Resort destinations in Southeast Asia will move beyond sustainability and embrace a more meaningful and responsible way of operating in the post-pandemic era, a major event on the future of travel, tourism and hospitality in the region has learned.

PHIST returned on Thursday 28th October 2021 for a fourth consecutive year of shaking up the status quo and advancing the environmental agenda in Asia, with a fast-paced full-day virtual event. Over 1,000 online delegates were treated to a series of insightful and inspiring interactive sessions, including keynote addresses from industry leaders and sustainability experts. At the top of the bill was Ho Kwon Ping, Founder and Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings and Laguna Resorts & Hotels, who spoke about the need to “embrace” the environment, rather than simply preserve it.

“It’s not just about protecting endangered species or preventing deforestation; it’s about showing people how beautiful the environment is around them. Because if you embrace the environment, then you protect the environment, you beautify the environment, you appreciate and understand the environment,” KP Ho told PHIST.

Discussing the future of travel and hospitality in the post-pandemic era, KP Ho said that alongside the obvious changes, such as strict cleanliness protocols and contactless solutions, the industry would start to move towards a more meaningful existence with a stronger human element.

“I’m actually very positive about tourism post-COVID, because I think it’s going to morph. During the global pandemic when people couldn’t travel, we began to realise that we’re actually very social animals. We need the human touch, we need friends to visit, we need to go out with our loved one. So I think that in future we’re going to see a lot more meaningful, purposeful and experiential travel, and that to me is very encouraging,” he added.

This view was supported, and even anticipated, by Aliza Napartivaumnuay, Co-Founder & CEO of Socialgiver – a pioneering lifestyle platform that allows customers to support good causes when they travel. A collection of hotels, restaurants, spas and activities are connected to local grassroots projects in Thailand, with part of the purchase price being channelled to these good causes. For example, by booking one night in a pool villa in Phuket, a guest can fund a child’s education for three years.

According to Aliza, this is not just about sustainability, but about “creating a net positive impact”. She believes that this concept can capture the imaginations of all travellers – not only those with a social conscience. “It’s not just about speaking to people who already care about social and environmental issues, but converting people and then slowly engaging them in more social projects,” she explained.

Fortunately, most people now understand critical important of sustainability. The question is no longer about whether we need to act, but how to act in the most effective way. Many of the solutions will be found by the younger generation who are naturally more eco-conscious and socially aware. With this in mind, PHIST listened to the views of students from the Asian Institute of Hospitality Management (AIHM) / Les Roches. With issues ranging from renewable energy to gender equality, these bright young minds offered insights into the main concerns facing young people today.

Nattawadee Rodsatra, a first year student at AIHM, spoke passionately about the importance of developing a sustainable mindset throughout the community. “Being sustainable should not be just a fashion trend, but the norm that society practices. We need to replenish the planet’s resources, rather than slowly destroying them,” she urged.

Concluding the event, Bill Barnett, Managing Director of C9Hotelworks and Co-Founder of PHIST told attendees to consider the global pandemic as a reset button – the chance to take a step back, evaluate how we’re living and working, eliminate harmful practices and embrace a new, responsible era.

“Asia’s resort islands have a once in a lifetime opportunity to get sustainable travel right the second time around. We have to take a long-term view of sustainable tourism,” he stated.

Organised by the Phuket Hotels Association, Greenview and C9 Hotelworks, in collaboration with multiple like-minded strategic and supporting partners*, PHIST 2021 was the latest edition of Asia’s leading sustainable travel and hospitality event. Other speakers included Matawee Mujchapan, Operations Manager of Centara Hotels & Resorts, Marcia Yu, Senior Investment Manager at International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Luca Dotti, Founder & Managing Director of HOMA, Conor Brannum, Sustainability Officer at HOMA, Jesper Palmqvist, Area Director Asia Pacific of STR, and Nikhom Jensiriratanakorn, Director of Horwath HTL.

The fifth edition PHIST is set to return in autumn 2022, with a face-to-face event hosted in Phuket. Full details will be announced at a later date.

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