Not so long ago, "Eco" used to refer exclusively to "green", meaning, roughly, nature conservation of animals, plants, rivers, lakes, the planet - in short, the natural world outside from ourselves.
More recently, a realization has taken hold that in practice, it is difficult to conserve nature around us if the local communities
in which one works do not support the idea. In other words, the key for an eco-conscious business is increasingly understood to be this: to construct a business
that is sustainable,
meaning that the interest of all stakeholders (owners, staff, local communities, local government, clients, and the nature around us) align to
produce an outcome that is good for each.
The modern definition of Ecotourism is, therefore, "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)
In more detail, Responsible tourism is defined in the 2002 Capetown Declaration as tourism which…
- minimizes negative economic, environmental, and social impacts;
- generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry;
- involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
- makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world's diversity;
- provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
- provides access for physically challenged people; and
- is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
The WildAsia awards (click the logos above) thus evaluates - and issues awards to - tourism businesses on its performance in the following four categories:
- Community Engagement and Development
- Cultural Preservation
- Protecting natural areas and/or wildlife
- Resource efficiency
In the year 2012, there was also an additional, overall, award called Most inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator, for the tourism operator who does best in all four categories.
LooLa is extremely proud to have received this fantastic award for the year 2012.
On this page, we explain how LooLa is trying to be a sustainable business, and what role all parties play in this.
LooLa has attempted from the outset, when we started in 1996, to ensure that all stakeholders would benefit. We bought the land from a local family and employed them rightaway so as to make the sale a long-term mutual beneficiary act.
The (still quite deep-rooted) prevailing wisdom at the time was that no international business can succeed with strictly local staff, but we set out to prove this idea wrong:
not only is it possible to work with purely local staff, but it can work very well, combining the natural Indonesian hospitality with the expectations of the modern traveller.
Indeed, for many of our (return) guests, our local staff is seen as one of our best assets! (refer to our feedback page, Facebook page, and Tripadvisor reviews)
We opened the resort in the year 2000, building with strictly local materials and strictly local labor, and contracted all our staff from Bintan itself, mostly from the local village in which we operate.
Our village, Galang Batang, is spread out over a radius of 5 km, and counts only 79 families with around 370 people.
It was generally regarded as one of the least developed areas in all of Bintan.
Indeed, NONE of our local staff had ever visited the capital of Bintan, Tanjung Pinang, just 40 km away, when we first met them!
Only one of the villagers had completed highschool, the rest had either primary school or no schooling.
In 2012, more than 30 of our 40+ full-time staff, and more than 20 of our 30+ part-time staff still hail from our own small village, while the rest hails
from villages and towns less than 40 km away (we, the owners, reside in Singapore to head the sales team). More than
half of the staff are speaking English now - an incredible achievement given the educational background - and more than 10 of them own a company-subsidized laptop
and are conversant with office applications and Facebook and the like.
There has been virtually no turnover of staff; instead, the staff force has steadily grown over the years. This means that our staff doesn't quite feel like staff but more like
part of the family - indeed, LooLa opened in the same year as our first son was born, and our kids certainly regard our staff as part of their family.
We endeavor to continually develop LooLa and our staff to make sure we can continue to rely on their experience.
We engage the guests and the community around us in a win-win scenario as follows: we invite our guests to set aside a little bit of money
as well as some of their time to engage in meaningful community projects that allow for real interaction with the local community and environment.
This win-win partnership, just to give some examples, has seen the construction of local roads, volleyball and basket ball fields, and
children's play grounds. At the level of individual local households, there are housing upgrades, construction and placement of beds in local homes,
as well as the placement of mosquito nets. Furthermore, there are plenty of interactions between visitors and local schools and orphanages
(arts, sports and educational exchanges), and altogether our guests have planted more than 10 hectares of forest land,
mangrove reforestation, and local village farms. If any of our guests has any idea of their own to engage in a meaningful
community project, we are delighted to make it happen.
in short, community work is one of these beautiful examples where everyone is happy to participate and everyone benefits - clear and simple.
In terms of the "green" aspects of a responsible business, while we believe there is merit in new green technologies, we believe that the most obvious key to a sustainable use of resources is to simply limit
the use of water and electricity.
We do this by appealing to our guests to give up a little comfort: there is no air-con and there is only sun-warmed water.
Our guests are, on the whole, supportive of this philosophy and are quite happy to give up these creature comforts in exchange for a rustic natural feel and so as to do their part for conservation. In other words, we have come full
circle: we have a business model in which the long-term interests of all stakeholders, including the wider environment around us, are aligned.
We continue to expand on these ideas. In 2012 for instance, we piloted the first totally chemical-free method to combat mosquitos, and we installed WiFi in order
to assist our staff's IT development and to plug them more firmly into the wider world.
In 2012 we also overhauled our electricity systems and started reviewing our waste management systems to see where we can improve.
This process of improvement won't ever stop, and that is a good thing: the key is to continually improve things so as to keep all stakeholders excited and engaged.
We are very proud to say that in recognition of these efforts, we received the following four prestigious accolades - and we fully intend to continue to show that we deserve them!
2011: VOTED ASIA'S MOST INSPIRING ECO-RESORT STORY
2012: FINALIST for ASIA'S MOST INSPIRING ECO-RESORT
2012: WINNER for ASIA'S MOST INSPIRING ECO-RESORT
2013: ONE OF THE WORLD'S BEST 3 COMMUNITY TOURISM OPERATORS