What could motorbike helmets, endangered marine turtles, community gardens, Bhutanese students, mini-dog collars and a Destiny's Child possibly have in common?.
The answer lies in that overused acronym: CSR. For many companies, planting a few trees or having a clean-up day ticks their Corporate Social Responsibility box. Not so for AKARYN Hospitality Management Services (AHMS) and its visionary founder and managing partner, Anchalika Kijkanakorn. Turtle power: AHMS founder Anachlika Kijkanakorn watches a young hatchling make its way out to sea. Four endangered sea turtles were saved in the past month alone.
Each of the above mentioned, seemingly unrelated things are intimately joined through the web of AHMS's innovative and unconventional CSR campaigns, under the umbrella of the company's charity arm, the Pure Blue Foundation.
Most attention has focused on the Pure Blue Foundation's efforts to protect endangered marine turtles by supporting the Turtle Sanctuary that neighbours Aleenta Phuket-Phang Nga Resort and Spa, the group's stunning contemporary resort at pristine Natai Beach, 15 minutes north of Phuket International Airport.
Four turtles have been saved during the last two months alone from deadly plastic and fishing nets, and on December 1, 2012, the resort will stage its annual charity fund raiser to support turtle conservation and the Pure Blue Foundation.Reef knot: one of Akaryn's hard working marine conservation initiatives in action in Koh Samui.
The event will be hosted by resort General Manager Yann Gouriou in an evening packed with entertainment, from dancing and body painting to a fashion show presenting Gottex swimwear, and featuring well-known Window on Thailand TV host Able Wanamakok as MC for the evening with music by resident DJ Tiki from Le China Bar and Lounge in Paris.
Tickets are available for THB2,222 each including an open bar and a chocolate decadence culinary experience. Contact email@example.com for more information.
The foundation is also working closely with another neighbour, Natai Beach's Khao Pillai School, to educate children on the importance of marine conservation and also to rebuild the school's roof after a recent thunderstorm caused significant damage.
The group's adults-only resort at Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui, akyra Chura Samui, has focused its attention on a CSR campaign to encourage guests, locals and other tourists to wear motorcycle helmets whenever they venture out onto Koh Samui's roads in response to the island's shocking road toll. This campaign is now set to be rolled out at all four of AHMS's properties, which also include the new AKARYN Samui Resort and Spa, and the Aleenta Hua Hin Pranburi Resort and Spa. Glide path: Daring adventurers soar over Aleenta's organic farm at Pranburi as part of the exclusive 'gourmet gliders' experience.
Other initiatives include an Aleenta "Wrist Collar" launched by Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi in response to a community-wide problem with abandoned and stray dogs. Fifty percent of the "Wrist Collar'' price goes to helping homeless dogs, food and a neutering programme.
Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi has also spearheaded the Community Garden project, in response to Thailand's overfishing crisis. Explains Ms Kijkanakorn: "Any community residents can stop by the garden and help themselves to our produce for free. In return, all we ask for is a little labour or some self-seeding future contributions."
Ms Kijkanakorn's other out-of-the-box CSR idea was the gesture to offer hospitality training at her group's resorts to 26 trainees from the remote Kingdom of Bhutan, where tourism is in its infancy. "AHMS believes in education and training for future leaders," she said. "We support trainees around the world and count over 10 nationalities working across our current operating properties from top hotel schools around the globe. AHMS was delighted to welcome 26 trainees from the Royal Institute for Tourism & Hospitality in Bhutan recently to work at our four resorts in Thailand. After training with us they will return to work in the country's fledging hotel and travel industry."
Now the focus would shift to making sure the Pure Blue Foundation fundraiser at Aleenta Phuket-Phang Nga was a success, she said. Last year's event, a molecular gastronomy spectacular which made waves as far away as Phuket and Bangkok, doubled the takings of the 2010 event, raising over THB400,000.
"We have upheld our pledge to educate local school children about endangered turtles, and took groups from Baan Khao Pilai school near the Aleenta Phuket-Phang Nga resort to visit the Turtle Sanctuary that Aleenta sponsors," said Ms Kijkanakorn.
"We also welcomed Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland to the resort in 2011, and it was gratifying to see the star express a keen interest in our work with endangered sea turtles. Guests can enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience of releasing hatchlings back into the wild."
In July this year the Pure Blue Foundation started pioneering activities in coral regeneration on Koh Samui at Hanuman Bay, the location of AKARYN Samui, with the aim to increase coral species from 13 to 25. The latest initiative is taking shape and starting to build. But it takes time.
"We are not here to just make a quick buck but have long term commitments to all the environments around which we operate resorts," said Ms Kijkanakorn. "For us it is what gets us up in the morning and gets us going knowing that we are, however small, making a difference. This is our guiding philosophy."