Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi is an executive vice president of the Sukosol Hotel Group.

A graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University in New York City, Marisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History. Since beginning as a trainee and immersing herself in all aspects of her family’s hotel business she has gone on to take full responsibility for the group’s marketing strategies and operational restructuring and improvements, as well as spearheading the group’s rebranding and brand development and marketing. Marisa is the key figure responsible for overseeing the group’s properties. Marisa is also the Environmental Chair for the Thai Hotels Association.

Not only overseeing hotels in your group, you are also an the Environmental Chair for the Thai Hotels Association (THA). Can you please explain to us what’s your role with THA?

“Yes, I am currently the Environmental Chair of the Thai Hotels Association (THA). The association acts as a liaison between the government and the private sector. We represent our 900 member hotels, not just on tourism agendas but on any law or regulation that impacts the hotel industry. Pertaining to the environment, we work with the Green Leaf Foundation, Environmental Ministry and several other local and international agencies to encourage hotels to adopt green practices.  Since Thailand signed the Paris Agreement and pledged to reduce carbon emissions with a target of 20% by 2030, the tourism sector will be recruited to participate in all sorts of climate change mitigation initiative soon.”

What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you? And how do you implement sustainability initiatives into your hotels – especially in the luxury segment? 

“When I think of Sustainability, I think of my children. Sustainability means taking care of the business and the environment so that our children and enjoy the same opportunities. In the hotel business, how can the next generation enjoy the same financial benefits and marketing opportunities, if the environment in which we operate deteriorates? On a grander scale, Sustainability includes the 3Ps: Profit, People and the Planet. In Thailand, you need to add a “C” for “Culture”. Tourism sustainability in Thailand means preserving our culture and heritage as well. This is very dear to my heart.

Implementing sustainability initiatives in a luxury property is the same as any property. You have to first build awareness and buy-in from your employees. It’s a slow and challenging process because you are changing mindset and behavior. A key factor is the leader. The GM and owner have to lead the way through example and policies implementation.”

What are the sustainability initiatives that you have been doing within your hotels?

“There are so many. Our first hotel, the Siam Bayshore Resort in Pattaya, is an icon and model green hotel. It was one of the first hotels in Thailand to be certified by the Green Leaf Foundation. It has won numerous recognitions and serves as a model for anyone interested to learn about green hospitality. We’ve hosted groups from Bhutan, Cambodia and Mongolia who want to learn more about this. All our hotels have a Green Team under our LovEarth initiative, which mainly involves the implementation of green operational standards, auditing those standards and organizing awareness activities among our team members. Each hotel has their own projects that engage the community as well. For example, at The Sukosol in downtown Phayathai, we have the “Si Ayuthaya Road Goes Green” network of buildings on our road and we share knowledge and organize activities to promote environmental awareness. We work with the Rajthewee District Office on the effective disposal of hazardous waste and this year, plan a campaign in which office workers can exchange their recyclable garbage for an “Egg” at lunch time.

Another very interesting project is our work with TCEB (Thailand Convention Exhibition Bureau) on the “Farm to Functions” initiative. Through the leadership of “Sampran Model”, we are able to conduct contract farming directly with a group of rice farmers from Amnart Charoen province. We buy organic rice directly from them and serve organic rice in all our outlets including banquets. We are one of the few hotels that is starting to buy organic vegetables and fruits directly from farmers as well.”

What’s your ultimate goal as the Environmental Chair for the THA?

“After four years of working to promote sustainable practices in hotels, I’ve learned that it is an uphill task. It is not that easy for a hotel to all of a sudden, decide to go green and be certified. You need to involve owners and managers. Most international chain hotels have environmental standards in place, but we are working with independents and smaller hotels all over Thailand. The most I can expect is that there is more awareness and growth in green hotels. It would be magic if the government could offer tax incentives or tax breaks for these hotels as well. And if TripAdvisor will just add one more rating criteria: “Green”….imagine how many hotels will join in!”

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