One of the most important things we can all do to help each other through this crisis is to appreciate the power of community.
It’s steps like shopping locally via small businesses; postponing travel instead of cancelling it; and bracing our neighbours, friends, family and colleagues with resources and advice that will help us all – especially those most in need – survive.
Help vulnerable global communities who rely on tourism
We’re particularly conscious of the need to support the tourism industry, which employs around ten per cent of the world’s population, including the beautiful local communities in which our resorts operate.
Places like the Maldives and Sumba in Indonesia rely almost entirely on tourism; while the travel sector employs minimum 40,000 people in Fiji, making it a critical pillar of the economy. We’re planning to do our bit by returning to these exposed destinations as soon as we can, to help stimulate their economies.
It’s crucial to remember that there’s more to the operation of boutique and independent properties than meets the eye. Not only do they support the staff they employ directly, but they also support an entire supply chain beyond the resort grounds.
This line of supply often ends with vulnerable communities whose very existence depends on the resort. For example, Bawah Reserve employs local women from surrounding islands to supply hand-made banana chips for the resort; and Soneva pays local fisherman in the Maldives to supply all of the fresh seafood for its two resorts within the destination.
When it’s time to emerge from our houses again (and it is a matter of when not if), it will be the perfect opportunity for all of us to be mindful of our power as consumers and consider how our future travels can have a positive impact on communities that need our support.
There are destinations, resorts and tourism operators out there that are genuinely committed to protecting their local communities and environments, and who are doing beautiful, inspiring and productive things to make the world a better place.
Now is a great time to educate yourself; to research destinations and accommodation providers to learn about where there money goes; and to arm yourself with the tools and resources to make responsible choices.
Help closer to home
The travel industry in Australia plays a big role in contributing to the economy and by postponing your travel instead of cancelling it, you’ll also be helping closer to home by keeping professionals in their jobs.
Travel advisors have spent years, if not decades, building their businesses, their knowledge and their skills, and they need our support to survive. Being part of a strong community is what being human is all about, after all!
Finally, updating the date of your trip is the nicest thing you can do for yourself right now, as you’ll need something special to look forward to, in order to get through the tough months ahead.
In the meantime, we’re here to provide you with some inspiring stories from our portfolio of world-leading conscious resorts to remind you why it’s so important to defer you travels, not your dreams, and who you’ll be helping by doing so!
Bawah Reserve, Indonesia
Sustainability is in Bawah Reserve’s DNA. Accessible exclusively via its own amphibious seaplane, the resort – and its six previously uninhabited, forest-clad islands and 13 beaches of white hourglass sand – features suites and over-the-water bungalows that have been developed with the preservation of the island’s natural beauty in mind.
Bawah Reserve was the first island group in Indonesia to be powered by a renewable microgrid; all water is sourced on the island and recycled as drinking water; no heavy machinery is allowed on the island so every step in the construction process was done by hand; and the entire resort was hand-crafted from sustainable bamboo and other recycled material, such as driftwood and copper.
In an effort to rehabilitate and conserve the marine and terrestrial life of the wider Anambas archipelago – which comprises more than 250 islands across seven sub-districts – the Bawah Anambas Foundation was independently established in 2018.
The foundation also hopes to lift the community’s welfare, where the biggest problem is a lack of education and awareness of environmental impact. At least 80% of those living in the Anambas rely on the surrounding ocean for their livelihood, with the average income equivalent to USD $150 – 350 per month, per household.
Born and raised on remote islands, the 45,000 locals simply don’t realise that many aspects of their lifestyle and day-to-day practices – such as dumping waste into the ocean, consuming turtle eggs and meat, using plastic products, and collecting stones from the forests for construction – are detrimental to the region’s outstanding biodiversity.
As such, the overarching focus for the foundation is breaking down barriers through education and one of the projects the team has implemented is teaching locals English via a digital media program.
Bawah Reserve works harmoniously with the foundation and provides unwavering support for its conservation and community welfare programs. The resort’s commitment to a sustainable future is evident in every detail of your stay: from the fresh, organically-grown food on your plates, to the reusable copper water bottle you receive upon arrival.
It is impossible to leave Bawah Reserve without feeling humbled, reconnected with nature, and inspired to live a greener life!
Nihi Sumba, Indonesia
Originally developed as a surf resort to provide guests with access to the Indonesia’s most sought-after waves, Nihi Sumba has captured the hearts of travellers from around the globe and is today known as one of the most coveted destinations in the world.
The resort prides itself on being environmentally friendly, and in addition to the use of natural building materials, its impressive sustainability practices include organic gardens that produce the majority of the resort’s food and a comprehensive composting and water recycling system.
Nihi Sumba is a soulful destination where rugged meets unregulated freedom, and every activity offered to guests in designed to immerse them in the resort’s two most important pillars: nature and community.
The most rewarding experience, however, is visiting the Sumba Foundation, which was founded in 2001 to help alleviate the crushing burdens of poverty the locals were living under, by focusing on water, health, education and economic projects.
The foundation’s key achievements to date include treating 407,000 patients across four clinics; reducing malaria rates by 93% in core project areas; developing more than 65 wells and 260 water stations; and supplying water, toilets and supplies to 22 primary schools.
Soneva Jani, Maldives
Since its inception, Soneva has supported the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact in the areas of Human Rights, Labour, Environment and Anti-Corruption. These principles are measured and refined year on year, and in essence, highlight the company’s constant efforts to respect the protection of human rights; create gender equality in the workforce; emphasise local employment; and offer competitive salaries and desirable living arrangements for hosts.
A stellar example of the company’s focus on employees is ‘Woman in Soneva’, a recruitment drive aimed at achieving a more balanced representation of female hosts in the Maldives.
In 2018, Soneva unveiled an aspirational female employment target for its Maldivian properties, where the unemployment rate for female adults is three times that of males and where Maldivian women make up only four per cent of the workforce in resorts, compared to women constituting 45% in industries such as education, healthcare and the civil service.
Fathimath Shaazleen, or Shaaz as she is affectionately known, represents just one of the many success stories to come out of Soneva in the past two decades. Hailing from a local island in the Maldives, Shaaz began her career as a telephone operator after she passed her diploma in hospitality with distinction.
In 2000 she joined Soneva Fushi in guest relations and two years later was promoted to Friday Supervisor. She left Soneva in 2004 but found her way back and re-joined in 2009 at Soneva Kiri in Thailand as Rooms Division Manager.
After moving back to the Maldives, Shaaz was offered the position of Resort Manager at Soneva Jani and then became the first Maldivian female to become Resort General Manager. Today she continues to be a source of inspiration for women – both local and foreign!