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El Nido Resorts: pioneering sustainable tourism

Situated in the northern part of Palawan province in the Philippines, Ten Knots Group’s El Nido Resorts are within a protected zone spanning thousands of hectares of habitat with turquoise water, limestone cliffs, beaches, and mangroves. The natural environment provides vital nesting habitat for endangered sea turtles and is home to dugong, dolphins, reef fish, pangolins, and bird species. Conserving the area’s unique biodiversity through low-impact tourism using plastic-free solutions is key to Ten Knots Group’s sustainability goals.

Plastic free solutions

Strong supporters of Plastic Free July and the first accommodation provider in the Philippines to be a signatory to the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (GTPI), El Nido Resorts have made impactful plastic reduction changes to their daily operations. These include mandating a sachet ban for body care and laundry items such as shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, soap, and dishwashing liquid since 2013. Involving the local community in its sustainability efforts, women from local barangays (villages) in El Nido weave and produce bags and slippers that are purchased by the resorts and complimentary to guests.  

Tumblers have replaced plastic water bottles and refillable containers are used instead of single-use toiletries. This generated a reduction in plastic waste by over 60 percent from 2018 to 2019. 

Operational changes have expanded to replace other single-use plastic items previously used in daily operations such as garbage bags, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, and styrofoam food packaging. 

The resorts widened their plastic free focus by choosing to refuse single-use items at events including balloons, party poppers, confetti, glitter, and plastic streamers. Celebrations at the island resorts and it’s beach clubs are now more centred on the natural environment. Whether you are a small business or a large corporation, Plastic Free July has put together some ways you can reduce plastic at your event too

For their most recent Plastic Free July challenge, El Nido Resorts initiated incentivised cleanups, helping to protect marine sanctuaries with endangered turtles and countless tropical fish and coral species from the harmful effects of plastic pollution. Plastics collected from the cleanups are diverted to their local Materials Recovery Facility for upcycling.

In tandem, a social media campaign worked to encourage mindful conversations amongst colleagues and guests by posing questions about plastic pollution and ways to encourage others to do their bit. 

Shifting the impacts of tourism

“We have participated in Plastic Free July for the second year to show our support to the global movement and empower our staff to take pride in the significant roles they play,” El Nido Resorts Sustainability Officer Denise Samson said. 

“Destination managers, particularly those situated in ecologically significant areas, are in a good position to shift the tourism industry’s impact on biodiversity and local communities. By sharing [staff] experiences and engaging in conversations, we can hopefully inspire and encourage other tourism businesses and practitioners in the locale to champion similar sustainability initiatives.”

Although El Nido Resorts acknowledge that, initially, implementing plastic reduction measures can be time-consuming and lead to upfront expenses, the changes have translated to longer-term financial savings and destination sustainability.

The trickle effect is clear with the Sustainability Department fostering collaboration with the Purchasing Department who now access sustainable product suppliers. Staff and guests have formed new habits, and this has encouraged their families and communities to make a difference too. 

Environmental Stewards

Looking ahead, El Nido Resorts are set to implement their 2023 commitment to the World Tourism Organisation’s Global Tourism Plastics Initiative which aims to phase out all single-use plastic amenities inside guest rooms. 

Driving long-term cultural change, the educational program Be GREEN (Guard, Respect, Educate El Nido) includes mandatory training in Ecological Solid Waste Management, highlighting the benefits of refusing and reducing single-use plastics in the workplace and beyond. Staff are also committed to reducing waste year-round through an eco-challenge that encourages creative solutions to repurposing non-biodegradable waste. 

Hanniel Almasco recommends other businesses keen to reduce plastic in their communities integrate policy with education.

“When it comes to industry-wide sustainability efforts, we always combine corporate policies with programs on awareness and education,” Hanniel Almasco said. 

“To be strategic in every initiative – such as the phase-out of single-use plastics across our resorts’ operations – is key to successful implementation. Strategies are also easily replicated, making the efforts easier to adapt for other businesses like ours.”

We are participating in Plastic Free July for the second year to show our support to the global movement and empower our staff to take pride in the significant roles they play.

El Nido Resorts Sustainability Officer Denise Samson said. 

Photo credit: Nikki Inso

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