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.


Andaman Discoveries – 2014 Finalist

Andman Discoveries web

2CULTURAL PRS  ICONAndaman Discoveries in Thailand was born out of tragedy, and formed shortly after the Boxing Day Tsunami when villagers decided that community-based tourism would allow them to generate additional income and support their traditions, culture, and lifestyle. Since then, Andaman Discoveries has been offering various tours (volunteer trips, family holidays, and educational visits for schools) to empower the local community. Their Moken Experience tour supports nomadic communities preserve their culture through responsible tourism.

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…

  • Education is key at Andaman Discoveries. As well as offering educational tours to school groups, they also work to educate all guests by providing information in the following forms: Pre-Departure Guide, In-Village Guide, Visitor’s Phrasebook, Koh Surin Moken In-Village Guide, and Koh Surin Moken Way of Life.
  • They have created a library collection on local Moken culture. Moken Sea Nomads, an ancient sea people who have lived along Thailand’s North Andaman coast for thousands of years. Traditionally nomadic, the Moken are hunter-gatherers that live in harmony with nature. Guests are encouraged to learn more to discover how they can help preserve this culture that faces challenges of modernisation.
  • A translator accompanies guests on village tours and if they are attending traditional ceremonies, so that customs can be communicated.
  • They advocate traditional building within the community, and the use of sustainable building materials.
  • Guests can learn more about traditional Thai family life by staying at one of their partner homestays . Fun activities include learning how to prepare local food dishes.
  • To support local artisans, they have a shop which provides the opportunity for seven villages to sell their products and traditional crafts.
  • Their historic tours have resulted in the Moken community sharing their wisdom with others and have been inspired to build traditional boats to inform guests about their nomadic heritage. Tours introduce guests to the traditional lifestyle and culture of local communities, which help local communities develop a sense of place and provide the guest with a greater understanding of the area’s cultural heritage.
  • Moken communities have been integral in the development of tours, based on their recommendation. Jobs have been generated for engaged individuals, who have also benefited from capacity building in sustainable tourism development.


For more information about Andaman Discoveries, 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

Papua Expeditions, Indonesia – Most Inspiring Tour Operator

finalist[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Papua Expeditions for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Finalist. 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.

Papua Expeditions offers keened-out, professionally guided birding, general wildlife, hiking and trekking expeditions in New Guinea’s Wild West. Permanently based in West Papua, their ecotourism programme focuses exclusively on the little-known western half of New Guinea under Indonesian administration.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Excellent policy in regards to attracting local people, not sending guests to ceremonies, all round excellent responsible business model.
  • A good example of responsible tourism business in a destination that face various external challenges in terms of business conditions.
  • An inspiring model demonstrating that responsible business ethics and sustainability practices are important no matter what.
  • “Learning while doing” training approach to support local capacity building.
  • 100% local staff.
  • Strong stance against exploitation of children.
  • Focus on growing regional client base as a concrete example of positive and business-focused climate action.
  • Within a remarkable and largely undiscovered destination, provides inspiring management, contributes to community engagement and development, cultural preservation and the protection of natural areas and wildlife conservation.

Inspiring Management

  • Provide information on web, pre-tour guide, and through interaction on tours on sustainable tourism approaches.
  • Internal environmental and social impact assessments.
  • Operates in a corrupt and poor region and maintains policy on clean governance, following ‘legal mass’ to adopt most appropriate solution under conflicting circumstances.
  • Trains staff ‘learning while doing’.
  • Consults tribal leaders about fluid land ownership laws to ensure their accommodation suppliers are compliant.
  • Published article on practice in eco tourism publications to inspire others.
  • 2010 Highly Commended Wild Asia RT Awards.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Provide ‘respectful usage’ fee to local communities for conservation.
  • Prevent ‘pay and go’ attitude and have long term MOU agreement with host communities to make benefits more long lasting.
  • Established Cenderawasih Fund for Community Development, 10% net profit donated. Funds small scale initiatives e.g. health care, social conflict resolution, relief, education.
  • 100% local workforce, 100% local management.
  • Yearly staff review and identify training needs.
  • Purchase local organic fresh produce and adhere to local market fares, to prevent tourist inflation which results in local people out-competed.
  • Support like-minded businesses wherever possible.
  • Encourage guests to buy local services not included in activities e.g. handicrafts.
  • Employ up to 80 different day-workers per month, all of whom are entitled to ancestral land-rights and/or reside at the destinations within portfolio, all receive the same basic training through ‘learning while doing’.
  • Facilitate ‘inter-cultural exchanges’ of motivated day-workers between destinations, it provides networking and possibilities for learning from culturally different Papuans. Proved beneficial toward character- and leadership-building.
  • Carefully selected city hotels with policies against sexual exploitation of children.
  • Do what they can to promote women’s rights and equality but can prove challenging given cultural context.
  • Staff exceed provincial minimum wage.
  • Tours are delivered by indigenous people so able to communicate after each tour feedback; bi-annual meets with land-owners and village elders.

Cultural Preservation

  • Do not engage guests with ceremonies as have strong reservations whether it adds value to local people. Rather they promote experiencing day-to-day life instead.
  • Always respects any prohibitions on visitation imposed by indigenous communities and closely follow their instructions where visitation is permitted.
  • Local language is provided in briefing.

Resource Efficiency

  • Oppose printed materials, online business.
  • Garbage prevention policy, non-recyclable waste is no more than 15g per guest per day.
  • Use of battery power or fire wood (local traditional methods) only in the field.
  • Office – energy efficient lighting and laptops, switch off policy.
  • Water usage is very low so little opportunity to reduce further.
  • Does not use carbon offsetting as remains controversial.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Encouraging more Australia guests (now about 70% of guests) rather than European or USA to reduce international travel.
  • Encourages locals against deforestation by bringing tourists to those areas because of those natural resources.
  • Maximise use of public transport or use energy efficient vehicles if hired.
  • 5 year pilot project in Raja Ampat – agreement with customary landowners in a bid to preserve the entire Orobiai River catchment (92 sq km of virtually untouched primary forest, set in visually stunning topography, and globally threatened wildlife).
  • Community Conservation and Ecotourism Agreement (CCEA) seals direct structured payments by Papua Expeditions to customary land-holding groups on Waigeo in return for carefully defined and monitored conservation and education outcomes.
  • Indigenous guides have clear understanding of conservation issues and communicate with guests.
  • Provide birding guidelines to prevent disturbance.
  • Improved access through close consultation and assistance from indigenous communities, improved more than sixty kilometres of trails across the destinations.

Sampran Riverside, Thailand – Cultural Preservation

finalist[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Sampran Riverside for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Finalist. This award recognizes engagement and efforts by tourism businesses in preserving, enhancing and promoting local cultures and heritage.

Sampran Riverside (formerly known as Rose Garden Riverside) is a family-run property close to Bangkok, where visitors can experience authentic Thai way of life and learn about local wisdom. For decades it has been considered one of Bangkok’s favourite attractions because of the obvious dedication to preserving Thailand’s natural and cultural heritage by engaging with the local community.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Supports cultural preservation through preservation of buildings and also preserving Thai culture, provides high employment.
  • Good resource management practices.
  • Good story about protecting trees and sites of cultural and spiritual significance.
  • Use of local building materials.
  • Good practices to educate visitors.
  • Various ways to incorporate local art and culture into visitor activities, and specific events/activities highlighting local heritage.
  • Successfully implementing “edutainment”.
  • It’s a very managed business for a ‘Thai village’, but beautifully and sensitively presented, and the emphasis on organic farming, local crafts, providing training for local people and students, etc protects Sampran from feeling staged.
  • The community market and organic agriculture development centre is a clear positive development.
  • Provides a unique Thai cultural experience with a focus on cultural and architectural preservation.  Has a long history of serving the tourism industry and providing local employment opportunities through the preservation and presentation of Thai culture.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Arts and crafts workshops support 50 local jobs in traditional e.g. silk processing, bamboo dancing etc. Initiated through local staff’s traditions that may be lost.
  • Initiated workshops as a programme to promote awareness of Thai culture through participation.
  • Sell locally made organic herbal products to support local economy.

Cultural Preservation

  • In 1967 the management saved old teakwood houses from local farmers in the area who where shifting into modern housing, and reconstructed (same materials) them around the central lake as accommodation for guests.
  • Preserved 7 Thai houses to provide a unique cultural experience for visitors.
  • Cared for trees around the property are 50 to 100 years old during the growth of business, including a spiritual bulletwood tree and a banyan tree that is used for traditional Thai wedding ceremonies.
  • The Thai Village House and market pavilions (host weekly farmers market with local traders, including artisans) is constructed from local natural materials incorporating traditional design.
  • Welcome briefings inform guests of local customs and traditions. Including briefing on how to dress for ceremonies in presence of monks.
  • Provide guided tours and engage in Organic Farming, Thai art and craft workshops, informing of cultural significance.
  • Daily cultural show with literature explaining cultural aspects, includes Elephant Demonstration to educate guests on livelihoods of elephants in Thailand.
  • Guests can participate in traditional alms giving ceremonies and learn more. Thai weddings take place, guests explained about customs.
  • Traditional Thai cuisine, ingredients sourced from own organic farm or other local farmers. Promote seasonal produce.
  • Thai culture throughout business, e.g. garlands at theme events, pottery making workshops.
  • River cruise to temples etc, restored traditional barge.

Resource Efficiency

  • Minimise waste from food produce, e.g. serve food in coconut shelves, use leaves for decorations, rice seedlings as table centre pieces.

Apani Dhani, India – Cultural Preservation

winner[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Apani Dhani for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner. This award recognizes engagement and efforts by tourism businesses in preserving, enhancing and promoting local cultures and heritage.

Apani Dhani is based in the heart of Rajasthan. They offer eco-friendly accommodation, excursions and activities with locals such as cooking lessons, initiation to traditional arts and crafts. Staying will enable travellers to discover daily life and traditions of rural India. This charming and peaceful ecolodge, is an ideal place to start or finish a journey in Rajasthan.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Good practices to educate guests through a code of ethics.
  • Active involvement in heritage protection through Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage.
  • Good ways to incorporate awareness-raising efforts into visitor activities, e.g. workshops led by local craftsmen, language lessons.
  • 5% of profit re-invested locally to support education, etc.
  • The owner has worked for 23 years, and maintains a high focus on sustainable and cultural tourism. Specifically related to culture are the food served, financial support for the National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, heritage awareness programs and participation of guests in celebrations, workshops, Hindi, etc.
  • Owner allows local people to sell crafts without charging any kind of commission.
  • Strong commitment to arts and cultural heritage.
  • Has shown two decades of local leadership in responsible approaches to tourism. 

Cultural Preservation

  • Local natural materials used for construction, vernacular architecture.
  • Guests provided information on local customs via talks, email, guided walks, information in rooms, website.
  • Code of conduct for local customs.
  • Only serve regional dishes, provided by the family, all ingredients sourced locally or from own organic garden.
  • Cookery courses available to guests.
  • Provides heritage awareness programmes for e.g. teachers, school children, mural workshops.
  • Encourage guests to visit local artisan workshops and support their business.
  • Artisans able to come and sell products on site, lodge takes no margin on coordinating these activities.
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