Issue 2 ! June 2012
Best Practices in
Sustainable Tourism 14
Two enterprises, one an eco-dive resort in Thailand and
the other an eco-lodge in Tunisia, share best practices
they follow in their sustainable tourism journey.
08 Feature 11 Interview 22 Market Intelligence
A More Sustainable Teifi Caron, Sustainability SOST shares news and research
Future for the Officer, Australian findings on sustainable tourism
Events Industry National University from around the world
14 Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism
Eco Koh Tao
Eco Dive Resort, Thailand
Eco Koh Tao is owned by a concerned consortium of foreigners and local
Thai business owners on the small island of Koh Tao in Thailand’s South East.
‘WITH KOH TAO being an exceptionally popular destination for businesses, tourists and the wider public about the importance
divers, it made sense to develop an environmental education of coral reefs to the health of the ocean as a whole. Secondly, we
centre to promote the conservation and preservation of the want to undertake projects to preserve the environment for future
ecosystem which so many divers exploit every year for their own generations to enjoy and benefit from. And finally, undertaking
enjoyment and pleasure. From a professional perspective, it is our scientific research enables us to pass on the knowledge and wisdom
home & place of work and as such needs to be protected to protect so that those that follow in our footsteps do not have to expend as
our livelihood & our future,’ says Nathan Cook, Managing Director, much energy as us learning from the past. We will have done the
Eco Koh Tao. In this interview, Nathan provides insights into best trial and error for them.
practices adopted by his company for sustainable tourism. The primary motivation comes from wanting to protect the
reef that is our livelihood and that of the thousands of people
SOST: Eco Koh Tao specialises in preparing and instructing that rely upon them for their survival.
divers and dive professionals emphasising the eco-diving
aspects of marine conservation. Could you enlighten our readers SOST: It is estimated that 25 percent of the world’s coral reefs
on what that means, and why is this important? have disappeared in the last 20 years and another 25 percent
are severely threatened. What are the implications for the dive
Nathan Cook: The oceans are the lifeblood of planet earth. They tourism industry?
provide three quarters of the oxygen we breathe. As divers
we see the magic of the oceans creatures first hand and can Nathan Cook: With the increasing threat to coral reefs worldwide
relate to its beauty & therefore are better placed to understand the health of coral reefs takes on even greater importance. The
its importance. As dive professionals we have an even more reefs are home to 25 percent of all know fish species with many
important role to play in instilling a stewardship role on anyone commercially viable ocean species (for example Tuna) using
who enters this magical realm. It is the dive professional’s role reefs in their nursery years.
to highlight the importance of the ocean in our survival and Divers and dive tourism relies on healthy reefs to provide
how as a diver you can do your bit to protect it. the kind of spectacle that draws people there in the first
place. With continued degradation of reefs dive tourists will
SOST: You are also involved in a number of environmental and quickly lose interest and entire economies will be affected. It
marine conservation projects. What are these projects, and is important to remember that dive tourism is not just boats
what is the motivation behind this involvement? and dive shops, it is hotels, resorts, restaurants, general stores,
ferries, planes and all the other services dive tourists use in the
Nathan Cook: Eco Koh Tao collaborates with a number of dive expenditure of their vacation time. For an island like Koh Tao,
businesses and local stakeholders to undertake marine conservation which relies so heavily on the reef as one of its largest draw
projects that have a threefold aim. One is to educate divers, local cards, its degradation will become a major setback.
“While many environmental activities
are designed for the betterment of
our business, the knock on effects are
always going to be beneficial for the
wider community, whether it is building
artificial reefs or recycling batteries to
protect the soil. It all contributes to the
greater good for all.”
SOST: What responsible and sustainable business practices do
you follow in running your business operations? Do you have
an established sustainability policy for your business?
Nathan Cook: Yes, we have a Sustainability Policy and Action
Plan that includes environmental and social goals and a system
for monitoring the company’s performance towards its goals,
which is communicated to all our employees. Our clients and the
general public are also kept aware of our sustainability policy
and business practices.
We do extensive recycling of waste with a particular focus
on trying to reduce our waste. The famous adage – Reduce,
Reuse, Recycle is written in this order for a reason. We posit that These moorings prevent dive boats dropping anchors and
if you can reduce your consumption and reuse products, then damaging the reef.
there is no need to recycle. We have developed artificial reefs that are available to
Water conservation policies are paramount on an island that everyone to use in the conduct of their business. New divers
has limited water supplies during our busiest months. are often clumsy and proximity to high quality natural reefs
Working with local businesses that complement our can pose a problem when undertaking training. These artificial
services has been difficult for us. We have great influence reefs provide alternative locations for high impact activities like
over the operational aspects of our dive business but the Dive training new divers.
Resort – accommodation and infrastructure is owned and So while many environmental activities are designed for
managed by other parties who don’t always see eye to eye with the betterment of our business, the knock on effects are always
our conservation policies and getting upgrades that matter going to be beneficial for the wider community, whether it is
can sometimes be difficult. It is frustrating but we have to building artificial reefs or recycling batteries to protect the soil.
work within the parameters that we are given and work on It all contributes to the greater good for all.
the theory that we will do what we can within the scope of our
operations. With the limitations we have, I believe we have SOST: What positive impact has being a responsible tourism
achieved a great deal. company had on your business image, your clientele, your
competitive standing and on your business profitability?
SOST: How does your business contribute to the
local community? Nathan Cook: Being a responsible tourism company has led
to a change in the type of customers we are receiving. More
Nathan Cook: Eco Koh Tao collaborates extensively with local environmentally focused travellers and divers are seeking
community groups Save Koh Tao and their marine conservation us out as quality providers of an environmentally sound
branch Marine Conservation Koh Tao. These organisations service. When we started out in 2007 we were rather unique
operate as information dissemination centres with the aim to in the quality and depth of focus we took to Eco-diving as such.
help coordinate projects and initiatives that are then promoted As a result marketing kudos came our way and we were seen
through individual centres like ours. Many environmental as industry leaders in our region. Over time competitors have
initiatives have been undertaken by Eco Koh Tao the benefits of seen our development and mimicked our operations trying to
which are received by the wider community. For example if we go reach our level of standing within the eco diving sphere on Koh
out to repair mooring buoys on one of our dive sites, those Tao. I guess you could say that to be copied is the highest form
moorings are available for use by all the potential dive schools. of praise.
16 Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism Eco Dive Resort / Eco Koh Tao
Customers often comment on the environmental focus of Nathan Cook: It seems obvious to me that by being involved in
our business that was an influential factor in their decision to sustainable business practices makes perfect business sense
choose our dive services on Koh Tao. As a result profitability in the name – sustainable. When you start a business the aim
has been buoyed by such support. is for it to grow and prosper and be able to operate for the
foreseeable future. In this day and age of climate change and
SOST: From your experience in leading Eco Koh Tao and increasing concerns about the state of the planet potential
knowledge of the industry and customers, how can the conflict customers are going to be drawn to businesses that are doing
between the needs of nature conservation and the economic something about it.
interests of diving tourism be mitigated? The coral reefs and beautiful tropical island of Koh Tao is our
resource. That is what people come to see, enjoy and explore
Nathan Cook: Balancing the environmental and economic and if it gets degraded, we will have nothing to offer people. So
needs is often difficult and it is something that needs to be it is in our best interests to preserve the environment. Your
addressed and well understood at all levels of management. home needs constant maintenance and repair and cleaning to
Developing sound environmental practices does not have continue to provide the sort of place you want to live in, so it
to be a costly exercise, and some of the hardest aspects of is for the natural environment that is our livelihood.
operational procedures to change are simply long standing The journey is difficult and people often think of big changes
habits and procedures that have become the norm. to try and get the process of becoming more environmentally
Often management don’t see the benefits of investing in focused. But start with the little things that can be done today.
greener technologies or better practices because of the cost. In And as you make the small changes the bigger initiatives will
a very cost prohibitive environment like Thailand with limited flow from that. Trial and error is massive because you can learn
resources we do what we can and try to ensure that we don’t from other people’s experience but there is no experience like
compromise our principles. your own. ●
Marketing & selling your product is imperative because in
this day and age we have seen that people will pay a premium
or be drawn to businesses that profess to be eco friendly. SOST Assessment
Getting this message out to your customers is important to
ensure they understand the initiatives you are undertaking
to preserve the environment. ➜ Eco Koh Tao demonstrates compliance with a number of indicators
under the Shore Excursions Standards.
➜ Having an integrated waste management and water management
SOST: What are the long term benefits dive tourism operators policy and plan, using company records to calculate its greenhouse
can expect from being involved in sustainable business gas (GHG) emissions and having a purchasing policy that gives
preference to environmentally friendly products are some of the
practices that include environmental, socio-cultural and
areas that need to be worked upon, in order that it may be certified
economic aspects? What message would you like to give them? as a sustainable tourism business
What does it take to start on this journey?
SOST Assessment is based on business owners’ responses (self-reporting) to a series
of questions based on STEP Shore Excursions Standard criteria (Sustainable T ravel
International). 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.