A pioneer of Thailand’s boutique luxury hotel industry, Akaryn group’s Anchalika Kijkanakorn has just opened her country’s first plastic-free hotel, showing that high-end doesn’t need to come at a cost to the earth.
Thanks to Thailand’s leading business woman Anchalika Kijkanakorn, you can now spend a night in a hotel where amenities are made out of cornstarch and stainless steel water bottles are presented on arrival. Previously a finance executive, Anchalika entered the hospitality world in 2003, turning her family’s beachside resort into Thailand’s first beacon of barefoot luxury. Now, she’s set on revolutionising the hotel industry again, this time by taking it plastic-free.
After years of travelling and working on different continents in her previous job in finance, Anchalika was inspired to start her own boutique hotel – one of Thailand’s first. “Back then, the big brands and companies dominated the market,” she remembers. “I struggled to find a hotel that amplified my experience or the place I was visiting. The concept of boutique or small luxury hotels was not the norm in Thailand.” First on her list was the revamp of her family’s beachside resort which she relaunched in 2003 as the Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi. Now, Anchalika sits at the head of the Akaryn group, a hotel brand with several locations across Thailand and beyond that is known for its own brand of relaxed luxury. “The whole point is for guests not to have to go anywhere else. The hotel will exemplify the place they are visiting in its own unique way,” she explains of their ethos. “I want to have the luxury of being barefoot.” Alongside a dedication to relaxed luxury, Anchalika has also focused on the environment, launching the Pure Blue Foundation in 2010 to raise funds and spearhead initiatives for marine conservation. Now, the two strands of her life have come together in Akrya TasSukhumvit, Thailand’s first plastic-free hotel.
From day one, Anchalika was determined that Akaryn Hotel Group would be part of the solution, not the problem. “We have always worked on environmental projects such as protecting endangered marine turtles and coral reefs in Koh Samui. I started to see how it all made sense and one thing led to another. I am determined to lead the change in this industry.” Launched in May 2018, the Akyra Tas Hotel Sukhumvit in Bangkok certainly does that. It’s the first in Thailand to launch without single-use plastic in its rooms, reception areas and F&B outlets. “The eco-friendly approach has always been a part of our DNA since we started 15 years ago. Now, it’s time to go the extra mile and extend the initiative to guests as well,” says Anchalika.
The new 50-room Bangkok hotel proves that luxury can be delivered without harm being caused to the environment. Each room comes with locally made celadon containers filled with essential oil-based products. Biodegradable bin bags and reusable shopping baskets are placed in all the rooms to avoid guests having to use plastic bags. The hotel’s restaurant and rooftop pool bar provide the perfect place for guests to relax and sip on a straw-free cocktail. However, although huge effort has been put in place to ensure that the hotel is as plastic free as possible, those sustainability discussions have not reached the supply chain. “When suppliers deliver our food, it still comes in plastic bags,” explains Anchalika. “This is a long term change to get everyone committed.”
It’s a change, however, that’s on the march. Inspired by Akaryn Group’s determination, gym founder Richard Cohen of the Lab has recently decided to become the first company to collaborate with Pure Blue Foundation’s plastic-free initiative. For Anchalika, although guests may not choose Akyra Tas Sukhumvit hotel based on its sustainability initiatives, what matters is the knowledge that they have reduced their carbon footprint. “I am not saying that I don’t think becoming a single plastic-free hotel will win you the business. I don’t do it for that. But I think the goodwill it carries is valuable.” Looking forward, she hopes the Thai government and media will get behind sustainable initiatives to increase awareness. Showing the way with a high profile, a high-end hotel like Akyra Tas Sukhumvit is a great way to start.