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29/09/2020 Best Practice: Sustainable luxury at Nikoi | Green Hotelier 1/3
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Nikoi: Sustainable private island luxury
November 25, 2014 | Filed under: Asia Pacific,Case Studies | Posted by: Holly Tuppen
Waking up surrounded by nature at Nikoi. Photo: Holly Tuppen
Nikoi is a private island resort just 3.5 hours from Singapore but a world
away; in one of Indonesia’s many nature-abundant enclaves of rainforest,
tropical beaches and coral reefs.
The resort was recently shortlisted for the National Geographic World Legacy Awards and having been there,
we’re not surprised. This is one of those places that manages to put nature and the environment high on the
agenda without shouting about it. When staying at Nikoi, luxury and eco seem to go effortlessly hand in hand
– so much of the Nikoi experience is about being part of its unspoilt natural environment – but we know that
behind the scenes, there’s a serious commitment. We spoke to Founder and Director Andrew Dixon about
how green they really are.
When did you get started on green initiatives?
It started when we first bought the island. The whole design of the resort was about minimising the impact on
the environment and engaging and working with the local community. Our design relies on natural ventilation
something we believe is unique at our price point. Driftwood and alang alang grass were the primary building
materials and very little concrete, glass, varnish, paint or other man made products were used in the build.
The electrical loads in a standard room are less than 150W.
Why did the hotel go down the sustainable route and what effect has it had?
Firstly we wanted to offer guests a unique experience that had a close connection to the environment.
Somewhere you could go to sleep to the sound of the waves lapping the shore and wake up with a glorious
view of the sea. We also reasoned that it would make more financial sense and be more sustainable to use a
design that minimised our energy consumption.
We have been overwhelmed by demand and never envisaged there would be as much demand for our unique
offer. We didn’t want guests to think that they were being short changed. We believe foremost that guests
need to leave having had an enjoyable stay so what they give up by not having aircon or a TV in the room
they get back in many other ways. It has been fantastic to see how guests (in particular families) love this
concept and as a result how they reconnect both with themselves and with nature.
Were there any key influencers in your sustainable journey?
The resort was designed and built by Peter Timmer who has previous experience building with driftwood on
remote islands and so his knowledge was crucial. Our staff have worked extraordinarily to achieve the vision
and the praise we get from guests for the quality of the service we provide is testimony to this.
One of my partners, Ed Jenne has led the development of The Island Foundation, the registered charity that
we formally set up in 2010. Over 500 children have registered at the five learning centres set up by The
Island Foundation in local Bintan and other islands. Since the centres have branched out into adult learning,
including teacher training, the foundation predicts that over 8000 local villagers are benefiting directly from
their programmes. It has been exciting to see this develop into an independently run organisation that is
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making a substantial impact beyond Nikoi’s neighbouring communities. The foundation is run by Heena Patel
whose dedication and passion for community work is extraordinary.
How do your sustainable initiatives impact staff?
Staff training, welfare, engagement and working conditions are all aspects that we strongly believe in
and things that we are constantly trying to improve. Our staff turnover is less than 10% per annum. Such a low
level in the hotel industry is pretty unique, particularly for an island resort. We believe strongly that happy and
engaged staff goes a long way to making sure that we have happy guests.
Why is acting sustainably important?
We don’t believe that the sustainability measures we take on board are why our guests come and stay with
us. It might help us sell a few extra rooms or get a few guests interested but it is not the main reason by any
measure. We justify all of our sustainability initiatives, including our engagement with the community on a
commercial basis. This can often require substantial investments both in terms of time and resources but the
long term benefits of doing so have been very powerful.
What are the most exciting sustainable initiatives at the resort?
We like to think more in terms of responsible initiatives. Our work with The Island Foundation is one such
example. The foundation has grown into a much larger organisation than Nikoi could have ever supported on
its own. It has an independent board and substantial external funding. Aside from the foundation some of the
initiatives we have made in respect of reducing our energy loads and water consumption stand out for their
The Island Foundation’s beach clean up with local schools. Photo: The Island Foundation
Energy & Carbon
On average, Nikoi (impressively) uses less than 14kW/hr. The island has 24kWp of solar panels that are in the
process of being upgraded to 28kWp. Excess energy collected is put back into the battery bank meaning that
generators are switched off for around 12 hours a day. On this project the island are working with REC and
Contained Energy. Designing a new sensor that will turn off ceiling fans when no one is around, should help
reduce the loads even further.
As always with island resorts, water is a precious resource and the reduction of water consumption is a key
area of focus. Nikoi has to produce all of its own water and the process of filtering, treating and pressurising it
accounts for about a third of total energy use. Highly efficient shower heads reduced total water consumption
by 20%. Auto-stop faucets also had a dramatic impact on water consumption. One of Nikoi’s top innovations
when it comes to water use is using the reject water from the desalination unit to top up the salt water
swimming pool. This prevents the need for fresh water to be produced for the pool and salt being imported.
Education & training
Nikoi believes that staff training is the key to staff retention (which is evident in the service provided). Many
current staff began working as unskilled labour but by offering them training and opportunities in other
departments they have grown to have an excellent understanding of the business and be very loyal
employees. Nikoi runs staff training sessions in barista, rock climbing, mixology, scuba, nature, sailing,
windsurfing, tennis, cooking, first aid, life saving, wine training and many others areas.
Protection of the local marine environment is also a top priority for Nikoi. Since 2011 a full time Marine
Biologist has been surveying the surrounding reefs and marine habitat and the goal is to establish a Marine
Conservation Area including a No Take Zone – the island is currently educating locals about the importance of
Nikoi’s main community programs are run through The Island Foundation (see above). In addition to the
Foundation’s work Nikoi supports many local businesses and have even helped several get established. The
resort have played a key role in protecting the local Orang Laut (sea nomads) through opening a dialogue
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