How The Resort Villa Rayong Thailand is balancing high-end luxury with environmental sustainability
Luxury tourism can be a wonderful experience for the high-end holidaymaker, but it can have disastrous effects on the environment. The carbon footprint of travelling around the world is just part of the problem – there’s the masses of plastic waste used by tourists, the energy needed to run a hotel, the effect of waste products on the local environment, and the detrimental effect that luxury resorts can have on the local infrastructure.
The Resort Villa Rayong in Thailand is at the forefront of what the travel industry is starting to call “responsible luxury”. It may be one of the world’s most luxurious properties – a vast series of villas, rented out to a group of 16 or so at a time – but what truly sets it apart further is its collective principles in being environmentally aware and helping the wonderful nature that surrounds it.
“As a property that’s defined by the beautiful greeneries and ocean surrounding it, this ultra-lux estate has the obligation to make the most effort possible to ensure such gifts are protected,” says Patty Sa. “The Resort Villa takes environmental action seriously. It proves that a green choice doesn’t have to be at the expense of life’s little luxuries.”
It’s a commitment that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the world’s press. “The luxury resort’s inspiring and impressive commitment to environmental conservation sets this eco-friendly haven apart, making it a truly unique destination,” wrote Australia’s Lux Nomade magazine. “In a nutshell, the property demonstrates that sustainability doesn’t mean compromising on luxury – one bit!”
At 14,000 square metres, a property of this size requires a lot of energy. However in Rayong, Thailand, there is no shortage of sun – so why not harness the most powerful energy source in the solar system? It’s why the resort invested more than $250,000 in a state-of-the-art 206 kilowatt solar farm located only 300 metres away, providing all the power the property requires during daytime. This includes usage for air conditioning, the pools and the massive aquarium that houses more than 50 tropical fish. To further conserve and regulate energy consumption, all utilities except the aquarium are turned off at night.
The Resort Villa also boasts its own farm, which offers vegetables, herbs and even fresh eggs for breakfast every morning. Enclosed within a 50 metre by 50 metre space, the farm uses a solar-powered irrigation system and hydroponics to provide crops such as sweetcorn, watermelon, chili, bananas, lemongrass, peppers, mint, herbs and mushrooms, using natural fertilizer. Guests can take a tour and help the farmers to plant seeds.
One of the biggest issues with any hotel is the amount of plastic used, in particular through the consumption of water and other drinks. To counteract this, The Resort Villa recently installed a water filtration system to reduce the usage of plastic water bottles. Guests can now enjoy the alkaline purified water in The Resort Villa’s own glass bottles, which are sterilized daily for reuse. Bamboo cotton buds and toothbrushes are also just more examples of the resort’s continuous eco efforts.
Another key for the resort is to engaging with local people and keep close to the community. “We’ve invested heavily in our sustainability efforts and the contribution we make to the surrounding community,” says General Manager Benjamin Tellenbach.
“We believe that it is perfectly possible to experience luxury at its finest while being environmentally aware.” The Resort Villa also organizes community social activities, like beach clean ups. One big problem faced in rural Thailand is the overpopulation of stray dogs, with thousands roaming the streets. Recognizing this as an issue for surrounding communities, The Resort Villa launched a dog-neutering campaign in 2016 to educate and encourage locals to help control the dog population in the Rayong area. Resort staff and local veterinary volunteers are sent into the community to capture wild dogs and humanely neuter them – spaying the females and castrating the males. The procedure needs to be done under anaesthesia, and a cone needs to be placed on the dog’s necks to prevent them from licking the incision, allowing it to heal faster.
“Although the most ideal time for neutering is when the dog is six months old, most of these procedures will depend on the dog’s breed, size, and age,” says the resort’s Head Of Marketing, Patty Sa. “Procedure for female dogs generally take about 30 minutes for each dog, and for males it is only about 10 minutes, after which the dog can be well on its way to recovery. In The Resort Villa’s case, our staff looks after the dogs in cages for several hours until they wake up to make sure they are okay.”
As both the creators and custodians of this luxury tropical paradise, the Resort Villa team are determined in their efforts to preserve its natural splendour and ecosystem. One specific environmental issue is the damage to the local coral reef by fishing. “Many may not know this, but boats that dock at the harbour and drop anchor can destroy living coral reefs vital to the intricate underwater ecosystem in the region,” says Benjamin. “While The Resort Villa cannot affect what others choose to do, our belief is to set an example and take action.” Since the resort has its own private 60ft motor yacht which often requires anchoring, the General Manager took the initiative to invest in an underwater drill to install anchoring points to reduce damage.
“Screws have been drilled three metres deep into the seabed to anchor buoys,” says Benjamin. “These offer a more sustainable option for local dive boats and fishermen to use. Thanks to the efforts of resort staff and local dive volunteers, these buoys can hold even super yachts and will last for many years to come. By setting an example and taking action, the Resort Villa has helped the local community and surrounding areas to become cleaner and more environmentally conscious.”
There is no Planet B – and The Resort Villa’s goal is to co-exist with and protect its surrounding environment and waters with the hopes that the resort guests can have fantastic snorkelling and diving experiences for years to come. “We view it as our responsibility,” he adds. “This paradise must be preserved.”