Asian Elephants in Captivity: A Closer Look

This article is reposted from Buffalo Tours website…


Last year, Buffalo Tours launched an ambitious initiative to tackle an important issue: the welfare of captive elephants in Asia. Coming from a long history in logging, many elephants now live in captivity within tourism camps whose main income is elephant riding – a practice that raises important questions about animal welfare. As leaders in responsible travel, Buffalo Tours completed an encompassing review of our tours to establish strict welfare standards, with the ambition to phase out riding in the future.

A year on, we invited Nicolas Dubrocard of WildAsia on a visit a collection of camps to shed light on the issue, our initiative and the future of captive elephants in Asia. Go behind-the-scenes with him for a closer look at our steps toward lasting change. This is the story from his perspective.


My first would-be interaction with wild elephants was only a few years ago. I was in Khao Yai National Park – a vast and beautiful region of Thailand just a stone’s throw from Bangkok. The two-day trip was a master class in wildlife spotting – bats, giant lizards, birds and deer darted in and out of view while we trekked and drove our way through dense jungle foliage.

We were mesmerised by the life of the jungle, but our group of eight was most looking forward to one particular wildlife close encounter: spotting wild elephants.

I remember the sun beginning to set on our second day, and a palpable excitement course through our group. This was the golden hour for elephants, our guide told us, and it was just a matter of time before the gentle giants wandered into our peripheral. All of us were squeezed into the back of a pick-up truck, oblivious to our discomfort as we rattled toward an area where elephant spotting was best.

Khao Yai Guide

The truck came to a halt, and we spilled out onto a quiet park road flanked by jungle. Minutes passed as our group waited silently, motionless for fear that any movement would spook the creatures still hidden in the trees. The sun was nearly beyond the horizon, and our eyes darted to our guide, whose gentle smile was beginning to give way to worry.

Suddenly the walkie on his hip crackled to life, and after a few muffled words of Thai, he urged us back into the truck. “There are elephants on the other side of the park,” he assured us, before throwing the truck into drive and speeding down the road well above the speed limit. Our cameras ready, we tumbled back out of the truck a few minutes later as our guide motioned triumphantly toward a pile of elephant droppings. While the most enthusiastic of the bunch began snapping photos, I remained in my seat, feeling dejected.

Khao Yai Wild Elephant

As the night fell and our hopes of seeing wild elephants evaporated, the atmosphere in my car shifted from happy anticipation to forlorn disappointment. Many knew that this would be the last time they’d ever have an opportunity to see wild elephants, and I could sense the frustration hidden behind their sad expressions.

“Did we really care about the elephants, or did we care about the photos on our camera instead?”

Yet only hours ago, these same sad faces were overcome with excitement at the prospect of experiencing elephants in the wild. Despite my own disappointment, the shift of the group’s energy made me wonder – what made international travellers react this way? If these elephants were living in peace, comfort and freedom, who were we to change things for our own amusement? Did we really care about the elephants, or did we care about the photos on our camera instead? Being part of this paradox left a bad taste in my mouth.

Close Encounters

A few years later, I would find myself in Ayutthaya, Thailand with my wife. She had one goal in mind – to ride an elephant. We travelled to an elephant camp where dozens of tourists were queuing near a raised platform, climbing aboard an elephant for a 20-minute ride along a busy road packed with cars and trucks.

Based only on what I saw with my own two eyes, I had a gut feeling that something was off. It was hot – nearly 40 degrees in the sun – and the elephants appeared to be anything but happy. The procession seemed a million miles away from the lush national park in which I’d once hoped to see elephants in their natural habitat. If wild elephants lived hidden within the depths of a lush Thai jungle, how could this environment be appropriate for the very same creatures?

elephant

With a strange sense of discomfort, I decided not to go for a ride, and let my wife to go along without me. She jokingly dubbed me a “sustainability freak”, even though I’d never considered myself an animal welfare advocate before. To me, it wasn’t a matter of ethics or animal welfare – what lay in front of me was common sense.

My stroll around the camp solidified by discomfort. These incredible creatures were living in squalor – on extremely short chains attached to trees, swinging back and forth on their front legs like a metronome. Nearby, tourists goaded the creatures with bananas or corn, snapping selfies as the visibly concerned but powerless mahouts looked on.

“To me, it wasn’t a matter of ethics or animal welfare – what lay in front of me was common sense.”

In front of me was a prime example of supply and demand. The care of the elephants surely relied on the income of the camp, and even well-meaning tourists threw money at the opportunity to tick another item off of their bucket list by riding an elephant. Meanwhile, camp owners and mahouts gave the tourists what they wanted – knowing full-well that by doing anything less, the camp’s income (and ultimately the capital for the elephant’s care) would dry up.

A History of Struggle

I’d learn later that these incredible creatures were often veterans of the logging trade, and came from even more dire working conditions than the tourist camps. In 1989, logging was officially banned in Thailand after a series of disastrous floods that wreaked havoc on local communities. In a desperate bid to keep their gargantuan wards fed and sheltered, the out-of-work elephants’ mahouts would send them to the only place they knew they could: to the elephant camps.

Bathing time for elephants

With the cost of feeding a single captive elephant for one day at $30 – and with average monthly income in Thailand just under $500  caring for these creatures required one important thing: money. Despite popular belief, captive elephants are virtually impossible to release back into the wild, and require care and food throughout their 50-year life spans. The industry was faced with a dilemma – allow the elephants to die out, or provide an incentive for tourists to visit elephant camps with their vital travel dollars?

“The industry was faced with a dilemma – allow the elephants to die out, or provide an incentive for tourists to visit elephant camps with their vital travel dollars?”

Thus, the market for elephant riding was born – fueled by the well-meaning but misguided aspirations of travellers. While many camps attempted to build a larger boundary between the elephants and visitors, travel dollars most often funneled toward camps that provided the biggest “bang for the buck”.  More often than not, these same camps were the ones with the worst treatment of their elephants.

elephant 2

But in the early 2000s, the public began waking up to the mistreatment within the elephant tourism industry. Shocked and appalled by the treatment many captive elephants endured, a flurry of elephant riding and elephant camp boycotts sprung up among the travel community. Yet, even as more informed travellers call for an end to all elephant riding, the gaps that they leave behind are quickly filled by those that either don’t know or don’t care about elephant welfare.  Which leaves those committed to lasting change with an important question: how can change at a demand level really work?

Change at a Demand Level

In my work with Wild Asia, I collaborate with countless hospitality and travel brands in order to make the travel industry more responsible and sustainable. In recent years, the discussion about elephant welfare began bubbling to the surface – and around the same time, the responsible travel team at Buffalo Tours approached me with an exciting new project.

The Buffalo team was embarking on a massive and encompassing audit of all of the elephant camps that they worked with, using a lengthy set of criteria. The intention was to not only source camps that were the gold standard for elephant welfare, but also find those that were committed to making a change but needed support in doing so.

“The intention was to not only source camps that were the gold standard for elephant welfare, but also find those that were committed to making a change but needed support in doing so.”

The goal was two-fold: reward responsible camps with more business, as well as give other worthy camps the tools and incentive they needed to change their operations. By doing so, the Buffalo team hoped that they could be at the forefront of a massive change. But as a team of locals, they knew that this quantum shift must begin with discourse. Only then could they lead camp owners away from the quick win, and toward a more responsible future.

elephant 3

In April of 2016, I was lucky enough to visit three of Buffalo Tours’ proudest examples of change in Thailand. Throughout my visits to these three elephant camps, I learned about what change really looks like at a demand level – and about how travellers themselves play a massive part in all of it. In part two of this series, I’ll share these lessons I learnt and how I see the future for elephants in Asia.

 

Lanjia Lodge – Winner, Community

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/

Watch their video here

CRDTours – Finalist, Community

FINALIST - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Community Engagement & Development

Creating unforgettable learning experiences in the Cambodian provinces of Kratie and Stung Treng, CRDTours works closely with their partner NGO, CRDT (Cambodian Rural Development Team) to create sustainable changes through community-based tourism initiatives, such as rural development and environmental conservation.

Not only does CRDTours give tourists hands-on cultural experiences, such as whipping up local dishes with their host families, attending traditional religious blessings, and participating in on-going development projects identified by the local communities. But they also make sure the local communities don’t become overly dependent on tourism as a livelihood source by limiting the carrying capacity of visitors to Koh P’dao, an island nestled in the mighty Mekong river and home to a number of their tourist programs.

By expanding their community development tours’ projects to include chicken and pig raising and building toilets and rainwater collection systems, CRDTours is able to reach more beneficiaries and maximize long term benefits while also developing non-tourist centric methods of livelihood such as livestock raising, maintaining home gardens, and environmental education.

Mobilizing local communities key to CRDTours’ success. They are trusted by the local community, provide trainings and improve community awareness about issues such as environmental conservation. During village demonstrations, events, and livelihood trainings focused on deforestation and environmental awareness, 60% of beneficiaries were able to raise at least 3 environmental issues, such as illegal fishing and climate change present in their community and offer solutions.

CRDTours actively involves the local  community members, encouraging them to play a role in development and environmental conservation initiatives, which include:

  • Finding alternative livelihoods to slow/stop the depletion of natural resources
  • Raising awareness about the impact of unsustainable natural resources and gradually change the community’s behavior towards the environment
  • Promoting ecotourism as an incentive for community members to stop harming wildlife and take action to protect it

Since the community implementation of the above conservation initiatives reliance on natural resources has reduced. New agriculture techniques enable community beneficiaries to produce goods for their own consumption, reducing their dependency on natural resources.

Ecotourism has been an incentive for communities to protect their rare, Irrawaddy dolphin neighbors and make them proud of their community. Over a quarter of the Community Based Ecotourism (CBET) annual development fund was given to the community fishery for river patrolling. By 2013 community beneficiaries stopped using gillnets (which dolphins are known to get caught in) close to the known dolphin pool and reduced their time spent fishing by 45%. Thanks to the complete removal of gillnets in the area, two baby dolphins were born in the Koh P’dao pool earlier this year.

For more information about CRDTours, visit their website: http://www.crdtours.org/

Watch their video here

Xintuo Ecotourism – Finalist, Community

FINALIST - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Community Engagement & Development

In a province threatened by the rapidly growing tourism industry Xintuo provides a different type of experience aimed at keeping the local communities in Yunnan and the surrounding environment healthy and thriving. Through their ecotourism offerings tourists know that not only are they minimizing their negative effects on the environment but supporting the local community they are visiting. The community-driven hospitality network gives guests unique interactions with the local culture, whether they are visiting villages inhabited by ethnic minorities, learning about the region from a local guide, or experiencing the diverse flora and fauna while trekking, biking or hiking.

Firmly integrated in the surrounding Lashihai community, Xintuo Ecotourism is employee and community-owned with the support of the Nature Conservancy, their partner in promoting the area’s biodiversity. The community’s well being is a top priority and Xintuo holds meetings to discuss current needs, both socially and environmentally, knowing change can only occur through collaboration. A couple of their successful projects: funding the renovation of the kindergarten in the Noy Yao Village, which improved classroom conditions and facilities, and supplying the Wuhai primary school with books, blankets, and stationary.

Xintuo has seen how harmful the effects of domestic tourism in China tend to be, including a general low awareness of environmental issues, and strive to offer unique experiences making them an important player in the domestic ecotourism market. At the moment the are one of the only companies in the region locally sourcing all of their resources. Tour guides are hired from the local ethnic minority groups, the Yi and Naxi, guests stay in locally run homestays, and they purchase food grown in the villages or from the original supplier.

After seeing the success of their current initiatives, Xintuo hopes to turn the Lashihai region into a model for sustainable development. They currently plan on growing community involvement by expanding their homestay network while encouraging those involved in the program to develop additional activities for their guests such as handicraft demonstrations, agro-tourism, and bike rentals. They also hope to incorporate organic farming and agro-tourism into their future programs. Food safety is a growing issue for many in the community so Xintuo plans to develop experimental plots as a way to offer training and gradually change the local agricultural practices.

For more information about Xintuo Ecotourism, visit their website: http://ecotourism.com.cn/

Watch their video here

Club Med Cherating – Finalist, Nature & Wildlife

FINALIST - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife Conservation 

Completely integrating into the surrounding preserved environment, Club Med Cherating offers visitors an environmentally-friendly sanctuary having kept 75% of the surrounding forest completely untouched. A few of their impressive environmental initiatives include a partnership with the nearby Turtle Sanctuary and an informative botanical tour of the grounds for guests.

Since 2010 the Club Med Cherating management as implemented a sustainable development management system that enables the resort to address different sustainable tourism issues including biodiversity. As part of this system each staff member takes a turn as the Green Globe Coordinator, giving them direct management over environmental issues. Eventually most members of staff will have taken a turn as the Green Globe Coordinator.

A few of Club Med Cherating’s impressive environmental initiatives include:

  • Natural lagoon wastewater treatment system, which enables the resort to treat its wastewater, recycle it to be used for irrigation, and creating a biodiverse pond.
  • Green waste is mulched and used as soil cover.
  • The implementation of organic fertilizers.
  • A partnership with the Turtle Sanctuary to promote turtle conservation.
  • Environmental and wildlife education programs for children run through Mini Club Med.
  • Integrating a botanical tour of the resort for guests, complete with a wildlife guide book.

In the future Club Med Cherating aims to maintain their Sustainable Development Management System through yearly reviews and bi-annual on-site audits. They hope to continue improving in areas such as promoting wildlife awareness to their customers and providing more information about sustainable tourism. They also hope to develop a partnership with the local school in which employees will dedicate time to teaching English and the resort will allow their facilities to be used for sports activities.

For more information about Club Med Cherating, visit their website: http://www.clubmed.us/cm/resort-cherating-beach-malaysia_p-115-l-US-v-CHEC-ac-vh.html?CMCID=SNN179636478102

Watch their video here

Gaya Island – Winner, Nature & Wildlife

WINNER - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife Conservation 

Tucked along the coast of Malohom Bay, Gaya Island Resort offers guests a seamless integration of luxury and the natural world. Offering a set of “PURE Activities” guests can interact with the surrounding rare species of flora and fauna, facilitated by the resort’s resident naturalist. In addition to their environmental programs for guests, Gaya Island Resort has started initiatives to educate local communities on protecting their beautiful home.

Gaya Island Resort believes tourism is a positive platform for wildlife education, as long as it’s conducted in a careful manner as to maintain a positive impact Many of Gaya Islands programs, such as guided nature hikes and snorkelling excursions are only offered to a limited number of participants to keep from overwhelming or damaging the surrounding environment. But that doesn’t mean guests can also get up close and personal with nature. Visitors can experience the resort’s mangrove conservation efforts through the Mangrove Kayak Tour. Along with a guide, guests explore the diverse mangrove ecosystem while learning about the resident flora and fauna.

Activities such as handicraft classes, a traditional dance show, and dining experiences draw inspiration from the diverse tribes found in Borneo and give guests a greater insight into the local culture. At turn-down, guests are given a beaded keychain from the Rungus community, one of the many ethnic groups in the area, along with an informational leaflet.

Not only are educational experiences offered to guests. Through the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre (GIRMC), Gaya Island facilitates education programs in the area schools to teach students about the local sea turtle populations, coral, and the importance of keeping the ocean clean. In addition to their education initiative, GIRMC works closely with a leading turtle conservationist and is the first turtle rescue centre in Malaysia to  successfully rescue, rehabilitate, and release endangered sea turtles.

For more information about Gaya Island Resort, visit their website: http://www.gayaislandresort.com/

Watch their video here

Jetwing Yala – Winner, Resource Efficiency

WINNER – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Resource Efficiency 

Boasting Sri Lanka’s largest privately owned solar installation (other institutions have visited looking to develop similar systems), guests at Jetwing Yala can fully relax thanks to the resort’s commitment to renewable resources. Jetwing Yala uses a “triple P” concept to focus their sustainability efforts: Profit, People, and Planet, choosing initiatives based on their environmental impact, community benefit, and projected return.

From the designing stages, the hotel built minimize energy consumption, incorporating natural light and ventilation and utilizing natural materials into the construction and has since incorporated a number impressive renewable energy initiatives, many of which are “firsts” for the Sri Lankan hospitality industry.

In addition to their solar installation Jetwing Yala uses a Vapor Absorption Chiller (VAC), which runs sustainably via steam from biomass boilers and supplies the hotel with enough renewable energy to meet the entire hotel’s air conditioning requirements. Both of these projects have been visited and studied by the government and private corporations and now more than 20 VAC units are being used in other industries.

Guests and staff are also encouraged to also do their part to keep their eco-footprint small through non-intrusive, informational signs in guest rooms and educational programs developed for staff members. Embarking on a “green” tour of Jetwing Yala lets guests experience Jetwing Yala’s initiatives while learning more about ways to be environmentally-friendly during their stay.

Thanks to the success of their current renewable energy programs Jetwing Yala is making great strides to achieve carbon neutrality. Their plan for future growth includes the following initiatives:

  • Expanding their solar installation to offset the hotel’s entire day-time electricity requirement
  • Install a biogas digester to treat organic waste from the kitchen
  • Use waste water, which is treated on site and currently allocated for gardening and cooling towers, in cistern flushing as well
  • Develop a rainwater harvesting system to be utilize during dry seasons
  • Create a “zero plastic” future by installing a water bottling plant using only reusable glass bottles

For more information about Jetwing Yala, visit their website: http://www.jetwinghotels.com/jetwingyala/

Watch their video here

Nikoi Island – Winner, Responsible Operator

WINNER – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator

Situated off the Indonesian coast, Nikoi Island offers guests a private getaway and peace of mind thanks to their environmental initiatives, such as their unique passive-cooling building design constructed from primarily recycled driftwood and alang alang grass in the traditional Indonesian style. With the majority of the island left untouched, Nikoi gives guests an intimate introduction the the natural environment with activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, and trekking.

Nikoi Island employs inspiring strategies to minimise energy waste and environmental impact. Despite their tropical location Nikoi Island doesn’t use air-conditioning, instead buildings are kept cool thanks to double layer roof design, which promotes vertical and horizontal ventilation. All of the toiletries provided in guests’ rooms are biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and packaged in refillable bottles. You’ll be hard-pressed to find beverages bottled in plastic, Nikoi keeps their plastic consumption low by only using refillable glass bottles for water and straws made from bamboo.

Some of their short and long-term plans for further sustainability include: recycling greywater for gardening use; local reef restoration, establishment of “no fishing” zones on the reef; turtle conservation; increasing incorporation of locally-sourced, organic foods; utilization of more renewable energy sources; and the establishment of an artist in residence program for Indonesian sculptors.

To maximise their ability to support the local communities and environment, Nikoi Island established The Island Foundation (TIF), a registered charity in both Singapore and Indonesia, run by an independent board. TIF works with the local government and area communities on their various initiatives, like the collection of plastic waste along the beaches, sponsoring local events, monitoring nearby shipping to prevent illegal dumping, and improving education standards in the area. Another big project: working with the Orang Suku Laut in Berakit village to protect their delicate mangrove ecosystem. The mangroves are considered sacred and are a main source of food for the community.

In an effort to prevent the negative effects of tourism, Nikoi Island does not offer tours to local villages. Instead, cultural interaction is encouraged with staff members and information on culturally appropriate behaviour and language guides are provided in guests’ rooms. Also, events and activities promoting cultural heritage, like Batik and jewelry workshops, nature talks, and cultural performances, are organised through TIF.

For more information about Nikoi Island, visit their website: http://www.nikoi.com/

Watch their video here

El Nido Resorts – Finalist, Responsible Operator

FINALIST – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator

A series of resorts dotted along Palawan, on the western edge of the Philippines, El Nido Resorts uses native landscaping and indigenous plants to bring guests into the natural environment. Hands-on activities in the local community such as traditional fishing and heritage community tours give guests a unique opportunity to learn more about their beautiful surroundings.

El Nido Resorts adheres to a quadruple bottom line: financial profitability, environmental stewardship, community engagement, and organizational development to guide their responsible tourism mission. As a part of Ayala Land, Inc., El Nido Resorts is used as an example for replicating their sustainability record in other properties.

Located in a very biodiverse area, El Nido Resorts works hard to protect the delicate ecosystems surrounding the resorts. Resort facilities were built in one area to concentrated areas to minimise the environmental impact and were constructed utilizing local materials and native landscaping. Guest activities are also coordinated to prevent overcrowding in the local communities. Keeping their high-quality, low-density approach to tourism in mind, El Nido Resorts developed several programs to stimulate interactions between the local communities, guests, and the environment.

Their medical outreach program offers free health consultations in the El Nido town center once a week while their Be GREEN outreach takes brings their environmental training and advocacy programs into local schools once a quarter.  Every year the resort holds annual refresher, Be GREEN courses for the staff, which cover topics such as water conservation and energy and biodiversity while guides and activities coordinators are given extensive trainings in nature interpretation. Guests are also encouraged to participate in Be GREEN. During “Green Hour” talks and presentations are given during which guests are welcome to ask questions and present their own environmental initiatives.

Tours of nearby communities, excursions with traditional fisherman, and visits to local farms give guests of El Nido Resorts the opportunity to interact with and learn about the culture. Before community tours, local guides explain culturally-appropriate behaviour and encourage guests to share stories with the community members they meet. El Nido Resorts’ “Fishing with the Locals” activity is one of the most popular and partners guests with local fisherman to learn about traditional fishing methods and life in a coastal village.

El Nido Resorts also supports a number of foundations working on environmental and cultural preservation in the area including the El Nido Foundation, the Asian Conservation Foundation, the Malampaya Foundation, and the Ayala Foundation. Many guests who have visited the local communities through El Nido Resorts’ tours have started up their own scholarships or partnered with other area conservation and development organisations.

For more information about El Nido Resorts, visit their website: http://www.elnidoresorts.com/

Watch their video here

Khiri Travel – Finalist, Responsible Operator

FINALIST – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator

Offering sustainable travel options to a variety of destinations Khiri Travel Group is committed to providing travelers authentic experiences. Whether on a walking tour of Old Town Phuket in Thailand or a culinary excursion tasting local dishes travellers will leave with life-long memories.

Whether you are traveling to Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, or Vietnam, Khiri Travel wants to share their passion for discovery. For example, their Phuket Old Town walking tour takes guests away from the bustling tourist beaches and instead showcases the historic and cultural side of Phuket.

Khiri Travel aspires to become the leading brand in quality tourism. Both the CEO and Sustainability & Responsible Tourism Manager have represented the company in a number of forums, working groups, and conferences in an effort to share their best practices. Other members of staff are encouraged to engage with sustainability issues through various events such as their Earth Day activities held in all of their destinations to reinforce Khiri Travel’s commitment to long-term environmental sustainability.

In Khiri Travel’s Thailand office, guides have participated in intensive trainings certified by The Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators. Other guide training programs that have taken place over the past few years placed special focus is put on environmentally and culturally sensitive activities such as elephant rides and orphanage tours, as well as how to respond to guests’ requests for locally offered excursions that may not be responsibly operated.

Khiri Travel incorporates sustainable practices not just on their tours, but also into their day-to-day office life by installing water filters to minimize the need for plastic bottles, minimizing packaging waste by purchasing products like milk and sugar in bulk, and sourcing eco-friendly office supplies, like printer paper when available. Their partnerships with host destinations are also built with responsible tourism in mind. Supplier contracts were developed after Khiri Travel reviewed excursions that could be potentially environmentally or culturally sensitive and include sustainability clauses. Partner organisations are also given access to an “Agent Portal” with content such as “Forbidden Souvenirs” and an “Endangered Species on Menus”.

For more information about the Khiri Travel Group, visit their website: http://khiri.com/

Watch their video here