Scuba Junkie: Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife Conservation

2012 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner: Best in Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

Scuba Junkie has made the clear connection between business and nature and is doing lots to protect the environment of which their diving resort depends on. Their resort is based on Mabul, a beautiful island off Sabah in Malaysian Borneo, just a short boat ride away from any diver’s ‘big one’, Sipadan.

Scuba Junkie is often described as the ‘lifeline’ for its home island and is at the forefront of many local schemes to clean up Mabul, protect endangered marine species and educate others. Aside from the whole heap of great initiatives Scuba Junkie are engaged with, they’re an exemplar business when it comes to working with the local community too.

Why Wild Asia loved this Winner

Our favourite concept!

Waste Management – In 2011, Scuba Junkie donated $70,000 towards rubbish removal from Mabul. The resort coordinates an island rubbish collection service: free biodegradable bags are provided for local community, once full, these can be dropped off at the resort and a boat collects four times per week and takes to a recycling plant on the mainland managed by a Governmental Body. This is preventing locals to dump waste into the sea, as previously done. They have also sponsored and introduced the only street bins in Mabul (150) and provided the local council with skips (10). They also coordinate weekly beach and reef cleans.

  • Shark Conservation – Spearheading the Semporna Shark Sanctuary as Advisor to the Proposal, they have contributed 70,000RM this year towards the campaign. The goal is to gazette a protected area in Semporna seas for endangered sharks and lobby against shark finning. Within Semporna, they employ a member of staff to monitor the sales of shark products at the local wet market. They have also recently funded an expert to deliver a study on the Economic Value of Sharks in Sabah
  • Education – Scuba Junkie supports the island’s School of Hope, a centre providing educational opportunities for sea gypsy children who cannot attend state school. They are engaging them with English classes and environmental education. These children are also actively engaged in events such as Mabul Marine Week which bring the community together. Furthermore, the resort’s Shark and Environmental Officer delivers weekly presentations to guests on turtle and shark conservation in the local area
  • Environment – Buildings have been designed to prevent light and noise pollution and the resort has a Green Grade A sewage treatment plant which is soon to be upgraded to include irrigation into the ground
  • Sustainable Seafood – No seafood is served onsite as local methods are not sustainable. A bold statement for an island tourism business where fish is often demanded, but very responsible and admirable
  • Turtle Conservation – The resort runs and manages the islands only turtle hatchery which is managed by trained biologists and supervised by Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Parks. To reduce unethical turtle egg collecting, they have introduced an excellent incentive by paying locals 10RM per egg (10x market value). These eggs are collected and added to the Turtle Hatchery project to be safeguarded. In the past year, they have contributed 25,000RM to the hatchery project

What did the Judges have to say?

“Most impressive is that they limit themselves voluntarily in areas where they could make profit, such as limiting the number of boat trips, don’t sell seafood, restrict buildings etc”

“An impressive list of green credentials”


ITC Sonar: Resource Efficiency

2012 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner: Best in Resource Efficiency

ITC Sonar in Kolkata, India, has taken its commitment of ‘sustainable luxury’ to a whole other level and has enough green credentials under its belt to impress even the most difficult of customers.

The tireless efforts to make ITC Sonar energy, waste and water efficient is exceptional. It was the first hotel in the world to earn carbon credits under the carbon trading scheme. This beautiful 5* hotel is a leading light in renewable energy and resource efficiency.

Why Wild Asia loved this Winner

Our favourite concept!

Management SystemsITC Sonar has an effective environmental management system in place (EMS) following the ISO14001 standard. They also adhere to LEED and USGBC standards. If this is all jargon to you – these are internationally recognised management systems that ensure a business has exceptional environmental best practices in place. Most importantly, they are working. In five years, the hotel saved almost 10,000 tonnes of carbon emissions through environmental measures. They also engage all staff when setting environmental related targets to ensure they are realistic and achievable.

  • Sustainable Purchasing – When submitting tender documents to new suppliers, they have now included an environmental section to ensure their supply chain is doing its bit for the environment too. They have delivered training workshops on green supply chain to their vendors/partners, too.  60% of total purchasing is done sustainably; this means it is from renewable materials, sourced within 500km distance or FSC paper/woods and reused items. They also use Green Seal certified detergents and soaps (environmentally labeled with ISO14020 and ISO14024) and soap nuts to green their cleaning
  • Saving WaterTechnologies such as using LEED accredited aerators are installed throughout to reduce water consumption. They recycle 100% of their water for e.g. toilet flushing. They’ve recently revamped and modified their reverse osmosis plant, which has resulted in more yield and less reject water
  • Waste Management – No waste goes to landfill, organic waste is composted and they have implemented a strict monitoring of food consumption vs demand to reduce waste
  • Reducing Energy Consumption – Measures to save energy have included: all lighting in public areas and guest rooms has now been replaced with LED lighting; low tonnage energy chillers used and variable frequency drivers installed to optimize energy consumption.
  • Educating Guests – Guests are educated about how they can contribute to resource efficiency during their stay by using information in the lobby, posters distributed (e.g. saving water) and ‘green hearts’ with messages of hotels measures are displayed in relevant guest areas. When checking in, guests are given information on energy saving measures, accompanied by electrical key card and in room digital thermostat
  • Sewage – They have been certified by government as a zero water discharge property. Their state of the art 400kl capacity SAFF (Submerged Aerated Fixed Film) plant is monitored monthly by a contractor. Water output is used for flushing, cooling tower, irrigation etc and semi-solid residue forms cakes used for manure in horticulture!
  • Sphere of Influence – Schools can arrange visits to hotel to learn about resource efficiency and the hotel also offers an outreach program (in past 3 years they have worked with 8 local schools, equating to around 250 children, from underprivileged areas). To date they have distributed 3,800 saplings to their associates which have been planted in the area

What did the Judges have to say?

“This hotel is a fantastic model for other, regular city/provincial hotels to relate to and follow”

“Engagement with standards, involving their staff, guests and deep into their supply chain is a real inspiration”

“Their commendable effort can translate to many more establishment becoming resource efficient”

Agri Tourism: Cultural Preservation

2012 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner: Best in Cultural Preservation

Agri Tourism based in rural Maharashtrian countryside in central India, is an innovative scheme to invite city-slickers to get back to their rural farming roots. In an area where youngsters are eager to flee a declining farming industry for quick cash in neighbouring urban areas, Agri Tourism is successfully reversing this trend and giving new hope to rural populations.

This dynamic business is attracting tourist from far and wide wanting to experience agriculture heritage. Generating interest, income and demand for this important part of India’s culture, Agri Tourism is witnessing local farmers diversifying to reap the benefits of both agriculture and tourism.

Why Wild Asia loved this Winner

Our favourite concept!

Sustainable Livelihoods - Prior to the introduction of Agri Tourism holidays, rain water thirsty Maharashtra was having some serious challenges seeing a future in farming. Yet, by diversifying farms for tourism activities, farmers have experienced a 25% growth in business. This money is helping to change up farming habits to a more sustainable way and it’s attracting more people back to their cultural heritage, especially younger generations. To date, Agri Tourism has trained over 1000 farmers in tourism capacity building and 350 farms have diversified, reaping the benefits of a newly found sustainable income.

  • Local Employment – 100% local staff from the immediate village is preventing urban migration and an aging rural population. They also have initiatives for youths, women empowerment and all staff are paid the legal minimum wage or above
  • Cultural Exchange - In an area that historically had no tourism whatsoever, locals are now benefiting from learning from other cultures as well as showcasing their own to new found friends (such as their annual Kite Festival which sees over 500 attendees, traditional bullock cart rides or evenings in traditional dress). Not only is the centre a cross cultural learning experience for foreigners, but Indian guests are satisfied by learning about their own ancestral heritage and culture
  • Community Development - 15% annual profits go to the primary school next door, this money is spent on improving the level of education and for clean drinking water
  • Water – Neighbouring wealthy areas have benefited from the introduction of canal systems, this area would not have been eligible given its sparse population, but the government has expressed interest now there is tourism money coming in and are exploring bringing new canal systems to the village in next 5 years. This will be hugely beneficial to villagers who are losing their crops due to change in climate (very dry)

What did the Judges have to say?

“This is a fantastic project – really impressed”

“A very useful model for community-based
tourism elsewhere in India and throughout Asia Pacific”

“A complete all-rounder”

Soria Moria: Community Engagement & Development

2012 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner: Best in Community Engagement and Development

The Soria Moria Boutique Hotel is located in Siem Reap, Cambodia and makes the perfect stepping stone for exploring the World famous and awe-inspiring, Angkor Temple Park.

This is truly a hotel with a heart. Ensuring tourism benefits local people is what this hotel is all about. From inspiring local employment policies, to bicycle hire that funds local children’s projects, guests can be blown away by the level of community development projects Soria Moria is dedicated to supporting.

Why Wild Asia loved this Winner

Our favourite concept!

Local Ownership – The initial idea behind Soria Moria was to combine a business opportunity with a strong focus on helping the community, especially by contribution to long-term economic development. Through their own, Soria Moria Educational Development Program, the local employees have become majority owners of the business; an initiative to empower through ownership. By being share owners, the employees are able to take part in the decision making process and share any profits made. It also enables the employees to take part in supporting the surrounding community. The long term goal is to transfer the remaining shares to the staff.

  • HRM Management – Soria Moria has created its own ‘Employee Elevator Scheme’ to encourage continual professional development of locally sourced staff (e.g.  five members of management started as housekeeping staff)
  • Capacity Building – They offer hospitality training in the hotel for local young adults and staff, their innovative $1 night provides a weekly busy platform for local youngsters to practice their hospitality skills at the hotel
  • Supporting Local StaffStaff have the opportunity to take part in an international exchange programme to gain overseas hotelier experience, and for staff wishing to stay closer to home some staff have also been assisted with funding to attend University in situations were previously would not have been possible before
  • Child Safety – In a destination that experiences many challenges with child labour and exploitation, the hotel has signed the ChildSafe International ‘Code’ and is truly dedicated to protecting children’s rights and protecting their well being. Guests are reminded throughout the hotel to be aware of signs of children related problems to look out for and how to report them
  • Fundraising – The hotel has a whole host of fundraising schemes through bicycle rental, sales of gifts and collecting donations. Money goes to various projects, such as: rural schools for water provision, local teacher salaries and children’s art classes, traffic safety scheme, education centre, street kid project and children’s hospital
  • Visitor Awareness – As well as their own informative responsible tourism literature, the hotel promotes the Ministry of Tourism ‘do’s and don’ts’ guide to ensure that visitors’ stays are culturally sensitive and enjoyable
What did the Judges have to say?

“Many great initiatives being put in place by this hotel” 

“Highly principled operation” 

“An excellent model …I admire their unique approach to promoting ownership by staff”


Let’s Unravel Travel: Experiences from India (Part 1 of 3)

Our ‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our Let’s Unravel Travel series of dispatches style articles. The aim of this exciting new series is to raise awareness about tourism from the field; looking at inspiring grassroots initiatives and localised issues that need addressing. We’re kicking off our articles with experiences from India.

Experiences from India

by Amy McLoughlin

Let me introduce myself. I am Amy and started with Wild Asia in May 2012 to help with the coordination of the Responsible Tourism Awards. I’m a young sustainable tourism professional who has worked for the past few years in the UK as a Sustainable Tourism Adviser in a national park, following a degree in related studies. I joined Wild Asia after eight months travelling and volunteering through Asia. Don’t worry! I’m not going to bore you with my soul searching mission, but I will excite you with my sustainability searching mission!

I have spent most of the past eight months in India. Along my way I have seen some things that have shocked me, inspired me, angered me or moved me. I’d like to share some of these with you.

Praise for the goodies!

Agri Tourism India (Maharashtra, India)

An initiative developed to encourage city slickers to ‘get back to their farming roots’ on peaceful holidays in the beautiful Maharashtrian countryside. It has gone far beyond. It remains a popular get away for Mumbai and Pune residents, but it’s doing it in a way that is wonderfully responsible. Their training centre hosts a range of capacity building courses for local farmers and to date has trained in excess of 500 people. Farmers have been learning about how to diversify their farms into homestays, creating additional sustainable income as well as providing an opportunity to conserve their cultural heritage. The agricultural centre hosts a variety of cultural evenings and events for guests, including traditional bullock cart ride and opportunity to dress in local costume (that’s me in the middle!). As a result, farmers have experienced a 25% economic growth. The scheme is great news for employing woman’s cooperatives and advocating youth employment in an area when many young people flee their rural roots. More information (link to their website).

  • Tourism for Tomorrow 2011 Finalist Community Benefit
  • Responsible Tourism Awards 2011 Winner Contribution to Conserving Cultural Heritage
Some things that got me worried…

Waste management in the Andaman and Nicobar islands (India)

The quintessential tropical paradise. Beautiful beaches, swaying palms, bath like sea, pirate movie film set villages…and a shed load of rubbish. I made the calculated decision to visit the tourist hub of Havelock after learning how tourism in these islands has had a negative impact on tribal communities. I was anxious of tourist numbers, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a stretched infrastructure, it was good. I was not expecting to wade through sanitary towels and clamber over mountains of glass bottles to get to the beach. Nothing is being done to manage this, gulp.

Next up…

Our next issue will highlight more positive and negative examples from India.

[message type="simple"]The need for Responsible Tourism and Wild Asia

These positive stories highlight the need for responsible tourism everywhere in the world and showcase that tourism can be a force for good. These are just a small handful of inspirational schemes that are out there. But the benefits to local people speak for themselves. Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards recognises best practice in responsible tourism, rewarding businesses by giving them the recognition they deserve. More information on our Awards.

Wild Asia has been championing responsible tourism for over ten years. But we know that in many destinations there is still a lot of work to be done. Wild Asia can provide bespoke training courses for tourism operators to raise awareness on how to reduce environmental impacts or ensure local communities benefit from tourism. The sad stories of poor tourism development show troubles from the top and bottom. Wild Asia continues to work with industry level groups to influence how tourism operates and travelers must remember to take responsibility into their own hands. Operators can play their part by educating guests. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to inquire about responsible tourism training.


(Photos: Amy McLoughlin, except Havelock litter image: credit Brombags1 on