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Southeast Asian hotels and resorts don’t understand the ‘green premium’ and don’t know how to leverage it to attract quality customers, according to leading figures in the region’s hospitality industry . The message that hotels and resorts lag behind their counterparts in other parts of the world when it comes to capitalizing on the benefits associated with sustainable tourism has been one of the key lessons PHIST (Phuket Hotels for Islands Sustaining Tourism), the largest sustainability forum in Southeast Asia. , held this week at SAii Laguna where more than 1,000 attendees gathered.
“Hotel developers in Southeast Asia have generally failed to make sustainability a necessity the way they do in Europe or North America. It’s a huge mismatch,” said Bill Barnett, managing director of hospitality and real estate advisory group C9 Hotelworks, co-organizer of PHIST, in conjunction with Greenview and the Phuket Hotels Association.
Other expert speakers at PHIST included star designer Bill Bensley and KP Ho, founder and executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings and Laguna Resorts and Hotels, who urged resort owners to become more aware of the broader benefits associated to sustainable tourism.
By adopting green or conscious practices ranging from waste management and energy savings to farm-to-table catering, sourcing organic produce from local farmers, and better community engagement, resorts can streamline costs and build goodwill. By doing so, they can also increase their appeal to customers who place a high value on experiences that are ethical, sustainable and, perhaps most importantly, unique.
Jesper Palmqvist, STR Global’s Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, hosted a panel discussion at PHIST where VIPs from leading resort names such as Six Senses and Soneva discussed environmental best practices for the future . He agreed that the hospitality industry in Southeast Asia needs to be more proactive in implementing meaningful change.
It is important for the industry to develop green champions, best practice documents and training modules that can be modified by hotels,” he said. “In addition, hotels need to be pressured to meet international sustainability certification. This would show a greater ambition to adopt new criteria related to the environment and thus stay one step ahead.”
Further discussions on how to seize the opportunities presented by sustainable tourism were at the forefront as some of the biggest names in the hospitality industry in the region came together for PHIST. KP Ho was instrumental in transforming Laguna Phuket from a barren moonscape of devastated land – abandoned by the tin mining industry and declared uninhabitable by the UN – into a leading integrated resort in Southeast Asia.
Bill Bensley has helped curate some of Asia’s most charismatic sustainable tourism experiences. Son Shinta Mani Wild in Cambodia, for example, offers luxury tented accommodation while using funds to preserve the surrounding private nature reserve from poaching, mining and logging. The “green bounty” and how to influence it was just one of the many topics covered at this year’s PHIST, which featured 16 interactive workshops and over 30 exhibitors.
Workshop discussions focused on issues such as the sustainable circular economy, green hotel loans and start-up funds, glamping, farm-to-table cooking, hotel design, data and metrics. environmental hospitality, innovation in green technologies, marketing of sustainable hotels, water conservation, sustainability. wellness and more. Just prior to PHIST, outdoor accommodation practitioners came together and agreed on the establishment of the Asia Pacific Outdoor Lodging Association (APOLA), a professional body created to guide, promote and structure the development of the outdoor accommodation sector. outdoor accommodation in the region as it develops.
APOLA’s mission will be to help set the standards for the region, raise awareness, develop an accounting system for project funding and educate the industry on the benefits of this sustainable, lower impact hospitality model. .
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