The founder of the eco-luxe resorts connects the dots between luxury and sustainability.
We dive into the world of luxury and sustainability with Andrew Dixon, the accidental hotelier and mastermind behind the stunning Nikoi Island and Cempedak Island resorts in Bintan. He spills the beans on how he stumbled into the hospitality industry and ended up crafting a one-of-a-kind sustainable haven.
Join us as we uncover the reasons behind his eco-friendly approach, his passion for cultivating an exceptional culture, and the meaningful impact his resort has on both guests and the environment.
5 things we discovered about Andrew Dixon
#1: Andrew was actually looking for a holiday house on the east coast of Bintan
Andrew initially worked in finance and banking when he arrived in Singapore. He needed an escape from the city on weekends and that’s when he stumbled upon the east coast of Bintan. He was blown away by the whole area, and he struck up a conversation with a guy who had some experience there. Next thing he knew, he was on the hunt to buy islands.
A few brave souls joined the adventure, and when they stumbled upon Nikoi Island, it was bigger than what he had in mind. But he couldn’t resist the opportunity. So, he gathered a few more pals, made the purchase, and started developing it. During the early days, they camped on the island and had insane weekends. That’s when a marketing friend insisted that Andrew needed a unique selling point.
The USP ended up being a private island escape, a getaway from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, and a place for people to reconnect with nature and experience simplicity. Andrew wasn’t a hotelier, but he knew what he wanted as a customer. So, he put himself in a customer’s shoes and built an experience he loved.
#2: Building a private island escape was a logistical rollercoaster
“The logistics were a nightmare”, Andrew shares. “We couldn’t even find the well we were promised. From organising camping trips to managing the project, it was one massive headache from day one.” But Andrew and his friends tackled it step by step. They had a guy on the ground guiding them, and despite some challenges, they found amazing local support.
Andrew was still working full-time, but he had a job winding down, which gave him a bit of extra time. He’d jet off to Singapore, researching sustainable building methods and sourcing technical stuff. It was a juggling act and a wild ride but Andrew says he won’t trade it for anything.
#3: Community, culture, conversation and commerce are the foundation of his businesses
Andrew and his team are part of the Long Run community, an organisation of 40 nature-based tourism businesses around the world committed to driving holistic sustainability.
The Long Run follows a framework called the four Cs: community, culture, conservation, and commerce. It’s similar to a sustainability model. What’s unique is the focus on culture. Other frameworks don’t really talk about that, but it’s important in the hospitality industry. They’re proud members, and they went through this audit to prove their sustainability claims.
#4: Andrew has never really tried to sell sustainability
Andrew says he’s certainly no visionary in terms of going down that route. It was driven more out of necessity. “Being immersed in nature, we wanted to have a positive impact. We saw the value in the property being pristine and focused on restoring it. So it was naturally in those circumstances that we should be sustainable. It just made sense.”
Andrew’s staff also goes to him for sustainable ideas. That led him to create a program called Green Leaders, where his team selects someone from each department who shows potential and wants to grow with the business. He’d explain his vision, telling them they could conceptualise ideas and proposals without any budget constraints. And they loved it! They started brainstorming their best ideas, and Andrew approved almost all of them.
“It’s amazing how these small changes empowered them and made a difference. And now, they’re even taking these concepts back to their families. It’s like a sustainability revolution, and it’s super powerful.”
#5: A business can’t be 100% sustainable from day one
With a solid framework and ethos in place, his team recognises you can’t become a sustainability superstar overnight. “It’s a journey. People sometimes claim they’ll be 100% sustainable right from the start, but that’s just unrealistic”, Andrew says.
“We’ll never reach that exact mark because we should aim to go above and beyond, making a positive impact. We’re getting there in many ways, but there’s always room for improvement. The Long Run has been a game-changer, helping us focus on what really matters instead of being all over the place. It’s like our roadmap to sustainability success.”
Discover more about Andrew’s inspiring journey on Launchpad’s Good Business podcast episode.