An interview with Anthony Wong, Managing Director of The Frangipani Langkawi Resort and Spa Hotel

Continuing with EcoKnights’ effort to promote sustainability in businesses in Malaysia, this special feature and interview with Anthony Wong will kick start awareness on the greening of the hotel industry in Malaysia. A very strong supporter of EcoKnights’ environmental education and awareness programs, Anthony is possibly one of the most passionate individuals in the country that walk the talk in terms of instilling sustainability practices in his business and everyday life.

Thus we are much honored to have had the opportunity to interview Anthony last year. Do check out the interview below.

Anthony Wong, Managing Director of The Frangipani Langkawi Resort and Spa HotelAnthony Wong, Managing Director of The Frangipani Langkawi Resort and Spa Hotel

EK: Hi there Anthony. Perhaps we will jump straight in to the juicy part of this interview with this question: “What is your definition of sustainability in the tourism industry”?

AW: There must be a carrying capacity to a destination and quantity is not the answer. We often have big plans to bring more tourist into a destination without addressing issues of all types of waste from solid and liquid waste. And it is not only black water (sewage) that is polluting the sea but grey water is equally bad if not worse. So with every tourist that walks in to your resort or hotel that generates waste, which is a big issue that all hotels should be addressing seriously. 

To me, sustainability must benefit the local community and this is key to development and helps preserve local culture. The hotel industry must also address issues of water, energy, food and other resources. One thing that I practice today is also on engaging local communities to be part of the hotel industry. I am happy to benefit local communities by making sure that my staff make-up are from the local communities, this way it can benefit the business in the long run.

EK: On your website there is significant detail of your sustainable practices dating back from 2006. Can you shed some light on specific types of outcomes/objectives you seek, for example on a yearly basis?

AW: Our web site has sustainable practices dating back from 2006 as we took over the resort in 2005. We started with 25 practices and today, we have over 200 green practices to conserve water, energy, food, recycle and rethink our resort operations. We target an annual savings of 10% on water and 5% on energy and now have included 5% on food. Without goal setting, we have no challenge. We research continuously and develop new ways to save as what Toyota Quality Concept called KAIZEN- Continuous Improvement.

EK: What would you like to see happen within your resort in the coming five years regarding sustainability?

AW: 3 ln the next 5 years, we hope to set up a Green Hotel Vocational School to share our knowledge with all and sponsor students form poorer community to learn about sustainability in this school. I hope to have the school also share best practices with our industries and the academia to enforce and enhance better understanding of sustainability and also to provide more exposure and real-time information to relevant agencies and authorities.

Today, we already receive up to 30 to 40 school visits annually where these young Malaysians come to Frangipani to learn about sustainability. We also hope to make this (The Frangipani Spa and Resort hotel) the Greenest Resort in the world.

EK: What are the critical issues and challenges facing sustainability efforts in the hotel and resort industry and the tourism industry as a whole, in Malaysia?

AW: Some of the critical challenges facing sustainability and the tourism industry deals with not many of the industry players are interested to adopt, accept and adapt to the concept of building businesses in a sustainable ecosystem.

Laws and policies have to be change and the best systems are those that use the least energy or that embraces the natural system. For instance, not many industry leaders understand the concept of a “green hotel”. Our current practices in the hotel industry cannot be accepted as “business as usual” anymore. In fact not just the hotel industry, all industries in Malaysia must start adopting sustainability.

Having said this, both private and government sectors need to be placing double the effort to ensure this translates on the ground. Private sectors on the other hand, shouldn’t wait for the government or any government directives to embark on adopting sustainable practices in their businesses.

The government must double its effort in education for all and must start from primary school right to university in Sustainable Education and together with enforcement. There is no time to lose and government must give more support to NGOs promoting sustainability.

The tourism industry is very outstanding as almost everyone can travel nowadays. As the famous saying by Air Asia - Everyone Can Fly.  We need to take the lead in promoting sustainability to educate all travelling whether inbound or our bound or domestic.

Finally all hotels must go green and be certified as part of a licensing effort. No green credential, no license. Simple as that.

EK: Do you believe it is easier to enact sustainable change within an established business or with a growing one?

AW: I believe we should work with all establishments and stakeholders to establish sustainable changes when they all realize it makes better savings. This is easier with new development but old ones need upgrading every few years anyway too.

EK: Finally, what would your advice be for young aspiring business leaders with an interest in corporate sustainability?

AW: For all new aspiring business leaders, there is no 2 way and only way is the Green Way as you would receive much savings. One also must share such knowledge with others and help the poorer community. One gets more joy when we are sharing. Try It.


Profile

Anthony WongAnthony WongAnthony Wong is the Managing Director of The Frangipani Langkawi Resort and Spa hotel with more than four decades of experience in the local and international tourism industry. 

Being a green person, Anthony transformed his 4-star resort of two years situated along Pantai Tengah, in southwest Langkawi into a “green hotel”. The resort has 115 rooms and features a 400-metre long beachfront of soft golden sand. The Frangipani is probably the first resort in Malaysia that supported the principles of responsible tourism where it has programs that saved water, conserved energy and reduced solid waste, while saving money, in order to help protect the local environment. In its short history, the resort has already received recognition in receiving the ASEAN Green Hotel Award 2007.

The Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa has implemented various greening programs to streamline its daily operations and to minimize environmental impacts. Since the resort’s inception in 2006, he has set out to implement various policies to reduce impacts upon the environment. Some 100 initiatives are in place and listed on the website and Anthony hopes these will become a model for other resorts to follow.

Various measures have been introduced at the resort including reducing consumption especially wastage, effectively managing energy usage to reduce wastage, using environmentally-friendly detergents, filtering the resort’s ‘grey water’ through a wetland and working with the local authorities to reduce the amount of rubbish that goes to the island’s limited landfill.

The Frangipani was highly commended in the Best Large Accommodation category at the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2008 organized by responsibletravel.com at a ceremony hosted at World Travel Market (WTM), Docklands, London, on Wednesday November 12 2008.

The Frangipani was also recognized for its Nature/Environment Conservation for the Langkawi Geopark Tourism Award 2008 on December 22 2008.

At PATA Travel Mart 2009 held in Hangzhou, China, The Frangipani was awarded on September 25 the PATA Gold Award for the category of Environmental Education Program. The Frangipani was again recognized for its conservation effort. At ATF 2010 held in Brunei, The Frangipani received the ASEANTA Awards for Excellence for the category Best ASEAN Conservation Effort.

Anthony is the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire to Kuala Lumpur appointed by H.E. BOA Liliane Marie Laure, the Ambassador of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire to Japan on June 18 2008 in Kuala Lumpur.

On October 3 2009, Anthony was conferred the Degree of Masters of Arts (Sustainable Tourism) (Honoris CAUSA) by Universiti Utara Malaysia. His favorite motto is “Don’t go where the path leads, rather go where there’s no path and leave a trail.”

To read Anthony Wong’s profile in detail, please click here: pdfAnthony Wong's Profile245.97 KB