-operative society last year in the small Bageshwar District in the Himalayan State of Uttarakhand in northern India, 2012 is seeing the replication of this model across Uttarakhand and West Bengal. The project’s emphasis is not only on building local capacity but also about developing new products and new markets. The team - Dunira Strategy, Queen Margaret
University (Edinburgh), and YES BANK (India) - is working with the emerging cDMOs to develop sustainable business plans and product development action plans. Destination portals are being developed that will be supported by an efficient transaction and payments system that can demonstrate the potential of technology to tackle social exclusion and technological poverty. It is a project of extremes. One part of the project is the development of very basic rural tourism products that are authentic and reflect local traditions, whilst at the same time being presented to the world through the use of leading edge technologies.
The project aims to produce three outputs for the destinations: (1) A network of co-operative destination management organisations (cDMOs) is established, led by a team of local coordinators across the destination clusters and enabling rural communities to realise the economic value of their tourism assets; It is a project of extremes. One part of the project is the development of very basic rural tourism products that are authentic and reflect local traditions, whilst at the same time being presented to the world through the use of leading edge technologies. (2) A comprehensive training programme is delivered with an emphasis on ‘train the trainers’ and very relevant practical skills, building the capacity of local stakeholder organisations and individuals to design and implement effective action plans and development strategies; (3) A distribution system with a network of destination portals, promoting products and delivering market access and high consumer and trade penetration in emerging domestic Indian markets and key established international markets. Co-operative tourism offers the travel industry a guarantee that suppliers are committed to their communities and, apart from delivering benefits to the host communities, they will also deliver the best possible and most authentic experience
available to visitors without margins being squeezed unsustainably to the point of crisis and economic failure by a long chain of intermediaries with no real interest in the actual destinations.
Bottom line: • Co-operative tourism offers the industry a range of authentic and unique new products that are naturally sustainable. The model can be replicated not only in India, but internationally. • Responsible tour operators can include some of the Edge of India itineraries that are being developed by the cDMOs, or work with them to develop special bespoke itineraries for their customers.
CORINNE DOFF is Programme Director at Dunira Strategy, a consultancy with a focus on the sustainable development and environmental management of tourism. Corinne gained a Masters degree in Environment and International Development, specialising in tourism, sustainability and environmental management, and has worked on several projects in West Africa and Southeast Asia. She is also an accredited assessor for eco-tourism. She is actively involved in the Edge of India project. http://www.dunira.com/
Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism COMMENT
In the El Nido Resorts Palawan, Philippines
Mariglo Laririt , Direc and En tor for vironm Sustai ent Pro nabilit tection y , El Nid o Reso rt
El Nido Resorts, a group of eco-resorts in various islands in Bacuit Bay in the Municipality of El Nido in Palawan, Philippines, is owned and operated by Ten Knots Development Corporation (TKDC) part of the Ten Knots Group. The group is owned by the asian conservation company (ACC), a successful holding company bridging private sector investment and biodiversity conservation in Philippines, in partnership with Ayala Land Inc., Philippines’ leading real estate developer. Ten Knots is known for its adherence to a Quadruple Bottomline of financial growth, environmental stewardship, community engagement, and organizational development. In this interview, Mariglo Laririt, Director for Sustainability and Environment Protection for El Nido Resorts, provides deep insights into best practices adopted by the resort group for sustainable tourism. SOST: How many resorts form part of the El Nido Resorts group? Mariglo Laririt: The first one was the Miniloc Island Resort which opened in 1981 and now has 50 cottages; Lagen Island Resort , which opened in 1998, has 51 rooms. A third resort in the same area, Pangulasian Island Resort,
is under construction and will open in October 2012 with 42 villas. A fourth property, Apulit Island Resort, located in Taytay, Palawan, was acquired and re-opened in December 2010, and has 50 rooms. These island resorts offer varied diving opportunities, a scenic landscape of million-year old forested limestone cliffs jutting out of clear blue waters and an area of very high biodiversity.
growth, environmental stewardship, community engagement, and organizational development. The Company believes that to be profitable is a means to providing gainful employment and educational opportunities to the local communities. In turn, it is hoped that this will create a willingness in the community to protect the local environment, especially its biodiversity.
SOST: What was the motivation behind setting up such a project in the Philippines? Mariglo Laririt: Ten Knots originated as a dive boat operation in 1979, operating in various spots in the Philippines. In 1981, the company decided to invest in eco-resorts. At its inception, the Ten Knots shareholders’ vision was to “promote harmony between nature and the local communities.” From that simple vision statement arose one of the Philippines’s models in sustainable tourism. Today, Ten Knots is known for its adherence to a Quadruple Bottomline of financial
SOST: El Nido Resorts have an established sustainability policy. What are the key tenets of this policy, and what measures are taken to monitor performance and progress in meeting sustainability targets? Mariglo Laririt: Our Sustainability Policy is a combination of our corporate social responsibility and environmental policies. It specifies the roles and general tasks of all members of the organization, from the Board to all staff. Exercising corporate social responsibility helps sustain our business as it generates respect, goodwill, and cooperation from our host communities.
As a responsible corporate citizen, we are an equal opportunity employer and are against child labour. We compensate our employees over and above what is required by government, and we invest in our staff so that we may be able to promote from within and among the ranks. Over 20 local staff occupy management positions at the resorts today as a result of continuous training. In turn, they have been drafted into our outreach programs with local youth, where these local supervisors are our trainers. Our award-winning in-house Be G.R.E.E.N. (Guard, Respect, Educate El Nido) training program is doing the rounds of local schools. Social responsibility also calls us to fortify and expand our base of local suppliers. Finally, as members of the community, we consistently strive to adhere to high ethical standards. As regards our commitment to
environmental protection, we safeguard the vital resources upon which our business is founded. In so doing, we create long-term value for our shareholders and our host communities. Our Sustainability Policy is a combination of our corporate social responsibility and environmental policies. It specifies the roles and general tasks of all members of the organization, from the Board to all staff. We comply with all environmental regulations imposed by government. We benchmark our best environmental practices against local and international examples. We continuously find ways to mitigate our negative environmental impacts by employing technology, extensive training to effect changes in staff mindsets. An Environmental Management System is in place, with an Environmental Management Team meeting monthly to monitor key metrics. Environmental
Our Sustainability Policy is a combination of our corporate social responsibility and environmental policies. It specifies the roles and general tasks of all members of the organization, from the Board to all staff.
Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism
El Nido Resorts /Palawan, Philippines
It helps that El Nido Resorts pioneered island resorts development in the area – the standards that we have set have somehow provided a template for the local government, the local communities, and the subsequent developers. Our leadership has paved the way for the creation of a coherent image of the destination. education is woven into guest activities, and has become a trademark of the El Nido Resorts experience. Our annual performance reviews mirror the Company’s commitment to the Quadruple Bottomline. 80% of our “grade” is from measurable targets that include, for instance, the increase in percentage of local purchases, increase in recruitment of deserving locals, production of environmental collaterals such as sustainability videos, more nature guide books and trail signage, increasing the variety of vegetables at our organic garden, increase in options in our sustainable menus, increase in savings by reduction in fuel consumption, etc. The remaining 20% is from how we manifest corporate values year-round. One activity that all the resort staff look forward to every year is the El Nido Resorts Eco-challenge. For a substantial
prize and bragging rights good for a year, all departments submit entries that establish the direct connection between a sustainable practice and cost savings. The previous winners include the sequestering of plastic water bottles inside kayaks as floaters to replace Styrofoam (from the Boats Department) and the re-use of material from broken umbrellas as a waterrepellent wrapping material for beach picnics (from Food and Beverage). SOST: El Nido Resorts embraces a leadership role in nature conservation. Could you tell us more about this? Mariglo Laririt: El Nido Resorts possesses the most extensive biodiversity database on El Nido and we have a fairly good grasp of what we have nature-wise. We protect this through responsible conduct of resort operations: we build responsibly, we manage waste
and consumption religiously, we focus several guest activities on protection, such as coastal clean-ups, special nature guided tours, tree planting, creation of guide books, maintaining a link to our corporate website that features the environment. It helps that El Nido Resorts pioneered island resorts development in the area – the standards that we have set have somehow provided a template for the local government, the local communities, and the subsequent developers. Our leadership has paved the way for the creation of a coherent image of the destination. Like in several special nature destinations, protecting El Nido’s environment is challenged by resource use conflicts and inadequate appropriation of local resources. The demands of a young and steadily growing population on subsistence economy are taking their toll on nature. El Nido Resorts’ commitment is to hiring locally (around 90% of all our staff are from the local communities or the immediate environs), buying locally, and training locally. We are also the top contributor to the Eco-Tourism Development Fund that has made possible crown-of-thornsstarfish clean-up operations, setting
up of additional mooring buoys in Bacuit Bay, solid waste management programs of the municipality, etc. It helps that El Nido Resorts pioneered island resorts development in the area – the standards that we have set have somehow provided a template for the local government, the local communities, and the subsequent developers. Our leadership has paved the way for the creation of a coherent image of the destination. SOST: What positive impact has being a responsible tourism company had on your business? What measurable impact has been made on the local environment in which El Nido Resorts operate? Mariglo Laririt: Snorkel around Miniloc Island where the resort has been in operation since thirty years, and you will see one of the most spectacular marine life. That can only have been made possible by treading on the island lightly as a resort operator. That translates to having a well-maintained sewage treatment plant, and a solid waste program that is uncompromising. That also translates to having well-trained nature guides who, while sharing fishing scientific names with snorkeler guests, keep an eye to on how far or near their fins are from fragile corals. Or having dive masters know where to bring beginner divers. Daily. These and other major and minor details, including carefully selecting posts on Facebook and other social media sites, and pictures and info in the corporate website, have contributed to the solid and proudly Filipino brand that is El Nido Resorts. The brand has evolved from one associated with something that “only foreigners can afford” in the early 80s to the late 90s to something that is of “high value tropical island eco-resorts” to the emerging “high value, leisure, tropical and responsibly operated eco-resorts”. This puts us almost in a league of our own. We have many examples of operational cost savings: ➜ Non-biodegradable garbage used to be ferried back to Manila, costing us at least US$1,000 a month. We helped
create value for a local partner when we tightened our segregation-atsource measures at the resorts and turned over cleaner, more properly segregated garbage from which the local partner has gained a livelihood. ➜O ur biodegradable waste that is composted is used as soil conditioner for our lettuce gardens. Earlier we used to buy lettuce from Manila and fly them over our chartered planes daily. In 2006, we decided to grow them ourselves and compensate for the poverty of El Nido soil by adding compost from kitchen refuse, sterilized cow and chicken dung, and vermicast. Since then, not only have we saved US$7.50 per kilogram of lettuce but on food miles. ➜ I n 2003, when we decided to challenge a group of five local women to weave our bags from palm leaves, as we were spending a lot on freight cost, buying and transporting them from Manila.
Today, we have over 100 women all over El Nido weaving bags for our guests as complimentary amenity, saving us freight cost and creating meaningful livelihood. ➜U sing the product water of the sewage treatment plant for flushing and irrigation at the resorts saves us US$2 per cu.m. ➜ The “happy pigs” that we raise in our organic farms are leaner and therefore have higher yield than fat-laden pork from other suppliers. Again, cost savings on per unit fat that gets disposed of have become considerable over the years. Overall, the impact of our sustainable practices on cost savings in resort operations is tremendous. The impact of conservation measures is such that after 30 years of operations, the natural environment around which the El Nido Resorts are located remains to be a
Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism El Nido Resorts /Palawan, Philippines
El Nido Resorts - International Recognition and Awards Since 2000, El Nido Resorts has received several awards and international recognition for its sustainable business practices. Some of the awards won in the last five years include: 2011 • PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Gold Award 2011 – Environmental Education Programme 2010 • Sustainable Hotel Award at the Annual Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) • ASEAN Green Hotel Award for Miniloc Island Resort and Lagen Island Resort 2009 • Responsible Tourism Award by Wild Asia, a non-profit organization based in Malaysia • Lagen Island Resort - one of the Top Leisure Resorts in Asia in Smart Travel Asia’s Best in Travel Poll 2009
showcase of biodiversity. Finally, our harmonious relationship with the locals has enabled us to continue with business unhindered, purchasing, recruiting and promoting from among them. SOST: From your experience in leading Sustainability Practices at El Nido Resorts, and knowledge of the industry and customers, what trends do you see for the travel and tourism industry in the future? Mariglo Laririt: Surveys will say that there is an increasing trend for responsible travel. The number of sites and publications devoted to it will also tell you that responsible travel is here to stay, with a variety of strains featuring health and wellness, community visits, etc. If it is, then a great percentage of our guests should have acknowledged that our sustainability practices are what drew them to us. This is not yet the case, however. Natural beauty in comfortable and leisurely facilities, I believe, remain to be the main reasons why people come to El Nido. A lot of our guests, after attending our green cocktails hosted by our Environmental Officers, say, we never knew that you did these things! You should be telling the world about it! And this is
2008 • ASEAN Green Hotel Award for Miniloc Island Resort and Lagen Island Resort • El Nido Resorts - one of “Our 15 Favorite Green Hotels” by Travel + Leisure magazine, South Asia & Australia editions 2007 • Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Finalist in the Investor in People category • El Nido Resorts - one of “Our 15 Favorite Green Hotels” by Travel + Leisure magazine in its US edition
exactly what we are trying to do. We hope that more of this word gets around and people come to us not only because we are in an outrageously photogenic place but because they really want to leave smaller ecological footprints and make direct, positive connections with local people. Having said that, I do believe that there is a growing awareness of and concern for the environment among people around the world, and this has to translate to more responsible travel. SOST: What are the long term benefits
that hotel & resort operators can expect from being involved in sustainable business practices that include environmental, socio-cultural and economic aspects? What message would you like to give them? Mariglo Laririt: Thirty years in the business and a steadily improving financial bottom line; expanding portfolio of eco-resorts; enhancing local people’s lives with meaningful livelihoods year after year, maintaining high indices of biodiversity as verified scientifically, assisting local governments through partnerships for tourism planning and infrastructure development; leadership in shaping markets for the destination, gaining respect from the industry all these are worth the effort, I would think. Over the years, we have received international recognition and awards and have also been featured in various media for our sustainable practices both locally and internationally. Remember the time when leaving a card on the bed to ask guests to save water was a novelty? Now, it’s so commonplace that we don’t even read what’s written on the card anymore. And more importantly, we get it. That’s my message. If a lot of us keep at acting responsibly in some way, more people will get it. It will not only spur more intense competition that will only make people want to see more places more because they know that wherever they go, there are properties that practice sustainable tourism. That competition will also push for more authenticity. Talk gets cheaper by the day. Let’s see more properties walk the talk.
➜ El Nido Resorts demonstrate compliance with most indicators under the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC). ➜ Using company records to calculate the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and making a pledge to
reduce motorized vehicle usage and communicating this to employees and clients are the key areas that need to be worked upon, in order that El Nido Resorts may be certified as a GSTCaligned sustainable tourism business
SOST Assessment is based on the business’s response (self-reporting) to a series of questions on sustainability policies and practices in line with GSTC-complaint criteria. It is undertaken by SOST’s Managing Editor – a certified auditor for sustainable tourism. It does not purport to be a ‘verified’ third-party assessment.
In the Polwaththa Eco-Lodges Gomagoda, Sri Lanka
Remon Ell egala, Ope ra
Polwaththa Eco-Lodges was started in 2009 by Nihal Ellegala and his Dutch wife Nell, on ancestral land in Gomagoda village, just 18 kms away from Kandy, Sri Lanka’s historic hill capital. In this interview, their son Remon shares with us their vision behind this eco-tourism project and explains the sustainable tourism policies that govern the operations at this charming eco-lodge. SOST: How did Polwaththa Eco-Lodges come about, and what is the vision behind it? Remon Ellegala: My father Nihal has always been passionate about tourism, and for the better part of his life was a tour guide for a Dutch tour operator. Three years ago, he and my mother Nell decided to develop our ancestral land into an eco-tourism project, now known as Polwaththa Eco-Lodges. At the heart of the Polwaththa project and philosophy is the desire to support the local community in our native village in Sri Lanka. Polwaththa’s location is ideal because of its wonderful climate, breathtaking views and close proximity to tourist destinations. Plus it is right in the middle of the jungle, giving guests a
taste of living in the wild. It is only 18 km away from Kandy, Sri Lanka’s historic hill capital and 125 km from the main airport. The national parks which are famous for wild elephants, leopards, crocodiles and a host of other animals and birds are within 100 km of Polwaththa. And some of the best beaches in the world are less than 180 km away. Our vision with Polwaththa is to create a tropical island holiday experience in the relaxed, natural setting of a forest garden, while preserving the sanctity and purity of the environment and landscape. SOST: What are the key features of your eco-lodge? Remon Ellegala: “Polwaththa” in the local
language means coconut estate. Our Eco Lodges are surrounded by many coconut trees and a wide variety of other trees providing lush greenery throughout the year. We have five cabanas and a dormitory all nestled into the forest. Altogether, we can accommodate 16 guests at a time. Construction material was all sourced locally - three of the cabanas are made from mud, one from wood and one from brick (the clay was found here, formed and baked on site by the local villagers). All of the roofs are thatched coconut leaves, with necessary protection. The property is also home for 60 different species of birds of which 15 are endemic, such as the Ceylon wood pigeon and grey hornbill, yellow-fronted barbet,
Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism
Our vision with Polwaththa is to create a tropical island holiday experience in the relaxed, natural setting of a forest garden, while preserving the sanctity and purity of the natural environment and landscape.
Polwaththa Eco-Lodges /Gomagoda, Sri Lanka
Layard’s parakeet and the crimsonbacked woodpecker. Our vision with Polwaththa is to create a tropical island holiday experience in the relaxed, natural setting of a forest garden, while preserving the sanctity and purity of the natural environment and landscape. SOST: Your tag-line is ‘Polwaththa Eco-Lodges is as close as you can get to sustainable tourism’. Would you elaborate? What responsible and sustainable business practices do you follow in running your business operations? Remon Ellegala: Polwaththa Eco-Lodges is inspired by my parents’ vision of sustainable tourism. Our constant endeavour is to make the smallest footprint possible on the environment. Since Sri Lanka generates electricity largely by burning diesel oil, we do our utmost to use alternative methods. Solar power replaces electricity, and fire-wood is used to heat the water for bathing (and cooking). This fire-wood is basically dead branches and other parts of trees fallen
on the road-ways in our property which otherwise would go to waste. We have a well that provides us with water and has been cleared for supplying drinking water. Where possible, rain water is harvested and put to good use and the three R’s - Reduce, Recycle, Reuse are widely practiced. The land and the produce grown on it are certified organic by the Skal Foundation, the inspection body for organic produce in the Netherlands. Our plantation includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and spices such as coconuts, bananas, jack-fruit, papaya, chillies, cloves and coffee beans. We employ local village staff to manage and run the property and ten percent of our profits go annually towards supporting and developing the local village schools, hospitals, arts and crafts. We plant a tree for every guest who stays with us. In fact, we encourage our guests to plant their own trees. We are committed to plant as many trees as possible in the eleven acres we have
and will buy more land in the future for reforestation projects. SOST: What activities do you offer your guests? How do you educate your guests on responsible behaviour while on holiday with you? Remon Ellegala: Our guests enjoy nature, culture, adventure, privacy, peace and tranquility - as much or little of these as they prefer. Several activities such as trekking, mountain biking, nature walks, bird watching etc can be indulged in while at Polwaththa. Visits to the nearby village to meet local families - to see how they attend to their household chores, make treacle (golden syrup), jaggery (local sugar) & toddy (the local alcoholic brew), all made from the sap of the fish-tail palm tree and how they weave the coconut palms for roofing etc are some of the unique experiences that guests enjoy. Guests can also go on day excursions to National Parks famous for wild elephants, Veddhas (primitive community in the jungles), rock temples, botanical gardens and tea plantations. On the property, guests are sensitized to the local environment and there are signs everywhere to ‘respect the nature’. Personal tours around the property help make the guests appreciate how we are working with nature, the environment and the local community. SOST: What positive impact has being a responsible tourism company had on your business? Remon Ellegala: From the very start, Polwaththa has been envisioned as a sustainable tourism project. Our success is measured by the positive impact we make in preserving the natural habitat and environment and in supporting the local community. To the extent that we have succeeded in achieving these goals, we believe we have done well. Of course, we can do lots more. Positive word of mouth by our guests has resulted in greater awareness about Polwaththa and we have clientele from all over the world. We would like to believe
We employ local village staff to manage and run the property and ten percent of our profits go annually towards supporting and developing the local village schools, hospitals, arts and crafts. that our commitment to sustainable business practices positions Polwaththa Eco Lodges as a ‘one of its kind’ project in Sri Lanka. SOST: From your perspective, how can the conflict between the needs of nature conservation, wildlife protection and the economic interests of tourism be mitigated? Remon Ellegala: The conflict only arises when man is against nature, and not when man works with nature. Our experience shows that it is possible to create an economically viable business model while sympathetically working with nature, the environment and the local community.
SOST: What are the long term benefits that hotel and resort operators can expect from being involved in sustainable business practices that include environmental, socio-cultural and economic aspects? What message would you like to give them? Remon Ellegala: Tourism is a resource intensive industry. Only by preserving and protecting the very resources upon which the industry depends – people and their environment, can a tourism business hope to survive in the long term. So, the message is simple: take a long-term view of the future and start to integrate sustainability into your business operations and practices. Now!
➜ ➜ Polwaththa Eco-Lodges demonstrates compliance with several indicators under the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) ➜ ➜ A Sustainability Management Plan, documentation of sustainability practices and evidence of
performance measurement and tracking systems are some of the areas that need to be worked upon, in order that it may be certified as a GSTC-complaint sustainable tourism business
SOST Assessment is based on the business owner’s response (self-reporting) to a series of questions on sustainability policies and practices in line with GSTC-complaint criteria. It is undertaken by SOST’s Managing Editor – a certified auditor for sustainable tourism. It does not purport to be a ‘verified’ third-party assessment.
Point of View
Sustainability A Lifestyle Choice
Our contributing writer for the column Point of View is C. B. Ramkumar, an advertising and marketing professional with nearly two decades of international work experience. Ram returned to India in 2006 to follow his dream and passion and started Our Native Village - an eco retreat for holistic health near Bangalore city.
ustainable living is about making lifestyle choices; about understanding the impact of one’s way of living on the earth, and making a conscious decision to affect change towards a more balanced life in harmony with nature. The desire to embrace sustainability has to originate from the heart. One needs to feel the absolute need to go down this path. One needs to believe that sustainability is the right way to go forward. After a twenty year career in the corporate world, I chose to renounce it and tread a completely different path – a path towards a more balanced way of living my personal and business life. The decision to set up Our Native Village, an eco retreat for holistic health, was a deliberate one. Over several years I had witnessed first-hand the plight of the farmers in the Hessargatta village, north of Bangalore city, in South India, where Our Native Village is located. They lived, experienced and suffered the paucity of the land on a daily basis, losing crops as there wasn’t sufficient water - not because there wasn’t enough ground water, but because they did not have electricity to pump the water up from the bore wells. I began to wonder if indeed letting the farmers preserve their own ways of harnessing nature as a resource might have been wiser, instead of gifting them bore wells in the name of technological ‘progress’ but without the essential supply of electricity to run them! And slowly, I started to formulate the idea of a place that would be 100% eco-friendly; a place
Businesses that endorse and embrace sustainability as a lifestyle choice will reap long-term benefits such as reduced operational costs, greater efficiency and profitability, employee and customer loyalty, and shareholder value. that would be self-dependent and generate its own supplies of water and electricity; a place that would support and provide an alternative means of livelihood for the local community in Hessargatta. My journey with Our Native Village began with that simple idea. And the conviction that the responsible management of resource use was the right way, and the only way, to achieve sustainability far into the future. As a result, Our Native Village was planned as a 100% eco retreat. We are committed to all round sustainability – in every facet of our activity. Our responsible tourism policy is grounded in the three pillars of sustainable development – environmental, social & cultural, and economic sustainability. We generate our own electricity using a wind mill and solar panels, we harvest rainwater, we have a zero waste policy, we grow our own organic vegetables, we train and hire from the local community, and so on. Many people ask me and wonder how a business can survive on such lofty ideals. I tell them that businesses today are so focused on short- termism that they tend to forget about long-term sustainability. To my mind, embracing sustainability should be
a strategic decision for any organization, big or small, as it makes total business sense. Businesses that endorse and embrace it as a lifestyle choice will reap long-term benefits such as reduced operational costs, greater efficiency and profitability, employee and customer loyalty, and shareholder value; those that don’t will likely find that regulations, sooner rather than later, will force them to do so. In fact, my point of view is that the time has come to make sustainable business practices and sustainable living systemic. For example, planners and policy makers should regulate that all rain water be
harnessed, only local materials be used for construction, electricity be generated from renewable energy sources. And scientists and technologists should focus on developing technologies that are viable and sustainable from a use, service and cost perspective. Only then can we, as a nation and as a people, say that we are in sync with nature. And for those that seek the courage and inspiration to make sustainability their lifestyle choice, whether in business or in personal life, I would like to quote an old Chinese Proverb - “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step”. So, take that leap of faith.
C B RAMKUMAR or Ram, as he is popularly known, has been an advertising and marketing professional for two decades. He has spent most of his professional career outside India in the Middle East. Ram returned to India in 2006, after a 17 year stint abroad, to set up Our Native Village - an eco retreat for holistic health. A wellknown speaker and consultant on eco-tourism, sustainability and the environment, Ram has been part of the consultative process of the GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria), a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism practices around the world. He now serves a three year term as a member of the Election Committee for electing Board Members for the GSTC. www.ournativevillage.com
Comment Market Intelligence
Green Hotels and Eco Labels An Attitudes and Motivations Study in Portugal By Vicente Bento ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS with conventional tourism have a long history and its impacts are well documented. With the world increasingly “small” for the traveller, these concerns are now present on a global scale. A new type of tourist is emerging, one more sensitive to environmental and sustainability issues and to eco-labels in hotels. This is the key finding from the study on Environmental Attitudes and Motivations conducted among Portuguese tourists in November 2011. ➜ Objectives: The study had three main objectives: (1) to understand the influence of demographic, psychographic and attitudinal variables on the choice of a hotel by travellers; (2) to assess the awareness, knowledge and perceived ‘credibility’ of various eco-labels in the market, among tourists; (3) to measure the ‘value’ tourists attach to a set of sustainable business practices implemented by hospitality companies. ➜M ethodology: The survey was conducted online through social networking websites, and data was gathered from a total sample of 513 respondents. ➜ K ey Findings: The results of the survey showed that psychographic and attitudinal variables positively influence the intention to stay in an eco-hotel. That is, variables such as environmental concerns or the level of altruism among potential travellers are decisive when choosing an eco-hotel. By contrast, demographic variables such as age, income or level of education have less impact on a potential traveller’s eco-hotel selection decision-making. The study revealed that while desire to stay in an eco-hotel in the future is strong, tourists lack sufficient awareness and knowledge about hotel/tourism eco-labels in order to make a considered choice. Among those aware,
the ISO 14001 (64%) and the EU Ecolabel (55%), both environmental management certification systems, are better known and hence deemed to be more credible by the respondents. Respondents who indicate intent to stay in an eco-hotel in the near future consider energy efficiency measures, the use of local building materials and facilities appropriate to the environment as the most important factors in the choice of an eco-hotel. Considerable value is also attached to the ease of information availability on the hotels’ ‘green credentials’ for potential customers. This study suggests several courses of action for eco-hotels: ➜ Sensitize more and more tourists to environmental and sustainability issues,
develop communication strategies to focus on tourists more interested in sustainable tourism; ➜ Align and communicate the offer of services to the dimensions most valued by customers; ➜ Create awareness of and disseminate knowledge about eco-labels in order to build trust and monetize investments in eco-certification The emergence of a new type of tourist more sensitive to environmental and sustainability issues comes at a time when there is a proliferation of eco-labels in the market. Eco-hoteliers must beware of ‘green washing’ and strive to attain a higher level of ‘green’ in their business operations.
Vicente Bento is an Environmental Engineer with a Master’s degree in Environmental Management and Economics from the School of Economics and Business, University of Porto. He undertook this study as part of his theses dissertation at the University, along with his colleagues. Hospitality is his passion and he’s starting a new project which will help to promote Green Hotels in his home country Portugal.
Moinhos da Tia Antoninha, Leomil, South of River Douro, Portugal Eco-certification - Green Key The “Moinhos da Tia Antoninha” – which in English means Aunt Atoninha’s water mills - are a group of three water mills nestled in a wildly beautiful valley which had been abandoned for some 50 years. The present owner, the nephewgrandson of Tia Antoninha, realised the potential that the location offered for environmentally conscious tourism and embarked on an ambitious programme of restoration and conversion. The result is a guesthouse -farm, a harmonious mix of traditional and modern, where guests can experience the authenticity of the traditional mill buildings whilst enjoying all modern comforts, secure in the knowledge that the environmental impact of their stay has been carefully studied to be reduced to the absolute minimum. Proprietor Eduardo Rocha says, “The whole complex is totally self-sufficient in terms of energy requirements, thanks to a combination of solar panels and water power generated by the mill stream. The same attention has also been paid to the question of waste disposal, and as a result the complex has justly been awarded the ‘Green Key’ certification for eco-tourism.”
Solar Panel for en ergy requiremen t
Restoration and conversion of mill building into guest accommodation
ls rced materia h locally-sou it w t il u b n modatio Guest accom
Water power generated by the mill stream
Comment Market Vision
Sustainable Travel Development – Advisory Services SUSTAINABLE TOURISM development embraces the triple bottom line of environmental protection, social responsibility, and economic health. Simply put, business practices that protect and enhance the environment and support community development are more profitable and competitive in the long-term. Market Vision, along with its strategic partners, provides strategic planning, technical assistance, and implementation support to destination management companies and travel and tourism businesses of all sizes. We start with a single focus: to improve your triple bottom line and help you achieve substantial resource savings by
leveraging untapped opportunities and implementing a sustainable path to profitability through immediate and long-term return on investment. By staying focused on high priority areas and improving your organization’s positive impacts, you’ll quickly discover that sustainability equates to profitability. Our team includes accredited auditors and consultants who will help you prepare for and achieve GSTC-recognized independently-verified eco-certification. Contact us to find out how we can help you gain competitive advantage and increase profits through the more productive use of resources. ●
Insights ❘ Experience ❘ Results Established in 1997, Market Vision is a research and consultancy firm founded by marketing and research professionals with combined work experience of over 60 years. With our corporate office based in Dubai, UAE, and an international network of service providers and business associates, we execute, manage and oversee a wide range of projects around the world. Our tourism & hospitality consultants & associate global partners have in-depth experience in various aspects of tourism development, developed over decades of professional work experience in the industry.
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