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

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.

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.

LooLa: Local Local Local

Top 3 Winner of the 2011 ‘Inspiring Stories from Destinations’ Competition

LooLa staffA Dutch/French educator couple wanted to start an educational/adventure resort in Bintan which —will benefit all stakeholders. Their vision to create a dynamic  100% locally staffed business, —leveraged on the natural Indonesian hospitality —catered to Singapore’s (expat) expectations. Radiah shares the journey of LooLa Adventure Resort with us.

—”We finished building the resort in the year 2000 and have worked exclusively with local staff only (in our Singapore office, the staff is all local Singaporean). —It’s been a challenging but always fun and interesting venture, but the happy and overall conclusion is this: our fully local staff were able to keep up with the increasing expectations of our guests, and we succeeded in becoming market leader for overseas educational trips from Singapore.

We created a win-win partnership in which we charge our clients a modest sum (typically US$ 10-20) to participate in a stimulating and worthwhile community involvement project. Challenge: to create realistic expectations with all parties on what can be achieved!

We have worked with local government; fantastic partners in Indonesia once they are assured you really seek to empower local people & staff: they have helped us all the way, teaching our staff how to obtain cheap licenses, and engaging us with every public/private partnership we proposed!

LooLa developmentWe had to slowly replace existing village and family hierarchies with horizontal democratic decision-making, and replace traditional short-term thinking with long-term thinking. Staff had to start feeling like co-owners and embrace the somewhat novel notion of pride in work. On the next and last slide, we share some of the tips and pitfalls in this journey!”

—Some top tips and pitfalls in creating a community led tourism business:

  • Pull women into management and all departments!
  • —Generate “owner understanding”, and allow staff to open their own business (shop, massage, …) on site
  • —Private system of health and pension benefits
  • —Institute a very transparent system of department and task descriptions which encourages everyone to take more ownership and enjoy transparent rewards. This system should include a transparent work calendar.
  • —Instill democracy & a sense of partnership between owners & staff
  • —Use the power of the internet (Facebook, Tripadvisor, Dropbox) to drive home the notion of ownership
  • —Institute transparent result-driven bonus systems.

Watch video of Radiah’s story

Travel Foundation Sri Lanka

Top 3 Winner of the 2011 ‘Inspiring Stories from Destinations’ Competition

sri lanka beach boysIn 2008 The Travel Foundation (UK) started working with ‘beach boys’ in Sri Lanka along the Bentota and Beruwela coastline. The Foundation exists to protect and enhance the environment and improve the well-being of destination communities, as well as the holiday experience for visitors.

They initiated the work in Sri Lanka because hotels were receiving a high volume of complaints from tourists about the ‘hassle’ from vendors on the beach, known locally as ‘beach boys’. ‘Beach boys’ earn a living for themselves and their families by selling products and services to tourists. Due to complaints, hotels began to erect fences so that the vendors were separated from holidaymakers.

The aim of the project was to minimise hassle for tourists and create opportunities for local communities to make a living from tourism, by providing quality services to tourists.

To do so, dynamic training was provided to the ‘beach boys’ so that they can provide a high level of customer service. Vendors benefited from learning about community tourism opportunities, service standards, cultural differences, know your customer, guiding techniques, team work, health and safety.

sri lanka bikeThe Travel Foundation encouraged the engagement between local hotels in order to develop a good working relationship with the beach operators. On completion of the training course, participants graduate as ‘Beach Operators’, clearly identifiable by their t-shirts.

The results of the project have been fantastic and complaints from tourists have decreased significantly. One of the Travel Foundation’s biggest goals was to create sustainable livelihoods for ‘beach boys’ and it is positive to report that beach operators experienced an increase in income. To date more than 250 beach operators have been trained.

Most importantly, following the training, beach operators now see themselves as professionals and they feel respected by their family and community. Beach operators say they feel proud and take pride in their work

Of the participants who have benefited from training in customer service skills, they are no longer seen as ‘hassle’ by tourists…securing a brighter future for themselves and their families, as well as offering holidaymakers a fantastic service.

Watch video of Nishad’s story