Club Med Cherating – Finalist, Nature & Wildlife

FINALIST - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife Conservation 

Completely integrating into the surrounding preserved environment, Club Med Cherating offers visitors an environmentally-friendly sanctuary having kept 75% of the surrounding forest completely untouched. A few of their impressive environmental initiatives include a partnership with the nearby Turtle Sanctuary and an informative botanical tour of the grounds for guests.

Since 2010 the Club Med Cherating management as implemented a sustainable development management system that enables the resort to address different sustainable tourism issues including biodiversity. As part of this system each staff member takes a turn as the Green Globe Coordinator, giving them direct management over environmental issues. Eventually most members of staff will have taken a turn as the Green Globe Coordinator.

A few of Club Med Cherating’s impressive environmental initiatives include:

  • Natural lagoon wastewater treatment system, which enables the resort to treat its wastewater, recycle it to be used for irrigation, and creating a biodiverse pond.
  • Green waste is mulched and used as soil cover.
  • The implementation of organic fertilizers.
  • A partnership with the Turtle Sanctuary to promote turtle conservation.
  • Environmental and wildlife education programs for children run through Mini Club Med.
  • Integrating a botanical tour of the resort for guests, complete with a wildlife guide book.

In the future Club Med Cherating aims to maintain their Sustainable Development Management System through yearly reviews and bi-annual on-site audits. They hope to continue improving in areas such as promoting wildlife awareness to their customers and providing more information about sustainable tourism. They also hope to develop a partnership with the local school in which employees will dedicate time to teaching English and the resort will allow their facilities to be used for sports activities.

For more information about Club Med Cherating, visit their website: http://www.clubmed.us/cm/resort-cherating-beach-malaysia_p-115-l-US-v-CHEC-ac-vh.html?CMCID=SNN179636478102

Watch their video here

Gaya Island – Winner, Nature & Wildlife

WINNER - 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife Conservation 

Tucked along the coast of Malohom Bay, Gaya Island Resort offers guests a seamless integration of luxury and the natural world. Offering a set of “PURE Activities” guests can interact with the surrounding rare species of flora and fauna, facilitated by the resort’s resident naturalist. In addition to their environmental programs for guests, Gaya Island Resort has started initiatives to educate local communities on protecting their beautiful home.

Gaya Island Resort believes tourism is a positive platform for wildlife education, as long as it’s conducted in a careful manner as to maintain a positive impact Many of Gaya Islands programs, such as guided nature hikes and snorkelling excursions are only offered to a limited number of participants to keep from overwhelming or damaging the surrounding environment. But that doesn’t mean guests can also get up close and personal with nature. Visitors can experience the resort’s mangrove conservation efforts through the Mangrove Kayak Tour. Along with a guide, guests explore the diverse mangrove ecosystem while learning about the resident flora and fauna.

Activities such as handicraft classes, a traditional dance show, and dining experiences draw inspiration from the diverse tribes found in Borneo and give guests a greater insight into the local culture. At turn-down, guests are given a beaded keychain from the Rungus community, one of the many ethnic groups in the area, along with an informational leaflet.

Not only are educational experiences offered to guests. Through the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre (GIRMC), Gaya Island facilitates education programs in the area schools to teach students about the local sea turtle populations, coral, and the importance of keeping the ocean clean. In addition to their education initiative, GIRMC works closely with a leading turtle conservationist and is the first turtle rescue centre in Malaysia to  successfully rescue, rehabilitate, and release endangered sea turtles.

For more information about Gaya Island Resort, visit their website: http://www.gayaislandresort.com/

Watch their video here

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)

Soneva Resorts, Thailand & Maldives – Most Inspiring Accommodation

winner[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Soneva Resorts for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner. This award recognizes the accommodation provider that excels in all of the above categories by taking into consideration all the key principles of responsible tourism (maximum positive impacts to the local community and minimum negative impacts to the environment) and awards innovation for this most inspiring accommodation of the year.

Soneva Resorts is the original barefoot luxury brand, and still one of the travel industry’s greatest innovators. The acronym SLOW LIFE (Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences) explains the Soneva philosophy. Intelligent Luxury, is all about creating unforgettable, enlightening experiences that rejuvenate each guest’s love of SLOW LIFE. It’s about illuminating lives whilst treading lightly on the earth.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Excellent sustainable business model incorporating social, economic and environmental aspects.
  • Internal and external impact assessment.
  • Mandatory sustainability training.
  • Wheelchair accessible.
  • A great personal touch to guest communications with “Mr./Ms Fridays.”
  • Concrete emission calculation and reduction goals.
  • Soneva just go so far beyond business as usual… innovation after innovation, active and creative on serious issues.
  • UNESCO Biosphere, shark protection, coral restoration project (30 tonnes of rock), waste to wealth centre, 85% waste recycled, serious engagement with the carbon calculator which avoids dis-ingenuity, Carbon sense fund 450,000 trees planted, whole world water initiative…
  • An established operator with good track record on responsible approaches to sustainable tourism practices.

Inspiring Management

  • Internal and external social and environmental impact assessments made.
  • Engage guests through information in rooms, personal interaction, personal tours, website.
  • Size, layout and location of all buildings planned to integrate the native vegetation into man-made structures and to maintain the natural charm. Large, vegetated parts of the island are unspoilt to provide cooling, shading, fresh air and natural experiences. Villa numbers are kept low.
  • All timber used from sustainable managed, certified sources.
  • Wheelchair accessibility to some villas.
  • Fushi property delivered international event on their SLOW LIFE concept, with international leaders to inspire wider audience on sustainability.
  • Founded WHOLE WORLD Water campaign through their SLOW LIFE Trust.
  • 2/3 properties Long Run Alliance Members; use own Soneva Carbon Calculator annually.
  • Won numerous awards for sustainability.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Hold annual Soneva Nature Trip (through NGO Eco Care, sponsored by Soneva) most influenial environmental awareness event in Maldives. Locals (including 100 students) do various activities, conduct audits and learn about environmental issues.
  • Financially supported Thalassemia Prevetion and Relief programme of screening blood donations (Maldives has highest genetic blood disease prevelance in world).
  • 92% local staff, 50% of management are local people.
  • Staff training target of 9 hours per month, each staff member has own My Development Plan. Mandatory sustainability training for all staff.
  • 50% food from local area (80% organic), lots grown at properties.
  • Each villa assigned with own butler, from local area, who engages guests with local customs etc.
  • 90% staff live onsite, provide good living conditions with access to recreational activities and three meals a day.
  • All staff paid above national minimum wage.
  • Monthly meetings with island leaders to maintain relationships and receive feedback.

Cultural Preservation

  • Do and Don’t guide provided (dress etc).
  • Invite local women to showcase cooking and invite guests to their home to learn.
  • Use locally produced materials for design e.g. coconut ropes.
  • Sale of local crafts through Soneva Gallery.

Resource Efficiency

  • 3% renewable energy – installed 70kW solar PV in 2009 (then biggest on Maldives), expanding to 350kW which will result in 50% reduction in diesel consumption.
  • Each villa has its own Little Green book with information on responsible tourism.
  • 100% self sufficient in water (45% rain water harvested, 45% desalination, 10% deep wells).
  • Water saving: aerators, low flow shower heads, water saving toilets.
  • Monthly monitoring of resource efficiency with targets and bonuses if achieved.
  • Soneva Carbon Calculator includes travel, freight etc – 2011-12 footprint was 42, 500 tons (15% from energy, 76% guest travel).
  • Established Carbon Sense Fund, 2% levy on room bill for carbon mitigation projects (reforestation in Thailand, SLOW LIFE in Myanmar, stoves project in Sudan).
  • Output treated sewage and grey water is mixed with brine to reduce salinity then released into sea.
  • Less than 15% is non-recyclable waste and sent away.
  • Established Eco Centro Waste to Wealth centre with Manager, handles and monitors all Fushi waste.
  • 85% food waste recycled, used on own herb garden.
  • Garden waste composted or bio-charcoal.
  • Working to improve chemicals by working with Eco Lab, hope to install rechargeable batteries.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Baa Atoll, where Soneva Fushi is situated, recently achieved UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status. In-house marine biologist involved in establishment of management team for Biosphere Reserve, resort will contribute financially.
  • Soneva Fushi worked with local NGOs to lobby for shark protection and in 2010 a national Shark-fish ban was implemented.
  • Soneva Fushi has own Marine Biologist who trains staff on conservation.
  • Follow IUCN ‘no no’ red list for F&B, work with local fishermen for sustainable fish, prioritize organic food.
  • 66% area left undeveloped (e.g Soneva Fushi island has largest forest cover in Maldives).
  • Use of native salt and drought tolerant plants reduced need for irrigation.
  • Soneva Kiri established coral restoration project – 1,850 corals or 27 species were transplanted, 30 tons live rock incorporated.
  • Offer 3 nights free stay to guests in low season who contribute to community/conservation work.
  • 3 hours per week set aside for marine biologist to monitor reefs, working with IUCN, to development management plan.
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T+L 2012‘Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Accommodation Provider’ Award is sponsored by Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia.

Scuba Junkie, Malaysia – Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife

winner[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Scuba Junkie for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner. This award recognizes tourism businesses’ consideration of their local environment and biodiversity by actively supporting and protecting their natural assets.

Scuba Junkie provides daily dive trips to more than 25 islands in the Celebes Sea in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Whether you want macro diving at Mabul and Kapalai or wish to dive with sharks and turtles at Sipadan Island (frequently voted in the top 10 dives sites in the world) Scuba Junkie will take you there.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Good resource efficiency, educating guests, supports local projects.
  • Good environmental practices such as solar energy, sewage and grey water treatment, pollution control, native landscaping, etc.
  • Good practices and staff engagement in beach cleanups, reef cleanup dives, etc.
  • Full-time environmental officer.
  • Initiatives to reduce emissions such as boat/transfer sharing.
  • Efforts to reduce stress on reef areas frequented by divers.
  • Exemplary education / awareness raising, solar power, $70,000 spent on waste cleaning, best available sewage treatment, reef check, turtle hatchery, no seafood (wow!) and dive against debris.
  • Makes a worthwhile contribution to marine animal and coastal area conservation.
  • Has a strong commitment to sustainable tourism practices.

Inspiring Management

  • 2012 Winner Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards ‘Best in Protection of Natural Areas and/or Wildlife Conservation’

Community Engagement and Development

  • Access to local communities remains open around the resort.
  • Staff, guests and local community are engaged in e.g. beach cleans, school projects.
  • Each year spend around $70,000 supporting local waste removal scheme for local community who do not have government support (Bajau Laut community “sea gypsies”) = 150 bins and 10 skips.

Resource Efficiency

  • Use solar energy for water heating but aware of need to explore other options, in discussion with consultants about improving energy efficiency and use of fuels.
  • Recycle area for staff and guests in restaurant.
  • Approximately 80% of products used are biodegradable and are actively looking for ways to improve.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • All land rights and environmental regulations are adhered to.
  • Buildings from 60m off the hide tide line to allow access, preserve sea grass and protect nesting turtles.
  • Guests provided with information on local customs and environment through compulsory welcome briefing, sign boards and information in their rooms.
  • Weekly presentations on shark conservation and sea turtles, pressures and importance are discussed. Also similar at expos, for government, local and international media. To date, hundreds to presentations on the topic.
  • Best available sewage treatment plant, Grade A with hydroponic system to water plants with output water and sludge drying beds. Nothing raw released into sea.
  • Grease traps in kitchen and grey water processed via onsite Biosolv treatment plant.
  • Weekly ‘Dive against Debris’ cleans up, non-recyclable waste taken to mainland and managed by government body.
  • Have an environmental area in communal part of resort, TV runs showing their achievements and how guests can play a part.
  • Chair Mabul Marine week event and run the Mabul Turtle Hatchery, managed by trained staff and supported by community ‘rangers’. Last year, hatched thousands of eggs.
  • Do not use chemical on gardens (use native plants) to prevent run off into sea.
  • Use low level lighting on jetty to reduce light pollution.
  • Employ a full time Environment Officer (and two Marine Biologists) to engage staff and guests with issues; all staff trained in environmental practices.
  • Do not serve any seafood because none available locally that is sourced sustainably.
  • All dive guides have excellent reputation for providing ‘do and don’t’ in briefings.
  • Certified reef check dive centre, have a reef check trainer and provide eco dive master courses.
  • Advise Semporna Shark Sanctuary (aim to protect wider Sipadan area and reefs) and support the Manta Trust.
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Scuba Junkie: Protection of Natural Areas & Wildlife Conservation

2012 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner: Best in Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

Scuba Junkie has made the clear connection between business and nature and is doing lots to protect the environment of which their diving resort depends on. Their resort is based on Mabul, a beautiful island off Sabah in Malaysian Borneo, just a short boat ride away from any diver’s ‘big one’, Sipadan.

Scuba Junkie is often described as the ‘lifeline’ for its home island and is at the forefront of many local schemes to clean up Mabul, protect endangered marine species and educate others. Aside from the whole heap of great initiatives Scuba Junkie are engaged with, they’re an exemplar business when it comes to working with the local community too.

Why Wild Asia loved this Winner

Our favourite concept!

Waste Management – In 2011, Scuba Junkie donated $70,000 towards rubbish removal from Mabul. The resort coordinates an island rubbish collection service: free biodegradable bags are provided for local community, once full, these can be dropped off at the resort and a boat collects four times per week and takes to a recycling plant on the mainland managed by a Governmental Body. This is preventing locals to dump waste into the sea, as previously done. They have also sponsored and introduced the only street bins in Mabul (150) and provided the local council with skips (10). They also coordinate weekly beach and reef cleans.

  • Shark Conservation – Spearheading the Semporna Shark Sanctuary as Advisor to the Proposal, they have contributed 70,000RM this year towards the campaign. The goal is to gazette a protected area in Semporna seas for endangered sharks and lobby against shark finning. Within Semporna, they employ a member of staff to monitor the sales of shark products at the local wet market. They have also recently funded an expert to deliver a study on the Economic Value of Sharks in Sabah
  • Education – Scuba Junkie supports the island’s School of Hope, a centre providing educational opportunities for sea gypsy children who cannot attend state school. They are engaging them with English classes and environmental education. These children are also actively engaged in events such as Mabul Marine Week which bring the community together. Furthermore, the resort’s Shark and Environmental Officer delivers weekly presentations to guests on turtle and shark conservation in the local area
  • Environment – Buildings have been designed to prevent light and noise pollution and the resort has a Green Grade A sewage treatment plant which is soon to be upgraded to include irrigation into the ground
  • Sustainable Seafood – No seafood is served onsite as local methods are not sustainable. A bold statement for an island tourism business where fish is often demanded, but very responsible and admirable
  • Turtle Conservation – The resort runs and manages the islands only turtle hatchery which is managed by trained biologists and supervised by Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Parks. To reduce unethical turtle egg collecting, they have introduced an excellent incentive by paying locals 10RM per egg (10x market value). These eggs are collected and added to the Turtle Hatchery project to be safeguarded. In the past year, they have contributed 25,000RM to the hatchery project

What did the Judges have to say?

“Most impressive is that they limit themselves voluntarily in areas where they could make profit, such as limiting the number of boat trips, don’t sell seafood, restrict buildings etc”

“An impressive list of green credentials”

 

Sustainable Island Programme

Soft, white sandy beaches lining sparkling blue-green waters and coconut trees swaying in the background attract thousands of tourists every year. However, our marine ecosystem faces irreversible destruction due to the advent of industralisation. Learn about the Sustainable Island Programme (SIP) as an approach to coral reef conservation.

Sustainable Island Programme

In 2007, Reef Check Malaysia conducted 33 surveys, covering 21 sites around the islands off the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The results show that overall, the islands on the East coast face a number of pressures which are negatively impacting their coral reefs. These include rapid development of tourism facilities, principally resorts, which increases sewage pollution, leading to the spread of coral-smothering algae. Poor solid waste management adds to the problem.

Other development pressures (for example the recently completed marina and the ongoing beach replenishment project in Tioman Island) are resulting in increased siltation, which would suffocate the reefs. Furthermore, increasing visitor numbers are causing significant physical damage to the reefs.

Although some Reef Check surveys have been carried out in previous years, there is still insufficient data to accurately identify trends in the status of coral reefs in the East coast islands.

tiomanRealising that an extended survey programme is required to holistically address the environmental conundrum faced by the reefs, Wild Asia, together with Reef Check Malaysia, developed the Sustainable Island Programme (SIP), which was quickly mobilised into action in March 2008.

The SIP combines the strengths of Reef Check and Wild Asia in assessing the stresses faced by the reefs and coming up with a sound reef conservation management plan. This inevitably requires monitoring the condition of the marine ecosystem by surveying more dive sites and correlating it with what is happening on the islands itself.

Wild Asia’s strengths in Responsible Tourism and environmental/biodiversity conservation would come in handy as the effectiveness of reef conservation measures in the long-term would require improvements with regards to the practices and habits of dive operators, resort owners and local communities residing on the islands.

Operators committed to Responsible Tourism would have to ensure that they preserve their local environment and the people and cultures within it. They do this by careful management of all areas of their business, from the resources they buy to the care of their staff to the disposal of waste. They focus on maximising their guests’ holiday experience while minimising the impact this has on the area. Preserving our natural areas and the communities in them serves a dual purpose as it also protects the very things that so many tourists come to Asia to see, which will ultimately increase the all important revenue from the tourist trade.

OUR Reefs, OUR Heritage, OUR Responsibility

Currently only 4% of the world’s marine ecosystems is left undamaged by human impact. It is estimated that 42% of Malaysia’s coral reefs are facing high levels of risk of damage from coastal development, sedimentation, marine-based pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing. In addition to that, global warming is putting further stress on the reefs to survive as higher water temperatures for prolonged periods would result in coral bleaching and will eventually lead to the coral’s death.

With these statistics in mind, let us contribute towards highlighting the significance of coral reefs in sustaining the livelihood of millions of people dependent on fisheries, pharmaceuticals and tourism.

The Results

  • A total of 50 reef check surveys were conducted at selected coral reef sites on Redang, Perhentian, Tioman, Tenggol and Aur Islands. 
  • Islands are faced with too much stress from sewage and waste pollution, sedimentation from island development and over-capacity in terms of tourists and tourist facilities. While the increase in the number of tourists visiting the islands is desirable for economic reasons, this also brings pollution to the sea which can negatively affect the very thing tourists and visitors come to appreciate. 
  • Eco-checks on participating resorts have highlighted the obvious environmental issues the islands face and the main challenges they experience in dealing with implementing good practices. As resorts that participated in the SIP eco-checks this year are representative of operators throughout the respective islands i.e. Tioman and Perhentian, the main issues and challenges they have highlighted during the eco-checks would be applicable to almost all others. 
  • Island operators and Marine Park Officers are now switched on about the SIP and will take the lead where reef check surveys and water quality monitoring are concerned. They are able to play their role in coordinating and mobilizing people to continue the activities of the SIP.