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:

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:

Watch their video here

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:

Watch their video here

El Nido Resorts – Finalist, Responsible Operator

FINALIST – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator

A series of resorts dotted along Palawan, on the western edge of the Philippines, El Nido Resorts uses native landscaping and indigenous plants to bring guests into the natural environment. Hands-on activities in the local community such as traditional fishing and heritage community tours give guests a unique opportunity to learn more about their beautiful surroundings.

El Nido Resorts adheres to a quadruple bottom line: financial profitability, environmental stewardship, community engagement, and organizational development to guide their responsible tourism mission. As a part of Ayala Land, Inc., El Nido Resorts is used as an example for replicating their sustainability record in other properties.

Located in a very biodiverse area, El Nido Resorts works hard to protect the delicate ecosystems surrounding the resorts. Resort facilities were built in one area to concentrated areas to minimise the environmental impact and were constructed utilizing local materials and native landscaping. Guest activities are also coordinated to prevent overcrowding in the local communities. Keeping their high-quality, low-density approach to tourism in mind, El Nido Resorts developed several programs to stimulate interactions between the local communities, guests, and the environment.

Their medical outreach program offers free health consultations in the El Nido town center once a week while their Be GREEN outreach takes brings their environmental training and advocacy programs into local schools once a quarter.  Every year the resort holds annual refresher, Be GREEN courses for the staff, which cover topics such as water conservation and energy and biodiversity while guides and activities coordinators are given extensive trainings in nature interpretation. Guests are also encouraged to participate in Be GREEN. During “Green Hour” talks and presentations are given during which guests are welcome to ask questions and present their own environmental initiatives.

Tours of nearby communities, excursions with traditional fisherman, and visits to local farms give guests of El Nido Resorts the opportunity to interact with and learn about the culture. Before community tours, local guides explain culturally-appropriate behaviour and encourage guests to share stories with the community members they meet. El Nido Resorts’ “Fishing with the Locals” activity is one of the most popular and partners guests with local fisherman to learn about traditional fishing methods and life in a coastal village.

El Nido Resorts also supports a number of foundations working on environmental and cultural preservation in the area including the El Nido Foundation, the Asian Conservation Foundation, the Malampaya Foundation, and the Ayala Foundation. Many guests who have visited the local communities through El Nido Resorts’ tours have started up their own scholarships or partnered with other area conservation and development organisations.

For more information about El Nido Resorts, visit their website:

Watch their video here

Khiri Travel – Finalist, Responsible Operator

FINALIST – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator

Offering sustainable travel options to a variety of destinations Khiri Travel Group is committed to providing travelers authentic experiences. Whether on a walking tour of Old Town Phuket in Thailand or a culinary excursion tasting local dishes travellers will leave with life-long memories.

Whether you are traveling to Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, or Vietnam, Khiri Travel wants to share their passion for discovery. For example, their Phuket Old Town walking tour takes guests away from the bustling tourist beaches and instead showcases the historic and cultural side of Phuket.

Khiri Travel aspires to become the leading brand in quality tourism. Both the CEO and Sustainability & Responsible Tourism Manager have represented the company in a number of forums, working groups, and conferences in an effort to share their best practices. Other members of staff are encouraged to engage with sustainability issues through various events such as their Earth Day activities held in all of their destinations to reinforce Khiri Travel’s commitment to long-term environmental sustainability.

In Khiri Travel’s Thailand office, guides have participated in intensive trainings certified by The Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators. Other guide training programs that have taken place over the past few years placed special focus is put on environmentally and culturally sensitive activities such as elephant rides and orphanage tours, as well as how to respond to guests’ requests for locally offered excursions that may not be responsibly operated.

Khiri Travel incorporates sustainable practices not just on their tours, but also into their day-to-day office life by installing water filters to minimize the need for plastic bottles, minimizing packaging waste by purchasing products like milk and sugar in bulk, and sourcing eco-friendly office supplies, like printer paper when available. Their partnerships with host destinations are also built with responsible tourism in mind. Supplier contracts were developed after Khiri Travel reviewed excursions that could be potentially environmentally or culturally sensitive and include sustainability clauses. Partner organisations are also given access to an “Agent Portal” with content such as “Forbidden Souvenirs” and an “Endangered Species on Menus”.

For more information about the Khiri Travel Group, visit their website:

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:

Watch their video here

EXO Foundation – Finalist, Responsible Tourism Initiative

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

EXO Foundation believes in fostering sustainable development through responsible tourism practices, which they accomplish by guiding their tourism branch, EXO Travel, and financially supporting sustainable projects.

Earlier this year EXO Travel was awarded the Travelife certification for excellence in sustainability. The certification recognises their long-term efforts towards sustainability and corporate, social, and environmental responsibility. EXO Foundation took on supervising the certification process as well as its implementation by training and empowering EXO Travel staff to follow best practices, such as banning school and orphanage visits on tours. Through this certification, along with their focus on donating to a wide range of charitable projects across Southeast Asia, EXO Foundation hopes to make a positive difference in local communities and entire destinations by influencing better practices in the travel industry.

One of their unique projects, spearheaded along with COMPED (The Cambodian Education and Waste Management Organisation), tackles waste management issues: Don’t Waste Your Waste. The campaign aims to reuse plastic bottles for construction and has already built a plastic bottle/brick house in Battambang. They also developed a comic strip, which informs about the risks associated with disposing plastic waste from several angles: environmental, spiritual, and health as well as the impact of dirty tourist sites on a destinations image and the financial costs for urban centers. COMPED has adopted the comic as a tool in their “Clean city, clean resort” campaign and have distributed copies to schools and universities.

EXO Foundation plans to continue their environmental conservation efforts by partnering with NEXUS, a carbon offset program. They also hope to continue teaming up with local responsible tourism operators on sustainability campaigns, like their “Don’t Waste Your Waste” program.

For more information about EXO Foundation, visit their website:

ChildSafe Network – 2014 Finalist

ChildSafe web

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

BEST web

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.