Kinyei – Winner, Responsible Tourism Initiative

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

Kinyei combines two initiatives, Kinyei Café and Soksabike to enrich their local community in Battambang. Through Soksabike, tourists experience an off-the-beaten-track side of Cambodia. Guests begin and end their cycling journey with a refreshing visit to Kinyei Café, which offers training programs for local youth.

Kinyei is run mostly by university students and recent graduates who work and study part-time. The staff often come from under-privileged backgrounds and gain valuable work experience in areas such as customer service, finance, IT, English, administration, and management. Through their jobs at Kinyei, staff are able to finance their university educations while on and off-site job trainings and workshops allow them to grow both professionally and personally. Soon staff will be able to take even more ownership of their work at Kinyei. Now that the two businesses are self-sustaining, Kinyei plans to move forward onto their next phase of local ownership by offering employee profit share and manager share holdings.

Soksabike, which is patroned primarily by foreign tourists takes guests on bicycle journies to visit local cottage industries. These small, family-run businesses make products such as rice paper, bamboo sticky rice, and dried bananas. During their visits guests have the opportunity to sample the products while learning about the production process, Cambodian history, and how and why the families began their businesses. In the future, Soksabike hopes to expand their tour offerings to include a homestay program, multiple-day tours, and tuk tuk tours utilising eco-friendly, solar-powered tuk tuks.

Kinyei Café handles all of the tour bookings and bicycle rentals for Soksabike and is both the starting and ending point for the tours, ensuring customers get a refreshing beverage pre and post ride. The Café is also the hub for all of Kinyei’s responsible tourism marketing information outlining the associations various sustainable initiatives.

Kinyei Café prides itself on serving exceptional coffee, using beans sustainably harvested from Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Two of the Café’s baristas competed and won the Cambodian National Barista Championships in 2012 and 2013 and have competed internationally as well. In addition to their excellent coffee selections, Kinyei Café provides an inviting atmosphere for locals and tourists alike while offering space for meetings and workshops to local nonprofits free of charge.

Contributing to the local communities and maintaining those relationships is of utmost importance to Kinyei. Profits are shared with the families visited during Soksabike’s tours while Kinyei Café provides space for local artisans to showcase their work. Kinyei also organises workshops on environmental protection and heritage preservation for local schools and businesses to educate and positively influence the local communities in sustainability.

For more information about Kinyei, visit their website: http://www.kinyei.org/

Watch their video here

CBT Vietnam – Finalist, Responsible Tourism Initiative

FINALIST - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative

Dedicated to using tourism as a means to protect vulnerable ethnic communities, CBT Vietnam developed sustainable tourism training initiatives in the rural villages of Tavan, Taphin, which have become completely self-sufficient, and Lao Chai. These local communities have been empowered to establish tourism-related businesses and homestays.

CBT Vietnam began after an instructor from Capilano University (one of CBT Vietnam’s founding partners) visited the region and was inspired by the potential of working with unique villages and cultures to develop community based tourism programs. Since then CBT Vietnam has demonstrated a long-term commitment to protecting vulnerable, ethnic hilltribe culture through tourism. In addition to their on-the-ground training programs CBT Vietnam promotes awareness of vulnerable cultures and responsible tourism through their web presence, films, and social media.

From the beginning ommunity involvement has been essential in developing CBT Vietnam’s programs. Before any programs could be implemented CBT Vietnam spent a lot of time building relationships and trust in the communities where they planned on working. Since then the communities have embraced the value and uniqueness of their cultures. Many of the training modules and learning initiatives were generated by the communities, which ensures members are engaged and take ownership of their economic futures.

CBT Vietnam’s training initiatives include providing general tourism knowledge to the community, community tourism planning for local authorities and community stakeholders, entrepreneurship for youth and women, business development, and environmental stewardship. In the future CBT Vietnam hopes to establish an independent school in association with a local social enterprise that will maintain training for all ethnic groups in the Sapa region.

During their training local participants were given opportunities to experience tourism from a different perspective by travelling to Hanoi and becoming consumers of tourism services themselves. They met with tour operators, patroned hotels and restaurants, and utilised visitor information services. The experience allowed the participants to learn about what makes a positive tourism experience so they can improve the services they offer visitors to their community.

For more information about CBT Vietnam, visit their website: http://www.cbtvietnam.com/

Watch their video here

EXO Foundation – Finalist, Responsible Tourism Initiative

FINALIST - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative

EXO Foundation believes in fostering sustainable development through responsible tourism practices, which they accomplish by guiding their tourism branch, EXO Travel, and financially supporting sustainable projects.

Earlier this year EXO Travel was awarded the Travelife certification for excellence in sustainability. The certification recognises their long-term efforts towards sustainability and corporate, social, and environmental responsibility. EXO Foundation took on supervising the certification process as well as its implementation by training and empowering EXO Travel staff to follow best practices, such as banning school and orphanage visits on tours. Through this certification, along with their focus on donating to a wide range of charitable projects across Southeast Asia, EXO Foundation hopes to make a positive difference in local communities and entire destinations by influencing better practices in the travel industry.

One of their unique projects, spearheaded along with COMPED (The Cambodian Education and Waste Management Organisation), tackles waste management issues: Don’t Waste Your Waste. The campaign aims to reuse plastic bottles for construction and has already built a plastic bottle/brick house in Battambang. They also developed a comic strip, which informs about the risks associated with disposing plastic waste from several angles: environmental, spiritual, and health as well as the impact of dirty tourist sites on a destinations image and the financial costs for urban centers. COMPED has adopted the comic as a tool in their “Clean city, clean resort” campaign and have distributed copies to schools and universities.

EXO Foundation plans to continue their environmental conservation efforts by partnering with NEXUS, a carbon offset program. They also hope to continue teaming up with local responsible tourism operators on sustainability campaigns, like their “Don’t Waste Your Waste” program.

For more information about EXO Foundation, visit their website: http://www.exofoundation.org/

Top 3 Inspiring Stories From Destinations 2014

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Asia is a big travel whirlpool with so many tourism businesses, activities and places to choose from. However in the masses, there are exceptional tourism businesses and projects in Asia that have done incredibly well, not just in a business sense but in leaving a positive impact on the environment and the lives of people living in those destinations.

Inspiring Stories from Destinations is an annual competition providing an international platform for tourism players to get their story heard at ITB Asia in Singapore. The competition seeks exciting stories from organisations and individuals who have found in themselves a passion to make a difference in the travel industry and leave a legacy for the next generation.

The selection of successful stories is based on the authenticity of the story, creative and innovative elements, and the power to inspire others towards making responsible tourism a reality. Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery together with our esteemed judges have chosen the TOP 3 winning stories from the list of applications received this year.

Top 3 Winners

2215646-25593141-thumbnailKutch Adventures Seeks Out Remote Artisans

The way Kutch Adventures started and introduced a completely different way of offering local experiences could be considered inspirational. By Kuldip Gadhvi, founder of Kutch Adventures India. It all began for me after the terrible earthquake of Gujarat in January 2001. We, the survivors of Kutch region were put in the awkward situation of having to accept aid. At the age of 18 I had to leave my school to help to support my family by working with various organizations that came to Kutch for earthquake relief, rescue and rehabilitation. Read more… 

SunriseChi Phat Community-based Eco-tourism: Forests for Life

Forests nurture lives, yet living in the forest takes courage. A tale told by Sokhem, founder of Chi Phat Community-based Eco-tourism. When I was born, my parents named me Sokhem. In English, it means Hope. This name puzzled me, as at that time there was no hope, no future. The Khmer Rouge had destroyed my home, Cambodia. In 1980, when I was a small boy, we had no food, no land, no money, no schools, and no doctors. Read more…

2215646-25593781-thumbnailMagic Tours for Authentic Experiences

Tourism can drive positive change – to bring deeper understanding between different cultures, provide economic benefits to local and disadvantaged communities. Deepa Krishnan, Founder of Magic Tours, relates how her business has brought about this new momentum in North India. Bringing change to local disadvantaged communities doesn’t happen by magic. To bring this change, businesses like us must actively work towards it. The effects of tourism especially can be negative; particularly in countries that have a lot of poverty. Read more…

 

*Stories were taken from Gaia Discovery, the joint partner for the 2014 Inspiring Stories from Destinations competition. 

Call For Inspiring Stories 2014

Do you want your responsible tourism story heard at Asia’s biggest business-to-business travel trade show?

Well, we want to hear from you! LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001

This year, Wild Asia together with Gaia Discovery is on a lookout for inspiring travel stories from within the industry. We are inviting exceptional tourism businesses and projects from across Asia to submit their inspiring story.

Have you empowered local people? Saved a rare wildlife species? Protected an area’s cultural heritage? Innovated ways to run a tourism business that is kinder to the environment? Have you through the power of tourism used it as a force for good? We want to hear your story.

Inspiring Stories from Destinations is an annual competition providing an international platform for tourism players to get their story heard at ITB Asia in Singapore. The competition seeks exciting stories from organisations and individuals who have found in themselves a passion to make a difference in the travel industry and leave a legacy for the next generation.

Check out winners from the 2012 and 2013 Inspiring Stories competition!

What we’re looking for?

The selection of successful stories is based on the authenticity of the story, creative and innovative elements and the power to inspire others towards making responsible tourism a reality. (Terms below)

What’s in it for you?

  • Top 3 Winners will receive complimentary tickets to ITB Asia’s Responsible Tourism Events and will be given 15 minutes each to share their story on the Responsible Tourism stage to an audience of like minded tourism professionals and potential customers.
  • Top 3 Winners will have their story published on the Wild Asia’s website and Gaia Discovery’s website.
  • Top 3 Winners will benefit from the reach of both Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery’s social media networks.

How to enter

Submit your stories in any of the following form:

  • In words; no more than 1,000 words
  • Video; no more than 5 minutes
  • Slideshow; no more than 15 slides

Email your entries to rt@wildasia.org by 14th September 2014 (Sunday). Please title your email “RT Stories for RT Event at ITB Asia 2014″ and include your Name, Email, Organization and Destination in your email. Successful applicants will be notified via email by 30th September, 2014. Winners will be invited to speak at ITB Asia (terms below).

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Inspiring Stories is part of the annual Responsible Tourism networking events that started in 2009. Organised and supported by ITB AsiaWild Asia and this year with the inclusion of Gaia Discovery, this annual event hopes to bring together sustainable tourism practitioners to share, engage, learn and be inspired to make a difference.

Terms & Conditions

  • Previous winners of Inspiring Stories (Top 3 or Top 10) cannot apply.
  • 2014 Finalists of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards cannot apply.
  • Past Winners of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards cannot apply.
  • Businesses or projects that have current engagements with Wild Asia and/or Gaia Discovery cannot apply.
  • Business or project must be based in Asia.
  • Free entry to ITB Asia for Top 3 Winners on the day of the Inspiring Stories event (TBC) only. Travel to and from Singapore or accommodation to attend the event is not included.
  • Stories are judged by a panel of responsible tourism experts and their decision is final.
  • Applicants acknowledge that the Top 3 Winners of Inspiring Stories 2014 will have their story and images published on Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery websites.

Inspiring Stories From Destinations is a competition jointly organized by ITB Asia, Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery.

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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

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.