Soneva joins conservation network Linking Tourism & Conservation. The network is designed to foster replication of best practices and examples of sustainable tourism that supports the establishment and management of national parks and other types of protected areas.
LT&C has created a case study to showcase Soneva as good example for the network. Here is the case study:
Soneva Fushi in Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Maldives
Soneva’s vision is inspired by nature’s magnitude, mystery and enchanting beauty. We work hand in hand with the environment to craft beautiful, beyond bespoke experiences where discovery is a way of life. We are a strong believer that tourism can have a positive impact on the environment and social development. Many national parks have been created as a result of the tourism industry. We are proud that Soneva Fushi is part of the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
In 1995, award-winning luxury resort Soneva Fushi set the standard for all desert island barefoot luxury hideaways in the Maldives. We have always protected our own 50 ha island and 119 ha of house reef and are fortunate to be located in a region with fantastic marine biodiversity.
We have been actively campaigning against shark fishing in Maldives. By petitioning, educating and pressuring the government this goal was finally realised in March 2010 and the Maldives became only the second country in the world to implement an outright ban shark fishing.
Soneva Fushi led the way to form the BAARU organization – a collaborative platform between the Baa Atoll resorts – which meets on a regular to discuss sustainability issues in the Atoll. Inspired by the success of getting shark fishing banned, we worked with five other resorts to secure recognition for Baa Atoll as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Although the status was achieved in 2011, there are ongoing management challenges of the area. We work closely with the local authorities to support their work. Our marine biologist serves on the Baa Atoll Advisory Board and we have been engaging the minister of environment to increase support of the area.
Slowly but surely, we see progress but there is still more to be done. For instance, Soneva Fushi is the only Baa Atoll resort that has banned night fishing due to its destructive practices.
In total, 80% of our waste is recycled through state-of-the-art Eco Centro Waste-to-Wealth programme, up from only 27% compared to the 2008-09 baseline. 100% of food waste is composted and the fertile soil produced is reused in our vegetable gardens. This is in stark contrast to the norm in the Maldives, where the common practice for resorts is to dump food waste in the ocean – polluting the main tourist attraction the country.Waste management is a huge challenge in the Maldives and a threat to the marine environment. Soneva Fushi has taken on this challenge with the goal to prove that a comprehensive and effective waste management programme can be both good for the environment and profitable.
They key is to view waste as an asset rather than rubbish. Our waste handling and vegetable production generated US$113,000 in value in 2014-15.
We expect this to increase as Soneva Fushi recently opened the Soneva Glass Studio, which invites guests to watch world-renowned glass artists create objects of art from waste glass materials and to learn the art of glass blowing themselves. Only waste glass produced from resorts in the local area is used at the facility. The Glass Studio takes our Eco Centro concept to the logical next step – creating not just wealth from waste but also beauty.
We are currently working with our neighbouring island to develop our waste-to-wealth concept further. The idea it to develop an Eco Centro there that can handle waste from several resorts in the region and at the same time creating jobs on the island.
Learn To Swim
We put a lot of effort in education. We invite guests and local school children on an Eco Centro Tour where they are shown how we recycle our waste, which includes food compost, biochar production and glass recycling. They are also shown our solar PV field and how we source water sustainably; treat waste water and how we eliminate plastic waste by producing our own drinking water. Finally, they are shown how we reuse the composted food waste to produce herbs and vegetables for the resort.
A popular guest activity is our garden lunches, where our guests dine in our vegetable garden. The chef will come and explain about our local produce and pick vegetables from our garden to prepare a delicious, fresh and healthy lunch.
Despite living in an island nation, many Maldivians grow up without learning to swim. While this poses a clear risk to life, it also means that children grow up with little environmental awareness of the ocean and the coral reefs that surround them. We believe that if children learn to swim, they can lose their fear of the ocean and learn to love it. Over an intensive two weeks, the Soneva Learn To Swim programme takes local children from the very basics through to their first time snorkelling on the reef edge.Soneva has an in-house marine biologist who provides on-site expertise on conservation and reef management. We personally guide, primarily by our resident marine biologist, over 1,500 people per year on snorkelling trips at Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere reserve to learn about the beautiful marine life and why it is important to protect it. We also train our hosts to be proactive in protecting our fragile local environment.
We have taught 160 children and 30 adults to swim as well as trained 28 swimming instructors. The social value generated from this project is over US$ 80,000 over a three-year period.
We measure our success based on guest feedback as well as number of repeat business. Generally our guest feedback is positive (95+ %) and repeat business is around 50%, which is very high in the hospitality industry.
At Soneva, we strive to provide a blueprint for the hospitality industry. We believe that a business must exist for a greater purpose than shareholder returns. We have shown through small tweaks in the way we do business, that we can have a net positive impact on society, a carbon neutral operations including impacts from supply chain and guest air travel, deliver exceptional guest experiences and at the same time operate profitably.
When done right, tourism can certainly have a positive impact on the environment and social development.