Hotelier of the Year
Niko Suyasa – STEP UbudTraining Hotel, Bali, Indonesia
Niko Suyasajuggles all operations of STEP UbudTraining Hotel and teaches front office skills to hundreds of students every week. For his 80 hour plus work week, Niko is paid around $200 a month – not nearly enough to support his family.
Niko is well educated and experienced in all aspects of hospitality. Back in 2004, Niko was earning a good salary as the General Manager of a four star resort in Bali. What made him give up the easy life for a hard one?
Mainly frustration. Niko wanted to realise a fairer model of tourism where local people would benefit and their environment would be protected. While his students’ families were often too poor to pay the $15 a month school fees or to seek medical help when ill, guests in his hotel would think nothing of spending $15 on a drink.
There was also the frustration of seeing his island home being destroyed by tourism. Today, over half of Bali’s rivers have dried up, leaving farmers unable to grow food for their families. Tourists produce around five times as much waste as locals and use 100 times more water. Bali’s infrastructure is inadequate to deal with the sewage and waste created by tourists.
Niko’s idea was to build a hotel that would exemplify environmentally-sustainable tourism and generate funds to improve educational opportunities and access to health care for the local people. It has taken 12 years of blood, sweat, and tears to build STEP. As donations dribbled in, another wall or coat of paint was added. STEP now has 8 large guest rooms and a restaurant to seat up to 50 people. STEP will never win architectural awards but the view from the unfinished concrete rooftop is inspirational.
STEP is perhaps the only hotel in the world that was built solely by donations. Many volunteers from Europe and high school students from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China continue to work alongside Balinese students to get STEP to full operational level. From day one, Niko has orchestrated every fund-raiser, every working bee and every meeting. Without his tireless dedication, STEP would never have happened.
What really makes Niko worthy of the title “Hotelier of the Year” is his personal sacrifice for the sake of his students and the steps he is taking to make a better world.
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