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Sustainability: “Guests love the idea” says Anchalika Kijkanakorn

Anchalika Kijkanakorn

With the recent opening of akyra Tas Sukhumvit Bangkok as the first hotel to launch as single use plastic free hotel, Akaryn Hotel Group (AHG) unveiled it’s eco-credentials. Suitably intrigued, I spoke to AHG’s founder and MD, Anchalika Kijkanakorn, to drill down into the company’s environmental campaigns, how they came to be and the Pure Blue Foundation.

TD: Can you give me an overview of pollution in Thailand and how it got to this level?

AK: I’m not sure if I am qualified to answer this question, but if you ask for my opinion – it’s the lack of awareness from general public and the lack of interest from the government to protect and preserve our environment that is the first problem.

“Part of the solution to protect and preserve”

How did you personally become involved with Green issues?

From the first day we set up our first hotel, we were aware that we, in Thailand, are very good at discovering beautiful nature, exploit it and destroy it through commerce and tourism. We pledge at AHG to not follow that path, to hopefully be part of the solution to protect and preserve the nature we make a living out of and not to be the problem creator.

What is Akaryn Hotel Group doing to combat pollution in Thailand?

Through Pure Blue Foundation, we do what we can around the area where we operate, as that’s the most effective and practical way. We work with the local community to educate the young, support the local initiatives from reef restoration to marine turtle rehabilitation to single use plastic reduction.

Pure Blue Foundation at work

What challenges have you encountered while ridding single use plastic from your hotels?

The biggest challenge is the lack of awareness from general public. Lack of understanding why we need to stop or reduce, the usage of single use plastic.

It is a relatively new habit that we started in the late 70’s when plastic become a cheap and abundant commodity that is used for unimaginable amount of ways to now where it has become an inseparable part of our daily life. But herein lies the good news, it is a relatively new problem that we created and I am sure then we can overcome in not a long time.

How so?

Habits are formed and quitted in three weeks. So can you start to carry your own reusable bottles of water, refuse plastic bags in favour of carrying your own reusable bag, have a coffee mug when you go to your neighbourhood café, say no to straws. These are just a few easy things we can start with.

“Train & Sustain” bootcamp”

How will you overcome the lack of knowledge of these issues?

We plan to overcome them through awareness campaigns together with the Pure Blue Foundation via #aleentareduce and #akyrareduce campaign. We are doing various activities around each of our hotels to promote the understanding including a three-day ‘Train & Sustain’ bootcamp at Akyra Beach Club Phuket in conjunction with the Lab gym and Guava Pass to get healthy and give environment a hand.

Tell me a bit more about the bootcamp?

The bootcamp will be from 13-15 Oct. It will involve local community in the area to create awareness and understanding.Throughout the year we will be producing and running campaigns with celebrities, opinion leaders and Facebook ads.

What about withinin the hotels?

At the hotels, through #aleentareduce and #akyrareduce, we are encouraging guests to take our complimentary stainless steel water bottle with them on their journey, the water is refilled for free during their stay with us. If they want to take the bottle home for a great souvenir, then they can donate THB300 to Pure Blue Foundation for the bottle.

We are also training our staffs to be #aleentareduce #akyrareduce ambassadors so that they live it outside of the hotels as well.

“Proud of their part in protecting the environment”

What has been the reaction from guests?

Guests love the idea and are very supportive. We believe that the new generation of travellers want to not only experience the new destination, but also want to feel good about they are doing it as well.

Hopefully Aleenta and akyra are empowering them to do good for the environment in the easiest way by staying with us, they can be proud of their part in protecting the environment.

From your perspective, what has the hospitality industry’s reaction been to the problem, do you think it could do more?

Yes, of course more can be done. Resistance to change is always a challenge, but once you learn that change, both of habit and of practice can be easily done in three weeks, I think everyone will come around.

Do you have any other eco campaigns or promotions in the future that you could tell me about?

We want to maintain our energies on #aleentareduce and #akyrareduce for the next two years to ensure the biggest impact and then re-evaluate if more can be done or if we should refocus onto the next thing. But right now, this is our focus.

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