On the modern definition of "eco"
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 separate of human existence.
More recently, a realization has taken hold that in practice, it is difficult to conserve nature if the local communities
in the area 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 stakeholder.
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, enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to opportunities;
- 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.
Connection to the awards
All the awards listed in the logos above thus evaluate businesses on their performances in these criteria.
The WildAsia awards, for instance, evaluate (and issue 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
The World Responsible Tourism awards use the following criteria:
- Evidence of positive impact
- Replicability - can the ideas be adopted by others?
- Innovation - new ideas that should become common practice
- Influence - does the operator use its influence to inspire others to follow suit?
- Sustainability - is the operator's model is made for the long run?
- Overall commitment to Responsible Tourism
In the year 2012, WildAsia had an additional, overall, award called Most inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator, for the tourism operator who does best in all of its four categories.
LooLa is extremely proud to have received this fantastic award for the year 2012, and even more proud to follow this up with the award of World # 1 in the World Responsible Tourism Awards in London, 2015.
What does Eco mean for LooLa?
On this page, we explain how LooLa is trying to be a sustainable business, and what role all stakeholders play in this.
History of LooLa and our local staff
The name LooLa was suggested by our local staff, because it is the name of a typical local sea shell as well as a combination of the names of the founder/owner teacher couple Marc van Loo and Isabelle Lacoste.
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 we employed them rightaway 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 with a firm conviction 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 2015, more than 30 of our 50+ full-time staff still hail from our own small village, while the rest hails
from villages and towns less than 40 km away (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 20 of them own company-subsidized laptops and smart phones
and are conversant with office applications, dropbox, Google docs, 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, Igor, was born, and our 3 sons 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.
Connecting our guests to the local community
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,
placement of mosquito nets, and the construction of waste water gardens and water filters.
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.
Initial approach of LooLa to resource conservation
In terms of the resource 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: apart from our new luxury eco villas, 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.
We continue to expand on these ideas. In 2012 for instance, we introduced a 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.
Our recent steps towards resource conservation
Following our WildAsia and WTTC awards, we realised that we could broaden and strengthen our overall sustainability by addressing matters concerning resource management
(water conservation, waste water, waste management, and renewable electricity).
As such, we embarked in 2013 on the construction of
- Rain water collection systems;
- Biological waste water processing systems
that came out of the Aceh post-tsunami relief efforts) that can be adopted by the local community;
- Solar power systems;
- Two brand new luxury eco villas
Early 2015, the rainwater collection system was ready, and we're now learning how to make the most out of it,
and become a nett contributor to the water table.
Our waste water gardens are working beautifully, and our guests have helped us bring these systems - at a cost of under SG$ 500 per household only, including a ceramic water filter! - to over 40 local households
(as of Nov 2015), saving these households about $ 300 per year (about 15% of household income) as they no longer have to buy mineral water.
Our solar power panels (70 of them, covering an area of 120 m2) are powering the entire resort during the day, plus they power the aircons of our new luxury eco villas.
A world-first completely green aircon system!
The aircon systems in our 2 new luxury eco villas operate completely chemical-free and purely using sunlight: the sun freezes a
block of ice during the day under each villa, and we use this block of ice subsequently to cool the villa at night!
As far as we are aware, the LooLa aircon systems, designed by our
esteemed engineering partner in Bali,
are a world-first, and at a cost of under $ 50,000 per villa, it shows that the system is not just great for the environment, but
that it makes economic sense too, since powering aircons by conventional means would consume $ 50,000 in generator fuel within 5 years.
We may be the world's first, but we shall campaign to promote these systems and see them adopted throughout Asia.
We are delighted that
SERIS (Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore) is so impressed by the potential of LooLa's cooling concept that they have decided to commit to a 2 years joint research programme with LooLa.
LooLa's sustainable Tourism policy.
LooLa maintains a (continually updated) sustainable tourism policy, which keeps track of where we are and where we would like to go.
Should you like to see a copy, you can download the
Nov 2014 version
List of awards and media exposure
We are very proud to say that in recognition of these efforts, we received the following prestigious business sustainability accolades - and we fully intend to continue to show that we deserve them!
2011: WINNER: Asia's Most Inspiring Eco Resort Story
2012: WINNER: Asia's Most Inspiring Eco Resort
2013: WORLD TOP 3: Best Community Tourism Operator
2014: WINNER: 2 Sustainable Business Awards (Singapore)
2015: WINNER: Singapore's EcoActionDay
2015: SILVER: Global Youth Travel Awards
2015: WINNER: World's Best Responsible Beach Tourism Operator
2015: WINNER: World's Best Responsible Tourism Operator (Overall)
International newspaper coverage (mostly following LooLa's World # 1 WRT Awards):
2015, 28 Jan prominent write-up in the Straits Times, reprinted by
2015: The Independent on Sunday (UK major national paper)
2015: TTG (Travel Trade Gazette – major UK travel trade magazine)
2015: TTG MENA
2015: National Geographic Traveller (UK) Magazine
2015: Indonesian Tourism Board
2015: Incentive Travel Magazine
2015: Travel Matters
WTM is also working on an hour long BBC-hosted video of the award event, but they are currently sorting out an issue with the sound:
2015: WRT Award Video, LooLa's Mr Karno interviewed by BBC's Stephen Sackur