North Island was recently announced as the winner in the Conserving the Natural World category of the 2017 National Geographic World Legacy Awards hosted at ITB Berlin.
“North Island, Seychelles demonstrates that a successful luxury tourism business in a fragile ecosystem can actively rehabilitate its environment. Once used as a plantation island producing copra (coconut kernels), North Island’s Noah’s Ark rehabilitation program is undoing the resulting significant loss of flora and fauna and restoring the island’s natural habitat. Alien plant species are continually cleared and have been replaced with 120,000 native seedlings grown in the resort’s nursery.” National Geographic.
For this interview, which is part of a series with all the finalists for this year’s National Geographic World Legacy Awards, Anula Galewska speaks with Bruce Simpson, Managing Director of North Island.
ANULA: Why did you enter this award?
BRUCE: Recognition is an important part of our world and efforts; one wants to be recognized for the values that one commits to in how we operate and the personal achievements that one feels in doing so. That said, it is critical that one is recognized by credible and respected forums and there is no better than National Geographic World Legacy Awards.
ANULA: What positive impacts have your efforts to be a sustainable tourism busines had on the communities and region where you operate?
BRUCE: The Seychelles as a country, all stakeholders from government to private sector businesses, share a common vision of restoring Seychelles to its natural state and biodiversity. Without the individual efforts of companies like North Island there would be many species of fauna and flora that would be a lot closer to extinction than they have been in the past. The fact that bird species like the Seychelles White-Eye are no longer endangered but are now listed as only vulnerable, the breeding success of the green turtle species on North island amongst other successes, are all as a direct result of the conservation efforts of the company. The extended effect of all of this is the impact that the values and efforts of true conservation have on the people directly, and indirectly, involved in the project and the values that are shared as a result of such efforts. This gives hope to the protection of the biodiversity of Seychelles and the planet – the small individual efforts that work away at the bigger picture of conserving our natural world.
ANULA: How do you engage with the local community to ensure they have a positive opinion of your business working in the area they live?
BRUCE: We have engaged informally through the company values, how we operate our business and the work that we do daily in driving our conservation initiatives through our staff and guests. We have also engaged formally in the past through hosting young Seychellois children on the island and teaching them about conservation and our specific rehabilitation projects on the Island.
ANULA: How do you communicate to guests about your responsible tourism practices?
BRUCE: The conservation initiatives of North Island are shared through various engagement frameworks set up through the environmental team on the island. Formal processes like excursions with our field staff and scientists, presentations about our conservation and biodiversity initiatives, documentation on the various conservation projects in our villas (books and iPads) and decor and direct communication of the various operational projects and logistical processes through talking to our guests form a large part of how we engage our guests daily.
ANULA: How do you make sure your staff care about your efforts and support them?
BRUCE: We have ongoing educational sessions with the staff, engage them in the implementation of the projects, and most importantly we live and operate by our values and though these various initiatives to drive our concept and vision.
ANULA: What’s the best lesson you have learned over the years of developing a successful sustainable tourism business?
BRUCE: Nothing is a short project – if you are not committed and don’t continuously instill the values that support any individual project, you will find things hard and even going backwards. Commitment to a vision or project is a full-time initiative if you want to be successful.
This article is part of the interview series with the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017 winners and finalists, with whom we explore best practices in sustainable tourism communications and stakeholders’ engagement.