The Zeavola Resort on Koh Phi Phi Don opened in 2008, with experienced hotel manager Florian Hallermann taking the reins. Right from day one, sustainability was an absolute priority, particularly since the tiny island where the beautiful resort resides has such a fragile ecosystem. In the years since he took the role of General Manager, the resort’s plastic waste has dropped by around 300,000 bottles. And that’s just for starters.
“This hotel is the perfect learning place because everything is done by ourselves,” he said. “We produce our own water, we used to produce our own electricity, we clean our own wastewater – everything that would be considered normal and cheap in Bangkok or Phuket is a massive effort in our hotel and is not cheap, but the return on investment is immediate.”
Sustainability is good for business
While Mr Hallermann said that he had not noticed a significant increase in guests seeking out his property because of its green credentials, he noted that many of the measures the resort has taken have seen positive financial returns and savings. “If you include nature, your associates and the local community in the decision-making process of running a business, you basically just make more profit,” he said.
“I learnt from using ceramic shampoo bottles in 1994, when we opened the Banyan Tree Phuket. The hotel group Banyan Tree never had a single plastic shampoo bottle – not a single one. So, when I opened Zeavola in 2008, I implemented ceramic shampoo bottles and I calculated that, until now [Q1 2020], we have saved about 8 million baht in bathroom amenities. With that money saved, you can then do some other things that maybe don’t have so much return on investment.”
The most valuable tool
How is Zeavola able to give such accurate figures about their savings? It’s because Mr Hallermann stresses the pivotal importance of tracking everything. He gave the example of studying water usage across the resort’s 53 villas, each of which has a water meter. By tracking each villa’s water use, the staff can quickly spot leaks and can take measures to reduce water waste. Zeavola’s monthly reports include electricity usage, water consumption, garbage reduction, social welfare donations and more.
“These reports are a result of Travelife and getting Travelife-certified. I signed up to it because a travel agent asked: ‘where is your certification?’ When I opened the Travelife list, I almost passed out! There are 126 criteria and they all demand proof. They don’t really care about how effective your sustainability is – what they want is documentation. It took us a year to get the certification.”
Profit is not everything
Having grown up in a family that showed a great deal of respect for nature, Mr Hallermann said that it wasn’t just the savings that make sustainability worth the effort and cost. “We have 22 bird species in my hotel, and they make me happy. We have a safe environment and, now that it’s breeding season, the whole hotel is going nuts every morning at 6am because all the birds are singing. You don’t have that in Bangkok. You don’t even have that in Phuket! It makes life nicer.”
He added that the bottom line is handing over your world to future generations in a better shape – in his case, his young daughter.
Mr Hallermann also stressed the essential importance of engaging and involving staff when it comes to making a hotel sustainable. “We don’t only work here, we live here,” he said. “This is our home.
Examples of this engagement include a monthly staff barbecue, at which everyone is given a progress update on how effective each sustainability measure has been. Every staff member, including trainees, was also given a cloth bag for shopping and a metal cup, which they can refill with water at one of four free filling stations around the resort. Guests, by contrast, only have access to one station.
“Before we did anything with the guests, we prepared the staff. You need to make it an adventure; you need to make people proud of what they are doing. Then you can start from the base to the top, not from the top to the base. The hotel business lives and dies on the staff, so it’s essential that they are involved in the whole process.”
About the hotel
Zeavola Resort is a five-star property towards the northern tip of Koh Phi Phi Don in Thailand’s Krabi Province. Only a short walk from Laem Tong Pier, it has 53 villas, two relaxed restaurants, an excellent spa, a dive centre and other facilities. The hotel has gained several significant awards and certifications since it opened in 2008, including Best Hotel in the 2019 Responsible Thailand Awards organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Wanderlust magazine, and the 2019 Haute Grandeur Global Awards’ prize for Best Eco-Friendly Hotel in Thailand.