What with travel and movement restrictions worldwide by the coronavirus pandemic, the hospitality and travel industry is undoubtedly one of the most impacted. But while many hotels struggle to stay afloat and running despite empty rooms and cancelled reservations, one company in Sabah is proving that it pays to diversify.
Formed in 2007 in Kota Kinabalu, Echo Resorts – a family business which owns Gayana Marine Resort, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Borneo Eagle Resort – is keeping busy amidst the worldwide pandemic. Founded on the principles of family and community values, it has a wide range of interests covering hospitality, environmental conservation and wellness – and while its hotel division is not operating due to global travel restrictions and the Movement Control Order in Malaysia, it’s business as usual for the other divisions.
Organic Food Supply
Its Borneo Eco Fish Farm by Bayu Aquaculture Sdn Bhd and Green-Os organic vegetable farm has seen a rise in orders from consumers and restaurants since the pandemic began. The fish farm rears an assortment of fish and prawns, including the Backcross Grouper Fish and the Echo Grouper, a hybrid produced by back-cross of a male giant grouper and a female hybrid grouper. The farm adopts environmentally friendly practices, including chemical and antibiotic-free organic feed, to ensure product quality and safety.
Green-Os organic vegetables, locally farmed without the use of pesticides or chemicals, is popular for its variety of organic vegetables grown in healthy, fertile soil created by quality compost and organic fertilizer.
“As a result of the Movement Control Order and a conscious desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle in the midst of this pandemic, we are seeing increasing delivery orders from the public. We are pleased that the public are recognizing the benefits of consuming natural, wholesome produce,” says Gillian Tan, Echo Resorts’ owner representative.
The supplies are also delivered to Alu Alu Kitchen, the group’s restaurant located in the city, which was opened with a mission to serve fresh, organic seafood and vegetables from the farms. Its talented Head Chef Ah Keong creates nourishing menus inspired by Chinese and Malaysian influences to bring out the fresh tastiness of the produce untainted by chemical fertilizers and obtained from sustainable sources. According to Tan, home orders placed at Alu Alu Kitchen has also increased significantly since February, with some families placing orders for the whole lockdown period.
Marine Ecology Research Centre – Corals, clams and seahorses
In the absence of visitors, the group’s environmental conservation arm, the award-winning Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) attached to Gayana Marine Resort, is devoting more time to research and development of its reef regeneration and giant clam propagation programmes, including caring for the Baby Giant Clam nursery. MERC’s successful efforts in the propagation of seven of the world’s giant clams found in Malaysian waters were recognized by the Malaysia Book of Records. The team has also expanded their R&D to include seahorses which have been overly harvested for supposed medicinal values. The recent births from two male seahorses have provided much excitement and encouragement into the behaviour of seahorses with the hope of increasing the seahorse population in the foreseeable future.
Health and Wellness
Reflecting the increasing current global awareness for health, Klinik Gayana and Gayana Pharma from Echo Resorts’ health and wellness division, are registering a higher demand for its supplements and medical services.
To keep employees safe and productive in this difficult time, the company has taken concerted action by providing training programmes, educational courses and encouraging voluntary work.
Tan says, “We understand it may take time for travel to return to a semi-normal state and we have decided that this is the perfect time to go back to basics and reinvest in education and training. It has always been our ethos to give back to the local staff, and this is a wonderful opportunity to take them back to school.”
With the temporary closure of Gayana Marine Resort, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Borneo Eagle Resort, 50 hotel employees are deployed to render support to Green-Os (organic vegetable farm), Borneo Eco Fish Farm by Bayu Aquaculture Sdn and Alu Alu Kitchen – aimed at helping them gain a deeper insight into different areas within the group’s approach.
Besides volunteering to man the three resorts during this lockdown period which meant sacrificing time away from their families, employees are also putting their time to good use by making 800 reusable masks for all ECHO staff.
Tan adds,” Employee welfare and wellbeing remain the very core of our business. No employee has been made redundant. These may be trying times, but it has also revealed the tenacity of our people and it has been beautiful seeing everyone rally together to weather this storm.”
As part of its community outreach during this time, Echo Resorts has also contributed towards 2,000 food packs to affected families in need on Pulau Gaya.