“Green” is a bit of a buzz-phrase, so what really makes an authentic eco/sustainable resort?
Consider the old adage, “don’t tell me how good you are, show me”. It’s easy to use words to tell a story about how much you care, but it’s your actions that create impact and deliver demonstrable results. You need to really believe that business has an important role to play in helping improve the lives of the communities where the resort is located, and to protect and regenerate the surrounding natural environment along with the convictions and resources to roll up your sleeves and do the work. Otherwise, it’s purely marketing spin and it doesn’t take much for the veneer to be chipped away and any credibility to be eroded.
What are the challenges of running an eco resort?
At one level, they’re the same as any other business: the importance of driving revenue, building a strong and sustainable company culture, attracting and retaining talent and ensuring the business is profitable. The added challenges are that you’re often doing work that is a long way from the world of hotel management, such as marine conservation, building and operating schools, providing health care, applying for grants and writing academic papers.
What’s the reaction from guests, staff and locals?
Staff are proud to work for a company that aligns with their values. It gives them a sense of purpose.
Guests: the sense of engagement and enrichment from knowing the money that you’re spending on your holiday or corporate retreat is helping to improve the state of the world is a powerful motivator.
Locals: when a resort becomes a positive and productive member of a community there’s a sense of collaboration between both parties. The two can work together, with the village providing goods and services and the resort supplying an access to markets that otherwise wouldn’t have been available.
What advice would you give to anyone setting up their own eco resort?
Firstly, don’t be afraid to follow your dreams but make sure you’re committed for the long run as it’s tough and everything takes longer than you first think, but if you’re driven and persistent then it’s remarkable what can be achieved. If your day job involves making money, while also making a difference, then that’s a pretty good way to earn a living.
What’s the future for sustainable resorts?
As groups expect more and more from the resorts they frequent, sustainability will be less of a niche and it will need to be backed up with transparency and results. It’ll need to be real and authentic to be good for your business (and the planet).
Rory Hunter is CEO and co-founder of Song Saa Collective