«I hope they see that our model is the future.»
In his 16 years of service for Ecolodge Bukit Lawang, Assistant Manager Zefri Chandra has witnessed developments and changes not only within the facility, but also within the eco-tourism spot as a whole. He believes that the sustainable approach of the Ecolodge represents the future of tourism in the village.
Pak Zefri, you have been working in the Ecolodge Bukit Lawang for a long time. What is your story and what has changed since you started here?
I have been working here since 1994 and started as a waiter. At that time the facility was not yet part of PPLH Bohorok; I worked under the former owner for five years. After Ecolodge started in 1999, I took further education and served in a lot of different positions here. I worked with the garden-team, was a housekeeper and later a receptionist. Over the years I gathered a lot of experience and knowledge, especially at schools for hospitality and customer services in Medan as well as in Berastagi. Finally, I was promoted as an assistant manager.
«The concept of sustainable tourism has definitely had an influence on the facility. »
What changed during the 16 years of service for Ecolodge Bukit Lawang?
Oh, things have changed considerably over the past years. The concept of sustainable tourism has definitely had an influence on the facility. Moreover, additional buildings have been built, like the Thomas Leaf Monkey Lodges in 2010 and most recently, the Kapal Bambu restaurant.
What are your responsibilities as assistant manager?
I support General Manager Bobi Chandra and take care of operational processes, such as the controlling of reservations and room division supervision. I keep everything running, so our guests can enjoy their stay from the reservation until the check-out.
Quality of Service is a crucial aspect of your responsibilities. What can the guests expect when they stay in the Ecolodge?
We do not only provide our guests with a unique lush garden, charming and comfortable rooms, a high level of service or a delicious cuisine but also offer the opportunity to give a personal statement in support of sustainable tourism: In staying in the green heart of Sumatra, you are directly contributing to the conservation of Ecosystem Leuser and the endangered Sumatran orangutan. All proceeds are donated to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.
Ecolodge Bukit Lawang drives and promotes sustainable tourism in Bukit Lawang. What are the key issues when we talk about eco-tourism?
We are committed to cultivating a thrifty resource-management, especially in the kitchen, and provide our guests with healthy and organic food (Interview Chef Sitepu). Further, we have implemented different measures which enhance the sustainability of Ecolodge Bukit Lawang and strengthen its efforts for tourism that is in harmony with nature. First, we separate organic and non-organic leftovers throughout the Ecolodge, including those from our kitchen. The organic leftovers are used as compost and provide the garden and the Eco-farming Centre with fertilizer. Second, our bio-filtration plant cleans the water from the kitchen, laundry and the lodges before it flows into the Bohorok river. Third, we provide our guests with informative material and other publications about the rainforest and its inhabitants. We also offer education tours to local schools and guests in collaboration with PPLH Bohorok in order to increase awareness of the importance of having an intact ecosystem in the region.
I assume that 75% of the local people’s livelihoods come from the tourism in Bukit Lawang and I hope they see that our model is the future.
Where can the tourism in Bukit Lawang still improve its contribution to tourism that is in harmony with its environment?
I think Ecolodge Bukit Lawang holds a pioneering role that is crucial, but we alone cannot overcome the problems and difficulties we are still facing here. The awareness and the knowledge of local people and also some tourists require further efforts. It is essential that other hotels and the community also care for the environment and provide orangutan treks that are respectful of the animals. I think without their commitment it is difficult to improve the sustainability of the tourism in Bukit Lawang on a long-term scale. It is crucial for our community to work on these issues, because without improving the current system we could damage the image of the tourism location. But, I am confident that people see that our well-being depends on a thriving tourism. I assume that 75% of the local people’s livelihoods come from the tourism in Bukit Lawang and I hope they see that our model is the future.