Why is sustainability important to LooLa?
Nestled by the idyllic beach of Bintan (Indonesia) is the premier eco-resort of LooLa Adventure Resort. The resort partake the Ecotourism scheme boasting eco-friendly natural activities such as nature treks that is primarily designed for families, schools and company retreats. Committing to its value proposition of being sustainable, the resort also encourages guests to participate in community work which benefits the locals in Bintan. Doing things in a sustainable way has been enriching for LooLa as it increases the stakeholders’ satisfaction by being more engaged. Furthermore, it has assisted us to be financially viable. The key to sustainability is finding the win-win solutions whereby it benefits all stakeholders, including clients, staff, community, owners, and the wider environment. The moment a company is able to conceive and formulate its win-win solutions like LooLa, employees are found to be happier at work and consequently become more productive. Thus, this sentiment is foreseeable to keep on going and impact the business in a positive way. LooLa’s Vision is to show that it is possible to run a successful tourism business built on the following principles:
- It is good for business to fully empower local staff and let them run the business
- It is good for business to engage and encourage guests to interact with – and help develop – local communities
- It is good for business to act as a test-bed for eco solutions (rainwater collection, waste water gardens, solar power, sun-powered cooling, chemical-free insect control)
Engaging local communities meaningfully
The effort to engage local communities meaningfully begins with empowering local staff: LooLa have a small sales HQ in Singapore, but our 50+ resort staff are all local Indonesians, mostly from the nearby village. While their average education level is primary 6, most staff now speak English, hold first-aid and adventure activity certificates, own company-subsidized laptops, smart phones, and passports, and have learned how to operate all important software, including SketchUp and (the software for) our resort’s sophisticated solar power systems. Everyone here in LooLa enjoys comprehensive health insurance. While packages inclusive of food, transport, activities and accommodation are sold in Singapore, the staff run their own shop, cocktail/drinks bar, massage and other services onsite. This has enable them to generate 20%-50% in addition to their competitive wages.
It is our own local staff who then helps our guests to help developing local communities: We invite and encourage our guests to spend a bit extra (about US$ 30 pp per day of community work) and engage in meaningful community projects such as road building, building basketball/volleyball fields for schools or local communities, enabling computer and internet access, mosquito-net distribution, and building wastewater gardens for local households (and hence re-establish local wells as drinking water resources). On annual basis, our guests contribute over $ 50,000 to community projects.
We make sure to measure the success of our community efforts:
Our staff present all guests with detailed feedback forms that specifically solicit feedback on our community projects. From the feedback given, we are pleased that guests are very happy, and consistently provide us with ideas to further improve. Getting good feedback from the local community is an ongoing challenge, even for our own local staff, but we maintain a local village (health and community project) survey plus detailed account files for our community projects. A good gauge of local success is the ever-increasing number of households and local schools requesting to be included in our community efforts.
The key role for transparent communication
The more effective and transparent communication is within a company, the less work there is for the owners and everybody else, since most mistakes in most companies are a result of bad communication and misunderstanding between departments and staff. Free and open communication also leads to a much fairer and happier environment, where people do not harbor grudges but settle interpersonal issues or other problems swiftly before they become a problem. Through efficient mass communication (using e.g. multiple WhatsApp group chats) you can do away with overall managers, because the business can run through mutual friendly peer pressure (for instance, publishing each morning on WhatsApp “morning meeting group chat” who is present and who is late does wonders for punctuality without having to give anybody the unpleasant job of policing their colleagues). Finally, free and open communication, whereby everyone understands the scientific principle that mistakes are excellent opportunities for improvements, means that productivity shoots up, since mistakes are not swept under the rug, but readily acknowledged so that we can move on, having grown wiser by the experience. Modern smart phones and their associated communication apps are wonderful tools to create true team spirit and a shared sense of responsibility.