SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 131

Learn To Swim

We put a lot of effort in education. We invite guests and local school children on an Eco Centro Tour where they are shown how we recycle our waste, which includes food compost, biochar production and glass recycling. They are also shown our solar PV field and how we source water sustainably; treat waste water and how we eliminate plastic waste by producing our own drinking water. Finally, they are shown how we reuse the composted food waste to produce herbs and vegetables for the resort.

A popular guest activity is our garden lunches, where our guests dine in our vegetable garden. The chef will come and explain about our local produce and pick vegetables from our garden to prepare a delicious, fresh and healthy lunch.

Soneva has an in-house marine biologist who provides on-site expertise on conservation and reef management. We personally guide, primarily by our resident marine biologist, over 1,500 people per year on snorkelling trips at Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere reserve to learn about the beautiful marine life and why it is important to protect it. We also train our hosts to be proactive in protecting our fragile local environment.

Despite living in an island nation, many Maldivians grow up without learning to swim. While this poses a clear risk to life, it also means that children grow up with little environmental awareness of the ocean and the coral reefs that surround them. We believe that if children learn to swim, they can lose their fear of the ocean and learn to love it. Over an intensive two weeks, the Soneva Learn To Swim programme takes local children from the very basics through to their first time snorkelling on the reef edge.

We have taught 160 children and 30 adults to swim as well as trained 28 swimming instructors. The social value generated from this project is over US$ 80,000 over a three-year period.

Positive impact

We measure our success based on guest feedback as well as number of repeat business. Generally our guest feedback is positive (95+ %) and repeat business is around 50%, which is very high in the hospitality industry.

At Soneva, we strive to provide a blueprint for the hospitality industry. We believe that a business must exist for a greater purpose than shareholder returns. We have shown through small tweaks in the way we do business, that we can have a net positive impact on society, a carbon neutral operations including impacts from supply chain and guest air travel, deliver exceptional guest experiences and at the same time operate profitably.

When done right, tourism can certainly have a positive impact on the environment and social development.