CRDTours – Finalist, Community

FINALIST - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Community Engagement & Development

Creating unforgettable learning experiences in the Cambodian provinces of Kratie and Stung Treng, CRDTours works closely with their partner NGO, CRDT (Cambodian Rural Development Team) to create sustainable changes through community-based tourism initiatives, such as rural development and environmental conservation.

Not only does CRDTours give tourists hands-on cultural experiences, such as whipping up local dishes with their host families, attending traditional religious blessings, and participating in on-going development projects identified by the local communities. But they also make sure the local communities don’t become overly dependent on tourism as a livelihood source by limiting the carrying capacity of visitors to Koh P’dao, an island nestled in the mighty Mekong river and home to a number of their tourist programs.

By expanding their community development tours’ projects to include chicken and pig raising and building toilets and rainwater collection systems, CRDTours is able to reach more beneficiaries and maximize long term benefits while also developing non-tourist centric methods of livelihood such as livestock raising, maintaining home gardens, and environmental education.

Mobilizing local communities key to CRDTours’ success. They are trusted by the local community, provide trainings and improve community awareness about issues such as environmental conservation. During village demonstrations, events, and livelihood trainings focused on deforestation and environmental awareness, 60% of beneficiaries were able to raise at least 3 environmental issues, such as illegal fishing and climate change present in their community and offer solutions.

CRDTours actively involves the local  community members, encouraging them to play a role in development and environmental conservation initiatives, which include:

  • Finding alternative livelihoods to slow/stop the depletion of natural resources
  • Raising awareness about the impact of unsustainable natural resources and gradually change the community’s behavior towards the environment
  • Promoting ecotourism as an incentive for community members to stop harming wildlife and take action to protect it

Since the community implementation of the above conservation initiatives reliance on natural resources has reduced. New agriculture techniques enable community beneficiaries to produce goods for their own consumption, reducing their dependency on natural resources.

Ecotourism has been an incentive for communities to protect their rare, Irrawaddy dolphin neighbors and make them proud of their community. Over a quarter of the Community Based Ecotourism (CBET) annual development fund was given to the community fishery for river patrolling. By 2013 community beneficiaries stopped using gillnets (which dolphins are known to get caught in) close to the known dolphin pool and reduced their time spent fishing by 45%. Thanks to the complete removal of gillnets in the area, two baby dolphins were born in the Koh P’dao pool earlier this year.

For more information about CRDTours, visit their website: http://www.crdtours.org/

Watch their video here

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

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/

2015 Responsible Tourism Awards Finalists

PATA Travel Mart has Sustainability Centre Stage – Wild Asia Awards

Now in their ninth year, the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, has just announced their 2015 Finalists.

The Wild Asia Awards was the first of its kind to identify Asia based sustainability superstars in the travel industry, and remains the only regional responsible tourism awards. The Awards are based on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Criteria, and provide a unique opportunity for tourism businesses and projects to benchmark their work against international standards. Participants also benefit from gaining third party verification from the panel of esteemed expert judges.

This September, Winners will be officially announced and celebrated at the 2015 PATA Travel Mart in Bangalore. “Sustainability is one of the main advocacy themes of the Association and an important issue to address when we talk about the responsible development of travel and tourism,” said Mario Hardy, PATA CEO. “We are therefore delighted to host the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards at this year’s Travel Mart and share in the celebration of tourism organisations that truly exemplify what it means to be sustainable. Wild Asia is a valued PATA Sustainability Partner, and a special partner of the Responsible Travel Pavilion at PTM, a space where like-minded organisations can gather, share knowledge, and build business.”

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

Best in Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife Conservation
This award recognizes tourism businesses’ consideration of their local environment and biodiversity by actively supporting and protecting their natural assets.

Best in Resource Efficiency
This award recognizes excellence in waste, water and energy management and sustainable architectural design in order to minimize your business’s environmental impact.

Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator
This award recognizes the tourism operator that excels 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 tourism business of the year.

Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative
This award recognizes grass-roots initiatives championing responsible tourism within their destination.

Over the next couple of months, all Finalists will undergo further rigorous investigation to determine the 2015 Winners. During this time, thorough open-source articles will become available on the Wild Asia website for each of these businesses or projects. The aim of sharing their successes, challenges, and
lessons learned, is to inspire and influence the industry to adopt measures to become more socially and environmentally responsible.

For those wishing to join the PATA Travel Mart and celebrate alongside the winners, the deadline for applying to showcase your business at the Responsible Travel Pavilion is 30th June 2015. Full details can be found at here.

International Conference on Community Development Through Tourism

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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.

ChildSafe Network – 2014 Finalist

ChildSafe web

6INITIATIVE ICONThe ChildSafe Network, delivered by Friends International, is helping to protect vulnerable children in tourism destinations across Cambodia and other parts of South East Asia. Travellers can sometimes unknowingly put children at risk of exploitation, and the ChildSafe 7 Tips helps tourists make the right choices in responsible travel to advocate child safety. Beyond that, ChildSafe is also working behind the scenes to get children off the streets, through vocational training, supporting their parents through employment, and generating employment through social ventures.

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…

  • The ChildSafe Network is a holistic and multifaceted child protection program run by Friends International since 2004, both globally and in destination countries (most well known in Cambodia) throughout South East Asia.
  • The aim is to raise awareness of child protection through the tourism industry, through media campaigns, grassroots campaigning, training of tourists, training and certification of businesses, supporting the income generation of marginalized families, and responding to child abuse through the ChildSafe Hotline.
  • By providing training and certification to tourism businesses, more establishments are issuing child protection policies, and communicating messages to travellers. To date around 5,000 businesses are now engaged in promoting child safety through tourism.
  • The ChildSafe 7 Tips for Travellers is now available in nine languages, and published in international departure airports and agencies, and at arrival airports and agencies in this region. More than 3 million travellers have been exposed to this campaign.
  • Conducts awareness raising on the streets and in communities of the at risk children, educating them how they can protect themselves and where they can seek help.
  • Through their hotline, they are protecting around 2,000 children per year. Social workers respond to calls to safeguard children.
  • They have retail outlets providing opportunities for caregivers to sell products they make and provide financial stability to keep their children in school. In 2013 sales amounted to $450,000, supporting 450 caregivers and over 1,300 children, as well as providing income for Friend’s other social service programmes.
  • Across our region, there are country specific ethical tourism issues. For example, in Cambodia orphanage tourism is prevalent, as are baby milk scams and begging. ChildSafe responds to specific challenges, creating campaigns to raise awareness and tackle the issue through educational materials.
  • Whilst many of their funding needs are met through generous donations, their social enterprise model is increasing and making the programme more financially sustainable. In the busy tourist town of Siem Reap alone, you can support their work by eating at their restaurant, shopping at one of their retail outlets, getting your hair done at their salon, or fixing your moto and their new bike repair shop.

 

For more information about the ChildSafe Network, please visit their website.

(Photo credit Robert Buchan)

 

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

Child Safe Tourism – spotlight on orphanages

by Amy McLoughlin

Orphanage Tourism

What is Orphanage Tourism? It can be most commonly found in Cambodia, where tourists may be approached by children, asking them to make a visit to their orphanage in exchange for a small donation towards the upkeep of their home (Friends-International). Controversially, an entire tourism industry has grown around this and now represents thousands of tourist visits.

Orphanage tourism is a burgeoning industry and attracting attention for a whole host of reasons. Most commonly because the children in question are exposed to exploitation and the begging culture does not equate to a sustainable future of the centre or its inhabitants. Shockingly, there have also been reports of some establishments where children have been bought from families to be placed into ‘fake’ orphanages to work in heartstring-tugging roles to generate money.
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Some things you should know about orphanages in Cambodia:

  1. According to the Alternative Care Report (2008) 75% of children living in orphanages, are not orphans.
  2. Many orphanages exploit children to raise money. They can be scams to attract donations, tourists and volunteers.
  3. Most orphanages do not have child protection policies in place and therefore are unsafe environments for children.

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It doesn’t end with orphanages. Visitors across the world can be found visiting schools, slums or dump-sites  The Child Safe Network provides travellers with advice about visiting such sites; they suggest visiting these situations only further enforces inequality and poor living environments can often be maintained to trigger emotional giving from tourists.

Children are not Tourist Attractions

Children-are-not-tourist-attractions1In the late 2000′s, orphanage tourism had increased greatly, as had the number of orphanages across Cambodia. Friends-International had identified orphanage tourism as a growing concern for several years. As a result, in 2011 they launched the ‘Children are not Tourist Attractions’ campaign.

Expert in the field Luke Gracie from Friends-International, works with a network of NGOs to provide family based care to children living outside their families and to prevent abandonment of children. He shares his insights into this industry and its implications…

Orphanage tourism places a huge number of risks on kids, so reducing the number of tourists visiting orphanages will reduce the chances of child protection violations to kids, as well as contribute to breaking the business model of the orphanages that see kids as profit making entities.

There are a lot of negative impacts of people visiting orphanages. I find the process ethically offensive. Placing vulnerable children as a type of commodity that people pay money to visit and play with is a pretty poor foundation for a child centre to be working from.

With no checks on the people who are visiting many orphanages, it is an unacceptable risk to children that predators could potentially see where they live and interact with the kids. People shouldn’t support orphanages or child centres that place children at that level of risk.

It can be traumatising for children living in orphanages to make attachments to visitors and for them to leave after a short amount of time. It’s important for children to make attachments to care givers, a conveyer belt of people arriving and giving them attention is not a healthy experience for children.

We gave Luke the following scenario: I am a tourist being offered the chance to visit an orphanage and I really want to help. What shall I do? Can there be positive impacts of orphanage tourism? In a nutshell, he replies: “not really”. Luke suggests that visiting an orphanage is much like the temptation to give in to begging. Whilst he admits, the sensation of making a vulnerable child smile is tempting after giving them money in the street, people should be aware of what the longer term impact of giving or visiting an orphanage is. It can create a lifecycle of poor child care and can fund pro-longed dangerous living environments.

Orphanage Volunteers

Similar to visiting an orphanage as part of a holiday, those volunteering their time to help out in an orphanage are also gaining attention from the media. Under much criticism, ‘voluntourism’ in general has been put under the spotlight with many asking ‘a help of hindrance?’.

No child benefits from spending intimate time with a total stranger, especially those who are uneducated in social work and education
- Tessa Boudrie, a qualified social worker *

Some professionals in the sector have criticised volunteer opportunities for a lack of purpose and that many volunteers don’t possess the relevant skills or time commitment needed to make a real difference. Orphanages can often be desperate for help and will open their doors unwittingly to dangerous characters, putting children’s safety at risk. Children in orphanages can also be susceptible to emotional loss from the ever changing conveyor belt of volunteers.

On the other hand, volunteers are also open to exploitation and many volunteers engage with orphanages with a genuine desire to bring positive benefits yet are greeted by ‘fake’ or unethical establishments out to make a buck from willing foreigners.

Luke stresses that:

Volunteering can be a great thing and provide fantastic benefits to organisations. People increasingly see the injustice of the world, how it’s not a fair world and they want to do something to prevent or mitigate that in some small way. That’s a really great mind-set to have.

Kate JordanKate Jordan from the USA has spent two four month stints volunteering in orphanages in Nepal and Guatemala. She was motivated to volunteer in orphanages because she loves working with children, with a dream of a career in international social welfare.

Kate pursued working with paid volunteer opportunities to be assured that she was travelling with a reputable organisation. Generally, she felt confident that this money was being spent to support the projects where she was working, such as supplies needed by the orphanage. However, at the orphanage in a rural Nepali village, Kate reports it was very evident that the owner of the orphanage was selling these supplies in order to fund her own comparatively lavish life style.

It was extremely difficult to see that [children] living at the orphanage were being neglected…my supervisor conveyed to me that it was better that they were receiving the care of volunteers, albeit while being denied their rightful resources, rather than receiving no care from volunteers at all. My inability to affect large changes was especially frustrating when I felt that the children were being treated in an unjust manner.

The campaign ‘Orphanages: Not the Solution’ states that “few tourists or volunteers are qualified to interact with traumatized or vulnerable children”. Kate agrees, and when applying to work with children, the only major requirement was that she was over eighteen years. Whilst her education is in social care, Kate believes that there should definitely be more of a screening process for potential volunteers. In general Kate’s experiences were life-changing and heart-warming yet she expressed how difficult it was dealing with children who had experienced hardship at such a young age.

Whilst she admits she will never know if she made a lasting impact on the lives of the children she worked with, the children have made an indelible impact on her life. For Kate, it was important that her time spent in those communities was more long lasting than just the four months spent there. Inspirationally, she recently succeeded in fundraising $10,000 to purchase an ambulance for the rural Nepali village where she worked. She did this in response to the challenges the children faced due to a fluid population of volunteers in orphanages.

[Children] have grown used to the constant coming and going of volunteers and tend to see new volunteers as little more than deliverers of gifts, sweets, and constant attention. I frequently felt that the benefit of having foreign volunteers was outweighed by the negative impact that over-attachment has on the lives of children without parents or families.

We asked Luke what he would recommend to anyone considering visiting or volunteering at an orphanage.

Think…is it really necessary and what help are they actually providing to the children in the centre? Are they actually orphans? If not, why not support an organisation that is helping kids get back with their families or is helping families remain strong so the whole issue of kids being removed from their families never happens in the first place.

If you’d like to make a donation to support the work of Friends-International, you can contribute online here.

Useful Links

  • Wild Asia – We’re proud supporters of the Child Safe Network and share guidelines on our website: link
  • Al-Jazeera - Documentary about ‘Cambodia’s orphan business’ for more information: link 
  • Child Safe Network - Child safe tourism tips for travellers and tourism businesses: link
  • Orphanages No - Discover why supporting orphanages as a ‘solution’ fuels the ‘problem’: link
  • Good Intentions - Learn more about ‘smart aid’: link
  • PEPY – Learning Service volunteer guidelines for those seeking to make a real difference: link 

* Quote taken from Expat Living article “Should you or shouldn’t you volunteer at a Cambodian orphanage?” 

(Photographs provided by Kate Jordan)

Koh Rong gone Wrong?

Our Responsible Tourism Intern Iwona Grala (Poland/UK) shares her experiences of tourism that tarnishes natural beauty of destinations from her latest adventure in Cambodia.

Stories from the Field

My name is Iwona and I am a travelholic. My desire for adventure has taken me around the world, giving me a chance to taste the thousands of flavours it has to offer. Sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter ones.

Cambodia_Island_Koh_RongA case study from Koh Rong, Cambodia

I want to tell you about my experience in Koh Rong, the second largest island of Cambodia, located about 25 kilometres off the coast of Sihanoukville.

Tempted by my friend with the vision of an unspoiled island getaway with turquoise-green waters, white beaches, endless palm trees, and only a handful of beachfront bungalows I followed her footsteps and in February 2013 I have arrived to Koh Rong. Leaving behind the hub of nightlife in busy Sihanoukville, I was hoping to live out my Robinson Crusoe fantasy for a few days.

Sadly, the reality of Koh Rong disappointed me rather than amazed me.

Despite the fact that the number of bungalows has increased significantly since my friend last visited the island in 2009, I had a lot of trouble finding a place for the night, which only confirmed that the island is struggling under the weight of its own popularity.

Research reveals that between 2011 and 2013 a number of new operations have opened and even with increased boat service to the island the ferries are struggling to keep up with demand.

Koh Rong C Iwona GralaKoh Touch beach on the island is very popular with backpackers and its popularity has resulted into the loss of ‘desert island’ feeling. For example, I viewed piles of decomposing litter with chickens, dogs, and even children running around it. Plastic bottles and bags, even glass, were littered across the beach and in the water. The white sand was dotted with litter that the locals threw off boats and debris washed up on the beach every day.

Most concerning, numerous pipes from the stilted wooden houses deposited directly to the sea which was supposed to indicate a working sewerage system.

I recently discovered that in 2010 the Cambodian government sold Koh Rong to an investment group based in Cambodia, whose goal is to change Koh Rong into the world’s premier eco resort island armed with an airport, a casino and several five-star resorts. Apparently sustainability will be at the forefront of design and development.

Nevertheless, this much is certain: Koh Rong is still a stunning island that could be the highlight of your trip to Cambodia. How long it will stay this way is another question. If you want to experience it as it is, do so sooner rather than later.

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Take Action on your Holidays

For many years Wild Asia has been championing responsible tourism in destinations across Asia. We do this by recognising leaders and providing an international platform to inspire businesses through our annual Responsible Tourism Awards. We also support tourism operators through dynamic training programmes to improve sustainability practices.

But guests can play their part too! Here are some tips to help you have a responsible holiday:

  • Follow local cultural etiquette by discovering appropriate ‘do’s and don’ts’ for your destination – here’s a great example for Cambodia
  • Search for responsible accommodation providers – stay with one of our past Award winners or look for certified hotels, such as Travelife accredited businesses
  • If you see something you don’t like, don’t stay quiet. Speak to the business that’s upsetting you and point them in the direction of a more responsible approach.

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(Photos: header and lower, credit Iwona Grala; centre image taken from kohrong-islandtravel.com)

Do you have a story?

Have you witnessed something on your holiday that has disturbed you or amazed you? We’d love to hear your own experiences. If you’ve been exposed to travel experiences that have left you feeling something’s not quite right here, get in touch. Equally, we love hearing about inspirational tourism that’s doing wonders for local communities. Share your travel story by emailing it to, rt@wildasia.org 

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”