Fusion Resort Cam Ranh on Vietnam’s beautiful Cam Ranh Bay south of Nha Trang is taking sustainability to a whole new level with one of Southeast Asia’s largest organic resort farms
Speak to anyone in the hospitality and tourism industry in Vietnam and they’ll tell you that sustainability is an essential component of their strategies moving forward.
While an immediate priority is to get people back traveling again to at least pre-Covid levels as soon as possible, so is ensuring they travel in a way that impacts less on the environment.
But this remains a massive challenge for a nation like Vietnam that ranked 96 out of 99 in Euromonitor’s Sustainable Travel Index back in 2020. The index measured indicators such as destination health, impact of travel on the local environment and the general state of tourism in a country.
It doesn’t quite paint the quintessential picture perfect postcard of Vietnam you’d expect.
Globally, travelers are indicating they desire more sustainable stays, however, indications suggest this kind of demand in Vietnam is lagging well behind most other countries.
Staying at sustainable properties just isn’t top-of-mind with the majority of Vietnamese domestic tourists yet.
In fact, Euromonitor in the same report, highlighted again Vietnam’s poor ranking of 88 out of 99 countries when measuring sustainable tourism demand. This suggests that while programs can be implemented to reduce strain on travel infrastructure and the environment here, there still needs to be buy-in from local communities for them to be effective long-term.
In short, as clichéd as it may sound, education is key to ensuring this buy-in happens.
And this hasn’t been lost on properties in the Fusion Hotel Group in Vietnam who understand the need for radical change to future-proof the travel industry here.
Currently they’re investing in sustainable practices from eradicating single-use plastics at Fusion Resort Cam Ranh on the beach, to sourcing sustainable suppliers for interior decor at Fusion Original Saigon Centre in Ho Chi Minh City (newly-opened in July), to growing organic produce on Alba Wellness Resort’s own farm in the mountains of central Vietnam.
But there are educational programs underway as well.
Dawid Koeglenberg, the General Manager of Fusion Resort Cam Ranh, is as aware as anyone of the non-negotiables resorts must address in order to become sustainable, but even he, despite his exuberant and positive outlook, concedes it’s a struggle when “some guests don’t care where products come from” especially when price-sensitivity during this post-Covid recovery period is informing choices more than ever.
“We’re conscious that cage-free eggs and organic vegetables can be a lot more expensive than ‘normal’ products,” he tells me over dinner at the resort he’s managed since 2019, “but adding these to menus at a higher price simply doesn’t work.”
Nevertheless, Dawid is spearheading change with a sustainability plan of action at his property 30km south of Nha Trang on Vietnam’s south-central coast, a scenic three-hour drive from the country’s romantic central highlands town of Da Lat.
Dawid and his team are almost halfway into an ambitious plan for Fusion Resort Cam Ranh to have abandoned single-use plastic, be supporting only local sustainable seafood and vegetable suppliers and using only 100% cage-free eggs by 2025.
The strategy also includes using gray water for all of the resort gardens, manufacturing staff uniforms from recycled plastic and offering lessons on sustainability at local primary schools.
“I really think it needs to start with education at all levels,” says the South African who has more than a decade of experience in managing properties in Asia. “We’ve found that farmers are reluctant to change due to the initial investment they have to make, but if they’re prepared to produce cage-free eggs, it’ll be easier to sell to international brands that are increasingly exploring more sustainable and healthy options.”
Dawid’s most audacious project yet at Cam Ranh is the establishment of one of the largest resort farms in Southeast Asia spanning over 4,000 square meters.
What started out akin to a hobby farm during the long lockdowns over the past two years, has flourished into a fully-fledged organic farm (now with a manager) that’s home to over 350 animals, most of which are chickens and ducks that supply the resort kitchen with eggs.
Currently each month, Fusion Farm is producing 1,200 eggs, 450 kilograms of fruit and vegetables and around 700 coconuts destined for the bellies of satisfied guests secure in the knowledge that what they’re consuming is chemical-free. The growing population of goats on the property, some with names like Banh Mi, Sausage and BBQ, means there’s never a shortage of fertilizer.
Dawid also proudly says the farm is on target to be supplying 100% of the resort’s eggs by 2024.
But the most endearing, and perhaps most critical, aspect of the project is that the farm also acts as an educational facility for guests young and old alike.
Each morning they’re encouraged to visit the farm to not only collect eggs for their breakfast that are then cooked at the resort restaurant, but it’s used as a valuable opportunity to introduce sustainable food production and proper animal welfare practices to a new generation.
When I visited in May, I was overwhelmed by the hands-on experience down on the farm where ducks and all kinds of chickens roam freely and jostle among themselves to be fed by guests. It’s an uplifting experience, not to mention educational, even for an ex-farm boy like me.
In addition, the impact of such an experience on guest health and wellbeing, long the raison d’etre of all Fusion resorts, must be untold.
And the project is already having a positive influence beyond the resort down the long stretch of white sand rimming the bay that Fusion Resort Cam Ranh shares with other properties.
Since the farm started, four other resorts nearby have begun growing their own vegetables and even investing in some chickens. It seems that not just the kids are learning.
“It’s incredibly easy to do something,” says Dawid. “Anyone can make a difference if they try.”
And in case you’re wondering, the eggs were delicious and the vegetables made a very memorable Vietnamese-style soup.
A version of this article first appeared on travelandleisureasia.com
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