Our lovely Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Judging Advisory Panel is made up of a range of experts in the field. All have many years experience in community development, environmental management, the tourism industry and many more relevant areas of expertise. Their kudos adds lots of value to our Awards.
Who and Why
Our Panel is made up of senior level sustainable tourism experts. All members must have at least 10 years experience in tourism with a significant amount of experience in responsible tourism in Asia.
Judging Advisory Panel
The role of our Judging Advisory Panel is to review the answers and evidence provided in the application forms, and the required documentation. The Panel help identify the most inspiring operators. Each Judge will select their top 2-3 operators for each category. The two operators with the most votes will be selected as Finalists and this decision is final. Likewise, the operator in each category at the second round of judging with the most votes will be selected as a Winner and this decision is final. Allowing the Judges to vote as an independent Panel gives us assurance and fair judging.
Ayako is Managing Partner and Co-Founder of TrainingAid, a training and education startup focused on practical online training tools for entrepreneurs, business and community leaders, and career seekers. Having worked for over eight years in professional training and education in the non-profit sector, Ayako specializes in content building, educational program design, and project planning. She also brings many years of experience in online communications, social media marketing, and web publishing. Prior to starting at TrainingAid, Ayako served as Director of Communications for The International Ecotourism Society (TIES). She has contributed to various publications, including “Sustainable Tourism & the Millennium Development Goals” (2012) and “Have Fork Will Travel: A Practical Handbook for Food & Drink Tourism Professionals” (2014).
Chi is the Sustainability & Social Responsibility Specialist at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), and is currently working to build PATA’s sustainability and social responsibility programming and initiatives. Chi’s experience in the tourism industry spans several continents and various types of organizations including travel trade associations, travel marketing organizations, and environmental and gender-focused non-profits.
Prior to joining PATA, Chi has worked with organizations such as the Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA) under the USAID-STAR project, the Women’s Media Centre of Cambodia, the National Tour Association, the Center for Responsible Travel, and the Africa Travel Association. She is currently Secretary of the Board and Communications Working Group Co-Chair of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Chi has studied, volunteered, worked, and traveled in over 40 countries. She was born in Hong Kong, where she is currently based, grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and completed her undergraduate studies at Boston University, and graduate studies at New York University. When she is not knocking off or adding items to her bucket list, Chi enjoys the outdoors, whether on land, or on water, as well as spending time with her loved ones, including four German Shepherds.
Gopi is the founder and Chief Executive of The Blue Yonder. Gopi set up Nila Foundation in Kerala during 2004 out of the passion for the region he comes from and a concern for a unique river civilization. While exploring a sustainable financial support for the foundation, he came up with the idea of The Blue Yonder (TBY), which is now one of the most innovative responsible travel companies in the world.
In 2009 December Outlook Business Magazine has featured Gopi amongst the 50 Social Entrepreneurs in India. An official Responsible Tourism Partner for ITB Berlin and ITB Asia, The Blue Yonder has won multiple international awards and recognitions for their responsible tourism initiatives including Conde Nast Traveler World Saver ́s Awards, First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards at the World Travel Mart and Conde Nast Traveler ́s 8 Great Trips that give back to communities ́ among others. Latest recognition includes prestigious 2012 TODO! 2012 awards for Socially Responsible Tourism, one of the oldest awards in Sustainable Tourism in the world.
Gopi co-founded Responsible Tourism Networking that brings together Responsible Tourism practitioners from around the world during larger trade shows like ITB Berlin and WTM. The A to Z series on Responsible Tourism conceptualised by TBYA, the consulting arm of The Blue Yonder is part of campaigns designed to demystify Responsible Travel. He is currently leading the Climate Change Resistant Food Security project in Kerala in partnership with local cooperative banks to revive and promote the rare variety of red-coloured rice called ‘Pokkali’. The initiative was presented at the 2103 World Food and Travel Summit in Goteborg, Sweden. The Blue Yonder is also the official partner for India ́s first Biennale – Kochi Muziris Biennale.
Masaru founded the Japan Ecolodge Association (ECOLA), to promote ecotourism and ecolodge uniting responsible tourism and green buildings in Japan. The environmentally-friendly accommodations standard developed by ECOLA is fully recognized by Global Sustainable Tourism Council to bottom up the industry standards in the Japanese marketplace. Working as a global community-based ecotourism consultant, ecolodge advisor, and responsible tour operator ‘Spirit of Japan Travel’ in Kyoto, Masaru serves a number of key positions in the organizations both home and abroad pertinent to ecotourism and protected areas. Other related commitments: Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2013, 2014, 2015 Judge, World Travel and Tourism Council; Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards 2012, 2015 Judge; Advisory Committee Member UNEP 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme; Director, Ecotourism Japan; Board member, The International Ecotourism Society 2008-2015 etc.
Mihee is a research professor at Seoul National University, researching topics related to protected areas management and sustainable tourism. She received her Ph.D. degree at Seoul National University in 1999 and became the first Ph.D. in the field of ecotourism in South Korea.
She serves a number of key positions in both domestic and international organizations: Director, Ecotourism Korea; Member, the Korean Ecotourism Consulting Committee; Member, Korean Geoparks Committee; Member, Korean UNESCO MAB Committee; Country Representative for the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and GSTC trainer; Advisory Committee Member, UNEP 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme.
Recently she co-founded Playforest, a cooperative of sustainable travel businesses designed to benefit local communities and local activists dedicated to the conservation of their forests and to provide genuine community-based natural tourism experiences to the visitors. She has also actively participated in numerous ecotourism and protected area projects in Korea and abroad such as Australia, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc.
She has published many articles and books including the first ecotourism book in Korea titled “Ecotourism: Guidebook for Alternative Development and Management of Ecologically Sensitive Local Area” and the recent one titled “Opportunities and Challenges of Ecotourism in ASEAN Countries”. She was also the winner of “UNESCO 2000 Young Scientists Awards”.
Paul grew up in San Francisco, California and graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy of Natural Resources. He got his first work experience abroad as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal stationed in Langtang National Park as an environmental education volunteer. He then worked as a tour leader for Where There Be Dragons, after which he moved to Lao PDR to work with UNESCO on the Nam Ha Ecotourism Project as a guide trainer. Since, then he has continued working in Laos, Vietnam and Sierra Leone with other agencies, including WWF, International Crane Foundation, RSPB, and developing community-based ecotourism. He is currently with Wildlife Conservation Society as the programme’s regional ecotourism advisor, setting up conservation-focused tours in both Laos and Myanmar.
Peter Richards has 10 years of hands-on experience working in sustainable and community based tourism. His career responsible tourism has seen him in roles as Regional Responsible Travel Coordinator for Intrepid Travel (2000-2002), Marketing Manager for the Responsible, Ecological Social Tours Project (2003-2007) and the Marketing Support and Development Coordinator and a founding member of the Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute (2007-2010). Between 2009-2010, Peter managed the Corporate Social Responsibility and Market Access Partnerships Project (CSR-MAP) lead by the Thai Ecotourism and Adventure Travel Association (TEATA) which received a PATA Gold Award for education and training.Since 2010, Peter has broadened his experience by working with The Netherlands Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR), The United Nations Joint Project (UNJP), The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand (MOTS) and Thailand’s Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA). Peter also helps his wife to operate the Family Tree, a boutique Fair Trade store, offering arts and crafts made by over 40 local Thai community groups and exceptional independent artists, planted in the charming beach resort of Hua Hin, Thailand. Peter was a judge for the 2012 and 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards.
Raj is the Founder and Director of Socialtours.com, and partner in socialtreks.com. Social Tours started in 1998 with the goal of leveraging tourism to promote local development in Nepal. The small project has turned into an inspiring leading Responsible Tourism company in Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan. Social Tours recently became the first tour company in Asia to gain Travelife certification, and are also signatories with The Code. Together with a group of community based experts and RT entrepreneurs, he started a project, in 2009, focused on collaboration among localized experts to offer a unique RT product in the Indian subcontinent: the Green Circuit initiative. Gyawali is directly involved in different organizations including United Planet as Co-coordinator for Nepal and Coordinator for Ghana; Joy Foundation Nepal as Honorary Life Member; KEEP Nepal as life member, and Namaste Nepal as board member.