Sukosol Hotels has been a pioneer in sustainable hospitality since owner Ms Kamala Sukosol, a well-known businesswoman and entertainer, opened their first hotel, Siam Bayshore Resort, in Pattaya in 1975. Now with 5 hotels in the group, Ms Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, Ms Kamala’s daughter, is one of the country’s leading advocates, directing the Thai hotel industry to think and act more sustainably in her new role as President of the Thai Hotels Association.
“For hotels, there is an immediate return on sustainability through better brand image,” said Ms Marisa. “But you can’t put a value on peoples’ perception of your hotel. Once they find out what you’re doing – what green initiatives go on behind the scenes – they feel better about their decision to stay with you and are more likely to return, so there are a lot of intangibles involved.”
Green behind the scenes
For their flagship property, The Sukosol Hotel, these ‘behind-the-scenes’ initiatives include; buying rice and other produce directly from local, organic farmers, reducing waste and recycling extensively, plus organizing sustainability training and awareness activities for staff and the local community. More visible examples for guests include going sharkfin-free, switching to paper straws and LED lights, and using refillable bathroom amenity dispensers, although minimizing single-use plastic in their kitchens is arguably more impactful.
As a family of entertainers, the Sukosols also perform an annual charity concert for the Thai Red Cross and each of the five hotels – Siam Bayshore, The Bayview and Wave in Pattaya, and The Siam and The Sukosol in Bangkok – donate time and money regularly to a local partner charity, as well as organizing staff outings for beach and river clean-ups, shark release, or tree and coral planting.
Saving money and the planet
While investment in green initiatives by The Sukosol has been significant, there are also other beneficial financial returns. “We are actually able to make money through better waste management by selling it,” Ms Marisa pointed out. “The recycling plants will pay extra if waste is correctly sorted. However, even though we can sell our waste for a higher price, we still continue to try to reduce every kind of waste.”
And sustainability can save hotels money too, by reducing energy consumption, which is carefully tracked at The Sukosol. “It's one of the basics of sustainability,“ Ms Marisa continued. “And it makes sense because it's a huge ongoing cost - second only to salaries. But in order to reduce it, you first need to track it.“ She also added that replacing single-use bathroom amenities with refillable dispensers has also reduced housekeeping costs.
The rising trend of sustainable travel
Ms Marisa stressed that the major return is in the improved public perception of the hotels, which is priceless. She noted a rising trend of interest in sustainable travel, adding that the business sector is leading the way. By introducing a “green meetings” option that reduces energy, food, paper and plastic waste, The Sukosol Hotel is now getting regular enquiries from multinational overseas businesses wanting to hold their meetings specifically in this hotel.
“Sustainability in hotels actually started because of travel agency demand,” she said. “Back in 1987, Tui was one of the leading travel agents and if you wanted to get their business you had to adhere to certain practices around hygiene, safety and sustainability. It was important enough to them that Tui would inspect and audit the properties to check too. Siam Bayshore’s GM told us ‘we have to do something, otherwise we can’t be in the Tui program’ and it grew from there.”
The actions that Siam Bayshore took in response to this include taking full advantage of their 17 hectares of land to compost food and garden waste, along with running a biogas generator to further save on their energy bills. Their reputation for green initiatives has not only attracted many sustainable travellers over the years, but also won awards and recognition, both nationally and internationally.
The start of something big
Even with the laudable efforts already underway by Sukosol Hotels in the name of sustainable hospitality, Ms Marisa recognizes that more can be done. She shared, “The UNESCO Sustainability Tourism Pledge is the start of something big. Going green is the first step to saving Thai tourism. We are very fortunate with our natural resources, but plastics that are not properly disposed of can destroy our beautiful resources.”
“Preserving our culture is part of sustainability, too. Keeping and promoting local cultures and communities is essential. People can find beaches and oceans all over the world, but the culture is what makes Thailand unique. Not just old temples and historic sites, but also modern, urban culture. It should all be celebrated, protected and promoted.”
About the hotel
The Sukosol Hotel, Bangkok is a luxury business and leisure property located just a short walk from Phaya Thai Skytrain and Airport Rail Link station. It has 500 guest rooms, two world-class restaurants, extensive conference facilities and a luxurious spa, among other facilities. The hotel has won several awards since it opened in 1990, including the Green Leaf Certificate from the Green Leaf Foundation and the Thailand Energy Award.