By Sirivish Toomgum
All members of the Phuket Hotels Association have jointly committed to eliminate plastic water bottles and drinking straws from rooms by 2019 as part of an effort to ensure a sustainable future for Phuket, said association president Anthony Lark.
The association has also provided information to its hotel members about companies that provide alternatives to plastics for food storage, waste bags and guest amenities.
Lark said the association aims to ensure a sustainable short-term and long-term tourism environment in Phuket by encouraging its member hotels to take action and adopt sustainable, nonplastic solutions amenities and services to their guests.
“We’ve tracked the single use plastic in place at our hotels and provided the hotel owners and management with costeffective solutions to switch from plastics to sustainable alternatives. We’ve worked closely with the government and support the efforts of Thai schools and colleges to slowly but surely make changes. We will also be recognising those hotels that make the most progress,” he added.
Lark said that the growing numbers of tourists on the island actually helps make the alternatives more economically viable. For instance, the change from using plastic water bottles to reusable glass actually saves the hotels money and this has been demonstrated at many of members’ hotels that have already made the switch.
Phuket Hotels Association recently announced a new annual international forum called PHIST (Phuket Hotels for Islands Sustaining Tourism), which will hold its first event on the island in September to support the region's hospitality industry in its fight for a sustainable future.
The PHIST Forum 2018 will take place on September 24th at the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa and is coorganised by C9 Hotelworks and Greenview, respected consultants to the regional hospitality industry. The innovative ecofocused event will bring together some of Southeast Asia’s key tourism and hospitality stakeholders – particularly those operating in island destinations – to explore solutions to the region’s most pressing environmental issues.
“Island tourism in Southeast Asia is at a critical juncture; we simply cannot continue overlooking the impacts,” said Eric Ricaurte, founder and CEO of Greenview in an association media release trumpeting the event.
“Risks are real and sustainability must be the driving force behind future growth. But how do we change and adapt to the challenges we face, then catalyse solutions across the region? Education is the key and PHIST will create a forum for positive action.”
The PHIST program will feature a series of expert panels, themed talks, technical workshops and roundtable discussions covering topics such as sustainable operations, destination development, and overtourism. The event is expecting 500 delegates from around the Asia region. All the sessions will be free to attend.
Working together is essential for the industry’s longterm survival, said Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks. “Environmental destruction is a crisis without borders and the hospitality industry needs to collaborate, find answers, and come up with a regional action plan,” he said. “We can literally use PHIST to fight for our sustainable survival.”
In line with the organisation’s solutions-oriented approach, the Phuket Hotels Association will use PHIST 2018 as an opportunity to showcase its “People. Planet. Phuket” campaign, which aims to educate local island communities and visitors about the importance of the Three Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
The campaign brings together over 70 member hotels in an education initiative targeting Phuket’s schools, designed to promote environmental protection and support. The community-based programme uses specially created anime characters, including “The Phist”, a school teacher-turned-superhero who fights and defeats polluting enemies like plastic straws, plastic bottles and oil waste in the ocean.
PHIST is supported by major tourism organisations, including the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Thailand Convention and Events Bureau (TCEB), and the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) and AustralianThai Chamber of Commerce (AUSTCHAM). Phuket Governor Norrapat Plodthong will open the event.
Lark added that one of the Phuket Hotels Association’s most important tasks is to create a forum for the hotel members to gain access to information on ways to reduce their use of plastics.
“This is, of course, a global issue and we all decided that we wanted Phuket to take the initiative to address these issues with education and actionable strategies that really make a difference. Every tropical island faces the same issues as Phuket and now is the time to start a serious effort to address this in Southeast Asia,” said Lark.
“When the other destinations see the efforts we make to bring together the community, we hope it will raise awareness throughout the region. The PHIST event has a strong regional message and we have already received a lot of interest from islands throughout the Asean bloc interested in the discussion and working towards real actionable solutions and instilling best sustainable practices.
“And yes, every small step we all take makes a difference for Phuket and benefits all those who visit our beautiful Island,” Lark concluded.