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Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism - Eco Koh Tao

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					   Issue 2 ! June 2012
   ISSN 2227-4065




   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
                                                                                               See Inside




   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
     COMMENT




             In the

             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.
HOME                                                                                                                                                 15

    “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.

				
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