Misool is a resort and conservation centre located in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Its sister foundation, Misool Baseftin, opened in 2010 to expand the reach of the conservation work that Misool carries out in Indonesia.
For this interview, which is part of a series with all the finalists for this year’s World Responsible Tourism Awards, Anula Galewska speaks with Marit Miners, Founder and Director of Sales & Marketing at Misool Eco Resort.
Anula: How do you communicate your efforts towards sustainable tourism to your guests?
Marit: None of our conservation work would happen without our guests at the core. We create experiences that immerse our guests in the areas we are protecting, which galvanise their support for us. As an example of this effectiveness, in 2015, Misool’s guests donated US$45,655 to our foundation, Misool Baseftin, and we are well on track to surpass this figure in 2016.
On a practical level we encourage them to understand the work that goes into ensuring that the underwater environment, that they have travelled a long way to experience, stays pristine. Our management teams offer a number of educational talks to our guests during their stay, discussing all aspects of our work, from the true eco approach of our resort build to the Misool Manta Project and Ranger Patrol. The Foundation sends quarterly newsletters to all guests to keep them updated. We also, of course, maintain our social media channels so that all guests and friends can have a daily snapshot of the work that they are supporting.
“We create experiences that immerse our guests in the areas we are protecting, which galvanise their support for us.”
Our team also frequently visits other diving vessels, offering educational talks about our project to their guests. We also provide the dive operators with materials so that they are able to share our work with their guests in our absence.
We hope that in doing this our guests are more aware of the issues facing the entire marine environment and realise the impact that their choices have when selecting a holiday provider, be it resort or tour operator.
Anula: What’s your biggest challenge in communicating sustainability?
Marit: Time! It’s probably something that each and every respondent will say. When faced with the choice between on-the-ground, results driven conservation or implementing solutions that will further reduce your overall impact on the natural world, communicating your work can often take a back seat.
That, and living on a remote, tropical island for most of the year!
Anula: How do you engage local community in what you do?
Marit: By promoting and fostering a culture of ocean stewardship throughout our work, we revert back to our overarching mission ‘to empower local communities to reclaim their traditional tenureship of reefs.’
“Because were unable to source any sustainable sources of lumber, we built the entire resort out of reclaimed wood.”
The implications of creating home-grown ocean guardians cannot be ignored. They are the Rangers in Raja Ampat who proudly patrol their home reefs, the fishermen-turned-tourist guides in Lamakera whose vital shift will leave a new legacy for their children or the Indonesian scientists and scholars who witness a never-before-seen side of their own country by joining one of our internship programmes. They are the future of Indonesia’s marine ecosystem. Their role will ensure this island nation can still reap financial reward from its blue economy, can reverse the pollution of waterways and marine habitats and will ensure that its coastal communities are still able to fish for sustenance.
By dedicating our resources to the education and growth of Indonesia’s residents, they acquire the skills needed to reclaim the title to Indonesia’s marine assets, which are some of its richest treasures.
Anula: How do you engage your suppliers in what you do?
Marit: Because were unable to source any sustainable sources of lumber, we built the entire resort out of reclaimed wood. We bought our own sawmill and then located driftwood and cut every piece of lumber ourselves. By the time the resort opened in 2008, we had cut 700 cubic meters of recycled wood, which was enough to build the whole resort without cutting down a single tree.
Now that we’re operational, we buy as much of our goods locally as possible.
Anula: What is unique or innovative about your marketing and communication approach?
Marit: Our approach is unique in that we need to engage both our prospective guests as well as our local hosts. Appealing to the imaginations of such a broad cross section of viewers is an exciting challenge.
Anula: What have you learned about marketing so far, what works and what doesn’t?
Marit: Our most effective marketing has, without a doubt, been through word-of-mouth. Making sure guests experience something that is more than just memorable, but possibly even transformational, has been our top priority. Inspired guests share their experiences with folks who they know would appreciate what we’ve built. It’s wonderful to welcome back repeat guests as well as their friends and family.
Anula: What motivated you to apply for World Responsible Tourism Awards?
Marit: We have followed the WRTA for many years, and have watched a number of inspirational friends and peers as they have been recognised for their great work.
As with all operators who are trying to achieve a positive impact, the work never stops, the ways in which we can adapt, improve and problem-solve are constantly evolving to meet the issues. In short, there is always more that we can do. This year, we decided that we had to dedicate ourselves to sharing the work that we do with a larger audience. While the field work and conservation results are imperative, the impact that can be found by sharing and collaborating with others can have an equally significant impact.
Anula: What expectations do you have if you win?
Marit: Our goal has always been to create replicable models that can be used to solve similar conservation and development issues. If Misool wins a WRTA we hope that this will open the channels of communication with other parties who want to scale our models to match their needs and area. Our primary goal has and always will be the protection of the environment. The more people that can join us on this crusade, the more success we will achieve.
This article is part of the interview series with the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2016 finalists, with whom we explore the best practices in marketing and sustainable tourism communications. The rest will be published between now and the opening of World Travel Market on November 7th.