Report from the SLOWLIFE Symposium, organised by Six Senses Resorts & Spas
Richard Branson, Edward Norton, Daryl Hannah join President Nasheed of the Maldives to outline plans for sustainable tourism
One of the travel and tourism industry's most exclusive and prestigious events last weekend drew Hollywood A-listers, top business CEOs, a head of state and senior environmental campaigners together in the Maldives to discuss how to make tourism a benefit rather than a threat to the planet's environment.
They were joined by President Nasheed of the Maldives, who has committed his country to becoming carbon neutral by 2020, and delivered a keynote speech outlining the progress his administration has so far made towards achieving the goal. This includes publishing an online plan for carbon neutral electricity, moving towards a 60% solar power goal and changing import duties to encourage electric vehicles.
President Nasheed told delegates that what the Maldives is doing should be a model for others. "Interest in new technology is a blessing for the Maldives," he said. "We won't save the world by becoming carbon neutral – we emit nothing compared with other countries – but if we can demonstrate a low carbon development strategy that can be copied elsewhere, it will be a step in the right direction."
Overall the aviation industry accounts for more than 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, which are responsible for causing global warming – more than the whole continent of Africa. Virgin Group entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson told the Symposium that dealing with aircraft emissions was a must: "We have been diverting our profit from airlines into developing fuel for aircraft that won't damage the environment." Since leaving the Maldives, Branson has announced a new target for making several Virgin Atlantic routes carbon neutral by using new fuels.
The tone of the conference was extremely positive, with many speakers emphasising the opportunities inherent in making tourism sustainable. Branson said that winning the climate battle was the "biggest entrepreneurial opportunity of our lifetime", whilst President Nasheed also emphasised that he saw green growth as an opportunity for his country rather than a cost and hoped that the Maldives could become a laboratory for new clean technologies appropriate for tropical island locations worldwide.
The actor Edward Norton – whose world-leading work with the Maasai people in Kenya is already helping tourism raise millions to fund conservation – congratulated President Nasheed on his policies. Norton also showcased his work with the Baswood company, which pioneers ecologically-friendly sewage treatment options for islands and cities alike. Daryl Hannah focused in particular on marine biodiversity, praising the new designation of Baa Atoll as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Six Senses is now working with other resort companies in the atoll to pioneer a funding model to conserve the coral reefs and the fish species in the area through no-take zones and other measures.
Six Senses has also committed to making Soneva Fushi a zero-carbon resort by 2013, and is in the process of installing a second large solar photovoltaic facility on the island. Both business leaders and politicians – including the Maldives environment and tourism ministers, both also present at the conference – are now discussing ways to bring multi-megawatt solar power generation to more Maldives islands on an accelerated scale.
Six Senses CEO Sonu Shivdasani, host of the meeting, said: "The SLOW LIFE Symposium brought together some incredible minds in the field of sustainable tourism and business. I fully expect some wonderful initiatives to come out of the work done last week." Mr Shivdasani added that he was already thinking of next year's event, and hoped that returning attendees could report back substantial progress.
About Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain
Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain is superbly set at the picturesque gateway to China"s majestic Qing Cheng Mountains, Six Senses has created a resort to compliment the UNESCO World Heritage & Natural Cultural site at nearby Dujangan. 113 guest accommodations ranging from semi-detached suites in duplex villas with balconies and verandas to courtyard suites, garden and pool villas. Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain offers several dining outlets, renowned Six Senses Spa and an array of interesting outdoor activities.
About Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas
Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas is a hotel and spa management company comprised of 11 resorts and 31 spas under the brand names Six Senses, Evason and Six Senses Spas. Six Senses operates resorts in far-flung locations of incredible natural beauty known for their distinctive and diverse design personalities. Each of the eight properties is supported by a leadership commitment to community, sustainability and wellness.
Six Senses Spas offers a wide range of holistic wellness, rejuvenation and beauty treatments administered under the guidance of expert therapists. Six Senses Spas operates 20 standalone spas in prestigious hotels and resorts as well as located aboard a ship and the premier class lounges of two major airports.
Evason introduces a collection of three unique resorts that follow the Six Senses philosophy of uncompromised responsibility to sustainability and to the community. Family friendly, these properties also provide a strong value focus while offering a vast array of guest services and personal attention.