Call For Inspiring Stories 2014

Do you want your responsible tourism story heard at Asia’s biggest business-to-business travel trade show?

Well, we want to hear from you! LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001

This year, Wild Asia together with Gaia Discovery is on a lookout for inspiring travel stories from within the industry. We are inviting exceptional tourism businesses and projects from across Asia to submit their inspiring story.

Have you empowered local people? Saved a rare wildlife species? Protected an area’s cultural heritage? Innovated ways to run a tourism business that is kinder to the environment? Have you through the power of tourism used it as a force for good? We want to hear your story.

Inspiring Stories from Destinations is an annual competition providing an international platform for tourism players to get their story heard at ITB Asia in Singapore. The competition seeks exciting stories from organisations and individuals who have found in themselves a passion to make a difference in the travel industry and leave a legacy for the next generation.

Check out winners from the 2012 and 2013 Inspiring Stories competition!

What we’re looking for?

The selection of successful stories is based on the authenticity of the story, creative and innovative elements and the power to inspire others towards making responsible tourism a reality. (Terms below)

What’s in it for you?

  • Top 3 Winners will receive complimentary tickets to ITB Asia’s Responsible Tourism Events and will be given 15 minutes each to share their story on the Responsible Tourism stage to an audience of like minded tourism professionals and potential customers.
  • Top 3 Winners will have their story published on the Wild Asia’s website and Gaia Discovery’s website.
  • Top 3 Winners will benefit from the reach of both Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery’s social media networks.

How to enter

Submit your stories in any of the following form:

  • In words; no more than 1,000 words
  • Video; no more than 5 minutes
  • Slideshow; no more than 15 slides

Email your entries to rt@wildasia.org by 14th September 2014 (Sunday). Please title your email “RT Stories for RT Event at ITB Asia 2014″ and include your Name, Email, Organization and Destination in your email. Successful applicants will be notified via email by 30th September, 2014. Winners will be invited to speak at ITB Asia (terms below).

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Inspiring Stories is part of the annual Responsible Tourism networking events that started in 2009. Organised and supported by ITB AsiaWild Asia and this year with the inclusion of Gaia Discovery, this annual event hopes to bring together sustainable tourism practitioners to share, engage, learn and be inspired to make a difference.

Terms & Conditions

  • Previous winners of Inspiring Stories (Top 3 or Top 10) cannot apply.
  • 2014 Finalists of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards cannot apply.
  • Past Winners of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards cannot apply.
  • Businesses or projects that have current engagements with Wild Asia and/or Gaia Discovery cannot apply.
  • Business or project must be based in Asia.
  • Free entry to ITB Asia for Top 3 Winners on the day of the Inspiring Stories event (TBC) only. Travel to and from Singapore or accommodation to attend the event is not included.
  • Stories are judged by a panel of responsible tourism experts and their decision is final.
  • Applicants acknowledge that the Top 3 Winners of Inspiring Stories 2014 will have their story and images published on Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery websites.

Inspiring Stories From Destinations is a competition jointly organized by ITB Asia, Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery.

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Call for Inspiring Stories 2013

Do you want your responsible tourism story heard at Asia’s biggest business-to-business travel trade show?

Well, we want to hear from you! LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001

Every year, we invite inspirational tourism businesses and projects from across Asia to submit their inspiring story. Have you empowered local people? Saved a rare wildlife species? Protected an area’s cultural heritage? All through the power of using tourism as a force for good? Get in touch.

Inspiring Stories from Destinations is an annual competition providing an international platform for tourism players to get their story heard at ITB Asia. We seek exciting stories from organisations and individuals who have found in themselves a passion to make a difference in the travel industry and leave a legacy for the next generation.

Check out our 2011 and 2012 Inspiring Stories.

What we’re looking for?

The selection of successful stories is based on the authenticity of the story, creative and innovative elements and the power to inspire others towards making responsible tourism a reality. (Terms below)

What’s in it for you?

  • Top 3 Winners will receive complimentary tickets to ITB Asia and 5 minutes each to share their story on the Responsible Tourism stage to an audience of likeminded tourism professionals and potential customers
  • Top 10 Winners will have their story published on the Wild Asia website
  • Top 10 Winners will benefit from international PR via our array of travel media partners

How to enter

Submit your stories in any of the following form:

  • In words; no more than 1,500 words
  • Video; no more than 5 minutes
  • Slideshow; no more than 20 slides
  • Podcast; no more than 5 minutes

Email your entries to rt@wildasia.org by 30th August, 2013 (Friday). Please title your email “RT Stories for RT Event at ITB Asia 2013″ and include your Name, Email, Organization and Destination in your email. Successful applicants will be notified via email by 13th September, 2013.

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Inspiring Stories is part of the annual Responsible Tourism networking events that started in 2009. Organised and supported by ITB Asia, Wild AsiaThe Blue Yonder Associates and The Green Circuit, this annual event hopes to bring together sustainable tourism practitioners to share, engage, learn and be inspired to make a difference.

Terms & Conditions

  • Previous winners of Inspiring Stories (Top 3 or Top 10) cannot apply
  • 2013 Finalists of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards cannot apply
  • Past Winners of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards cannot apply
  • Businesses or projects that are part of The Blue Yonder Associates or The Green Circuit cannot apply
  • Business or project must be based in Asia
  • Free entry to ITB Asia for Top 3 Winners on the day of the Inspiring Stories event (TBC) only (travel to and from Singapore or accommodation to attend the event is not included)
  • Stories are judged by a panel of responsible tourism experts and their decision is final
  • Applicants acknowledge that the Top 10 Winners of Inspiring Stories 2013 will have their story, images, (presentation of Top 3) published on the Wild Asia website

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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Child Safe Tourism – spotlight on orphanages

by Amy McLoughlin

Orphanage Tourism

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

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

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

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

Children are not Tourist Attractions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orphanage Volunteers

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

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

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

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

Luke stresses that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Useful Links

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

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

(Photographs provided by Kate Jordan)