Oliver Horn, general manager of InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort, talks to Viet Nam News about tourism and the role of hotels and resorts in protecting the environment on Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang.
What is the InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort doing to protect the environment on Phu Quoc Island?
We are proud to be one of the first resorts in Phu Quoc to work closely with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to implement a series of initiatives to help protect the environment and pioneer sustainable tourism.
InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort has been closely working with representatives from WWF to conduct regular waste audits to ensure the most efficient recycling procedures. As part of the process, the waste needs to be classified before being taken out of the resort and is then separated into four main categories: organic waste, paper, plastic waste and others. The resort continuously cooperates with WWF in waste disposal and is working on a number of other initiatives to protect the environment and raise awareness of sustainability on the island.
One of the main activities we have undertaken is to remove plastic from the resort. We have substituted plastic straws in our restaurants and bars for sustainable materials such as bamboo and rice straws, and we have recently adopted environmentally-friendly recycled aluminum cans of water to replace plastic bottles for our meetings and events. By the end of this year, we aim to have completely eliminated plastic from the resort.
Additionally, in the few months since I have been at the resort, we have been organising our colleagues to help collect and sensibly dispose of garbage in key locations throughout the island. Not only does this help with island cleanliness in the short term, but I feel that this also helps to educate people about the importance of garbage disposal. I hope it will also encourage people to think twice before littering and be aware of environmentally friendly practices and apply them whenever possible in daily life.
We know there’s a long way to go; however we aim to continually do as much as we can to protect this beautiful island.
Since opening in June 2018, InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort has positively and continuously supported and participated in many social activities on the island, including cleaning Ham Ninh beach and several areas in the north of the island.
IHG® (InterContinental Hotels Group) has also recently announced their commitment to removing bathroom miniatures in favour of bulk-size amenities, building on many environmental initiatives already in place across the globe.
What do you think about Viet Nam’s tourism?
I see a lot of potential in Viet Nam as a tourist destination and it is growing in popularity throughout the world as a rich and vibrant country with many facets of tourism. Viet Nam has recently ranked amongst the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world thanks to its rich culture and history, natural beauty and its dynamic cities.
Since 2010, the country has seen huge growth in the number of international tourist arrivals, and this figure is increasing dramatically year on year.
As someone who has been fortunate enough to have travelled to numerous parts of Viet Nam, I have personally been hugely impressed with the variety and diversity of destinations in the country, from the rich cultural towns of Hue and Hoi An, to the energetic and fast-moving cities of Ha Noi and HCM City, and of course the natural and rugged beauty of my new home Phu Quoc Island.
How can Viet Nam improve its tourism industry?
Due to the increasing interest in Viet Nam and the rapid growth of the tourism industry here, there have been some challenges. In certain parts of the country, the hotel supply at this stage is greater than the number of flights arriving, and there is a need for more direct flights from key international cities to connect Viet Nam to the world. This will play out over time.
There is also a need for more infrastructure development in some areas. Viet Nam is such a beautiful country with so much to offer, and all of us need to make sure that we treat the environment, which is our biggest asset and our biggest sales tool with respect and with a view to protect it for the future.
I also believe that more investment is required to promote Viet Nam as an attractive tourist destination in international markets. Whilst Viet Nam is becoming more popular with tourists, I still feel that there could be more awareness throughout the world about all the fascinating destinations and activities on offer here.
What difficulties do you face in managing a resort and living in Viet Nam?
There are really none in terms of work. The colleagues around me have been incredibly welcoming and have made my start in the resort very easy. They are great to interact with because they are hard-working and focused on improving all the time and determined to learn, which I am very happy about.
Living on Phu Quoc Island is far more pleasant than I thought it would be. With its clean air, great environment and friendly people, there is not much more that I could possibly want.
(InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang)