Lanjia Lodge – Winner, Community

WINNER – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Community Engagement & Development

High on a hill in the Chiang Rai Province of northern Thailand, offers visitors intimate cultural experiences, whether a locally guided village tour, trek, or boating excursion down the mighty Mekong river. To ensure the lodge supports the needs of the surrounding Hmong and Lahu villages, Lanjia makes sure the communities are an active partner in all of their guest programs and development initiatives.

Before they even began building the founding team created a partnership with the Population and Community Association (PDA), an NGO already working within the local communities, which was instrumental in building a trusted partnership and allowed their projects to hit the ground running. Through PDA Lanjia Lodge learned quickly what the local communities needed, helping them visualize and create means of supporting existing projects like economic and environmental initiatives.

One of the biggest projects Lanjia Lodge supports is the Village Development Bank. For every guest, Lanjia donates 30 baht, which is deposited into the bank every three months creating a quarterly village income regardless of whether the lodge makes a profit. The staff have taken ownership of this project, realizing that more guests mean a healthier bank account, and make strides to ensure each guest has the best possible experience. They’ve even started voluntarily donating 30 baht out of their own monthly salary to the bank. In addition to the guest-dependent donations, the lodge gives 120,000 baht to the PDA every year.

The lodge takes a very hands-off approach to money management. After their donations are submitted the village committee takes over, using the money how they see fit. In the last year this included loans to villagers for household expenses, small business operations, and agricultural investments. Funds were also allocated for local cultural activities, such as a sports day and a New Year ceremony.

In addition to their involvement with the Village Development Bank, Lanjia Lodge also provides scholarships for four high school students, allowing them to attend a vocational school in Bangkok (which also includes English lessons) with the understanding they will return and use their new skills to help continue develop their village.

Lanjia Lodge is also dedicated to involving the local communities in environmental initiatives. They work closely with the Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU-CMU), a team of ecologists and research students in the Science Faculty of Chiang Mai University. FORRU-CMU has helped with technical training and applying their model to carry out Lanjia Lodge’s own reforestation project, which is taking place on a site donated to the King and has since become a ‘royal project’. Since the project started in 2008, hundreds of young plants have grown into strong trees.

In the future Lanjia Lodge hopes to expand their organic farm, currently used in preparing meals for lodge guests, into a community initiative. Their first step, educating the local communities about the health dangers associated with long term use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Their long term goal: create new dining experiences in which guests can become more involved with the local culture by dining in the private residences of community partners.

For more information about Lanjia Lodge, visit their website: http://www.asian-oasis.com/product/lanjia-lodge-hilltribe-discovery/

Watch their video here

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

Xintuo Ecotourism – Finalist, Community

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

In a province threatened by the rapidly growing tourism industry Xintuo provides a different type of experience aimed at keeping the local communities in Yunnan and the surrounding environment healthy and thriving. Through their ecotourism offerings tourists know that not only are they minimizing their negative effects on the environment but supporting the local community they are visiting. The community-driven hospitality network gives guests unique interactions with the local culture, whether they are visiting villages inhabited by ethnic minorities, learning about the region from a local guide, or experiencing the diverse flora and fauna while trekking, biking or hiking.

Firmly integrated in the surrounding Lashihai community, Xintuo Ecotourism is employee and community-owned with the support of the Nature Conservancy, their partner in promoting the area’s biodiversity. The community’s well being is a top priority and Xintuo holds meetings to discuss current needs, both socially and environmentally, knowing change can only occur through collaboration. A couple of their successful projects: funding the renovation of the kindergarten in the Noy Yao Village, which improved classroom conditions and facilities, and supplying the Wuhai primary school with books, blankets, and stationary.

Xintuo has seen how harmful the effects of domestic tourism in China tend to be, including a general low awareness of environmental issues, and strive to offer unique experiences making them an important player in the domestic ecotourism market. At the moment the are one of the only companies in the region locally sourcing all of their resources. Tour guides are hired from the local ethnic minority groups, the Yi and Naxi, guests stay in locally run homestays, and they purchase food grown in the villages or from the original supplier.

After seeing the success of their current initiatives, Xintuo hopes to turn the Lashihai region into a model for sustainable development. They currently plan on growing community involvement by expanding their homestay network while encouraging those involved in the program to develop additional activities for their guests such as handicraft demonstrations, agro-tourism, and bike rentals. They also hope to incorporate organic farming and agro-tourism into their future programs. Food safety is a growing issue for many in the community so Xintuo plans to develop experimental plots as a way to offer training and gradually change the local agricultural practices.

For more information about Xintuo Ecotourism, visit their website: http://ecotourism.com.cn/

Watch their video here

CBT Vietnam – Finalist, Responsible Tourism Initiative

FINALIST - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative

Dedicated to using tourism as a means to protect vulnerable ethnic communities, CBT Vietnam developed sustainable tourism training initiatives in the rural villages of Tavan, Taphin, which have become completely self-sufficient, and Lao Chai. These local communities have been empowered to establish tourism-related businesses and homestays.

CBT Vietnam began after an instructor from Capilano University (one of CBT Vietnam’s founding partners) visited the region and was inspired by the potential of working with unique villages and cultures to develop community based tourism programs. Since then CBT Vietnam has demonstrated a long-term commitment to protecting vulnerable, ethnic hilltribe culture through tourism. In addition to their on-the-ground training programs CBT Vietnam promotes awareness of vulnerable cultures and responsible tourism through their web presence, films, and social media.

From the beginning ommunity involvement has been essential in developing CBT Vietnam’s programs. Before any programs could be implemented CBT Vietnam spent a lot of time building relationships and trust in the communities where they planned on working. Since then the communities have embraced the value and uniqueness of their cultures. Many of the training modules and learning initiatives were generated by the communities, which ensures members are engaged and take ownership of their economic futures.

CBT Vietnam’s training initiatives include providing general tourism knowledge to the community, community tourism planning for local authorities and community stakeholders, entrepreneurship for youth and women, business development, and environmental stewardship. In the future CBT Vietnam hopes to establish an independent school in association with a local social enterprise that will maintain training for all ethnic groups in the Sapa region.

During their training local participants were given opportunities to experience tourism from a different perspective by travelling to Hanoi and becoming consumers of tourism services themselves. They met with tour operators, patroned hotels and restaurants, and utilised visitor information services. The experience allowed the participants to learn about what makes a positive tourism experience so they can improve the services they offer visitors to their community.

For more information about CBT Vietnam, visit their website: http://www.cbtvietnam.com/

Watch their video here

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.

Winners: 2014 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards

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On the closing day of this year’s ITB Asia (Marina Bay Sands, Singapore), Wild Asia revealed the 2014 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award Winners as part of the annual Responsible Tourism Forum. Each year, Wild Asia hosts the region’s premier get together for sustainable travel professionals, to share experiences and expertise to like-minded businesses and passionate individuals. The conclusion of this exciting networking event is always the grand revealing of the year’s Responsible Tourism Award recipients.

In line with this year’s UNWTO theme, Wild Asia has highlighted people in destinations in the 2014 Awards with categories dedicated to ethical practices to support host communities and conserve vibrant cultures in destinations around the region. The Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards began in 2006 aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC), enabling local operators to gain international recognition and inspire the tourism industry through sharing their best practices.

Award recipients go through a robust application and judging process, allowing Wild Asia to identify leaders in corporate social responsibility and sustainability who go above and beyond to use tourism as a tool for positive social benefits. First, businesses complete an application based on the GSTC to measure themselves against global standards and benchmark their operations. Wild Asia brings together a group of responsible tourism industry experts as a panel of international judges, who navigate the applicants’ details to identify a pool of Finalists. Finalists then undergo further inspection through site visits and personalised interviewing based on business and destination specific issues the organisation should be addressing. Finally, Winners are selected; these are operators who demonstrate exceptional commitment to continuous improvement, and implement dynamic and creative measures to be a change-maker in the tourism industry.

Best in Community Engagement & Development

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 and Travel, India; Village Ways, India

Best in Cultural Preservation

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 

Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative

WINNER: The ChildSafe Network, 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

 

If you missed ITB Asia’s Responsible Tourism Events (coordinated in partnership with Wild Asia and the Blue Yonder), presentations from various speakers can be found on our website here. 

Wild Asia plans to launch the 2015 Awards in March next year, and interested businesses should refer to the following website for further news and application forms: www.tourism.wildasia.org

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

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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)

 

BEST Society – 2014 Finalist

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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.

 

Ock Pop Tok – 2014 Finalist

Ock Pop Tok web

2CULTURAL PRS  ICONOck Pop Tok is located in the stunning UNESCO town of Luang Prabang in Laos. For 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, retails outlets, and restaurant – where visitors can enjoy the colourful textures as rich as Laotian culture.

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 Cultural Preservation…

  • Ock Pop Tok has been constructed by renovating a traditional Lao home, and the full design has been approved by UNESCO.
  • Their Living Arts Centre provides classes and workshops in traditional arts and techniques, such as weaving and dyeing.
  • Food served in their restaurant is inspired by Lao cuisine, and sourced locally from organic farmers and markets.
  • They run a Village Weaver Project which builds the capacity of artisans and connect them to markets. This is run in partnership with local NGOs and is currently delivered in 11 provinces.
  • Each guest room is designed in keeping with Lao ethnic groups, each with a unique theme giving a real sense of place for every visitor.
  • Ock Pop Tok regards themselves as an engine for growth and awareness of culture beyond Lao border.  Visitors from far and wide can explore their gallery of beautiful pieces, directly benefiting the weavers when purchasing local crafts. They share weaving techniques in foreign countries so that other artisans can learn and enhance their own culture.
  • Currently, they are providing a fair living wage to more than twenty artisans.

 

For more information about Ock Pop Tok, please visit their website.