Is Sustainable Tourism Achievable in Asia?

Ipoh Presentation_Deborah Chan_Responsible Tourism

“Is sustainable tourism achievable in Asia?” that was the question posed by Deborah Chan, Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Associate at a seminar organized and attended by HFT Luzern, a Swiss tourism university. A group of 80 students from the university spent three weeks in Malaysia touring the peninsular and attending weekly seminars at satellite cities in Malaysia as they explored issues pertaining to tourism in Asia. At the seminar, Deborah was delighted to encounter passionate and initiated budding industry players in the hospitality field who were eager to learn, probe for answers and think out-of-the-box for solutions that plague the mass tourism scene.

The seminar was graced with leading tourism players from the private and government sector such as Diethelm Travel, YTL Group, Tourism Perak, Tourism Malaysia and Wild Asia each sharing their perspective, insight and challenges of tourism in Malaysia. Deborah shared an insightful presentation of the current perception of responsible tourism in Asia and presented case studies from which the students can glean from.

Deborah Chan_Ipoh Presentation_Responsible Tourism (1)So, with all the talk about sustainability and tourism, the tough question asked was…

“Is sustainability just a growing fad or a nice marketing gimmick? And can Asian operators adopt best practices that will keep the industry thriving for many more years to come?”

While many operators have jumped on the bandwagon and waved the ‘Go Green!’ flag, there are movers and shakers in the industry who are undeterred when it comes to creating positive impact. Wild Asia has received over 190 applications from 14 Asian countries in the past 8 years for their annual Responsible Tourism Awards. These applications are incredibly thorough and are benchmarked against the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) initially developed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

From these applications, Wild Asia have recognized and awarded 57 finalists and winners across Asia. Selected case studies were presented at the seminar in hope that their stories and examples would inspire young budding tourism professionals to create change from within the industry.

Deborah started the presentation with an unveiling of facts that acknowledged the tourism industry as a powerful driver in the global economy.

  • By 2020, a whopping 1.6 billion tourists will be making annual trips internationally (UNWTO);
  • In terms of gross economic power, tourism is in the same category as oil, energy, finance and agriculture;
  • At least one in ten people around the world is employed by the travel and hospitality industry;
  • Tourism creates $USD 3 billion in business every day!

As a result of this boom, tourism also produces a series of negative effects that are often side-lined, ignored or not talked about. These negative impacts include; environmental deterioration, loss of biodiversity, exploitation of local communities and corrosion of cultures and traditions.

However, not all is lost and tourism can be a force for change.

There are tourism players in Asia who have stepped up as a catalyst for change. For example, Lisu Lodge have gone over and beyond to engage and develop the local community in the hill tribes of northern Thailand through capacity building and employment, creation of sustainable secondary source of income and indigenous community led initiatives that are tourism related.

Soneva Resort, a luxury brand and innovator in sustainable tourism. Soneva supports clean water projects, an orphanage initiative and a hunger alleviation charity. They have helped implement a local ban on shark fishing, established a coral restoration project, and their innovative carbon calculator ensures they continuously strive for inspirational resource efficiency.

A Malaysian example that was quoted is Scuba Junkie, a dive operator based in beautiful Mabul Island off the east coast of Sabah. The company strives to be sensitive and have a positive effect on this unique area. Introducing the first rubbish collection scheme on the island, they are improving waste management and protecting their natural assets. They also run a Turtle Hatchery and are championing the Semporna Shark Sanctuary, in order to help save our seas.

Other case studies presented include Agri Tourism in India, El Nido Resorts in Philippines, Heritance Kandalama in Sri Lanka, Andaman Discoveries in Thailand and Nikoi Island in Indonesia.

Sustainability is not all about the operator, it’s about the traveler

Deborah Chan_Ipoh Presentation_Responsible Tourism (2)

“The main reason why I’m in hospitality is because I love to travel. I wouldn’t be in it if I didn’t enjoy seeing the world,” says Fabian Wilhelm. Sustainable tourism therefore needs to connect with the traveler. While operators are thinking of new ways to benefit the local community, preserve the environment and sustain the economy, they (operators) also need to think of new ways to involve the traveler and create exciting experiences that are out-of-the-box.

One thing for sure, social networks are powerful marketing tools that allow multi-dimensional conversations. An empowered, educated and informed traveler can act as a catalyst to spread the word to other travelers and potentially shake the industry to create new order in mass tourism’s modus operandi. The traveler therefore needs to experience the destination and be simultaneously educated with good travel practices that leave positive impact before they can speak up about sustainable tourism.

In conclusion, sustainable tourism is achievable in Asia, however this movement requires multi-stakeholder effort and a persistent push for it to gain enough momentum that will one day set in motion an avalanche of positive impact. Wild Asia hopes that in the short presentation given, more destination thinkers and movers will be enlightened to create more mindful ways of travel.

The Rainforest Ecolodge: Supporting Biodiversity in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001In year 2000 The Competitiveness Initiative (TCI) was launched by USAID at the invitation of the Government to enhance the potential of the tourism profile of Sri Lanka. Stakeholders of the tourism industry were clustered in the form of The Tourism Cluster (TTC), to increase competitiveness and to bring them together to develop joint initiatives that explored diversification of the industry. As such, TTC strategized targeting the higher‐end segments of the tourism market, through ecotourism.

A multi‐sector working group including the TTC, leading academia ‐including the University of Peradeniya and Colombo and the Forest Department ‐ was formed, with the goal of developing a model for future ecotourism in Sri Lanka. Proceeding further, in 2002, a location in the Sinharaja Division of the Enselwatte Estate in Deniyaya owned by Mathurata Plantations Pvt. Ltd. was selected, and an Prof Kotagama of University of Colombo initial investment for development was put‐together by nine companies including five leading tourism companies in Sri Lanka. TCI provided the required ecotourism expertise through Megan Epler Wood – Founder of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), and technical support for the implementation of the project.

The responsibility of facilitating this programme was assigned to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, under the guidance of Prema Cooray, the then Secretary‐General (2003‐2008). Planning of The Rainforest Ecolodge began in February 2006 and was opened to the public in January 2012.

Sri Lanka rainforest-ecolodgeThe Rainforest Ecolodge is situated in the Sinharaja Division of the Enselwatte Estate in Deniyaya. This plot of previously cultivated tea land, borders the south‐eastern fringe of the Sinharaja forest reserve, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site inscribed in 1988. The Sinharaja is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and a Biodiversity Hotspot as designated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All these titles highlight the importance of the forest reserve, and hence the location of the ecolodge, in terms of its biodiversity as well as its fragility. As such, in selecting this location, the management of the ecolodge has recognized the importance of committing to the conservation of its surroundings and promoting the cause through its development and operations.

Biodiversity of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve

The vegetation that predominates the Sinharaja forest reserve, belongs to the tropical (lower montane) wet evergreen forest type. This is a unique type of forest which is very low in abundance in a global context, and is the only piece of pristine forest that Sri Lanka can claim ownership to.

Most of the plant species present in this forest is considered ‘Rare’ and over 60% of these species display endemicity, or in other words, is prevalent only in this particular locality. This unique vegetation type therefore also plays host to a unique collection of faunal species which consists of over 90% of Sri Lanka’s endemic bird species and over 50% of endemic butterflies, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians.

Some Globally Threatened Species found at the Rainforest Ecolodge site:

  • Urocissa ornate – Common names: Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Kehi Bella
  • Prionailurus viverrinus – Common names: Fishing Cat, Handun Diviya, Koddy Pulli
  • Ratufa macroura – Common names: Giant Squirrel, Dandu Lena, Mali Anil
  • Loris Tardigradus – Common names: Red Slender Loris, Una Hapuluwa, Thevangu
  • Macaca sinica – Common names: Toque Monkey, Rilawa, Kurangu
  • Trachypithecus vetulus – Common names: Purple faced Leaf Monkey, Kalu Wandura, Mundi

Sri Lanka - Bird The part of the fringe forest with which The Rainforest Ecolodge comes into contact with, displays another unique feature in which it hosts flocks of birds – singular and mixed species –that seem to thrive in this particular zone where the tropical forest meets the monoculture tea plantation.

A Training Manual for Nature Interpreters has also been put‐together by The Rainforest Ecolodge for the benefit of the staff, guests and visitors. This is the first time such a publication has been developed by an Ecolodge in Sri Lanka to build capacity and increase awareness about the Ecolodge and the Sinharaja forest reserve.

Innovative multisector approach

This first major collaborated public‐private sector initiative was led by leading leisure corporates. The innovative funding mechanism that employed public private partnership also had its advantages and disadvantages but led the way to the application of global best practices which are now, visible learning tools of this model initiative.

Community development initiatives

The Rainforest Ecolodge’s extensive development initiatives which began with the USAID’s GDA‐supported SENCE program in 2005 are still active and ongoing as a part of the ecolodge’s routine operations. Under the SENCE program, 35 brand new residential units were constructed for members of the community who were requested to relocate when the area with their existing homesteads was selected for the construction of the ecolodge. In addition to these, buildings purposed for a crèche, a primary school and a healthcare center were also constructed for the benefit of the community members.

The SENCE program also supported the execution of a number of studies including scientific and socio‐economic surveys to gauge the relevant existing conditions and challenges for further development. Observations recorded during these surveys and stated recommendations were converted into actions through the implementation of numerous workshops, health clinics and practical sessions that involved almost 100 individuals from the surrounding community. Such workshops on various topics are still being facilitated by the ecolodge upon requests from the community.

The Rainforest Ecolodge also played a key role in ensuring the community’s access to energy and potable water resources as well as public transportation and road infrastructure. Human resources required at the ecolodge during construction, and now during operations have been recruited from

Asia’s Best Responsible Tourism Businesses Revealed

2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winners

The seventh Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards revealed its six prestigious winners at Asia’s biggest business-to-business travel trade show, ITB Asia, today (Friday 25th October) in Singapore. From all corners of the region, this year’s winners represent leaders in sustainability, each showcasing how the tourism industry can be a force for good. These businesses are inspirational examples of socially and environmentally responsible companies, making a big positive difference in the destinations they operate within.

Best in Community Engagement and Development

This award recognizes exceptional commitment to supporting the local community and economy in which the business operates.

Workplace staff_small business opportunityWinner: Lisu Lodge, Thailand

Named after the Lisu hill tribe village that is found near the lodge, Lisu Lodge is part of a communitybased project that aims to conserve the natural heritage of the hill tribes of northern Thailand. Lisu Lodge has demonstrated an inspirational commitment to creating a sustainable local economy through
capacity building and employment, empowering women’s groups through the conservation of heritage crafts and contributes to a local development fund for community initiatives led by indigenous communities.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Bali CoBTA, Indonesia

Best in Cultural Preservation

This award recognizes engagement and efforts by tourism businesses in preserving, enhancing and promoting local cultures and heritage.

1.Apani Dhani - central hutWinner: Apani Dhani, India

Apani Dhani is based in the heart of Rajasthan. They offer eco-friendly accommodation, excursions and activities with locals such as cooking lessons, initiation to traditional arts and crafts. Staying will enable travellers to discover daily life and traditions of rural India. Apani Dhani’s multifaceted cultural mission is based on engaging the community on many levels, supporting local artisans and cottage industries, and campaigning for the protection of historical buildings.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Sampran Riverside, Thailand

Best in Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

This award recognizes tourism businesses’ consideration of their local environment and biodiversity by actively supporting and protecting their natural assets.

Scuba Junkie presentationWinner: Scuba Junkie, Malaysia

Scuba Junkie dive resort located on Mabul island, provides daily dive trips to more than 25 islands (Including Sipadan Island (frequently voted in the top 10 dives sites in the world)) in the Celebes Sea in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. They have established a range of partnerships to protect the marine environment and wildlife, ranging from government to marginalized local communities. They are also managers of the Mabul Turtle Hatchery, chair of an annual marine week and advisers to the Semporna Shark Sanctuary.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Ranweli Holiday Village, Sri Lanka

Best in Resource Efficiency

This award recognizes excellence in waste, water and energy management and sustainable architectural design in order to minimize the business’s environmental impact.

Heritance webWinner: Heritance Kandalama, Sri Lanka

Heritance Kandalama is based in the heart of the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka, built overlooking the the rock fortress of Sigiriya. Endorsed by both ISO14001 and ISO50001 management systems for energy and water efficiency, they continuously achieve quantitative goals to reduce consumption. Their Eco Park has been visited by over 1.8million guests, partnering with more than 30 local schools and various conservation bodies – Kandalama has excellent commitment to promoting environmental education.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa, Malaysia

Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Accommodation Provider

(This category is sponsored by Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia)

This award recognizes the accommodation provider 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 accommodation of the year.

Soneva webWinner: Soneva Resorts, Thailand and the Maldives

Soneva Resorts is the original barefoot luxury brand, and still one of the travel industry’s greatest innovators. The acronym SLOW LIFE (which stands for Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun- Experiences) explains the Soneva philosophy. Soneva supports clean water projects, an orphanage initiative and a hunger alleviation charity. They have helped implement a local ban on shark fishing, established a coral restoration project, and their innovative carbon calculator ensures they continuously strive for inspirational resource efficiency.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysia

Most Inspiring Responsible Tour Operator

This award recognizes the tour operator that excels in all of 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.

tourWinner: ViaVia Jogja, Indonesia

ViaVia tours, based in Jogjakarta, all offer something unique – including adventure, gastronomy and culture. ViaVia is also an arts hub providing space to young local artists, whilst supporting marginalised groups. Parts of the ViaVia profits go to support educational, social and cultural projects in and around Jogjakarta. They have provided humanitarian assistance to local natural disasters, helped establish a rural community library and delivered free training to local groups and guides.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Papua Expeditions, Indonesia

Amy McLoughlin, Awards Coordinator, says “Congratulations to all our worthy winners and finalists. All of them are role models for the industry. Their investment in community engagement, workers’ welfare, cultural conservation and environmental stewardship – make the travel industry a more exciting place to work. Most importantly, they’re supporting long lasting development in their destinations across Asia, ensuring a more sustainable future for the places we love to visit”.

Looking for inspiration for your tourism business? Visit the Wild Asia website for fact sheets on this year’s twelve finalists to discover their best practices and social impact. Furthermore, businesses can also uncover this year’s winning entries from the Inspiring Stories from Destinations competition, also hosted annually at ITB Asia.

Special thanks to our 2013 Media Partners – especially T+L Southeast Asia and SOST for their amazing support! Also thank you to ITB Asia for letting us use this fabulous platform to showcase our Finalists and Winners.

Cross-cultural experiences in Jayamrung, Nepal

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LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001Ram Sapkota from Mountain Delights Treks and Expedition in Nepal, shares his vision of providing visitors to his country with a genuine experience of daily life in rural Nepal – to take you off the beaten track into his village – Jyamrung.

I was born in Jyamrung, a small and remote village in the midwest part of Nepal. Like many families in my village my parents worked as farmers on their own fields. My family was one of the poorest in the village and we didn’t have enough food from our own field, therefore we had to work on other people’s farms – despite our hard work, often we went to bed hungry.

Only one of my brothers and myself were lucky enough to attend school.  During this time, I  recognized the problems within our village:  men spending their day playing cards and drinking alcohol instead of working and then returning home in the evening angry because they has lost all their money, food was not ready and beating their wives.

Guide n porter with guestIn Nepali culture men are usually in a superior position compared to women – who are responsible for the household and all the work.  I did not think this was right and started bringing the women to the places where the men were playing cards and drinking – this was the first time women had fought the bad behaviour of their husbands.  Without realizing it I had started my first social work for women’s rights in the village.

Against great odds I continued my education by selling a goat my mother had given me.   With this US$20 I set up a small shop selling items to the locals.  After three years of working in my shop each morning and evening and studying during the day, I sold my shop – it was time to move on to higher education.

After doing various manual labour jobs, I found a position with a trekking company in Kathmandu.  I worked as a porter, kitchen boy, Sherpa or assistant guide, while at night reading books and studying for university.  I never attended college but studied in private without any teacher and after several years achieved my degree in population education, political science, history and culture.

My experience as a trekking guide opened a new world to me.  I was able to earn money and send some of it back to my village to help children attend school.  

My contact with foreigners allowed me to tell them about my village and my project ideas.  I was humbled by their interest and support.  From here I formed my own trekking company – Mountain Delights – and with the assistance of my international friends started my small social organization – Tukee Nepal Society.

Our work within Tukee Nepal Society is based in my village – Jyamrung – and through Mountain Delights we take visitors on a “Lower Ganesh Himal Eco Trek” to experience this basically unexplored region of Nepal.  The Ganesh Himal is named after the elephant-headed God of Good Fortune.  The Ganesh Himal can clearly be seen from Kathmandu Valley and the Ganesh Range peaks stand out like crystal that is the Great Himalayan Chain forming the skyline.

Nothing has changed in this area so it is a great opportunity to learn about the real Nepal and enjoy our traditional culture.  During this trek you will stay in my village for at least three nights where you will experience a home stay by being involved in the day-to-day activities (e.g. teaching in the school, providing health assistance, working in the fields with local people, fishing, swimming, cooking, explore the surrounding area, etc).

Ram in trekOur treks are staffed by local guides who know the area very well – they can tell you about the local environment, wildlife, culture, daily life – with permission from the elders of the village we involve our clients and staff in local ceremonies wherever possible.  Our local knowledge, combined with a friendly and inviting community, gives people an opportunity and experience that very few foreigners have witnessed.

Our work in Jyamrung has seen many changes within the community – it is ever changing and on-going.  Projects include:

  • Providing a health centre in the village that provides assistance for more than 9000 people.
  • Toilets for everyone to assist with hygiene and prevent disease outbreaks.
  • Solar power and a micro-hydro power station which provides an economic and environmental result for the community.
  • Road construction that will assist the community to trade more freely their agricultural products.
  • Micro-finance scheme to set up small business – agriculture, tailoring, etc.
  • Renovating houses affected by the elements of poorer members of the community.
  • Education – 260 students receive assistance to attend primary school, secondary school and university;  evening classes for the older generation; repair and building new school buildings;  assistance to provide more teachers and tutors; resources for the school.

We believe village tourism offers a unique opportunity for comfortable cultural immersion. Our organization works with the whole village – providing economic stability for all families by using local produce, accommodation and guides.

Mountain Delights is not only a profit motivated organization – the company is committed to contributing five percent of its total annual profit to Tukee Nepal Society which has given a new lease of life to many needy and vulnerable people.

A visit to Jyamrung will provide everyone with the opportunity to be involved in cross-cultural communication – to gain a greater understanding of each other’s lifestyle and opportunities.

If you are coming to Nepal take the opportunity to go off the beaten track and see the power, beauty and soul of the more remote areas of my country – “make your footprint count.”

The Family Tree – fair trade for mass tourism

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001The seeds of the Family Tree were planted in 2006

The Family Tree boutique store in Hua Hin, Thailand, sells a unique collection of handmade arts, crafts, clothes, cosmetics, jewelry and other meaningful gifts made by over 40 community groups, social and environmental projects and inspired independent artists from around Thailand. The store fuses fair trade policies with a responsible tourism mission to offer genuine, local community and environmentally friendly products to visitors to Thailand’s Royal resort town.

Dtor and Peter share their inspirational journey in creating a family business with a heart…’for crafts, culture and community.’

Who?

Premruethai (Dtor) was born in Sri Saket, North-eastern Thailand. She is native Kuy, an ethnic group living on the Thai-Cambodian border. Kuy people have a distinct culture, language, arts and crafts. From childhood, Premruethai was surrounded by silk, artisans, festivals and the friendly warmth of rural Thai life. Premruethai loves her roots and has worked for years to support social, cultural and environmental work in her village. She works closely with a network of Buddhist Monks and laypeople who are striving towards a green and good Thailand.

Peter was born in England. He has lived in Thailand for 12 years, inspired by Thailand’s culture, colour and diversity. Peter has been an English teacher, the Regional Responsible Travel Coordinator for Intrepid Travel and worked with Thai colleagues to establish the Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute, which works alongside Thai communities to set up cultural exchange programs to share local Thai life and culture with visitors.

What’s it all about?

Between 2006 and 2011, Peter and Dtor worked with local Kuy women in Dtor’s home village, assisting them to establish a community group, called ‘Tae Moh Hai,’  meaning ‘Our Friends Hands’, in local Kuy language. The couple supported the women to continue their culture of natural silk dying and weaving and provided additional training in cutting and stitching. They also lead tree planting and environmental awareness activities with local youth and the village temple.

Dtor and LouieLiving in the village was rewarding, but it was also remote and very far from customers, which made it difficult to grow their project into a sustainable enterprise. Therefore, in 2011, the couple decided to open a shop which could support many different good causes. Peter and Dtor decided to plant their ‘Family Tree’ in Hua Hin, a charming, family-friendly Thai beach resort. Their unique boutique store sells arts, crafts, clothes, cosmetics, jewelry and other gifts handmade by over 40 Thai community groups, environmental and social initiatives and inspired independent artists who are working to keep Thai arts vibrant and alive.

The Family Tree is located at the heart of Hua Hin’s tourist center, at 7 Naresdumri Road. This is a historic street lined with wooden shop-houses, many of which have been converted into restaurants.  By offering authentic, meaningful, Thai arts and crafts, and sharing inspiring stories of Thai artisans and social and environmental initiatives Dtor and Peter opened a new space to buy beautiful products, while learning about and supporting great work across Thailand…

Who do we work with? Our partners’ stories:

The Family Tree team search the country for artisans, community groups and families with their own inspiring stories. We want to support people who are doing something good for Thailand’s culture and environment. Some examples of our partners include:

  • Ajarn Kor, Thailand’s No 1 master of natural-dyed silk, who learned the secrets of natural dying from his mother in law, then thestablished a women’s group in her village creating work for local families. Ajarn Kor has now won numerous awards at national and ASEAN level;
  • Manorom, a group of artisans with HIV-AIDS, who make jewelry from disused coconut shells. The group members are able to earn a living, develop skills, maintain a sense of dignity and community, and rise above loneliness through fellowship and recognition for their achievements;
  • A rural community group in Ubon Rachathani, who love traditional Thai arts and want to keep them alive. Villagers work together to paint vibrant scenes of traditional Thai life, often continuing to farm, and working during quiet seasons!

The Family Tree is a real experience

Informationv2Visitors to the Family Tree can enjoy an informative and hands-on experience. You can browse photos of artisans, read articles with information about how products are made, and see and touch examples of various types of equipment. A highlight of the shop is traditional, hand-made, natural-dyed silks. Visitors can see various natural dyes, and even admire Dtor’s great grandmother’s blouse, hand-dyed using ebony seeds and still deep black after 85 years!

Children are very welcome, and can enjoy the Family Tree kids corner, where they can let off some steam playing traditional musical instruments and games.

Why Fair Trade?

The Family Tree wants to benefit the artisans who make our products, our customers, our country, the environment and our family. The Family Tree are for Fair Trade because this movement respects and values producers and customers as people, working together towards a better life and a better world. This is a meaningful goal.

Our 10 Principles of Fair Trade

Businesses which aspire to be ‘Fair Trade’ are required to operate according to 10 principles. Some examples of our commitment put into practice include:

Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers: 100% of our products are made in Thailand. At least 90% of our products are sourced from Thai community groups, social and environmental initiatives, small family businesses and rural artisans.

  1. Transparency and accountability: ‘Keystone’ pricing. Artisans receive an average of 50% of the retail price. This equals over US$100K direct to local producers since 2011. The remaining income covers our shop rent (in a central, expensive area), staff salaries, utility bills, marketing, taxes, etc. We are aiming for a 5-10% profit. We take pride in providing high-quality information about our artisan partners to our customers.
  2. Fair Trading Practices and Mutual respect: We pay on time, and pay in advance on request. We don’t copy designs.
  3. Payment of a fair price: We consult with producers over prices. We accept requested prices and test the market. We don’t push prices down.
  4. No child labour We always ask if children are employed and do not buy from businesses using child labour. However, we do support children learning / practicing arts and crafts, for short periods of time (1-2 hrs per day), in safe conditions, supervised by responsible adults.
  5. No-discrimination, gender equality: The Family Tree is managed by Premruethai (Dtor), with 2 female staff and Peter!
  6. Good working conditions: We always ask about working conditions. We visit regaular suppliers to check for ourselves;
  7. Providing capacity building: We motivate and educate our team and our customers about fair trade and environmental issues. We have provided training for women in Sri Saket since 2006, and will do more with other community groups in the future.
  8. Promoting Fair Trade: through Facebook, our website, and competitions like this one!
  9. Respect for the environment: Minimum contributions to environmental work are budgeted as fixed costs. We offer earth-friendly products made from recycled paper, plastic, leather, silk, and wood. We search for and support government and NGO environmentally friendly products. We also helped to initiate the Greener Tomorrow project to plant 84,000 trees. This is alongside Thai Buddhist Monks and community members in Chaiyaphum province, in North Eastern Thailand. The Family Tree team have donated over $3000 USD directly to this project, and have raised more than $10,000 USD through an English language website and campaigns in our shop and on Facebook. Our shop also uses LED lighting, no A/C and recycled equipment!

For a Green and Good Hua Hin – Our Destination!

Our team understand that travelers visit destinations, not shops! We want Hua Hin to attract more guests who care about the environment and local communities. Therefore, we actively promote local community groups, organic coffee shops, local markets and other interesting spots around Hua Hin to our visitors, and encourage our customers to visit these places.

Our customers have given us great encouragement, and helped the Family Tree to reach the Number 1 spot for Shopping in Hua Hin on Trip Advisor!

We are excited to meet people from around the world, and introduce visitors to our products and the stories of the inspired artists which made them. Our work helps to prove that with quality products and information, time and enthusiasm, mainstream tourists can be engaged by Fair Trade and Responsible Tourism.  We are having a great time working with our partners, meeting our customers and enjoying family time with a mission for people and planet!

The Family Tree is open from 10.00 – 22.00 daily.

Contact Premruethai.t@familytree-huahin.com +66 (0) 81 809 5083

Training the new dive guides of Komodo

Wicked Diving in Indonesia are working with local communities to empower a long-term commitment to responsible dive tourism.

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001The Komodo National Park area of Indonesia is one of the jewels in the nation’s crown. The Komodo dragons have ensured international recognition and a flow of tourists which is increasing year on year. The other major draw card for this area is the diving – touted by many to be some of the best in the world. There are a plethora of dive organisations who aim to introduce divers to the wonders of the Komodo’s underwater world and the people of Labaun Bajo are prospering as the town thrives and expands.

However, the people from Komodo themselves are some of the last to benefit from their natural inheritance. Ensconced on an island, battered by winds and scorched by sun, life is tough for the 1500 or so residents of Komodo village. This wonderful natural environment turns out to be the third poorest province in Indonesia. As a result, education and job opportunities for the young men and women growing up on the island are inadequate. The main profession is fishing which is a traditional vocation; however it is becoming less and less viable as all of our oceans and marine life suffer the effects of overfishing. It’s not unlikely that within a few decades artisanal fishermen will be unable to support their families, leading to a downward spiral of unemployment and poverty. The people of this area should be able to benefit and prosper from the natural resources and jobs created by an influx of tourists to the area.

mantaTo remedy this, Komodo has to be given back to the people, and what better way than to train the young people of the island to become dive guides. This is something that Wicked Diving set out to resolve by partnering with local organisation Komodo KITA. Based out of Labuan Bajo in Flores, Wicked Diving had already worked closely with Komodo KITA when they embarked on an SSI Instructor training programme to train 6 local dive guides from Labuan Bajo to Instructor level. A Dive Guide course can typically be provided to local guides on an internship basis, meaning the costs are absorbed and employment is given upon successful completion of the course. However the costs involved in an Instructor course can be very prohibitive to local dive guides, making it near impossible for them to progress within the industry. With full support of Komodo KITA and a number of external sponsors, Wicked Diving hosted the first ever SSI Instructor course in Labuan Bajo. The course was offered on a free of charge basis to 6 candidates. Wicked Diving’s contribution to this was firstly to donate their classroom and teaching facilities to the course. In addition, all diving training was completed onboard Wicked Diving’s boats, equipment was provided and full support, coaching and advice was given by our in-house instructors. At the end of the course, we were all delighted that 5 candidates went on to sit their Instructor Exam and became fully fledged SSI Open Water Instructors.

Throughout this process, Wicked Diving immediately recognised the merits of working with Komodo KITA and accepted an offer to come onboard and partner up to create opportunity for the young people of Komodo village. The programme began with the task of initial dive training, with was provided by the new SSI Instructors. 20 young men from the island were trained in 3 different diving courses; Open Water Diver, Advanced Diver, and Stress & Rescue Diver. This then set the candidates in a position to start considering a Dive Guide certification; however there was now the question of experience. It is possible for divers to become reach a ‘professional’ level with the minimal amount of experience, but does this make for a good guide?

A good dive guide needs experience in diving, the more dives the better, and a rounded understanding of what the ‘real-life’ role of a guide is like, not to mention language skills, a thorough understanding of dive safety and a likeable personality. This is where Wicked Diving was able to step in and share its skills and experience. Throughout June, July and August, the dive centre welcomed 5 interns from Komodo island, each of them for a 4 week period. During this time the Komodo interns were involved in all aspects of day-to-day life in our busy centre.

The dive centre offers a variety of trips to our guests. The interns in this programme joined our live-aboard trips, heading out into the National Park for 6 days and 6 nights on board our boats. They joined our day trips, both diving and snorkelling and were coached throughout the process. Their dive skills improved noticeably as their number of dives grew. They were taught about the importance of safety in diving and also respect for the marine environment. To have such early exposure to considered and respectful diving practices is incredibly important. It is easy to pick up bad habits when learning any skill, we have been able to not only ‘nip bad habits in the bud’ so to speak, but also explain to them the reasons why we do this. This is THEIR Komodo. Divers come here to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and they are able to be the new ambassadors for this. To understand the worth and fragility of the reef is invaluable.

Fauzi and Yadi clean the beach in the Komodo National ParkInterns were given important ‘face-time’ with our guests and always introduced as staff members. This was an integral part of the programme as it allowed them to develop the confidence of dealing with people from all over the world, something which can be very daunting at times. Diving is a very social industry and the interns were encouraged to spend as much time with guests as possible. This helped to convey Wicked Diving’s philosophy that a Dive Guide is much more than someone who leads you on a dive. It was also a great place for them to practice their conversational English. Towards the end of their internship, some of them even had the confidence to stand up in front of groups and give dive briefings with the assistance of our instructors.

Obviously, it doesn’t just end with the diving. We were able to teach the interns organisational skills within the centre, equipment care, handling and safe use and also give them exposure to sales. This is an industry where a smile can mean more than the words that were spoken, and in typical Indonesia style, they had this in abundance!

From a logistical stand point, we had to consider options for lodgings, as Labuan Bajo, where Wicked Diving is based, is not their home town. Wicked Diving provided food and board to every intern for the duration of their stay.

Each intern has and continues to work hard for us, something which has already been recognised by our guests and publicly through reviews on the internet. Based on this enthusiasm and tenacity, Wicked Diving decided that we would fulfil the complete Dive Guide course with the two most promising individuals from the programme. We have trained them to a level where they can successfully work for us as snorkel guides and both have already been given paid work in this area. We now enter a period of learning and they will be busily studying not only for their SSI Dive Guide certification, but also undertaking English classes. Wicked Diving and Komodo KITA will combine and fully fund their entire Dive Guide certification, provide access to English classes and also a full set of dive gear for each of the successful candidates. On completion of their training, the two new Dive Guides will be given a one year contract with Wicked Diving, starting from March 2013.

Wicked Diving, and its experienced staff members, are in the lucky position to be the experts in the diving industry. Without advice and support from seasoned dive professionals in a well-established business, candidates wouldn’t be able to receive adequate training the skills and guidance to ensure continued employability within the industry. In addition, by providing training in-line with the businesses core principals; safety, ethical practice and a fun and memorable guest experience, this will set the new Dive Guides apart from their peers. They will become actively involved in conserving their new home and natural inheritance.

Wicked Diving wholeheartedly believe that local people, native to an area, should have the means and skills to fully reap the financial successes of this area. All of our instructors are looking forward to working with our 2 chosen candidates to increase their employability and enhance the quality of their lives and that of their families. The hope is that programmes such as this will inspire more of the people who reside in Komodo village to become deeply involved in this programme and that these candidates will become role models to their peers. They will set a fine example of what can be achieved through motivation and training.

2013 Inspiring Stories from Destinations

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001Congratulations to our 2013 Top 10 WINNERS of our Inspiring Stories from Destinations competition. This is our third year running this competition, and time after time, Wild Asia and our panel of judges (from the Green Circuit and Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia) are inspired and impressed by the level of commitment towards responsible tourism taking place in our region.

On Thursday 24th October 2013, we were delighted to host our Top 3 winners at ITB Asia as part of our responsible tourism series. And here, we would love to congratulate our Top 10 winners for their achievements in making the tourism industry a sector that strives to make positive social impact.

Each year, our judges look for stories that are unique, inspiring, able to encourage others to ‘copy’, and have a good reach in their impact. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to be wowed!

Top 3 Winners

(in alphabetical order)

Top 10 Winners

(in alphabetical order)

Melhua the Fern Ecotel’s Mission for Waste Management in Mumbai

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001There has been a significant increase in municipal solid waste generation in India in the last few decades. This is largely because of the rapid population and economic development. Solid Waste Management has become a major issue and to reduce its impact on health and the environment, Melhua the Fern has come up with the formation of the ALM (Advance Locality Management) program with partnership between citizens for sustainable and environment management.

ALM has been formed by Meluha the Fern in 2011 in Hiranandani Township for the segregation of Solid Waste Management at source where the ALM members and citizens are involved directly. Well publicized eco events, initiative, campaigns, information, and resources are organized from time to time to the city’scitizens to enable the practice of more environmentally conscious and socially responsible lifestyles. Monthly BMC ward meetings are being held and the staff presents at the BMC-Community meetings on several environment issues and discussions learn from the same. These meetings act as appropriate platform to one and all to discuss the urban issue with transparency.

Looking forward to working on many projects in the future for the welfare of Powai and the city the dedication of NGOs, like Stree Mukti Sanghatan workers, prompted Melhua to get involved with them in this ALMs project. They can work with housekeeping in each building to take away free of cost all dry garbage.

“It will lead us to not only a cleaner city, but eventually to a cleaner country”

Presentations and guideline are being presented to the local community, schools, colleges and co-operative housing societies for better understanding of garbage segregation. An interactive curriculum has been developed, targeting environmental sustainability as it relates to the business world for the college and school student studying environment practices thus truly enhancing their in-house programmes to the community outside successfully, adding value to the learning programs on how to implement practices in the world of sustainability which will help for the next generation too.

01_JVP0205Melhua’s efforts are aiming at reaching a zero garbage zone in Powai. They are also helping the B.M.C cut costs by saving on trucks coming to collect garbage. They invite other housing society buildings and corporates to join in making the area a garbage free Powai and look forward to a green collaboration with all business sectors. Waste management focuses on minimization and the 3R’s (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle). Melhua are fully committed to their sustainability policy by integrating innovation into environmental actions. Minimizing their carbon footprint by everyday activities and building in an environmental-friendly culture and communicating it to their local community, staff and guests is the right way to make sustainability.

Meluha is now a certified Ecotel and has the distinction of achieving Ecotel’s highest possible rating: Tier 1 with its average resource consumption reduction of 71%.

Some achievements include:

  • Approx. 39 to 45 kg of wet waste is converted into vermicompost per day and the rest is taken to piggeries.
  • 6 pits + 2 Nirmalaya pits (flowers) where wet garbage is treated and about 1500 kgs vermi compost is recovered per month.
  • All the other dry waste (non-recyclable garbage) is taken and recycled by Shah trading Co.
  • Car Free Day: Creating awareness to save petrol and pollution
  • Imparting knowledge in Ecotel practices to school students
  • Plant a sapling
  • Creating awareness by involving team members and guests in eco sensitive competitions

 

Homestays at the Bamboo Village – a rendezvous with nature and host community

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001Subini Nair, an agri-engineering graduate and management consultant based in Kozhikode, Kerala, made a visit to the Bamboo Village in Wayanad. Inspired by what she experienced, she has joined the ethical-tourism NGO behind the homestay initiative. Here is her story…

My dream about India was more filled with the noisy crowded streets, festivals, wedding bands, political party processions blocking traffic, cows though praised to be holy found wandering around the upper class garbage heaps… But quite forgotten were those images seen in my childhood of the picturesque hilly landscapes and widespread green paddy fields.

622554_273536542750612_21655615_o (1)Coming up the narrow winding rugged roads up the Western Ghats as the Kerala Transport Bus grinded its engine, I was finally able to breathe the crisp and clean mountain air. Had I been blindfolded, I still could have guessed that I am in Wayanad. 2100 meters high above the sea level, braced by mountains and blending beautifully with lush green tea and coffee plantations, lies this kingdom of greens. Plenty of palm trees (‘Kera ‘as in Malayalam- the language of the state) where in Kerala derives its name from, the unending rice fields and the undivided plantain gardens took away all my weary air of the long haul.  The richness of resources, the refreshing climate, the biodiversity and the rural location makes Wayanad a perfect place to stay.

The name ‘Wayanad’ derives from ‘Wayal – Nadu’ (the land of paddy field in vernacular language) and reveals this piece of paradise’s agri-culture.  But here I spotted trouble in this paradise. Though nature has blessed here with abundance, the markets declined the prices of every crop from these hills which led to the devastating and seemingly hopeless situation for the farmer families eventually leading to many suicides.

The Bamboo Village – tiding the other direction

As we say: nature always shows a new direction during each crisis , it seems to be proven true for Wayanad. To flow the other direction as the river Kabani does unlike other major rivers of the state that flows westwards in Kerala. The “Bamboo Village” in Thrikkaipetta, no longer s much for the crop markets to decide their fate, but with the support of the organizations Uravu and Kabani,  today a village that was once never spotted on local tourist maps, has today become one the  much cited locations on the global tourist map.

Community driven initiatives

It is purely the love and livelihood of the community that is bringing tourists to visit this place, and even refers their friends to this village. Today there are seven homestays, with the number gradually expanding as the community imbibes tourism as an additional income for their families. A set of principles evolved with the values of the community including the clear understanding of waste management and effective utilization of village resources, makes the Bamboo Village shower harmony and becomes an example to the neighboring villages. KABANI – the other direction, an organization focusing on sustainable socio-economic development of villages and the conservation of natural resources, continues to share this philosophy by promoting more villages at different locations across India , in tune with their vision  of tourism always benefiting the local people, whilst neither diluting their culture nor harming the environment.

The meeting point of two worlds

DSC_0526The project caters for travellers who look for a very personal and ethical way to stay. The travellers are accommodated in family homes, sharing their hosts’ daily routine, getting to learn about their lives first hand, and tasting the wonderful flavours of home-cooked Keralite dishes. Your host welcomes you into their homes. Here I experienced a hospitality that does not begin and end merely with food being served to you and a room provided; but with families sharing their time and lives with you with no intrusion to privacies.

For the locals, this is a way to decentralize tourism and directly benefit from guests’ holiday budgets. As their homes can cater for a few additional guests, the initial investment is very low. In addition, a benefit sharing scheme makes sure that the entire village has its fair share: Half of the income from accommodation stays with the host families, another 30% goes to a village fund to provide professional trainings, support youth and the elderly, development of village level entrepreneurship, the annual jackfruit festival, and ongoing tourism development. The remaining 20% covers the expenses of the organization KABANI and its sustainable tourism activities.

A record of traditional knowledge – recapturing diluting culture

I met them!  Faces old and wrinkled eyes keen, bright and sharp.  Its anger and anguish, but hope. They see irresponsibility towards nature and living. The elders of this village were thrilled to talk about their times and traditions which offered me the best tips which I think can be solutions to our bigger problems.

Here they made a few tiny steps towards rebuilding a sustainable world from sustainable communities. Don’t you feel like being invited?!  They would love to know you.