(DailyExpertNews) — As the lowest-lying nation in the world — much of which is just a few feet above sea level — the nearly 1,200 Indian Ocean islands scattered across the sun-drenched atolls of the Maldives aren’t just famous for their magazine cover-ready-to-use beaches and bungalows, but because of their increasing vulnerability to rising sea levels.
“A major draw for tourism is the healthy ocean environment that visitors come to see. It’s clear that this kind of environment needs to be preserved to continue attracting high-spending tourists,” said James Ellsmoor, CEO of Island Innovation, an agency that assists stakeholders on small island destinations — including in the Maldives — to achieve sustainable development goals.
This nature-based tourism is indeed a paradox here. While much of the country’s 540,000 residents depend on related income for their livelihood, the tourism industry is often accused of exacerbating the environmental crisis. Resorts in the Maldives claim high energy and resource demands and create excessive waste production – and perhaps most painfully, rely on emission-heavy, long-haul flights to bring in the tourists.
As a result, many of the country’s more than 150 luxury resorts aren’t just choosing to “go green” for good PR optics—experts say operating as sustainably as possible in the Maldives is essential for business survival on the planet. long-term.
In addition, some resort initiatives, such as those towards clean energy infrastructure, are also good for their profits.
“The high cost of importing fuel to power noisy, polluting generators just doesn’t make sense compared to the much lower cost of solar, wind and battery storage,” says Ellsmoor.
Today, several Maldivian resorts are leading the way with innovative sustainability actions that help minimize impact – while proving that luxury and sustainability can go hand in hand.
Recycling facilities on site
Historically, much of the nation’s waste has been mismanaged, relegated to open incinerators or removed into the sea, causing air pollution, damaging the marine ecosystem and/or backwashing in the process. Fortunately, the government has taken steps to solve these problems.
Everyone is involved in recycling at Soneva.
The company also launched its Makers’ Place concept at Soneva Fushi last year, where makers and artists reuse “waste” in salable arts and crafts, such as wall tiles and glassware.
The facility is destined to become a regional recycling center for the surrounding communities, with a further mission to educate local school children about recycling and conservation.
Sam Dixon, in-house sustainability manager and resident marine biologist at Fairmont Maldives, says the collaboration between schools is important because they “encourage the next generation to be passionate about protecting the ecosystem and marine life that inhabit it.”
Solar energy installations
One resource that the tropical Maldives have in abundance is sunshine, providing a path to renewable solar power generation that more resorts are looking to tap into.
And it’s not just resorts that are switching to solar. Earlier this year, Gan International Airport also announced plans to become the Maldives’ first fully solar-powered airport.
With limited farming infrastructure, most of the food items served in the Maldives have to be flown in. To help offset some of that carbon footprint, reduce associated packaging waste while cutting costs, several resorts have stepped on the (kitchen) board to develop their own “zero-food-mile” solutions.
Patina Maldives: delicious and green.
Patina Maldives, Fari Islands
Guest Retention Programs
Zoona Naseem is the Maldives’ second certified PADI Course Director. But instead of working with tourists, she opened a diving center for local women and children.
With the Maldives facing such major environmental challenges, many travelers feel compelled to help.
“Travelers are looking for more local experiences because they want to feel like they’re contributing to the local communities,” she says, noting that such resort sustainability initiatives these days are simply “a must to even a potential guest.” to attract.”
Six Senses Laamu visitors can meander with the largest team of marine scientists in the country, part of the resort-led Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI), a group that has successfully protected hundreds of sea turtles and manta rays and covers more than one million square feet. to sea grass.
Resort guests can sign up for a variety of activities focused on marine conservation, including regular reef cleanups, weekly conservation talks, guided snorkeling excursions by marine biologists, and a junior marine biology program for children.
Ultimately, says Van Well, with the rise of more conscious consumers, the Maldives resort’s job is to give guests “tips and some of our little secrets on how to live a more sustainable life that they can take home.” take — and this takeaway is highly valued and appreciated by our guests.”