WINNER – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Community Engagement & Development
High on a hill in the Chiang Rai Province of northern Thailand, offers visitors intimate cultural experiences, whether a locally guided village tour, trek, or boating excursion down the mighty Mekong river. To ensure the lodge supports the needs of the surrounding Hmong and Lahu villages, Lanjia makes sure the communities are an active partner in all of their guest programs and development initiatives.
Before they even began building the founding team created a partnership with the Population and Community Association (PDA), an NGO already working within the local communities, which was instrumental in building a trusted partnership and allowed their projects to hit the ground running. Through PDA Lanjia Lodge learned quickly what the local communities needed, helping them visualize and create means of supporting existing projects like economic and environmental initiatives.
One of the biggest projects Lanjia Lodge supports is the Village Development Bank. For every guest, Lanjia donates 30 baht, which is deposited into the bank every three months creating a quarterly village income regardless of whether the lodge makes a profit. The staff have taken ownership of this project, realizing that more guests mean a healthier bank account, and make strides to ensure each guest has the best possible experience. They’ve even started voluntarily donating 30 baht out of their own monthly salary to the bank. In addition to the guest-dependent donations, the lodge gives 120,000 baht to the PDA every year.
The lodge takes a very hands-off approach to money management. After their donations are submitted the village committee takes over, using the money how they see fit. In the last year this included loans to villagers for household expenses, small business operations, and agricultural investments. Funds were also allocated for local cultural activities, such as a sports day and a New Year ceremony.
In addition to their involvement with the Village Development Bank, Lanjia Lodge also provides scholarships for four high school students, allowing them to attend a vocational school in Bangkok (which also includes English lessons) with the understanding they will return and use their new skills to help continue develop their village.
Lanjia Lodge is also dedicated to involving the local communities in environmental initiatives. They work closely with the Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU-CMU), a team of ecologists and research students in the Science Faculty of Chiang Mai University. FORRU-CMU has helped with technical training and applying their model to carry out Lanjia Lodge’s own reforestation project, which is taking place on a site donated to the King and has since become a ‘royal project’. Since the project started in 2008, hundreds of young plants have grown into strong trees.
In the future Lanjia Lodge hopes to expand their organic farm, currently used in preparing meals for lodge guests, into a community initiative. Their first step, educating the local communities about the health dangers associated with long term use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Their long term goal: create new dining experiences in which guests can become more involved with the local culture by dining in the private residences of community partners.
For more information about Lanjia Lodge, visit their website: http://www.asian-oasis.com/product/lanjia-lodge-hilltribe-discovery/
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