Asia's First integrated Luxury Destination Resort

Environmental Policy: Green Hotel Environmental at Laguna Phuket Resorts and Hotels, Thailand

Environmental Policy

Laguna Phuket has been internationally recognized for the following attributes:

Laguna Phuket has been internationally recognized for the following attributes:

1. Successful rehabilitation of a devastated tin-mining site.

2. Careful maintenance of Thai cultural traditions and historical heritage in the resorts architectural design and interior decor.

3. Adoption of environmentally sensitive and harmonious building materials and techniques.

4. Considerable capital investment in water treatment and conservation as well as sewerage treatment equipment (no sewerage is discharged into the sea), besides extensive energy conservation measures.

5. Elaborate landscaping, largely with indigenous flora, together with constant concern for the survival of local wildlife and ecosystems.

6. Minimization of ‘Tourism Pollution’, particularly in the social sphere.

7. Benevolent impact on local communities by ensuring enhanced employment opportunities, assistance with water supply problems and encouragement of local small businesses and environmental protection projects.

A detailed account of these achievements follows.

From the Beginning: The transformation of a ravaged, lifeless landscape with no development potential.

The transformation of a ravaged, lifeless landscape with no development potential

At the turn of the 20th century the area on which the Laguna Phuket complex now flourishes was used for tin mining. Work began in 1984 to create the resort on devastated land where the soil was so leached with chemicals that it was believed vegetation could never be sustained again. A United Nations Development Plan team surveying Phuket’s tourism potential in 1977 wrote off the Bang Tao Bay area as being ‘too environmentally damaged to have any development potential.’ Another survey, commissioned by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in 1979 reported that ‘Although the damage was probably beyond repair, effort should not be spared to try to restore the environment. ’Indeed, no effort was spared. The enormous project began with equipment moving in to clear and level the terrain. Huge quantities of fertilized topsoil were imported so that planting could begin to re-establish trees and vegetation that would stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. The designs for several buildings and roads were created to accommodate the few existing trees.Natural craters resulting from the tin mining activities were filled with water, forming saltwater and freshwater lagoons. After contaminated soil had been removed, the lagoons were stocked with fish and shellfish to begin restoring marine life to the area.For each of the hotels and condominiums built within Laguna Phuket, an Environmental Impact Study was first submitted to the National Environmental Board, winning approval in every case. Government by-laws on environmental matters were completely complied with. Throughout the resort, not only environmental, but also cultural, heritage and human resource issues have been sensitively addressed from the beginning.

Save the Trees

As Thailand had already suffered badly from deforestation, basic building materials were chosen that would not further deplete limited forestry resources. Timbers were only used where absolutely necessary to achieve important aesthetic effects. For example, wood was simulated to achieve the ‘weatherboard’ effect at Laguna Beach Resort and roof rafters were generally constructed of steel.

National Heritage

Appearance of the resort was of prime consideration and the resulting architecture not only harmonizes with the immediate environment, but also reflects the culture and heritage of Thailand. Traditionally gabled roofs are a feature and the roof-tiles are earthy tones of red and gray.

The island-within-an-island waterscaped concept of the Angsana Laguna Phuket, with buildings constructed on stilts, is strongly reminiscent of Chao Lay (Sea Gypsy) settlements found around the Thai peninsula.

Each hotel was designed to reflect individual character, but variations on traditional Thai architectural themes have been represented throughout the complex. Light, airy spaces are defined by native wood and tiles; rooms and terraces are decorated with ceramics, stoneware, antiques, rattan and exquisite textiles. The use of air-conditioning is kept to a minimum, as high peaked ceilings allow natural air to circulate freely and there is an abundance of lush, colourful foliage both inside and outside the buildings.

The Creation of a Tropical Oasis

Once the land had been cleared and replenished with topsoil, plants and trees that would easily thrive in local conditions were introduced. It was also considered important that species requiring minimal irrigation were planted. Casuarina trees and palms were an obvious choice as they stabilize the soil, and appropriate fruit and flowering trees were selected to attract birds and other wildlife back to the area. The Laguna Phuket golf course, having been constructed on land that had no plant or animal life, now supports thousands thousands of trees and ever-increasing numbers of birds, such as purple swamp hens, kingfishers, bee-eaters and hoopoes.

One key advantage in using indigenous vegetation is that resistance to local disease is high. Use of pesticides on the resort complex generally is very limited and, to support breeding wildlife on the golf course, there are areas where no chemicals are applied.

In the more densely populated and developed areas of Phuket Island, the numbers and variety of bird species have fallen drastically. This is due to indiscriminate hunting and trapping, often for human food as well as for the caged-bird trade. On a positive note, there have been reports of increased avian activity in the Laguna Phuket complex. White egret, probably using the resort lagoons as a stop-over on migration routes, have been sighted regularly. Flocks of wild duck, previously unseen in the area, now use the resorts lagoons also.

Planting policies to encourage more birds to make their home in the resort are firmly adhered to. Flowering trees and shrubs such as flame trees and bougainvilleas are cultivated to boost the butterfly population.

Marine Life

When the lagoons had been cleaned out and clean seawater filtered in, fish and other marine life soon began to establish. The resort has an ongoing fish-stocking policy.

Sea turtles have been known to use nearby beaches to lay eggs during their breeding season. The resort management is concerned about protecting these endangered creatures and supports the sea turtle conservation programs conducted by the Royal Thai Navy and Phuket Marine Biological Centre.

Sea Turtle Conservation

In 1994, Laguna Phuket began supporting the sea turtle conservation projects conducted by the Royal Thai Navy and Phuket Marine Biological Centre to increase the dwindling numbers of sea turtles living in the Andaman Sea. Each year at the resort complex a turtle releasing ceremony is held on the beach. Local residents and hotel guests purchase young turtles and then make merit in the Buddhist way by releasing them into the sea. The creatures are either hatched and raised at the Phuket Marine Biological Centre, or bought from local fishermen who, as part of the project, are encouraged to bring any live turtles caught in nets. Before being released, injured turtles are nursed back to health, tagged and fitted with microchips so their progress can be monitored. Since the instigation of this project, hundreds of thousands of Baht have been raised by Laguna Phuket to support the preservation of this endangered species.

A Sophisticated Recycling System

Refuse Disposal

Refuse that cannot be recycled is treated through Phuket’s incinerator system. Organic waste is composted and used for fertilizing the gardens. Research is being undertaken to test the viability of chipping tree trunks and branches. The chips would then be spread on garden surfaces, providing aesthetic relief, reducing water evaporation and producing humus to improve soil condition.

Sewerage Disposal

No raw sewerage is discharged into the sea from the resort complex. After being treated, sewerage and wastewater are directed into a sophisticated recycling system. The resulting water is used to irrigate the gardens. Maintaining the golf course naturally requires large amount of water, so a special system has been devised. Lagoon water left highly acidic as a result of the tin mining is treated by adding excess wastewater from the hotels, with added dolomite to raise the pH level. The results are used to irrigate the golf course, thus preventing depletion of the limited local water supply. Water to supply the hotels and other resort facilities is drawn from several freshwater lakes, and run through an on-site treatment plant.

Other Environmental Matters

Green Leaf Awards received by the individual hotels reflect recognition of Laguna Phuket’s commitment to maintaining the environment through improvement of performance and efficiency in areas such as phasing out environmentally damaging products. Day-to-day operations at the resort apply the Three Rs of green management: reduce, re-use and recycle. All resort facilities have adopted responsible purchasing policies and recycled materials are used wherever possible for maintenance, renovation and upgrading work.Each hotel has a staff education program to teach the importance of caring for the environment, and consumption of energy and water is closely monitored. Hotel staff receive extensive checklists to complete, covering such areas as waste management, energy and water management, product purchase, air quality, noise pollution and community issues.

Some relevant examples of the hotels continuing efforts include: the Banyan Tree Phuket’s decision to change all their resort buggies from gas powered to electric, not only for environmental reasons, but also to reduce noise pollution. Laguna Services Company employs a permanent team of beach-cleaners to ensure that the beach area is free of refuse and potential contamination. A channel has been constructed to connect the lagoons with the sea to prevent water from becoming stagnant. Sand is dredged regularly from the lagoons and Laguna Service Company also oversees manual cleaning of the water areas, to remove any floating debris.

The lagoons provide the possibility of travel between the hotels by boat, thus eliminating excess road traffic. Hotel boiler stacks are fitted with scrubbers to prevent air pollution and all forms of external air emission are constantly monitored to ensure the least possible amount of pollution is emitted.

The resort management do not operate motorized water sports, such as jet-skis, water-skiing and parasailing, both for safety reasons and to avoid noise pollution.

Conclusion: Phuket’s continuing popularity as a holiday destination

What makes a business good? A commitment to create a lush sanctuary amid the wasteland of a spent tin mine was the first pointer to the Laguna Phuket philosophy of becoming a “good” business, in every sense of the phrase.

Growth and renewal have always been encouraged in other ways, too. As well as restoring trees and plant life, attracting birds and other wild creatures back to the area, Laguna Phuket’s lagoons provide a self-sustaining water supply. No detail is overlooked, with flowering trees and shrubs even being cultivated to boost the butterfly population.

Organic waste is composted and used as fertilizer. After being treated, sewerage and wastewater are recycled to irrigate the gardens. Water for the resort facilities is drawn from freshwater lagoons, and run through an on-site treatment plant. Other operations performed by the non-profit Laguna Service Company take care of inter-resort transport by land and water, laundry, public relations and destination marketing. Such a centralized system reduces environmental impact and improves efficiency.

Environmentally, CSR also stretches beyond the Laguna Phuket precinct. Since 1994, with the Phuket Marine Biological Centre and the Royal Thai Navy Third Fleet, Laguna Phuket has been striving to restore the endangered species of sea turtles that once laid eggs in the sand along the Andaman coast.

Annual turtle releases, fund-raising activities and support for the conservation program are part of the communal attempt to stem the steady decline in sea turtle numbers.

Culturally, Laguna Phuket supports the neighbourhood-at-large in annual festivals, processions, parades, special events and fairs, and donates equipment or facilities whenever the need is greatest.

Local Buddhists and Muslims alike have close ties to Laguna Phuket, with Muslims constituting about 15 percent of the staff. The relationship with local temples and mosques is strong, with a high-tech crematorium that minimizes environmental impact being a recent donation from Laguna Phuket to a nearby temple. Sports activities are also encouraged, with football figuring prominently. The annual Night Fishing Games at nearby Bang Tao, organized by villagers to help fund a Muslim Education Centre, involves Laguna Phuket each November in an auction for the fish along with providing breakfast for competitors.

At the heart of Laguna Phuket’s outlook on hospitality and community well-being lies its staff, many of whom live in nearby villages and townships. One early decision meant that all gratuities from guests continue to be shared by all, a decision repaid through continuing loyalty and a commitment to high standards in every endeavour.

The immediate aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami was a difficult time for tourism on the island, but Laguna Phuket retained its entire staff without having to insist, as many other hotels did, on unpaid holidays being taken. There have been no regrets about that decision.

In the future, as more visitors arrive and horizons expand, Laguna Phuket’s commitment to sustainable development, cultural awareness and the principles now embodied in Corporate Social Responsibility seem certain to remain undiminished.

DID YOU KNOW?

Laguna Phuket has fundraised more than 1 million baht over the past 15 years to support local sea turtle release research programs.