International Conference on Community Development Through Tourism


On 16th and 17th September 2014, Wild Asia attended the International Conference on Community Development Through Tourism, in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. It brought together over 300 participants from tourism authorities, community tourism experts, and practitioners from 28 nations to discuss various aspects of community based tourism development. The aim of the conference was to present case studies, examine the mechanisms (both institutional and practical) that have led to successful inclusion of stakeholders, implementation, and analysis of the lessons learned in developing community based tourism enterprises. 

The conclusion of the two day inspirational event was to accept and endorse the prestigious Phnom Penh Declaration on socially responsible tourism that benefits host communities.

 In line with this year’s theme for UWNTO’s World Tourism day of tourism and community development, we resolve to seek further understanding, participation and involvement of the citizens in the ongoing process of environmentally sustainable and socially responsible tourism development. I hereby proclaim the Phnom Penh Declaration as the official record of our two-day international conference. 

- H.E. Mr. Tith Chantha, Secretary of State of Tourism and High Representative of H.E. Dr. Thong Kohn, Minister of Tourism, Cambodia.

Wild Asia has been fortunate to encounter regional best practice in socially responsible tourism for almost a decade. Amy, from our tourism team, was delighted to be invited by PATA to share some insights into examples of tourism projects supporting community development. She shared case studies from our annual Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards and the Inspiring Stories from Destinations competition we hold each year at ITB Asia.

It was an honour to be invited to participate in this event, alongside industry experts and inspirational leaders. PATA invited me to speak about the role of communities in marine based tourism, and it was an exciting platform to share some of my favourite stories from businesses Wild Asia has been lucky to engage. These included Scuba Junkie, Sri Lanka’s Travel Foundation, Andaman Discoveries, the ChildSafe Network, and Nikoi Island.

- Amy McLoughlin, Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award Manager.


For full details on the conference and the Phnom Penh Declaration, please see the official Press Release here.

All keynote speakers’ slides can be viewed online here.

Browse photos of the event here.

ViaVia Tours, Indonesia – Most Inspiring Tour Operator

winner[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates ViaVia Tours for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner. This award recognizes the tour operator that excels in all of the above categories by taking into consideration all the key principles of responsible tourism (maximum positive impacts to the local community and minimum negative impacts to the environment) and awards innovation for this most inspiring responsible tourism business of the year.

ViaVia tours are as varied as Jogjakarta is populated and they all offer something unique. Adventure, gastronomy and culture. ViaVia in Jogja offers art space to young local artists and is also often the venue of concerts, Friday night Jazz, performance art, film festivals and debates. Parts of the ViaVia profits go to support educational, social and cultural projects in and around Jogjakarta.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Excellent community development, resource efficiency for such a small project.
  • Internal and external impact assessment.
  • Strong in the “influence and inspire” area.
  •  Supporting local artists.
  • Inspirational commitment to supporting marginalised groups (e.g. HIV).
  • Plan to improve energy efficiency.
  • An active company achieving good results and customer numbers.

Inspiring Management

  • Guest information on sustainable tourism: website, peronsal communication, guided walks, welcome briefing, brochures, books.
  • Internal and external environmental and social impact assessments.
  • Staff dedicated to following Indonesian law.
  • New guides go through a weeklong training, specialising in cross cultural communication.
  • All staff have job descriptions where their roles are outlined, with performance appraisals identify capacity building needs.
  • Some staff have participated in Sustainable Tourism training with international specialist. All core guides received a Training of Trainers by specialist.
  • The Manager has her Graduate and Post Graduate Degrees in funded by ViaVia.
  • Gives preference to smaller accommodation suppliers, each is visited and partnership built on shared RT principles.
  • Participated in local and national panel discussions on sustainable tourism.
  • Work with partners, provide partners opportunity to visit, join trainings and tours to learn.
  • Provide informal consultancy to local travel agencies who are interested in “copying” concepts.
  • Host free annual training (approx. 20 people) on cross cultural communication and guiding skills; workshops on social enterprises for students.
  • Facilitated training on sustainable tourism for tourism students of several universities in Jogjakarta (UNY, UPN, and others).
  • 2008 external sustainability assessment (Exchange Belgium) and regular interns assess.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Guides develop personal relationships with villages and seek feedback. Annual meeting to discuss plans and feedback.
  • Organise street festival to engage neighbourhood and other businesses.
  • Work with ILO and other organizations to provide trainings to local communities on tourism, e.g. establishing homestays.
  • Provide humanitarian assistance e.g. emergency relief after 2006 Jogjakarta Earthquake and 2010 Mt. Merapi Erruption; fundraising after the 2006 Nias Earthquake; Awareness raising and fund raising during World Refugee Day in 2004.
  • Constructed 26 houses after 2006 Earthquake.
  • Waste management and environmental training to schools in villages they work with.
  • Supported a community library in Sukamade Village which they visit on Overland tour.
  • Financially and non financially supported the Jogjakarta Mural Project Sama-Sama You Are Welcome in 2003.
  • Provide venue spaces for charitable events.
  • Fund the university education of 5 women (4 staff, 1 non-staff).
  • Funded a life saving surgical operation in Belgium for one of staff.
  • Fair Trade Shop, which provides opportunities for economically disadvantaged people, (e.g. street children, HIV sufferers).
  • Provides regular safe venue for meetings of Narcotics Anonymous, and other marginal groups.
  • 100% local staff and 100% local management.
  • Many staff have progressed from low skilled jobs to management within the business.
  • Staff paid living wage, health insurance, maternity leave, holidays.
  • Has a restaurant, which also uses as much local and organic ingredients by small local producers as possible. No-MSG, No-Palm Oil.
  • In tours visit home industries, guests to buy locally.
  • Child sexual exploitation policy signed by all staff and made available to guests.
  • Promote women in the work place and equality, but some challenges due to culture.

Cultural Preservation

  • Customers told about acceptable dress in brochure and pre-tour briefing.
  • Supports one of the last surviving Javanese ‘Ketoprak’ Theatre Groups.
  • After the 2010 Mt. Merapi Eruption held public meeting with fundraising about the damage caused by the ash, and the future risks to local temple complexes, with key note speaker (British archaeologist Tony Tack).
  • Contribute tourist fees to heritage sites.
  • Promote maintaining local access to heritage sites (e.g. Borobudur).
  • Provide opportunity for young local artists every few weeks to decorate Via Via or exhibit and they take a lower than average commission (30%).
  • Offer Bahasa language courses and Batik courses.

Resource Efficiency

  • Promote sustainably sourced products.
  • No plastic bag policy, refillable water bottles,
  • Furniture made from recycled materials e.g. old boat.
  • In the office use LED lighting, taps checked for leaks.
  • Trees 4 Tours carbon offset scheme.
  • Local school take old paper for recycling.
  • Composting.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Maximise public transport on tours.
  • Trees 4 Tours™ concept supports local farmers with tree planting per tour in a vehicle.
  • Staff trained on species and library provided.
  • Contribute tourist fees to protected areas for e.g. turtle conservation.
  • Discuss environmental and conservation issues on tours.
[Download not found]

2013 Awards – Why should I apply?

IMG 1391 2_1Why should I apply? 

The difference our Awards have made...


Marc Van Loo, founder of 2012 Winner of Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator, LooLa Adventure in Indonesia shares with us just how they have benefited from receiving international recognition through our Awards.

Pictured: Marc Van Loo

1.       What partnerships have you made through our Awards?

We’ve been exploring the idea of creating a Wiki portal for tourism operators to share best practice. Through the awards, we got in touch with Geoffrey Lipman (Secretary General of UNWTO and past President of the WTTC) and together have been in touch with Wikipedia. Their CEO got personally involved and we received assurances of dedicated support.

Most recently we are busy designing three new Eco villas that support local employment and are resource efficient. As well as a team of fantastic experts we’ve engaged with this work, past Award winners Sarinbuana (Bali) are also helping to support this project (Norm is designing villas as we speak!).

The award gave our international credibility an enormous boost and was instrumental in opening all these doors for us.

Significantly, the Wild Asia award led to an invitation from WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow awards (2013) to apply, and we’re now one of three finalists in the Community Benefits category, further enhancing our credibility.

2.       How has the Award made a difference to your destination?

The local government has always liked what we do and is very proud of our achievements. They are very happy to see that what they liked about us, is also recognised independently and internationally.

Most of all, the Award has done miracles for empowering our staff.

It has hit them: we are no longer a bunch of villagers in a remote place in Indonesia, we compete at the world stage, and we’re going to show that we can retain and enhance that position. Motivation has never been this high. The Wild Asia checklists have done wonders for pushing certain not-so-popular items like waste (water) management to the front.

3.      Has the Award provided a platform to improve your responsible tourism communications?

The award enabled us to get an appointment with some of the highest officers in Singapore within STB (Singapore Tourism Board), which is very nice.

For internal purposes, it has been great. Now we can always refer back to the application forms, and all our staff now accepts that this stuff is very important.

4.       Has the Award application improved your systems/identified areas to improve?

Absolutely. The process allowed us to identify the management of waste water and water supply were some of our areas that could be improved.

We’re currently working with an architect who has just completed an initial design for (waste and rain) water, and is working together with experts for waste water integration.

We also wanted to improve our energy efficiency. Electricity is now being completely overhauled. At first I thought that this was not possible – but now it turns out that we are able to have air-con in our new villas in a eco-sensitive way, not using ANY batteries and only using solar power! It’s all very exciting!

5.       In what way has Wild Asia as an organisation supported your business?

Wild Asia has always been ready to answer any question if they were in a position to do so, by generously and sharing relevant contacts in their network without any clear benefits for themselves except creating goodwill.

Really, absolutely tops.