Yes, it’s possible to work in the travel industry and be a ‘sustainable’ business. No, ‘sustainable travel’ is not a misnomer.
In the words of our collective hero, Sir David Attenborough: “It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”
People are always going to want to explore the wonders of the planet, and we’re here to show them how they can do so without wreaking havoc on the environments they so desire to visit, and thus preserve them for future generations.
WHO ARE WE?
We’re a Gold Coast-based resort representation agency that provides a suite of sales and marketing services – including brand development, publicity, social media, digital distribution and trade awareness – to a carefully curated collection of ‘conscious’ clients.
Our portfolio comprises 15 resorts (in seven countries) that share a common passion for providing revolutionary hospitality, rooted in environmental awareness and local culture; and are considered world leaders in the sustainable travel paradigm.
Our vision, and that of our clients, is to transform the tourism industry from within and neutralise its impact on the environment by championing sustainable, socially-responsible travel experiences.
WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY?
One of our core values is ‘respect and gratitude for the planet’ and our mission statement includes the pledge: ‘we will positively revolutionise the global travel industry’.
We are not ignorant to the impact the travel industry – in particular, air travel – has on the environment. In fact, we believe the greater an industry’s effect on the planet, the greater the responsibility of associated businesses to find solutions to the problem and not hide from the consequences.
We aren’t shirking responsibility; instead we’re tackling the collective flaws of our industry head on by innovating, working with global sustainability leaders and standing proudly at the forefront of change, providing hope, education, resources and responsible travel options.
We care about the cause and it would never be acceptable – to our passionate employees or our environmentally-focused clients – for us to remain apathetic. It has become an expectation of modern workplaces to stand up for what’s right. Employees want to work somewhere their leaders will use their platform to influence social policy.
We believe the larger a business or individual’s platform, the larger their responsibility to address the climate change emergency facing the planet. It’s a crisis that demands urgent action; action that we’re not currently seeing from governments and world leaders.
Businesses and individuals must add their voices to the imperative call for an end to fossil fuels and a transition to 100% clean energy, and put pressure on those in the position to implement policy change.
HOW EXACTLY ARE WE TRANSFORMING THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY?
We work exclusively with resorts that share our affinity for preserving the planet. Through marketing, advertising, PR and ongoing consultation with resorts, we aim to further elevate our clients and the positive steps they’re taking to protect the environment.
Our messaging is consistently focused on educating both travellers and members of the travel industry about how they can make more sustainable decisions and leave a lighter footprint when they do choose to travel. For example, we encourage travellers to consider quality over quantity; to offset their flight carbon footprint – either directly with the airline, through a reliable offsetting organisation, or both.
Our website, EDMs and social media channels are jam-packed with tips and resources for savvy travellers. We provide advice on how to pack sustainably; how to respect and give back to the local environment once guests arrive at their destination; and how to differentiate between greenwashing and genuine sustainable practices.
Conscious Travel Checklist
This year we created the travel industry’s first ‘conscious travel checklist’ to shed light on the steps resorts are taking to counter the effects of climate change and to enable travellers to make more informed booking decisions.
Our checklist takes into consideration the impact resorts have on their local environment, community and culture and allows travellers to identify experiences that allow them to see the world without negatively impacting communities and ecosystems. To be deemed ‘conscious’ by WRD – and to be part of our portfolio – resorts must tick at least 50% of the boxes in the checklist.
Travel for Trees
We also recently launched our ‘Travel for Trees’ p-reservation program, which will see us plant a native tree at a local site every time a travel agent in Australia or New Zealand registers a booking at one of the properties in our portfolio.
HOW ARE OUR CLIENTS TRANSFORMING THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY?
We are proud of the constant efforts our clients make to not only improve their environmental practices, but also to educate guests about how they can travel more sustainability. Every day we learn more about the inspiring things they’re doing – whether it be developing technology to turn oil into bio-fuel for power, collecting washed up plastic and polystyrene and turning it into bricks to be used in resort renovations, or funding important humanitarian programs around the world.
Below is just a highlight reel… we could speak for days on this topic, so if you’d like more information, let us know.
The Soneva Group has been carbon neutral since 2008. They were the first hotel group to measure all three scopes of carbon. The industry standard is to measure scopes one and two, which are carbon footprints from energy consumption, whereas Soneva also measures air travel, freight, ground travel, food, waste, paper and water consumption, known as Scope three.
To offset all three scopes and direct and indirect C02 emissions across its operations, including carbon created by visitors using air travel to reach its resorts, Soneva applies a 2% carbon levy to all bookings.
The funds raised from the carbon tax levy goes into various projects from building wind turbines in India, planting trees in northern Thailand, funding fuel-efficient cook stoves to war-torn Darfur and rural Myanmar, to providing safe drinking water to hundreds of thousands. The list goes on. Roughly $8 million worth of social projects have been funded since the levy was imposed.
Our resorts are designed with the preservation of their local habitat in mind. Bawah Reserve and its Bawah Anambas Foundation, which channels funds back into the local community and marine conservation site, is a great illustration of this philosophy.
Situated 300km north-east of Singapore at the southern end of Indonesia’s Anambas Archipelago, Bawah Reserve is an intimate, luxuriously-sustainable retreat featuring 35 standalone suites and over-the-water bungalows.
The Resort team worked alongside renowned architect, Sim Boon Yang (founder partner and director of eco.id), to create a design that strikes a harmonious balance luxury and modernity, while upholding its strong and sustainable approach towards the resort and its natural surroundings.
Bawah Reserve is the first island group in Indonesia to be powered by a renewable microgrid; no heavy machinery is allowed on the island, so every mechanical process – from recycling stones to breaking boulders for building material – has been done by hand; all water is sourced on the island and recycled as drinking water; and the entire resort was hand-built from sustainable bamboo and other recycled material, such as driftwood and copper.
Our resorts have a particularly strong focus on eliminating plastic – one of the biggest and most destructive pollutants on our natural habitats, wildlife and our own health.
Eight million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year, killing marine life, entering the human food chain, and costing $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. According to the UN, if current rates of pollution continue, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.
Bawah Reserve bans single-use plastic on the island, including straws, and offers guests handmade bamboo straws instead. Their dedicated eco-committee has also implemented a comprehensive waste management program that includes making bamboo bins for the resort grounds; recycling, filtering and bottling all water onsite in reusable glass bottles; and running a beach clean-up once a week.
Our Soneva properties – two resorts and one luxury yacht in the Maldives, plus one luxury Resort in Thailand – are absolute visionaries when it comes to plastic awareness. They haven’t been using plastic straws for more than 20 years and in 2008, they banned imported water, saving approximately 1.5 million plastic bottles since then.
Soneva has a target of zero waste and already recycles 90% of its solid waste, with glass, food waste, jungle trimmings and polystyrene all processed onsite. Now the focus is on tackling the last 10%, which includes small amounts of plastic, paper, cloth and Tetra Pak packaging.
As part of their ‘Soneva Maker Programme’ and in partnership with global grass-roots initiative, ‘Precious Plastic’, Soneva recycles plastic that washes onto the resorts’ pristine shores, making a range of useful products like flower pots. Guests and resort hosts are invited to get creative with plastic waste and some of the innovative creations we’ve seen include surfboards and building blocks made from recycled polystyrene and Easter eggs for children made from plastic bottle caps.