Papua Expeditions, Indonesia – Most Inspiring Tour Operator

finalist[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Papua Expeditions for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Finalist. This award recognizes the tour operator that excels in all of the above categories by taking into consideration all the key principles of responsible tourism (maximum positive impacts to the local community and minimum negative impacts to the environment) and awards innovation for this most inspiring responsible tourism business of the year.

Papua Expeditions offers keened-out, professionally guided birding, general wildlife, hiking and trekking expeditions in New Guinea’s Wild West. Permanently based in West Papua, their ecotourism programme focuses exclusively on the little-known western half of New Guinea under Indonesian administration.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Excellent policy in regards to attracting local people, not sending guests to ceremonies, all round excellent responsible business model.
  • A good example of responsible tourism business in a destination that face various external challenges in terms of business conditions.
  • An inspiring model demonstrating that responsible business ethics and sustainability practices are important no matter what.
  • “Learning while doing” training approach to support local capacity building.
  • 100% local staff.
  • Strong stance against exploitation of children.
  • Focus on growing regional client base as a concrete example of positive and business-focused climate action.
  • Within a remarkable and largely undiscovered destination, provides inspiring management, contributes to community engagement and development, cultural preservation and the protection of natural areas and wildlife conservation.

Inspiring Management

  • Provide information on web, pre-tour guide, and through interaction on tours on sustainable tourism approaches.
  • Internal environmental and social impact assessments.
  • Operates in a corrupt and poor region and maintains policy on clean governance, following ‘legal mass’ to adopt most appropriate solution under conflicting circumstances.
  • Trains staff ‘learning while doing’.
  • Consults tribal leaders about fluid land ownership laws to ensure their accommodation suppliers are compliant.
  • Published article on practice in eco tourism publications to inspire others.
  • 2010 Highly Commended Wild Asia RT Awards.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Provide ‘respectful usage’ fee to local communities for conservation.
  • Prevent ‘pay and go’ attitude and have long term MOU agreement with host communities to make benefits more long lasting.
  • Established Cenderawasih Fund for Community Development, 10% net profit donated. Funds small scale initiatives e.g. health care, social conflict resolution, relief, education.
  • 100% local workforce, 100% local management.
  • Yearly staff review and identify training needs.
  • Purchase local organic fresh produce and adhere to local market fares, to prevent tourist inflation which results in local people out-competed.
  • Support like-minded businesses wherever possible.
  • Encourage guests to buy local services not included in activities e.g. handicrafts.
  • Employ up to 80 different day-workers per month, all of whom are entitled to ancestral land-rights and/or reside at the destinations within portfolio, all receive the same basic training through ‘learning while doing’.
  • Facilitate ‘inter-cultural exchanges’ of motivated day-workers between destinations, it provides networking and possibilities for learning from culturally different Papuans. Proved beneficial toward character- and leadership-building.
  • Carefully selected city hotels with policies against sexual exploitation of children.
  • Do what they can to promote women’s rights and equality but can prove challenging given cultural context.
  • Staff exceed provincial minimum wage.
  • Tours are delivered by indigenous people so able to communicate after each tour feedback; bi-annual meets with land-owners and village elders.

Cultural Preservation

  • Do not engage guests with ceremonies as have strong reservations whether it adds value to local people. Rather they promote experiencing day-to-day life instead.
  • Always respects any prohibitions on visitation imposed by indigenous communities and closely follow their instructions where visitation is permitted.
  • Local language is provided in briefing.

Resource Efficiency

  • Oppose printed materials, online business.
  • Garbage prevention policy, non-recyclable waste is no more than 15g per guest per day.
  • Use of battery power or fire wood (local traditional methods) only in the field.
  • Office – energy efficient lighting and laptops, switch off policy.
  • Water usage is very low so little opportunity to reduce further.
  • Does not use carbon offsetting as remains controversial.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Encouraging more Australia guests (now about 70% of guests) rather than European or USA to reduce international travel.
  • Encourages locals against deforestation by bringing tourists to those areas because of those natural resources.
  • Maximise use of public transport or use energy efficient vehicles if hired.
  • 5 year pilot project in Raja Ampat – agreement with customary landowners in a bid to preserve the entire Orobiai River catchment (92 sq km of virtually untouched primary forest, set in visually stunning topography, and globally threatened wildlife).
  • Community Conservation and Ecotourism Agreement (CCEA) seals direct structured payments by Papua Expeditions to customary land-holding groups on Waigeo in return for carefully defined and monitored conservation and education outcomes.
  • Indigenous guides have clear understanding of conservation issues and communicate with guests.
  • Provide birding guidelines to prevent disturbance.
  • Improved access through close consultation and assistance from indigenous communities, improved more than sixty kilometres of trails across the destinations.

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