BEST Society – 2014 Finalist

BEST web

6INITIATIVE ICONBEST Society, which stands for Borneo Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies, supports rural communities in Malaysia’s Sabah establish and improve their own social enterprises, improving their quality of life through business. Moving away from charity, now the NGO focuses on capacity building in social entrepreneurship, and is increasing access to markets for cottage industry artisans.

Here’s a snapshot of some of their key achievements, and reasons why Wild Asia has identified them as one of our 2014 Finalists in the category Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative…

  • BEST was founded by Borneo Eco Tours, and Sukau Rainforest Lodge, as an organisation to provide welfare to communities to develop social entrepreneurship.
  • The objectives are promote responsible tourism, generate secondary incomes through nature tourism, education, test sustainable technologies in local setting, provide capacity building, develop code of practice for ecolodges in Sabah, multi-stakeholder dialogue and management.
  • As well as tree planting, health and dental camps, clean water projects and more, BEST has also delivered training to establish longhouse properties, organic farming techniques, and responsible tourism.
  • Liaise with community leaders and committees about setting up projects to respond to their needs.
  • Adopted 65 acres of riverine landscape and reforested the land, preventing soil erosion into the river and maintaining wildlife habitats.
  • Organised free medical camps and issued water tanks benefiting 56 families.
  • Around 50% of BEST activities are funded through private donations or grant funding, and the rest is generated through a sustainable financial structure via contributions from every guest at Sukau Rainforest Lodge.

 

For more information about the BEST Society, please visit their website.

 

Borneo Eco Tours – 2014 Finalist

Borneo Eco web

1COMMUNITY ICONBorneo Eco Tours, based in Malaysian Borneo, has been a pioneer in responsible nature tours since 1991. Two of their most popular destinations in which they operate includes the iconic Kinabatangan River, where guests can enjoy their Sukau Rainforest Lodge and Borneo’s primates, and Kudat, which provides opportunities for guests to visit and support cottage industries along the scenic coast.

Here’s a snapshot of some of their key achievements, and reasons why Wild Asia has identified them as one of our 2014 Finalists in the category Best in Community Engagement and Development…

  • In 1996 Borneo Eco Tours established a non-profit foundation, BEST Society, to deliver community projects in destinations in which they operate. To date, this has included installing water tanks to villages with no access to clean water, medical and dental camps, introducing organic farming projects in rural areas, and tree planting.
  • They are very committed to sourcing staff locally, and pride themselves that 100% local of their team is made up of local people, including management level.  Furthermore, staff have access to great benefits such as a higher than national minimum wage, medical benefits, recreation activities, allowances for overtime, and special skills training.
  • After more than two decades of successful business, Borneo Eco Tours shares its expertise and access to useful contacts with other budding entrepreneurs. They have been training local community members in tourism and supporting them to establish their own social enterprise. Some examples include: increasing access to markets for artisans (e.g. beaded jewellery makers, weavers, coconut oil and honey producers), sending 50 farmers on an organic farming training course,  and technical support to accommodation proprietors.
  • As big believers in sharing their cultural heritage, many tours include visits to cottage industries which support the local economy.
  • To date, their operations have generated approximately $127,000 for community and environmental projects. They have achieved this by including a levy on every guest’s bill which automatically is invested into local BEST projects.

 

For more information about Borneo Eco Tours, please visit their website.

 

 

 

 

2014 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards: Winners

WinnerWe are incredibly excited to reveal the 2014 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winners. The following businesses have now completed the first stage of the competition and been shortlisted from applicants from across the region.

The Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards are based on the UNWTO Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. Our categories both align with criteria in different pillars of sustainable tourism, and recognise inspirational operators.

1COMMUNITY ICONBest in Community Engagement and Development

This award recognizes exceptional commitment to supporting the local community and economy in which your business operates.

Winner: Borneo Eco Tours, Malaysia

Based in Malaysian Borneo, Borneo Eco Tours has been a pioneer in responsible nature tours since 1991. Two of their most popular destinations in which they operate includes the iconic Kinabatangan River, where guests can enjoy their award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge and Borneo’s famed primates, and Kudat, which provides opportunities for guests to visit and support cottage industries (supported by their partner NGO, BEST) along the scenic coast.

Finalists: Reality Tours & Travel, IndiaVillage Ways, India

2CULTURAL PRS  ICONBest in Cultural Preservation

This award recognizes engagement and efforts by tourism businesses in preserving, enhancing and promoting local cultures and heritage.

Winner: Ock Pop Tok, Laos

Ock Pop Tok is located in the stunning UNESCO town of Luang Prabang in Laos. For the past 15 years they have been working to cultivate and preserve Laos’ textile heritage through sustainable tourism. Today, they have visitor accommodation, a Living Arts Centre, retail outlets and a restaurant – all where visitors can enjoy the colourful textures as rich as Laotian culture.

Finalist: Andaman Discoveries, Thailand

6INITIATIVE ICONMost Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative

This award recognizes grass-roots initiatives championing responsible tourism within their destination.

Winner: ChildSafe Network (Friends International), Cambodia

The ChildSafe Network, delivered by Friends-International, is helping to protect vulnerable children in tourism destinations across Cambodia and other parts of South East Asia. Their 7 Tips for Travellers helps tourists make the right choices in responsible travel to advocate child safety. Beyond that, they’re also working behind the scenes to get children off the streets through vocational training, supporting their parents through jobs, and generating funding and employment through social ventures.

Finalist: BEST Society, Malaysia

Sukau Rainforest Lodge – Most Inspiring Accommodation

finalist[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Sukau Rainforest Lodge for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Finalist. This award recognizes the accommodation provider 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 accommodation of the year.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge nestles on the banks of one of Borneo’s most important waterways, the Kinabatangan River, home to many of Borneo’s magnificent wildlife. Sukau Rainforest Lodge offers the rare comfort and luxury in the midst of the Borneo Rainforest whilst retaining an Eco-Lodge ethos, the delicate balance of true sustainability.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Uses external experts to assist/advise on compliance issues.
  • Makes a significant contribution – mostly at own expense – to promoting benefits of sustainable tourism practice and ecotourism in Borneo and wider afield.
  • Consistent efforts to educate tourists and the industry about ecotourism for over a decade through different media and techniques.
  • Commitment to partnership and multi-stakeholder approach (e.g. set up association). Several international awards.
  • Active conservation and environmental practices – supporting KiTA, projects through BEST Society, etc. The BEST Society, of which the Founder is also the chair man has implemented lots of projects, which are reported annually and available to learn about online on the best website. It’s a great achievement to have raised over 1 million RM on community projects.
  • Good wages and welfare to staff. Weekly team meetings addressing staff’s personal development, supporting staff training opportunities – internal and external.
  • Wheelchair accessible.
  • Great interpretation practices to inform and educate guests.
  • Feedback from community leaders.
  • Responsible wildlife viewing practices.

 Inspiring Management

  • Internal environmental and social impact assessments delivered.
  • Guests receive information on sustainable tourism through own personal booklet.
  • Work with compliance team to maintain legal compliance, work with NGOs (e.g. WWF) and specialist to monitor environmental aspects.
  • Weekly staff meetings to share personal development, some staff sent for training, H&S for all staff twice a year.
  • Some rooms and all public areas have wheelchair accessibility.
  • MD is advisor to International Ecotourism Society board and speaks at events on responsible tourism.
  • 1997 British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award.
  • World Travel Awards 2010 Winner for Best Asia Green Hotel award.
  •  Voted the top 50 best eco-lodges by National Geographic, 2009.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Provide opportunity for guests to vists local’s house, money goes direct to family, to learn about local culture.
  • Helped form KiTA, local tourism association, and its conservation levy scheme. Raised over RM1million to date through own and sister company, spent on community/conservation projects.
  • Provided 50 water tanks to local community.
  • Organised 3 medical camps, bringing doctor and dentist to local area.
  • School visits site twice a year to learn about conservation.
  • 53% local workforce, 40% of management are local people.
  • Hire local contractors, e.g. boat men or maintenance staff.
  • Provide internship opportunities for local people.
  • Policy to protect female staff, anyone who does not follow is immediately terminated and reported to police.
  • Newly constructed staff quarters, provide very good and better than other local standards of living.
  • Above minimum wage with other opportunities, e.g. share tips or night cruise fees.
  • Meet on ad hoc basis with community leaders and at times when delivering local projects.

Cultural Preservation

  • Do and Don’t provided by leaflet.
  • Design based on local style, reducing impact to trees, constructed by locals with as many local materials as possible.
  • All guests have to wear traditional sarung to dinner to immerse in local culture.
  • Sell regional crafts in the shop.

Resource Efficiency

  • Use of solar for water heating.
  • Avoid dependency on electricity by using e.g. kerosene lamps on walkways.
  • Inform guests about reducing energy and water through info in rooms.
  • Water from rain water harvesting and from river (treated) in dry season.
  • Water saving: toilets and showers.
  • Recently improved waste water management with new septic tanks installed.
  • All waste including recyclable taken offsite.
  • Performed risk assessment (2007) to identify risks from chemicals and have taken actions to prevent.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Evening presentations and talks from naturalists to educate guests on conservation.
  • First business in area to get solar, set buildings back from river, electric motor on river cruises, wildlife guidelines and have waste management scheme.
  • Has tree planting programme aimed at carbon offsetting.
  • Guests told to reduce noise after 9pm.
  • 80.8% area left undeveloped. All flora on site are native.
  • Funded river clean up through KiTA, reforestation and rehabilitated hornbills, pangolin, and an owl at the lodge.
  • Boardwalk design allows for elephants to move across. 
T+L 2012‘Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Accommodation Provider’ Award is sponsored by Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia.

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”