Thailand's luxury tropical getaways getting greener

Fri Jan 2, 2009 6:00am EST
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By Chawadee Nualkhair

BANGKOK (Reuters Life!) - The sands are soft and the weather balmy at Paradee, a five-star resort oozing luxury that is perched on the southern fringe of Thailand's Samet island.

But while top-notch resorts are not often associated with having an environmental conscience, Paradee and other resorts in one of the world's most popular destinations are turning green.

"The whole concept of the resort from day-one was the environment," said Hans Sporri, group general manager for Samed Resorts, which comprises six properties on Koh Samet.

"To take care of our environment comes very easily to a farmer's son like me. Now it's becoming a top priority."

The words "five-star retreat" rarely conjure up the image of an ecologically friendly paradise, but for a growing number of Thai resorts, ecological sustainability is not only a nice thing to do, but an economic imperative, helping to maintain the natural beauty that lured tourists in the first place.

For the past eight months, the Swiss-born Sporri has grappled with instituting a system for utilizing waste products like food, recycling trash, keeping beaches clean and growing fruits and herbs for the resort group's properties.

At times, it has been an uphill battle: styrofoam floaters for fishermen's cages - used to catch crabs - litter the beach on most days, while instilling a more environmentally aware turn of mind for employees had encountered its own share of obstacles.

Today, that is becoming less of a problem. "It's very, very rewarding when the staff think it's no longer hilarious when you walk into a 7-11 and refuse plastic," said Sporri.   Continued...

<p>Khao Lak beach is seen in Phang Nga province, north of Phuket, in a file photo. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom</p>