Village Ways – 2014 Finalist

Village Ways web

1COMMUNITY ICONVillage Ways offers eye-opening experiences in India, Nepal, and Ethiopia. In each destination guests can experience the essence of the destination by spending time with families and communities. Each place of stay is an autonomous business belonging to the community, typically a specially constructed or restored village guesthouse, providing direct benefits to your hosts.

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…

  • Many of the homestays guests can experience have been lovingly renovated. Village Ways provides funding for renovation at properties they wish to send guests to. They provide 40% grant and 60% interest free loan, payable only if they send guests there. Communities form committees and manage the enterprise together, empowering them through the running of their own business.
  • They have established a charitable trust as a model to help wider community development, with the objective to provide skills and capacity building to rural communities, to help them improve their quality of lives.
  • Spread benefits by ensuring that the committees have a member from each household.
  • 100% of Village Ways staff is local.
  • In addition to providing training within destinations for accommodation entrepreneurs, they take trainees to different areas to get exposure of industry.
  • Village Ways operates in many untouched destinations, providing immersive experiences with cross cultural interactions with families at homestays.
  • Building communities through tourism, Village Ways ensures local people are involved with the whole process of implementation. They have values of inclusivity and have encouraged women to take on guiding roles.
  • Communities have commented that the process of establishing tourism projects has brought people together and strengthened the community.

For more information about Village Ways, 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

2013 Inspiring Stories from Destinations

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001Congratulations to our 2013 Top 10 WINNERS of our Inspiring Stories from Destinations competition. This is our third year running this competition, and time after time, Wild Asia and our panel of judges (from the Green Circuit and Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia) are inspired and impressed by the level of commitment towards responsible tourism taking place in our region.

On Thursday 24th October 2013, we were delighted to host our Top 3 winners at ITB Asia as part of our responsible tourism series. And here, we would love to congratulate our Top 10 winners for their achievements in making the tourism industry a sector that strives to make positive social impact.

Each year, our judges look for stories that are unique, inspiring, able to encourage others to ‘copy’, and have a good reach in their impact. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to be wowed!

Top 3 Winners

(in alphabetical order)

Top 10 Winners

(in alphabetical order)

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.
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Lisu Lodge, Thailand – Community Engagement & Development

winner[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Lisu Lodge for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner. This award recognizes exceptional commitment to supporting the local community and economy in which your business operates.

Named after the Lisu hill tribe village that is found near the lodge, Lisu Lodge is part of a community-based project that aims to conserve the natural heritage of the hill tribes of northern Thailand. The Lisu migrated from southern China and Tibet in the early 20th century.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Outstanding benefits spread throughout community. Long term, consistent commitment to the host community.
  • A fund set up to support local communities – Village Bank – an innovative example of how a business can contribute to local well-being in a concrete and practical way. Tangible, quantifiable contributions to local capacity and development funding.
  • 55% occupancy rate and 9000+ guests last year – these demonstrate that the lodge is a financially viable business, which is a critical factor.
  • Focus on low-impact activities such as walking, trekking and biking – a great way to engage travellers in the lodge’s effort to walk the talk.
  • Local villagers are not just the beneficiaries, but also involved in the business of the lodge – e.g. being part of marketing efforts, identifying new sources of revenues, having a say in management practices.
  • Ecological and sustainability practices such as use of locally sourced building materials, solar panel, water usage agreed by villagers, sewage management, etc. demonstrate awareness and commitment beyond what meets the eye. 

Inspiring Management

  • Provide each guest room with information on local culture and ways in which to behave when visiting a villager’s house.
  • Local guides provide orientation at the beginning of each tour, explain etiquette of hill tribes.
  • 94% workforce is local.
  • Provide opportunities for staff and villagers in business development, education, hospitality training.
  • Staff are paid exceeds national minimum wage (monthly salary, share of guest service charge, social security); meals and uniform provided.

Community Engagement and Development

  • All staff are local community members, including tour staff.
  • Tour guides have been trained with experienced facilitator to develop ‘introduction brief’, information on safety, history of Lisu communities, culture, environmental issues etc.
  • Local community engaged from beginning of development.
  • Lodge contributes to village bank each year, owned and operated by locals exclusively. 2012 contributed approx. US$4,000. Money funds community projects, e.g. waste collection, decided upon by community (lodge has no input).
  • Contribution to building of a school, dam, water investigation studies, disease prevention measures.
  • Purchase fresh produce from local farmers at a fair price.
  • Local work force try to purchase other goods from local family members.
  • Designated area in lodge for local people to sell handicrafts at no charge, as a result the village is now one of the largest local suppliers of handicrafts to the region.
  • Regular meetings with village chief. 

Cultural Preservation

  • Lodge has library with largest collection of hill tribe literature, available for guests and locals.
  • Guests visit local festivals or ceremonies upon invite of community members only.

Resource Efficiency

  • Solar energy used to heat water.
  • Water sourced from source agreed by local villagers.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Run project ‘Earth Care’ and deliver annual workshops on e.g. recycling for local people.
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Bali CoBTA, Indonesia – Community Engagement & Development

finalist[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Bali CoBTA for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Finalist. This award recognizes exceptional commitment to supporting the local community and economy in which your business operates.

Bali Community Based Tourism Association (Bali CoBTA) is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that promotes sustainable tourism. By facilitating the development of community based tourism villages, tourists are given a unique opportunity to experience local culture and community life, while communities are empowered to earn an additional income by preserving and showcasing their culture and heritage.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Strong capacity building.
  • Supports larger community.
  • The advisory committee and organisational structure of the association (including the governor of Bali!) is really a great achievement.
  • The organisation is coordinating support for the communities, so in this sense it is highly involved in community development.

Inspiring Management

  • Working with tour operators to sell packages showcasing local agriculture, nature, home industries, historical sites etc.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Working with seven villages with approx minimum 10 homestays per village.
  • Association operates as non-profit NGO with multi-stakeholder engagement.
  • Willingness to participate in association must come from community itself with support from community leader.
  • Work with NGOs/private sector to tackle issues e.g. water shortages and drinkable water.
  • Community encouraged to source local food produce and local crafts from village craftsmen.
  • Their mission is Tourism, Trade and Investment – using tourism as a way to open up investment to support local SMEs to grow.
  • Work with potential communities for CBT and provide training (housekeeping,  guiding) in collaboration with other institutes or tourism businesses, to empower them to join.
  • Office staff receive minimum wage; communities receive alternative income through tourism packages.
  • Regular meetings with community leaders to progress, improvements required and local needs.

Cultural Preservation

  • During traditional gatherings or ceremonies, the host invites guests and lends traditional dress to participate in. The host provides insightful information about what the event is about.

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

‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

Our latest dispatches series brings you stories from positive grassroots initiatives and a personal account of some not-so-good tourism activities happening on the ground. Amy, Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Initiative’s latest recruit, shares some first hand experiences from India.

Sadly this is the last in the India series, but we’ve enjoyed sharing these personal accounts of responsible and irresponsible tourism examples…we’re going to do more! Watch this space. .

Praise for the goodies!

Reality Tours & Travel (Mumbai, India)

Slum tourism can be a little controversial, but I really believe that Reality Tours have hit the nail on the head and developed an inspirational responsible tourism model. Reality Tours are based in the popular Colaba district of Mumbai and they deliver eye opening city tours delivered by local people. 80% of their profits are reinvested into community initiatives, including the development of an educational community hub in Dharavi slum. Their tour to the settlement of Dharavi ensures that no photography is taken, visits do not intrude on people’s lives, money is spent within the community and that these ‘real Indian’ experiences are mutually beneficial to visitors and locals. They’re dedicated to paying their guides a fair wage and provide exciting employment opportunities for young people. More information (link to website).

  • Reality Tours gets stuck in with local events and has recently hosted music classes for youngsters and events to celebrate World Woman’s Day
  • They give guests tipping tips to ensure fair pricing strategy and to avoid embarrassment
Some things that have got me worried…

Trekking guides without correct equipment or training in Kerala (India)

Chembra Peak is Wayanad’s highest peak, nestled in a beautiful corner of Kerala. A trekking guide is compulsory. However it’s disappointing to see untrained guides taking people into fragile environments with no mobile phones, first aid kit, torches, jacket nor appropriate footwear – worse still, no food and no drink for themselves. Tourism needs to realize the huge potential that well trained guides can have in educating guests about local culture and environment as well as delivering practical steps to protect their natural assets.

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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. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to enquire about responsible tourism training.

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(Photos: Amy McLoughlin, except image of family Dharavi slum: credit Reality Tours)

Let's Unravel Travel: Experiences from India (Part 2 of 3)

‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

Our latest dispatches series brings you stories from positive grassroots initiatives and a personal account of some not-so-good tourism activities happening on the ground. Amy, Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Initiative’s latest recruit, shares some first hand experiences from India.

Praise for the goodies!

Kabani and Uravu homestays (Kerala, India)

Kabani is an ethical tourism campaigner, championing human rights in tourism across Southern India. It has partnered with an inspiring community bamboo cooperative to develop a fantastic homestay programme. In an area where farming is experiencing some devastating downturns, villagers have got together to create a sustainable tourism model to benefit the lives of the inhabitants. Tourists can come to the quiet village of Thrikkaipetta and stay with local families, immersing themselves in real Keralan culture for an authentic holiday. Villagers benefit from a range of capacity building training from English language, to sustainable farming; more than 1000 people have benefitted from these courses. More information (link to website)

  • Developed first India based map of identifying responsible tourism issues
  • Featured in Tourism Concern’s Ethical Travel Guide
Some things that have got me worried…

Local people’s access to public places in Varkala (India)

Varkala is at the heart of Kerala’s prized coastline. Despite being a well established beach resort, most of the development has been done sympathetically and it retains a low key atmosphere and the beach is impressively clean. However, witnessing local guys accused of ‘boob watching’ and ushered away from a part of the beach that’s ‘not for Indian’s’ is pretty disturbing stuff. Girls, put them away if it’s not acceptable and infringes on local’s values.

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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. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to inquire about responsible tourism training.

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(Photos: Amy McLoughlin)

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.

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(Photos: Amy McLoughlin, except Havelock litter image: credit Brombags1 on Flickr.com)

Workshop on Community Based Tourism (Frasers Hill)

The perfect setting for a workshop with WWF Malaysia’s Community Officers – lush green forested areas, cool temperatures and an array of wildlife and flora. The Wild Asia tourism team and Sandra Tagal, director of Borneo Jungle Safari’s was invited to speak at the “Community Based Eco-Tourism workshop” in Frasers Hill on 27-29 June 2012. The two-day workshop saw 15 people from all walks of life coming together to share a common vision and passion – to see communities empowered to venture into alternative source of livelihood via tourism.

Community Officers set the tone at the start of the workshop by giving the team and their colleagues an overview of their project site, initiatives, challenges and lessons learnt. Each took pride in sharing their experiences and each shared a common empathy on the struggles faced when dealing with communities.

A few success stories surfaced from the sharing and among them were the  engagement with tourism operators in Kinabatangan, Sabah. Programme  Officer, Lavernita Bingku talked about her two year journey in putting a conservation and visitor levy for the Kinabatangan, the second longest river in Malaysia that is steadily growing in tourist numbers and businesses.  Kick-starting the implementation of the Conservation Levy Programme was no easy feat; however with the right authorities supporting and continuous support and effort from the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Tourism Operators (KiTA) themselves, the Conservation Levy Programme was successfully implemented. Through the levy, they’ve raised a substantial amount that will be used for conservation efforts in the within the area.

Another amazing story was that of PEWANIS, a local women’s entrepreneurs group in a coastal village in Setiu, Terengganu. WWF was involved in identifying members for this group and further identifying avenues for secondary source of income for these women. The group started producing banana chips for sale. Although the chips were selling well, profits were not enough to sustain the growing number of women in the group. So, WWF and PEWANIS came together to rehash and agreed on offering low impact nature tourism products and activities to tourists. Strategically located on the coastal front, the village has astounding views of the sea and is easily accessible via boat. There are also major hotels around the area setting the scene for healthy flow of tourists. The women developed and marketed tourism activities such as mangrove tree planting, environmental education activities, kite making and cooking classes. Currently, the group is going strong and all efforts are fully developed and managed independently by the community.

After listening to inspiring stories from around the country, Wild Asia’s associate programme manager, Deborah Chan shared on concepts of community based tourism and eco tourism. She highlighted case studies from around Asia of community led and managed tourism projects. She drew examples from Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Award winners and finalists. Among them was Ecosphere, a secluded hilltop village in Spiti, India who successfully established a tourism business that generates half of the community’s income annually, Andaman Discoveries, initially a relief aid NGO set up in Thailand after the tsunami and now a very effective tour operator with responsible community based tourism projects across Thailand. Wild Asia’s responsible tourism coordinator, Amy McLoughlin also enlightened the group with her experiences with two grassroots community projects in India – Kabani Homestays and Agri Tourism India.

Community officers learnt the ingredients that make successful community projects and tools to monitor and measure these successes using standards like the Global Sustainable Criteria (GSTC) and the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Checklist. They also learned the importance of communicating their lessons learnt and ways to market tourism products in order to ensure transparency and profitability.

[pullquote style="left" quote="dark"]Passion and heart for the community are the very essence that determines the success or failure of a community project. People must come first…[/pullquote]

Reflecting on the two-day workshop, Liza Jaafar who’s overseeing a turtle project in Malacca and hoping to develop the destination for turtle tourism expressed that tourism is far more complicated then she thought and she now understands that tourism is a volatile industry and hence it needs to go hand-in-hand with other innovate sources of income.

Another participant, Jennifer Matthew said, “I have learned so much from this workshop particularly the need to involve all members of the community when it comes to decision making and to ensure equitable distribution of wealth. I will take this lessons learnt and implement them for future projects in the highlands of Bario, Sarawak.”

Among the results of the workshop was healthy dialogue about how to introduce tourism into existing community initiatives and ways to establish positive working partnerships with industry players. Wild Asia hopes to partner with WWF to create sustainable community based tourism projects in Malaysia. This two-day workshop is a foretaste of (hopefully) greater collaboration.

Download Presentation

View the slides presented by Wild Asia on Community Based Tourism (CBT). It outlines basic concepts CBT in the context of environmental conservation, economic benefit and development of local communities with case studies of our previous Responsible Tourism. Responsible CBT projects can produce revenues for local communities and improve local attitudes towards conservation. If you would like to engage Wild Asia for future talks or workshops, please contact rt@wildasia.org.

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