On 5th November 2018, Marriott Resort & Spa, the Tourism Authority of Thailand announced Merlin Beach as the winner of the Marine, Nature, and Heritage category of the Responsible Thailand Awards 2018. The award was presented by His Excellency Mr. Weerasak Kosurat, Minister of Tourism and Sports at World Travel Market in London. The recognition is a result of two IUCN-Marriott partnership projects, the Reef Education Centre and Butterfly Sanctuary, both aimed at educating visitors, and raising awareness about local biodiversity.
In partnership with IUCN and Sea Bees Diving, Marriott Resorts established the onsite Reef Education Center in 2016 to educate guests about reef ecosystems, marine life and proper reef etiquette. The partners also work together to conserve and restore the unique reef ecosystem in front of the hotel.
The “house reef” is one of the healthiest nearshore coral reefs in Phuket, with high coral cover and diversity, which recruits a range of fish species and other reef-dependent organisms.
The Merlin Butterfly Sanctuary, which was established in 2017, features host plants for caterpillars, and nectar plants for butterflies to feed on. Minimal netting allows the butterflies to come and go freely, and an enclosed area serves as a breeding space. The sanctuary can be explored independently by hotel guests or by joining a daily guided tour. Visitors who are not resort guests can visit the sanctuary for a small fee.
IUCN and Marriott have been in partnership since 2013, and are working together to protect the environment and support Thailand’s local communities through mangrove restoration, the use of sustainable seafood sources and local procurement practices in Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui and Rayong. To date, the partnership has restored over 16 hectares of mangrove forests, purchased over 6.3 million Baht worth of responsible seafood and handicrafts from local communities and contributed to improving the livelihoods of over 70 families.
The partnership is currently also working toward tackling the plastic pollution crisis at Marriott resorts in Central and Southern Thailand by eliminating single-use plastics such as straws and plastic bottles and replacing them with reusable alternatives. IUCN is also working with Marriott to train staff members in reducing their single-use plastic consumption.
The IUCN-Marriott partnership takes a holistic approach to conservation and education amongst local and international visitors, allowing for an increased understanding of biodiversity and the environment.
This engagement falls under the wider umbrella of Marriott's “Serve 360” initiative.
For IUCN, the partnership contributes to the organisation’s goal to increase private sector investment in biodiversity conservation and to support businesses in adopting more responsible practices.
This award demonstrates the strength of the ongoing activities being undertaken through the IUCN-Marriott partnership.