S Hotels & Resorts’ Marine Discovery Centres Help to Save Sharks in Thailand

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S Hotels and Resorts Public Company Limited, the flagship hospitality arm of Thailand’s Singha Estate PCL, has always taken a proactive approach to environmental preservation. Sustainable development is part of the company’s DNA and two of its acclaimed resorts – SAii Phi Phi Island Village and SAii Lagoon Maldives – feature dedicated Marine Discovery Centres, interactive educational hubs where resident marine biologists lead critical conservation programmes.

The work of these experts sometimes goes unnoticed. Beneath the waves, it’s not always obvious that thousands of new corals have been propagated, that the reef at CROSSROADS Maldives has expanded six-fold, or that biodiversity is increasing. Sometimes however, the heroic actions of the Marine Discovery Centres are clear to see.

In June 2021 for example, villagers asked SAii Phi Phi Island Village’s marine biologists for help with an injured bamboo shark they had discovered. This small, striped species is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Near Threatened” red list, so it was vital that the resort was able to save it. They did so, and the shark is now recovering well in the centre’s nursery pond.

Prior to this in May, local fishermen from Thailand’s Krabi province came to the Marine Discovery Centre with a problem; while fishing for squid, they had accidentally caught and injured a lionfish. These beautiful creatures are highly venomous, so it was important that the fish was handled carefully. The lionfish is currently being nursed back to health. SAii Phi Phi Island Village also houses a clownfish nursery, where these colourful creatures can breed in safety.

Meanwhile at SAii Lagoon Maldives, a pregnant Olive Ridley sea turtle was found nesting on the beach in 2020 – the first recorded sighting of this species nesting in the Maldives. Hawksbill sea turtles, scalloped hammerhead sharks and bottlenose wedgefish have also been spotted.

These positive actions show how S Hotels & Resorts’ Marine Discovery Centres are becoming integrated into their communities. These are not only guest facilities and tourist attractions; they are regional hubs where everyone – including local villagers and schoolchildren – can learn about the wildlife in their home provinces. The fact that almost half (49.6%) of the group’s hotel staff are local residents further underscores this connection and commitment.

At S Hotels & Resorts, we have always strived to make a difference to the destinations we serve. We fully understand that we are only the custodians of these beautiful environments, and we have a responsibility to be a caretaker of these precious ecosystems for future generations. It is wonderful to see how our Marine Discovery Centres are working hand-in-hand with communities to save endangered species, including sharks, and craft meaningful connections with local people in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Dirk De Cuyper, Chief Executive Officer, S Hotels & Resorts.

S Hotels & Resorts is dedicated to the cause of sustainable development; for example, 82% of waste produced at CROSSROADS Maldives was recycled in 2020, more than a third (34.7%) of the water produced by CROSSROADS Maldives and SAii Phi Phi Island Village was reclaimed and reused last year, and 100% of the suppliers used by the company were selected based on their sustainability contributions. At SAii Resorts, single-use plastic is being phased out, supported by the launch of a water bottling plant and the use of biodegradable containers.

The first Marine Discovery Centre opened at SAii Phi Phi Island Village in 2018, and the second was launched at SAii Lagoon Maldives in 2019. A third facility is now being planned at Santiburi Koh Samui, which has already been officially certified as a carbon-neutral resort. In preparation for this, Santiburi will launch a campaign that encourages guests and local residents to track wildlife and share their sightings, with the overall aim of creating a biodiversity database and report by the first quarter of 2022. Following this research, the resort plans to develop a nature trail through its 23 acres of tropical grounds, including signage with information and QR codes that guests can scan to learn more about the native flora and fauna.

With so many initiatives ongoing and in the pipeline, it is no surprise that S Hotels & Resorts has won multiple awards. The group achieved “Green Leadership” title at the Asia Responsible Enterprise Awards 2020, while CROSSROADS Maldives was named as the “Best Leisure Development Maldives (Five-Star)” in the Asia Pacific Property Awards 2021-2022. SAii Phi Phi Island Village was the “Marine & Nature” winner in the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) UK Responsible Thailand Awards 2020, and Santiburi Koh Samui has signed the UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Pledge, which demonstrates its commitment to sustainable tourism.

The Marine Discovery Centres are education hubs that can be accessed by guests and locals alike