by Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, Sri Lanka
At Cinnamon, Inspired Living means that everyone starting from our guests to our neighbours and every stakeholder of the Cinnamon offering is encouraged to live life to the fullest, be inspired by vibrant experiences and awakened to the potential of sustainable living.
While Sri Lanka gets worldwide attention drawn to its natural world, responsible tourists flock to experience Sri Lanka’s jewels in the wild thus, it is imperative to develop a sustainable model to showcase our stewardship towards environment and conservation for which we bagged the title ‘Best Wildlife and Marine Tourism Service Provider’ at the PATA InSPIRE Awards 2015. As one of the leading hospitality chains in Sri Lanka, Cinnamon is honoured to showcase Sri Lanka’s natural world as a sustainable tourism product.
On the other hand, we are strongly committed to the seamless integration of sustainability throughout our value chain. Our approach is based on the triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social performance, and we conduct our operations in a manner that intersects advantageously with people and environments.
In the given context, we have taken a two-pronged approach in promoting sustainable tourism; on one hand, as an experience provider, highlighting iconic species such as Leopard, Elephant, Whale, Primates, Birding and dedicated photography tours to collectively promote the island’s natural diversity. As the other core purpose, we engage in conservation and awareness initiatives that help protect and sustain natural environments and uplift livelihoods in geographical areas we operate in.
As a leisure industry operator, one of our most unique propositions is the natural environment and bio-diversity. We are aware however, that climate change, natural disasters and the depletion of natural resources can have a substantial impact on our operations over the long term. With this in mind, we developed a comprehensive environmental management policy that incorporates plans to mitigate this risk. Some of these initiatives include the use of renewable energy to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions while we consistently seek to refine and improve our environmental disclosures and in doing so, we sought to discuss the performance of our material impacts with particular focus on consumption per guest night. Over the past few years Cinnamon’s resort hotels have reduced its Energy consumption by 29.5%, Carbon foot print by 14.1% and water consumption by 10.4% per guest night basis.
As part of our conservation initiatives, Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts together with Nature Trails, the wildlife and eco-tourism arm pioneered three key projects which focus on creating common ground with the hope of sustaining our diverse ecosystem.
Project Leopard and Research, an on-going project in its fifth year of operation at Cinnamon Wild, Project Leopard has dual objectives of supporting the livelihoods of cattle farmers while protecting the leopard population living along the boundaries of the Yala National Park. To date, we have distributed 50 cattle pens to farmers, enabling them to protect their cattle from leopards in the area. The effort went on to win the Davis Award for peace in 2014 at the University of Clark, USA. We were also awarded a grant of US$ 8000 in assistance to further expand the distribution of steel pens. This project is supervised and deployed by our passionate Nature Trails naturalists housed within the resort. In order to assist In data collation as animal distribution, camera traps were deployed in the Yala National Park Block 1 capturing images of the leopards in order to estimate the leopard population using the ‘capture-recapture’ methodology. Random points were picked using maps and 28 remote infrared trap cameras running automatically to provide 24 hour surveillance. The collected images were then used by our team of naturalists to determine the age structure, sex ratios of the animals and the territories owned by these illusive cats. These collated data were used in identification of worthy farmers living in the periphery of the Cinnamon Resort located in Yala – Cinnamon Wild Yala.
The Cinnamon Elephant Project is a collaborative effort between Cinnamon and the Centre for Conservation and Research. It breaks new ground in developing elephant-viewing based tourism and taking it to a higher level through the integration of research into the tourism arena. Under this programme, elephants are individually identified based on their morphological characters and their life stories followed by the naturalists at Nature Trails. This information is shared with visitors while on safari and at Cinnamon Lodge Habarana, through an in-house elephant research desk, enabling guests to obtain a unique and enriching experience. In addition, demographic, health and behavioural data is collected to provide baseline population data, enable monitoring of the elephants’ well-being and contribute to the scientific knowledge of Asian elephants. The project aims to benefit science and tourism, and contribute to the long term conservation of the Asian elephant. The project will also track some of the smaller elephant herds by using high tech satellite collars throughout the year even after the annual gathering in August disperses. This is a second phase of the study that helps to understand the seasonal movement of the elephant herds that are part of the larger gathering.
Project Wild Blue is a pioneering venture, an initiative aimed at studying and preserving the Blue Whale population of Sri Lanka. The innovative public science project encourages the general public to share their images and information on a public platform, using social media tools such as Flickr and other on-line catalogues. Photo identification is used to identify whales based on unique markings on the tail fluke of the whale, allowing the individuals to be catalogued effectively. Initiated in the North Eastern coast, the project was extended to other coastal areas in the Southern region. The project has already made astounding discoveries with over 50 unique blue whales being catalogued. With time it is anticipated that the project could reveal much about the lifestyles of the whales, such as population numbers, diet and travel patterns. By engaging the local communities and public in this venture, we seek to instil a sense of stewardship in the minds of the public towards the unique biodiversity to bring all local communities together for further discoveries and knowledge sharing. The project also supports the livelihoods of the local communities as boats are supplied by the community with experienced boatmen in charge of these. Financial support has also been provided to these fishermen to commence their business as official boat suppliers for the Project and the whale and dolphin watching experience offered to guests.
Additionally, based at Cinnamon’s resort hotels – resort level, reef restoration, beach enhancement projects, religious undertakings, rainforest clean-ups are conducted on a small scale to uplift and protect the receding wealth of Mother Nature.
Moreover, our philosophy is to involve the community in all our experiential offerings, while we focus on providing our guests with first-class holiday experiences. This has enabled us in creating shared economies where we as a corporate entity is committed to enhance and uplift livelihoods of our service partners through the emergence of sustainable tourism. We empower the local communities to contribute to the country’s gross domestic product which reciprocates back to the local village folk in developing their lifestyles and family to better living standards. Through this, we assist in reducing poverty, generate employment and promote sustainable use of local natural resources at its optimum.
To achieve this, we have created a series of excursions such as Village treks, boat rides, authentic Sri Lanka cottage meals, jeepdrives to national parks and pioneered the launch and discovery of the whale watching experience in the east and south coast. This too facilitated direct partnerships with village community around the respective properties while all health and safety regulations are assessed by Cinnamon’s team of field naturalists. Engaging with local communities and making them an essential part of the cycle is very much a part of how we do business while we inspire entrepreneurship and inculcate sustainable practices in a way that it is mutually beneficial to stakeholders involved in the creation of all service offerings.
As a brand, Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts have identified the need for sustainable development in tourism and establishing the correlation of our environment and tourism. Thus, to achieve all of the above, as a corporate entity and a lifestyle brand, we need to at all times ensure that the funding is in place to reach this balance. As an entity which is a subsidiary of the number of blue chip company in Sri Lanka, John Keells PLC – Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts has the backing of the John Keells Foundation along with other partnered beneficiaries such as Jonathan and Angela Scott, Paul Goldstein of Exodus Travel UK, Jon McCormack, Land Rover Sri Lanka and Abercrombie and Kent Philanthropy all our sustainable initiatives highlighted have been successful and benefits the biodiversity and the livelihoods of the local communities in the long run.
Our lifecycle evolves around entirely on the biodiversity hence, in order for a country to be rich in its experiences which we offer to the rest of the world who flocks to explore the greatness of the country, we as a brand needs to inculcate mutual respect and focus on reciprocal benefits for humans as well as all living beings to achieve a win-win situation that will place our country on the global map for not merely tourism but also as a civilization that honours mother nature. We believe that biodiversity is humanities life assurance and protecting this is a responsibility we take on for many generations to come.