Southeast Asia’s hospitality leaders step into the ring to fight for sustainability at Phist 5 - Insights
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Southeast Asia’s hospitality leaders step into the ring to fight for sustainability at Phist 5

Back as a live, in-person gathering, this important annual forum embraced the combative, cultural spirit of Muay Thai to spark candid conversation and instigate positive change in the travel and tourism industry

PHIST (Phuket Hotels for Islands Sustaining Tourism), Southeast Asia’s biggest and best responsible travel and hospitality forum, returned on Monday 26th September to deliver a knockout blow to unsustainable tourism in Southeast Asia! Back as a live, in-person gathering, this fast-paced event tackled the key topics impacting the region and supported the green recovery of hotels and tourism operators following the global pandemic. Hosted at ACES, Angsana Laguna Phuket, the theme of this year’s PHIST was Muay Thai, the high-energy, culturally-rich sport of Thai boxing, which has gained fame and popularity around the world and represents the battle to preserve authentic art, heritage, and tradition. Muay Thai fighters from Australia, Brazil, Thailand, and the USA faced off in the main hall of ACES on Monday in a series of “super fights”.

Following these physical battles, keynote speakers delivered verbal blows as they provided unique insights on the critical issues facing the industry, including community tourism, green operations, ocean health, destination management, post-COVID trends, and more. This included the “Rumble in the Jungle” – seven verbal bouts between two speakers, culminating in a battle of the heavyweights. A series of expert-led workshops focused on practical subjects such as “Green Finance for Hotels,” “Zero Waste” and “Materials for Sustainable Tourism,” and a Green Expo presented a comprehensive selection of innovative, eco-friendly products from approximately 30 exhibitors. Finally, delegates were able to discuss the day’s events with evening networking drinks.

Bill Barnett, Managing Director of C9 Hotelworks and the co-founder & co-organiser of PHIST, said: “We are so pleased that PHIST returned this week as a live, face-to-face event. The global pandemic disrupted every aspect of our lives, but perhaps if it had one positive outcome it is that it forced the world to live, work and think more sustainably. At PHIST 5, we dug deep into the most important trends effecting the industry and delivered practical, workable solutions that hoteliers and business owners can use to boost their operations at this challenging time – and future-proof them for years to come.” Bjorn Courage, President of the Phuket Hotels Association, commented: “Last year, even when many businesses were struggling to stay above water, we saw the travel trade come together at our virtual forum to advance the cause of sustainability. This week, as 500 delegates from across Southeast Asia met face-to-face at PHIST 5, we were able to share more ideas and put our pledges into action. Collaboration is the key – when people come together, great things can happen. What we decided at PHIST can drive positive benefits for your business and the entire region. It was great to see everyone jumping in the ring and getting involved!”

Hope Uy, Managing Director of South Palms Resort in Panglao, stated: “Islands such as Panglao and Phuket feel environmental and social issues even more acutely than other destinations. Fresh water, waste disposal, and coral bleaching; are not only concepts – they impact our lives and operations on a day-to-day basis. The only sustainable solution is to work hand-in-hand with communities and to create a circular economy. I was delighted to come together with like-minded people at PHIST 5 to share our experiences and offer workable solutions.” Kevin Deisser, CEO & Founder of Invest Islands, added: “In a diverse archipelago such as Indonesia, preserving the integrity of island life is at the heart of everything with doing. Every development we undertake must have a positive impact on local people, and, if undertaken in the right way, this will drive long-term benefits to all parties. In Indonesia and across Southeast Asia, indigenous people have already established highly sustainable ways of life. As outsiders, tourism providers and developers need to work with the islanders and learn from them.” Eric Ricaurte, founder & CEO of Greenview, concluded: “Prior to the pandemic, traveller mindsets were already changing. Now, with travel and tourism at a crossroads, people are wanting more authentic experiences that connect them with their chosen destination. Our PHIST workshops were designed to create best practices for hotels that will not only strengthen their sustainability objectives but also bring them closer to the local community. Tourism plays a pivotal role in the development of islands, so it is critical that we act responsibly.”

An exciting new feature at this year’s PHIST was the inaugural award for “Sustainable Design Innovation”, which was presented to Patrick Keane, founder of Enter Projects. Founded in 2005, Enter Projects has created myriad award-winning projects and continues to gain global acclaim for its eco-master planning, architecture, and interior services. A collaboration between the Phuket Hotels Association, Greenview, and C9 Hotelworks, with support from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, American Chamber of Commerce Thailand (AmCham), QUO, Creative Concept AV,  Delivering Asia Communications, Banpu NEXT, Indorama Ventures, Junkyard Theatre Phuket, GIZ, Angsana Laguna Phuket, Blue Tree Phuket, XCO2, ZeroWater Thailand, Revolution X, AustCham Thailand, Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, Thaiger, Travel Daily, Teak Timber Phuket, Mbs Thai, Cocktails & Co, Wine on Tap, FullMoon Brewworks, and Kombuchawow.

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