Coinciding with Earth Day this year, the release of the latest publication by the Singapore-based hospitality company gives us a much-needed dose of positive thinking.
You may have heard the fascinating backstory behind the homegrown Asian hospitality firm Banyan Tree Holdings, which operates its namesake hotels alongside those of sister brands Angsana, Cassia, and Dhawa. Even so, it’s worth taking a look at Rooted in Sustainability, a brand-new commemorative book that documents its 25-year journey from the seed of an idea dreamed up by co-founders Ho Kwon Ping and his wife Claire Chiang.
Throughout its 88 pages, you’ll find a number of absorbing anecdotes. Laguna Phuket, the 240-hectare integrated resort fronting Bang Tao Beach on the island’s west coast, was once an abandoned tin mine that the founding couple bought on a whim. Out of necessity, Ho and Chiang embarked on a multi-year challenge of rehabilitating a lifeless and highly contaminated moonscape. “We did not read the 1977 UN report that declared the land useless and unfit for development.” Chiang says in the book.
Rooted in Sustainability recounts the unexpected way Banyan Tree became an early adopter of sustainable development, out of the founders’ belief that tourism can and should be a force for positive change. The casual reader might not have realized the company was a pioneer in other ways: its flagship all-pool villa resort, Banyan Tree Phuket, was a game-changer for the Asian hospitality scene when it opened in 1994. The following year, Banyan Tree became the first five-star brand to debut in the Maldives and the first international hotel brand to put down roots on the Indonesian island of Bintan, now a popular weekend destination for residents of nearby Singapore.
Readers then learn about the various environmental initiatives undertaken by Banyan Tree: how it has been actively restoring coral reefs in the Maldives and spearheaded a turtle conservation program in Bintan, raising awareness on the importance of protecting the endangered species whose eggs were once sold in local markets and exported abroad as delicacies. Other sections detail the firm’s ongoing efforts to empower women and support local artisans—upholding and preserving centuries-old traditions—while giving opportunities to less privileged individuals to ascend the social ladder.
There are also uplifting stories of resilience. In the immediate aftermath of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that brought death and destruction to places such as Phuket and the Maldives, local staff members continued to work and look after guests even as they faced uncertainty about the survival of their own families and homes, before contributing their manpower to rebuild homes on a badly affected Maldivian island. One passage is especially pertinent for our times, as it relates to the more recent SARS epidemic, when Banyan Tree managed to stay afloat without laying off a single employee. One hopes a sustainably minded company like this one has the resources to weather this current storm.
Read the book online here.