Ock Pop Tok – 2014 Finalist

Ock Pop Tok web

2CULTURAL PRS  ICONOck Pop Tok is located in the stunning UNESCO town of Luang Prabang in Laos. For 15 years they have been working to cultivate and preserve Laos’ textile heritage through sustainable tourism. Today, they have visitor accommodation, a Living Arts Centre, retails outlets, and restaurant – where visitors can enjoy the colourful textures as rich as Laotian culture.

Here’s a snapshot of some of their key achievements, and reasons why Wild Asia has identified them as one of our 2014 Finalists in the category Best in Cultural Preservation…

  • Ock Pop Tok has been constructed by renovating a traditional Lao home, and the full design has been approved by UNESCO.
  • Their Living Arts Centre provides classes and workshops in traditional arts and techniques, such as weaving and dyeing.
  • Food served in their restaurant is inspired by Lao cuisine, and sourced locally from organic farmers and markets.
  • They run a Village Weaver Project which builds the capacity of artisans and connect them to markets. This is run in partnership with local NGOs and is currently delivered in 11 provinces.
  • Each guest room is designed in keeping with Lao ethnic groups, each with a unique theme giving a real sense of place for every visitor.
  • Ock Pop Tok regards themselves as an engine for growth and awareness of culture beyond Lao border.  Visitors from far and wide can explore their gallery of beautiful pieces, directly benefiting the weavers when purchasing local crafts. They share weaving techniques in foreign countries so that other artisans can learn and enhance their own culture.
  • Currently, they are providing a fair living wage to more than twenty artisans.

 

For more information about Ock Pop Tok, please visit their website.

 

Andaman Discoveries – 2014 Finalist

Andman Discoveries web

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

Here’s a snapshot of some of their key achievements, and reasons why Wild Asia has identified them as one of our 2014 Finalists in the category Best in Cultural Preservation…

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

 

For more information about Andaman Discoveries, please visit their website.

 

Borneo Eco Tours – 2014 Finalist

Borneo Eco web

1COMMUNITY ICONBorneo Eco Tours, based in Malaysian Borneo, has been a pioneer in responsible nature tours since 1991. Two of their most popular destinations in which they operate includes the iconic Kinabatangan River, where guests can enjoy their Sukau Rainforest Lodge and Borneo’s primates, and Kudat, which provides opportunities for guests to visit and support cottage industries along the scenic coast.

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 Community Engagement and Development…

  • In 1996 Borneo Eco Tours established a non-profit foundation, BEST Society, to deliver community projects in destinations in which they operate. To date, this has included installing water tanks to villages with no access to clean water, medical and dental camps, introducing organic farming projects in rural areas, and tree planting.
  • They are very committed to sourcing staff locally, and pride themselves that 100% local of their team is made up of local people, including management level.  Furthermore, staff have access to great benefits such as a higher than national minimum wage, medical benefits, recreation activities, allowances for overtime, and special skills training.
  • After more than two decades of successful business, Borneo Eco Tours shares its expertise and access to useful contacts with other budding entrepreneurs. They have been training local community members in tourism and supporting them to establish their own social enterprise. Some examples include: increasing access to markets for artisans (e.g. beaded jewellery makers, weavers, coconut oil and honey producers), sending 50 farmers on an organic farming training course,  and technical support to accommodation proprietors.
  • As big believers in sharing their cultural heritage, many tours include visits to cottage industries which support the local economy.
  • To date, their operations have generated approximately $127,000 for community and environmental projects. They have achieved this by including a levy on every guest’s bill which automatically is invested into local BEST projects.

 

For more information about Borneo Eco Tours, please visit their website.

 

 

 

 

Reality Tours & Travel – 2014 Finalist

Reality web

1COMMUNITY ICONReality Tours and Travel is based in Mumbai and is most famous for their Dharavi slum tour. Following the success of their ever expanding product range in the city, they have recently spread their wings to the capital, Kerala, and Rajasthan. Their tagline is “see the real India”; guests get beyond tourism to experience authentic destinations in India, and their unique social business structure supports community development projects along the way.

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 Community Engagement and Development…

  • Reality’s Dharavi slum tours showcase the enterprising heart of this community. The tour gives guests an insight into this bustling destination, but there is a strict no photo policy and responsible clothing guidelines for guests to reduce their impact.
  • They have established a sister NGO, Reality Gives, and 80% of profit from all tours goes to the charity to improve the quality of life in the community they operate in. Programs include: community centre, youth empowerment program, English language classes, computer classes, girls football club, library, and curriculum development.
  • Around 93% of Reality’s staff comes from the surrounding area, with many from the Dharavi community itself.
  • Committed to continuously improving themselves, they recently commissioned an external consultant to gather feedback from Dharavi residents. As a result, they are improving on areas identified, including enhancing the reach of their NGO work.
  • In a culture where girls sometimes have to take the back seat, Reality Gives is creating opportunities for girls in activities they would normally not be able to partake in. Through their girls’ football program, they are learning leadership skills, responsibility, friendship, and English.

 

For more information about Reality Tours and Travel, please visit their website.

 

Village Ways – 2014 Finalist

Village Ways web

1COMMUNITY ICONVillage Ways offers eye-opening experiences in India, Nepal, and Ethiopia. In each destination guests can experience the essence of the destination by spending time with families and communities. Each place of stay is an autonomous business belonging to the community, typically a specially constructed or restored village guesthouse, providing direct benefits to your hosts.

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 Community Engagement and Development…

  • Many of the homestays guests can experience have been lovingly renovated. Village Ways provides funding for renovation at properties they wish to send guests to. They provide 40% grant and 60% interest free loan, payable only if they send guests there. Communities form committees and manage the enterprise together, empowering them through the running of their own business.
  • They have established a charitable trust as a model to help wider community development, with the objective to provide skills and capacity building to rural communities, to help them improve their quality of lives.
  • Spread benefits by ensuring that the committees have a member from each household.
  • 100% of Village Ways staff is local.
  • In addition to providing training within destinations for accommodation entrepreneurs, they take trainees to different areas to get exposure of industry.
  • Village Ways operates in many untouched destinations, providing immersive experiences with cross cultural interactions with families at homestays.
  • Building communities through tourism, Village Ways ensures local people are involved with the whole process of implementation. They have values of inclusivity and have encouraged women to take on guiding roles.
  • Communities have commented that the process of establishing tourism projects has brought people together and strengthened the community.

For more information about Village Ways, please visit their website.

2014 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards: Winners

WinnerWe are incredibly excited to reveal the 2014 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winners. The following businesses have now completed the first stage of the competition and been shortlisted from applicants from across the region.

The Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards are based on the UNWTO Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. Our categories both align with criteria in different pillars of sustainable tourism, and recognise inspirational operators.

1COMMUNITY ICONBest in Community Engagement and Development

This award recognizes exceptional commitment to supporting the local community and economy in which your business operates.

Winner: Borneo Eco Tours, Malaysia

Based in Malaysian Borneo, Borneo Eco Tours has been a pioneer in responsible nature tours since 1991. Two of their most popular destinations in which they operate includes the iconic Kinabatangan River, where guests can enjoy their award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge and Borneo’s famed primates, and Kudat, which provides opportunities for guests to visit and support cottage industries (supported by their partner NGO, BEST) along the scenic coast.

Finalists: Reality Tours & Travel, IndiaVillage Ways, India

2CULTURAL PRS  ICONBest in Cultural Preservation

This award recognizes engagement and efforts by tourism businesses in preserving, enhancing and promoting local cultures and heritage.

Winner: Ock Pop Tok, Laos

Ock Pop Tok is located in the stunning UNESCO town of Luang Prabang in Laos. For the past 15 years they have been working to cultivate and preserve Laos’ textile heritage through sustainable tourism. Today, they have visitor accommodation, a Living Arts Centre, retail outlets and a restaurant – all where visitors can enjoy the colourful textures as rich as Laotian culture.

Finalist: Andaman Discoveries, Thailand

6INITIATIVE ICONMost Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative

This award recognizes grass-roots initiatives championing responsible tourism within their destination.

Winner: ChildSafe Network (Friends International), Cambodia

The ChildSafe Network, delivered by Friends-International, is helping to protect vulnerable children in tourism destinations across Cambodia and other parts of South East Asia. Their 7 Tips for Travellers helps tourists make the right choices in responsible travel to advocate child safety. Beyond that, they’re also working behind the scenes to get children off the streets through vocational training, supporting their parents through jobs, and generating funding and employment through social ventures.

Finalist: BEST Society, Malaysia

Is Sustainable Tourism Achievable in Asia?

Ipoh Presentation_Deborah Chan_Responsible Tourism

“Is sustainable tourism achievable in Asia?” that was the question posed by Deborah Chan, Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Associate at a seminar organized and attended by HFT Luzern, a Swiss tourism university. A group of 80 students from the university spent three weeks in Malaysia touring the peninsular and attending weekly seminars at satellite cities in Malaysia as they explored issues pertaining to tourism in Asia. At the seminar, Deborah was delighted to encounter passionate and initiated budding industry players in the hospitality field who were eager to learn, probe for answers and think out-of-the-box for solutions that plague the mass tourism scene.

The seminar was graced with leading tourism players from the private and government sector such as Diethelm Travel, YTL Group, Tourism Perak, Tourism Malaysia and Wild Asia each sharing their perspective, insight and challenges of tourism in Malaysia. Deborah shared an insightful presentation of the current perception of responsible tourism in Asia and presented case studies from which the students can glean from.

Deborah Chan_Ipoh Presentation_Responsible Tourism (1)So, with all the talk about sustainability and tourism, the tough question asked was…

“Is sustainability just a growing fad or a nice marketing gimmick? And can Asian operators adopt best practices that will keep the industry thriving for many more years to come?”

While many operators have jumped on the bandwagon and waved the ‘Go Green!’ flag, there are movers and shakers in the industry who are undeterred when it comes to creating positive impact. Wild Asia has received over 190 applications from 14 Asian countries in the past 8 years for their annual Responsible Tourism Awards. These applications are incredibly thorough and are benchmarked against the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) initially developed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

From these applications, Wild Asia have recognized and awarded 57 finalists and winners across Asia. Selected case studies were presented at the seminar in hope that their stories and examples would inspire young budding tourism professionals to create change from within the industry.

Deborah started the presentation with an unveiling of facts that acknowledged the tourism industry as a powerful driver in the global economy.

  • By 2020, a whopping 1.6 billion tourists will be making annual trips internationally (UNWTO);
  • In terms of gross economic power, tourism is in the same category as oil, energy, finance and agriculture;
  • At least one in ten people around the world is employed by the travel and hospitality industry;
  • Tourism creates $USD 3 billion in business every day!

As a result of this boom, tourism also produces a series of negative effects that are often side-lined, ignored or not talked about. These negative impacts include; environmental deterioration, loss of biodiversity, exploitation of local communities and corrosion of cultures and traditions.

However, not all is lost and tourism can be a force for change.

There are tourism players in Asia who have stepped up as a catalyst for change. For example, Lisu Lodge have gone over and beyond to engage and develop the local community in the hill tribes of northern Thailand through capacity building and employment, creation of sustainable secondary source of income and indigenous community led initiatives that are tourism related.

Soneva Resort, a luxury brand and innovator in sustainable tourism. Soneva supports clean water projects, an orphanage initiative and a hunger alleviation charity. They have helped implement a local ban on shark fishing, established a coral restoration project, and their innovative carbon calculator ensures they continuously strive for inspirational resource efficiency.

A Malaysian example that was quoted is Scuba Junkie, a dive operator based in beautiful Mabul Island off the east coast of Sabah. The company strives to be sensitive and have a positive effect on this unique area. Introducing the first rubbish collection scheme on the island, they are improving waste management and protecting their natural assets. They also run a Turtle Hatchery and are championing the Semporna Shark Sanctuary, in order to help save our seas.

Other case studies presented include Agri Tourism in India, El Nido Resorts in Philippines, Heritance Kandalama in Sri Lanka, Andaman Discoveries in Thailand and Nikoi Island in Indonesia.

Sustainability is not all about the operator, it’s about the traveler

Deborah Chan_Ipoh Presentation_Responsible Tourism (2)

“The main reason why I’m in hospitality is because I love to travel. I wouldn’t be in it if I didn’t enjoy seeing the world,” says Fabian Wilhelm. Sustainable tourism therefore needs to connect with the traveler. While operators are thinking of new ways to benefit the local community, preserve the environment and sustain the economy, they (operators) also need to think of new ways to involve the traveler and create exciting experiences that are out-of-the-box.

One thing for sure, social networks are powerful marketing tools that allow multi-dimensional conversations. An empowered, educated and informed traveler can act as a catalyst to spread the word to other travelers and potentially shake the industry to create new order in mass tourism’s modus operandi. The traveler therefore needs to experience the destination and be simultaneously educated with good travel practices that leave positive impact before they can speak up about sustainable tourism.

In conclusion, sustainable tourism is achievable in Asia, however this movement requires multi-stakeholder effort and a persistent push for it to gain enough momentum that will one day set in motion an avalanche of positive impact. Wild Asia hopes that in the short presentation given, more destination thinkers and movers will be enlightened to create more mindful ways of travel.

The Rainforest Ecolodge: Supporting Biodiversity in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001In year 2000 The Competitiveness Initiative (TCI) was launched by USAID at the invitation of the Government to enhance the potential of the tourism profile of Sri Lanka. Stakeholders of the tourism industry were clustered in the form of The Tourism Cluster (TTC), to increase competitiveness and to bring them together to develop joint initiatives that explored diversification of the industry. As such, TTC strategized targeting the higher‐end segments of the tourism market, through ecotourism.

A multi‐sector working group including the TTC, leading academia ‐including the University of Peradeniya and Colombo and the Forest Department ‐ was formed, with the goal of developing a model for future ecotourism in Sri Lanka. Proceeding further, in 2002, a location in the Sinharaja Division of the Enselwatte Estate in Deniyaya owned by Mathurata Plantations Pvt. Ltd. was selected, and an Prof Kotagama of University of Colombo initial investment for development was put‐together by nine companies including five leading tourism companies in Sri Lanka. TCI provided the required ecotourism expertise through Megan Epler Wood – Founder of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), and technical support for the implementation of the project.

The responsibility of facilitating this programme was assigned to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, under the guidance of Prema Cooray, the then Secretary‐General (2003‐2008). Planning of The Rainforest Ecolodge began in February 2006 and was opened to the public in January 2012.

Sri Lanka rainforest-ecolodgeThe Rainforest Ecolodge is situated in the Sinharaja Division of the Enselwatte Estate in Deniyaya. This plot of previously cultivated tea land, borders the south‐eastern fringe of the Sinharaja forest reserve, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site inscribed in 1988. The Sinharaja is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and a Biodiversity Hotspot as designated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All these titles highlight the importance of the forest reserve, and hence the location of the ecolodge, in terms of its biodiversity as well as its fragility. As such, in selecting this location, the management of the ecolodge has recognized the importance of committing to the conservation of its surroundings and promoting the cause through its development and operations.

Biodiversity of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve

The vegetation that predominates the Sinharaja forest reserve, belongs to the tropical (lower montane) wet evergreen forest type. This is a unique type of forest which is very low in abundance in a global context, and is the only piece of pristine forest that Sri Lanka can claim ownership to.

Most of the plant species present in this forest is considered ‘Rare’ and over 60% of these species display endemicity, or in other words, is prevalent only in this particular locality. This unique vegetation type therefore also plays host to a unique collection of faunal species which consists of over 90% of Sri Lanka’s endemic bird species and over 50% of endemic butterflies, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians.

Some Globally Threatened Species found at the Rainforest Ecolodge site:

  • Urocissa ornate – Common names: Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Kehi Bella
  • Prionailurus viverrinus – Common names: Fishing Cat, Handun Diviya, Koddy Pulli
  • Ratufa macroura – Common names: Giant Squirrel, Dandu Lena, Mali Anil
  • Loris Tardigradus – Common names: Red Slender Loris, Una Hapuluwa, Thevangu
  • Macaca sinica – Common names: Toque Monkey, Rilawa, Kurangu
  • Trachypithecus vetulus – Common names: Purple faced Leaf Monkey, Kalu Wandura, Mundi

Sri Lanka - Bird The part of the fringe forest with which The Rainforest Ecolodge comes into contact with, displays another unique feature in which it hosts flocks of birds – singular and mixed species –that seem to thrive in this particular zone where the tropical forest meets the monoculture tea plantation.

A Training Manual for Nature Interpreters has also been put‐together by The Rainforest Ecolodge for the benefit of the staff, guests and visitors. This is the first time such a publication has been developed by an Ecolodge in Sri Lanka to build capacity and increase awareness about the Ecolodge and the Sinharaja forest reserve.

Innovative multisector approach

This first major collaborated public‐private sector initiative was led by leading leisure corporates. The innovative funding mechanism that employed public private partnership also had its advantages and disadvantages but led the way to the application of global best practices which are now, visible learning tools of this model initiative.

Community development initiatives

The Rainforest Ecolodge’s extensive development initiatives which began with the USAID’s GDA‐supported SENCE program in 2005 are still active and ongoing as a part of the ecolodge’s routine operations. Under the SENCE program, 35 brand new residential units were constructed for members of the community who were requested to relocate when the area with their existing homesteads was selected for the construction of the ecolodge. In addition to these, buildings purposed for a crèche, a primary school and a healthcare center were also constructed for the benefit of the community members.

The SENCE program also supported the execution of a number of studies including scientific and socio‐economic surveys to gauge the relevant existing conditions and challenges for further development. Observations recorded during these surveys and stated recommendations were converted into actions through the implementation of numerous workshops, health clinics and practical sessions that involved almost 100 individuals from the surrounding community. Such workshops on various topics are still being facilitated by the ecolodge upon requests from the community.

The Rainforest Ecolodge also played a key role in ensuring the community’s access to energy and potable water resources as well as public transportation and road infrastructure. Human resources required at the ecolodge during construction, and now during operations have been recruited from

Asia’s Best Responsible Tourism Businesses Revealed

2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winners

The seventh Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards revealed its six prestigious winners at Asia’s biggest business-to-business travel trade show, ITB Asia, today (Friday 25th October) in Singapore. From all corners of the region, this year’s winners represent leaders in sustainability, each showcasing how the tourism industry can be a force for good. These businesses are inspirational examples of socially and environmentally responsible companies, making a big positive difference in the destinations they operate within.

Best in Community Engagement and Development

This award recognizes exceptional commitment to supporting the local community and economy in which the business operates.

Workplace staff_small business opportunityWinner: Lisu Lodge, Thailand

Named after the Lisu hill tribe village that is found near the lodge, Lisu Lodge is part of a communitybased project that aims to conserve the natural heritage of the hill tribes of northern Thailand. Lisu Lodge has demonstrated an inspirational commitment to creating a sustainable local economy through
capacity building and employment, empowering women’s groups through the conservation of heritage crafts and contributes to a local development fund for community initiatives led by indigenous communities.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Bali CoBTA, Indonesia

Best in Cultural Preservation

This award recognizes engagement and efforts by tourism businesses in preserving, enhancing and promoting local cultures and heritage.

1.Apani Dhani - central hutWinner: Apani Dhani, India

Apani Dhani is based in the heart of Rajasthan. They offer eco-friendly accommodation, excursions and activities with locals such as cooking lessons, initiation to traditional arts and crafts. Staying will enable travellers to discover daily life and traditions of rural India. Apani Dhani’s multifaceted cultural mission is based on engaging the community on many levels, supporting local artisans and cottage industries, and campaigning for the protection of historical buildings.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Sampran Riverside, Thailand

Best in Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

This award recognizes tourism businesses’ consideration of their local environment and biodiversity by actively supporting and protecting their natural assets.

Scuba Junkie presentationWinner: Scuba Junkie, Malaysia

Scuba Junkie dive resort located on Mabul island, provides daily dive trips to more than 25 islands (Including Sipadan Island (frequently voted in the top 10 dives sites in the world)) in the Celebes Sea in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. They have established a range of partnerships to protect the marine environment and wildlife, ranging from government to marginalized local communities. They are also managers of the Mabul Turtle Hatchery, chair of an annual marine week and advisers to the Semporna Shark Sanctuary.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Ranweli Holiday Village, Sri Lanka

Best in Resource Efficiency

This award recognizes excellence in waste, water and energy management and sustainable architectural design in order to minimize the business’s environmental impact.

Heritance webWinner: Heritance Kandalama, Sri Lanka

Heritance Kandalama is based in the heart of the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka, built overlooking the the rock fortress of Sigiriya. Endorsed by both ISO14001 and ISO50001 management systems for energy and water efficiency, they continuously achieve quantitative goals to reduce consumption. Their Eco Park has been visited by over 1.8million guests, partnering with more than 30 local schools and various conservation bodies – Kandalama has excellent commitment to promoting environmental education.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa, Malaysia

Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Accommodation Provider

(This category is sponsored by Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia)

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 webWinner: Soneva Resorts, Thailand and the Maldives

Soneva Resorts is the original barefoot luxury brand, and still one of the travel industry’s greatest innovators. The acronym SLOW LIFE (which stands for Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun- Experiences) explains the Soneva philosophy. Soneva supports clean water projects, an orphanage initiative and a hunger alleviation charity. They have helped implement a local ban on shark fishing, established a coral restoration project, and their innovative carbon calculator ensures they continuously strive for inspirational resource efficiency.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysia

Most Inspiring Responsible Tour Operator

This award recognizes the tour operator that excels in all of the key principles of responsible tourism (maximum positive impacts to the local community and minimum negative impacts to the environment) and awards innovation for this most inspiring responsible tourism business of the year.

tourWinner: ViaVia Jogja, Indonesia

ViaVia tours, based in Jogjakarta, all offer something unique – including adventure, gastronomy and culture. ViaVia is also an arts hub providing space to young local artists, whilst supporting marginalised groups. Parts of the ViaVia profits go to support educational, social and cultural projects in and around Jogjakarta. They have provided humanitarian assistance to local natural disasters, helped establish a rural community library and delivered free training to local groups and guides.

* Why did they win? Download their factsheet! *

Runner up: Papua Expeditions, Indonesia

Amy McLoughlin, Awards Coordinator, says “Congratulations to all our worthy winners and finalists. All of them are role models for the industry. Their investment in community engagement, workers’ welfare, cultural conservation and environmental stewardship – make the travel industry a more exciting place to work. Most importantly, they’re supporting long lasting development in their destinations across Asia, ensuring a more sustainable future for the places we love to visit”.

Looking for inspiration for your tourism business? Visit the Wild Asia website for fact sheets on this year’s twelve finalists to discover their best practices and social impact. Furthermore, businesses can also uncover this year’s winning entries from the Inspiring Stories from Destinations competition, also hosted annually at ITB Asia.

Special thanks to our 2013 Media Partners – especially T+L Southeast Asia and SOST for their amazing support! Also thank you to ITB Asia for letting us use this fabulous platform to showcase our Finalists and Winners.

Cross-cultural experiences in Jayamrung, Nepal

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LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001Ram Sapkota from Mountain Delights Treks and Expedition in Nepal, shares his vision of providing visitors to his country with a genuine experience of daily life in rural Nepal – to take you off the beaten track into his village – Jyamrung.

I was born in Jyamrung, a small and remote village in the midwest part of Nepal. Like many families in my village my parents worked as farmers on their own fields. My family was one of the poorest in the village and we didn’t have enough food from our own field, therefore we had to work on other people’s farms – despite our hard work, often we went to bed hungry.

Only one of my brothers and myself were lucky enough to attend school.  During this time, I  recognized the problems within our village:  men spending their day playing cards and drinking alcohol instead of working and then returning home in the evening angry because they has lost all their money, food was not ready and beating their wives.

Guide n porter with guestIn Nepali culture men are usually in a superior position compared to women – who are responsible for the household and all the work.  I did not think this was right and started bringing the women to the places where the men were playing cards and drinking – this was the first time women had fought the bad behaviour of their husbands.  Without realizing it I had started my first social work for women’s rights in the village.

Against great odds I continued my education by selling a goat my mother had given me.   With this US$20 I set up a small shop selling items to the locals.  After three years of working in my shop each morning and evening and studying during the day, I sold my shop – it was time to move on to higher education.

After doing various manual labour jobs, I found a position with a trekking company in Kathmandu.  I worked as a porter, kitchen boy, Sherpa or assistant guide, while at night reading books and studying for university.  I never attended college but studied in private without any teacher and after several years achieved my degree in population education, political science, history and culture.

My experience as a trekking guide opened a new world to me.  I was able to earn money and send some of it back to my village to help children attend school.  

My contact with foreigners allowed me to tell them about my village and my project ideas.  I was humbled by their interest and support.  From here I formed my own trekking company – Mountain Delights – and with the assistance of my international friends started my small social organization – Tukee Nepal Society.

Our work within Tukee Nepal Society is based in my village – Jyamrung – and through Mountain Delights we take visitors on a “Lower Ganesh Himal Eco Trek” to experience this basically unexplored region of Nepal.  The Ganesh Himal is named after the elephant-headed God of Good Fortune.  The Ganesh Himal can clearly be seen from Kathmandu Valley and the Ganesh Range peaks stand out like crystal that is the Great Himalayan Chain forming the skyline.

Nothing has changed in this area so it is a great opportunity to learn about the real Nepal and enjoy our traditional culture.  During this trek you will stay in my village for at least three nights where you will experience a home stay by being involved in the day-to-day activities (e.g. teaching in the school, providing health assistance, working in the fields with local people, fishing, swimming, cooking, explore the surrounding area, etc).

Ram in trekOur treks are staffed by local guides who know the area very well – they can tell you about the local environment, wildlife, culture, daily life – with permission from the elders of the village we involve our clients and staff in local ceremonies wherever possible.  Our local knowledge, combined with a friendly and inviting community, gives people an opportunity and experience that very few foreigners have witnessed.

Our work in Jyamrung has seen many changes within the community – it is ever changing and on-going.  Projects include:

  • Providing a health centre in the village that provides assistance for more than 9000 people.
  • Toilets for everyone to assist with hygiene and prevent disease outbreaks.
  • Solar power and a micro-hydro power station which provides an economic and environmental result for the community.
  • Road construction that will assist the community to trade more freely their agricultural products.
  • Micro-finance scheme to set up small business – agriculture, tailoring, etc.
  • Renovating houses affected by the elements of poorer members of the community.
  • Education – 260 students receive assistance to attend primary school, secondary school and university;  evening classes for the older generation; repair and building new school buildings;  assistance to provide more teachers and tutors; resources for the school.

We believe village tourism offers a unique opportunity for comfortable cultural immersion. Our organization works with the whole village – providing economic stability for all families by using local produce, accommodation and guides.

Mountain Delights is not only a profit motivated organization – the company is committed to contributing five percent of its total annual profit to Tukee Nepal Society which has given a new lease of life to many needy and vulnerable people.

A visit to Jyamrung will provide everyone with the opportunity to be involved in cross-cultural communication – to gain a greater understanding of each other’s lifestyle and opportunities.

If you are coming to Nepal take the opportunity to go off the beaten track and see the power, beauty and soul of the more remote areas of my country – “make your footprint count.”