Following Karen Merrick joining the Song Saa Private Island team as their new General Manager, we caught up with the former GM of Soneva Fushi to congratulate her, gain a glimpse into life at Song Saa and discover what ‘treading lightly’ means to her.
Firstly, congratulations on joining the Song Saa family. What attracted you to the island?
I have spent many years living and working in Maldives and have seen first hand the impact of tourism on an incredibly fragile ecosystem and once you understand the impact, you are obliged to work towards doing whatever you can in your work and personal life to reduce your footprint. I was very aware of the Song Saa ethos on reducing impact and achieving “luxury that treads lightly”. When I was asked would I be interested, I jumped at the chance!
In your own words, what do you do?
Basically I run about barefoot all day…I tend to be hands on and I always hope to inspire and lead by not taking myself too seriously and allowing my teams to have fun with the guests to create inspiring and emotional memories of their time at Song Saa that will remain long after they leave us.
What initiatives or projects at Song Saa really excite you?
The development of our Khmer team on the island to eventually one day run their own property, that is the aim of all of the expats. Our role is to open doors of opportunity for them in a safe environment and nurture them to believe in themselves and Song Saa’s sustainable philosophy. All our projects excite me but people development is my passion.
What does sustainable luxury mean to you?
Great question and one I have answered in many different ways over the years, but essentially it comes down to a choice and it has nothing to do with money, as “luxury” is relevant to the aspirations of the individual. For me it’s the conscious choice I make in how I live/enjoy my life…it’s those quiet moments listening to palm trees or catching a glimpse of a hermit crab crossing my path, or the night sky twinkling down on me. To my guests, it might be time with the family, eating a salad from Chef’s garden that has traveled 5 meters, rather than 5000 miles, or watching the Cambodian sunset while sitting on our bridge to Koh Bong island (our nature reserve)… or even catching a glimpse of one of our Great Hornbills. These are the gifts to pass down to our children.
Why is responsible travel so important?
For all the reasons I have mentioned, we have to be conscious about our impact and try wherever we can to be ‘mindful’ of the choices we make .
What’s the best part of your job?
Watching our team evolve …. as well as the guests, who in the first few days are not quite sure of taking their shoes off or whether it’s okay to ‘dress down’ for dinner… slowly they find their Song Saa rhythm….
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain!” This changed the way I saw myself and how I motivated/managed others.
Describe yourself in three words: Tenacious, Creative and (hopefully) Inspiring
To find out more about Song Saa, and why they have been awarded the Butterfly Mark, visit their brand page