The Sustainable Pumpkin Island

There is a growing desire for guest experiences which are both sustainable and authentic. Environmental concerns at home are helping to drive the popularity for eco-friendly hotels and resorts. 

In the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, hotel owners Wayne & Laureth have for ten years welcomed guests to Pumpkin Island and more recently Elysian Island. EP spoke to the hoteliers about how they create sustainable islands which tap into the ever-growing desire for reconnecting with nature in a sustainable way.

Wayne and Laureth have strong experience in providing guests with hotel stays that are built on a commitment to environmental sustainability and best practice. Their small family owned company, Sojourn Retreats purchased Pumpkin Island in 2003 and this year they added a further island, now named Elysian Island.

Laureth describes the islands, “Both properties have been designed for guests who have a love of relaxed seaside living. Set in inimitable locations, they are destinations which should make you feel worlds away from reality.”

The duo know that modern travellers do require more from there hotel stays and often desire locations which hold strong environmental commitments. “As well as the privacy and serenity of Pumpkin Island it is also Australia’s first beyond carbon neutral certified island and has been chosen as the Queensland Governments Tourism Champion for Sustainability and Climate Change Action. The vision for Elysian Island is very much in line with the accomplishments of Pumpkin Island in terms of sustainability and immersion in nature, but with a more luxurious approach. Elysian will be marketed as all-inclusive resort with a day spa and an element of wellness.”

“Over the past 15 years, our love of the ocean, art and all things beautiful have inspired the style of the retreats and our combined passion for the environment and renewable energy have set the tone for the ethos and operational structures of all the properties. We believe our future will continue to see expansion as the demand for tranquil sustainable escapes increases.”

How did the sustainable process begin? “For us it was a gradual process starting with small scale solar panels and battery banks to power the LED lights and water pumps in the cottages when we just did not want the drone of a diesel generator in the background on this beautiful tropical island. One thing leads to another and now we are fully committed to protecting, nurturing and maintaining the critical balance between the resort and the diverse eco-system of Pumpkin Island and its surrounding waters. Reducing the island’s carbon footprint as much as possible is one of the primary goals the island is working towards. We have always felt that it was of the utmost importance to take the necessary steps to not only protect and preserve our natural assets, but also to minimise the impact we may have on them. As a business that relies on visitors to one of these natural areas and therefore its success, it is even more critical for us to take the necessary action. If we choose not to, not only will be see negative impact on our bottom-line in the short to medium term, but we will also become complicit in the degradation of nature in the longer term.”

It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but the hoteliers are focus on sharing their knowledge of these activities and hope guests will take some of the actions onboard and make small changes in their own lives.

One of the biggest challenges they have faced is the high costs of operating on an island and possible adverse weather but also not having access to the same services that mainland businesses or residents have.

What do they think the future has in store? “I think that meaningful responsible travel has become more important to visitors who want to visit places of great natural beauty with minimal impact and be able to leave in good conscience knowing the place they have visited would not be worse off because of their tourism dollars. People are also becoming more aware of the impacts of climate change, pollution (i.e. banning single use plastic revolution) and prefer to support businesses who take meaningful action in these areas. We have certainly noticed an increase in our own occupancy related to sustainability. The connection to nature contributes to a greater experience we believe whilst traveling.”

Wayne & Laureth are clearly committed to protecting, nurturing and maintaining the critical balance between the resorts and the diverse eco-system of the islands and its surrounding waters.

As well as working towards the eventual offset of their remaining carbon footprint through energy and water, they are also committed to waste, which can be challenging on an island. “To reduce our waste to a minimum, guest are encouraged to recycle on the island. Recyclable cans, paper / cardboard and co-mingled bins are provided at the marina on the mainland. Compost bins are provided in all cottages and food scraps are composted in larger bins in the herb garden.

Both islands are built on strong principles and its clear the hotel owners see a future where hospitality and tourism lead the charge for positively impacting climate change and sustainability revolution. Through small changes Wayne & Laureth are committed to ecotourism because it will bring increased financial benefit.