Responsible Tourism Event Speakers 2016

For the Responsible Tourism Events at ITB Asia this year, we continue to bring you the best and most relevant speakers that can inspire and change the way you think about travel. Responsible Tourism is not just a label, it is essentially the way we do business and the way we experience the world. Our speakers have been handpicked because of their leadership, experience, knowledge and passion to make the world a better place via tourism. And we are proud to introduce you to them…

2016 Responsible Tourism Event Speakers

Event Facilitator: Deborah Chan, Responsible Tourism Associate Specialist, Wild Asia

Deborah Chan_Ardent Traveler_2014A storyteller at heart, Deborah’s deep incessant passion for travel had her stumbling into the world of sustainable tourism by chance. As an associate specialist with Wild Asia, she has assessed more than 80 sustainable tourism award applications, visited over 40 sustainable tourism operators across Asia and provided advisory support and trained numerous tourism establishments. Her personal and professional experience in community development in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia has afforded her priceless lessons in strategic development and people management. Her varied skills allows for great versatility in understanding sustainability issues and adapting to different industries, destinations and people groups.

She believes that the only way tourism can become sustainable is if operators assume the responsibility of being leaders in their own destinations; sharing lessons learnt and providing support from within the industry. This is the reason why she continues to facilitate these responsible tourism events, since 2010.

Valerie SfeirValérie Sfeir, International Coordinator, ChildSafe Movement 

Based in Friends-International’s Cambodia HQ, Valérie leads the implementation of the award-winning ChildSafe Movement internationally, promoting sustainable tourism among all stakeholders whilst simultaneously building networks and supportive structures. Following 9 years in the luxury and private banking industries, considering socially responsible investments, Valérie now work with a global portfolio ranging from governmental tourism programs, tourism industry leaders and innovators, businesses and travelers on developing and implementing multiple child protection campaigns, trainings and processes. This aims at raising awareness and changing actors’ behaviors positively towards protecting children across all situations, and creating protective environments for children where they can thrive.

sarah griffinSarah Griffin, Sales and Marketing Director, Buffalo Tours

A part of the Buffalo Tours team since 2004, Sarah Griffin is certainly not new to travel in Asia. Though she is originally from Australia, she’s called the Asian region home for many years, and beyond her work within travel, Sarah loves discovering new and thrilling opportunities around each corner in the region. Sarah is an integral part of Buffalo Tours’ dedication to responsible travel, community connection and stellar customer service.

July 17, 2008. Vancouver, BC.  Photo: Laura LeyshonJens Thraenhart, Executive Director, Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office 

Jens Thraenhart was appointed by the tourism ministries of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and China (Yunnan and Guanxi) to head the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) as its Executive Director. The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) is an inter-governmental body to promote the Mekong region as a single tourism destination, and foster responsible tourism development in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Jens Thraenhart is founder & president of Digital Innovation Asia (DIA). In 2009, he co-founded China Travel Trends, as well as award-winning China digital marketing and social media agency Dragon Trail, and has led marketing and Internet strategy teams with the Canadian Tourism Commission and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. He has consulted for many global companies, including recently Prestige Cruise Holdings (now Norwegian Cruise Lines), Swire Hotels, Dusit International, Shinta Mani Hotel Cambodia, and the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Educated at Cornell University with a Masters of Management in Hospitality, Mr. Thraenhart was recognized as one of the travel industry’s top 100 rising stars by Travel Agent Magazine in 2003, was listed as one of HSMAI’s 25 Most Extraordinary Sales and Marketing Minds in Hospitality and Travel in 2004 and 2005, and named as one of the Top 20 Extraordinary Minds in European Travel and Hospitality in 2014. A UNWTO Affiliate Member, and past Chair of PATA China, he founded the Annual China Responsible Tourism Forum & Awards in 2011.

Dr MarcDr Marc van Loo, CEO, Loola Adventure Resort

Dr Marc van Loo is the founding CEO of LooLa Adventure Resort, winner of a number of global sustainability awards. With a PhD in theoretical physics and having taught in schools and universities for over a decade, Marc is a strong advocate of education and open source. Being Dutch means he’s strongly committed to win-win solutions that benefit all stakeholders. As such, his resort is operated exclusively by local staff and it acts as a testbed for open source eco solutions.

Arnfinn OinesArnfinn Oines, Social and Environmental Conscience, Soneva & Secretary at Soneva Foundation 

Arnfinn Oines works as Social & Environmental Conscience for Soneva resorts. He oversees the responsible business practices at Soneva, which have received numerous environmental awards including the prestigious World Travel & Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Award 2015. Arnfinn has been involved in implementing and establishing the Soneva Carbon Calculator, Total Impact Assessment, Clean Water Projects, Soneva Forest Restoration Project, Myanmar Stoves Campaign, the Soneva Foundation, the SLOW LIFE Symposium and the group’s Social & Environmental policy and procedures. 

Prior Arnfinn oversaw the responsible business practices of Six Senses. He co-founded and opened Earthwalkers Hotel in Cambodia as General Manager. He also worked as Course Director for International Tourism Institute in Spain. Arnfinn holds a BA in Adventure Tourism Management and MBA in Hospitality & Tourism.


Willem Neimeijer, CEO, YAANA Ventures

Willem is the CEO of YAANA Ventures, an owner, partner and operator of entrepreneurial travel and hospitality ventures in Asia. Through YAANA, Willem built brands that share real experiences that are grounded in the cultural richness of Asia. More importantly, Willem drives each venture to champion the triple bottom-line: to nurture the people with whom we work, to sustain the planet we all share, and to pursue profits to expand our mission.

Willem founded Khiri Travel at the end of 1993 with a vision of creating a travel company delivering Thailand and Indochina as “4 countries, 1 destination”. He created Khiri Reach, Khiri Travel’s dedicated foundation, which adopts twelve projects that aid underprivileged communities, promote animal welfare, protect local heritage and steward the environment. In the late 1990s, to compliment his travel business, Willem founded a jungle lodge in a remote and breathtaking location in Southern Laos. Tad Fane Resort has since pioneered the development of tourism in the region. Over the following years, he expanded Khiri Travel into Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Maldives. With Khiri Travel continuing to grow sustainably, Willem turned his eye to transplanting the seeds of success he learned through growing Khiri Travel and Tad Fane Resort to the businesses that today form the core of YAANA Ventures: Anurak Community Lodge, GROUND (sustainable community development through service learning),  Khiri Travel, Banteay Chhmar Tents and Grasshopper Adventures.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 1.28.19 PMPranav Sethaputra, Group Sustainability Consultant, MCI 

Pranav is a Group Sustainability Consultant of MCI, the world’s leading provider of strategic engagement and activation solutions in the meetings, events, association and congress industries. As part of MCI’s Sustainability Services team, Pranav provides strategic advisory services to MCI’s clients, working hand-in-hand with corporations, associations, governments, venues and destinations seeking a competitive advantage through a structured sustainability programme. Leveraging on sustainability, Pranav helps MCI’s clients enhance organisational performance, grow globally, energise communities and drive business results.

With core competencies in brand marketing, social research and sustainability consulting, Pranav brings a specialist focus in how businesses can benefit from a structured Sustainability & Communications Strategy. His experience includes working with community, stakeholder engagement and environmental issues for a diverse range of organisations & businesses both in and outside of the events world. His past clients include the likes of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, SAP, BP, Boeing and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB). Pranav is also responsible for bringing MCI’s own sustainability commitments to life, guiding MCI’s 100+ Sustainability Champions to develop their local activation strategy in the company’s rapidly expanding 61 offices globally.

Alison Curry_Siem Reap_2016Alison Curry, Marketing Technical Advisor, Sam Veasna Centre

Alison has 25 years’ experience in marketing and organisational development across Europe and Asia, working with some of the biggest brands in the world including Coca-Cola, Nike, Nokia and Unilever. She has launched 3 businesses and trained MNCs in digital marketing, innovation and the development of digital and marketing ready organisations.  After realising that her work was at odds with her values she started a long process of self-education to move towards using her powers for good, including volunteering and professional sabbaticals working in Laos, Sulawesi and Malaysia with environmental, fair trade and social enterprise organisations. She is now working with Sam Veasna Centre for Wildlife Conservation, a Cambodian wildlife conservation and ecotourism NGO as Marketing Technical Advisor to help this remarkable organisation to grow.


sschwepcke-headshotSarah Schwepcke, Head – Responsible and Inclusive Business Hub Southeast Asia (RIBH), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (giz) GmbH

Sarah Schwepcke leads the Southeast Asia Section of the Responsible and Inclusive Business Hubs (RIBH), a programme implemented in Southeast Asia, Southern Africa and the Middle-East / North-Africa Region on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. The Hubs aim to support companies to successfully design and implement responsible and inclusive business models and to promote private sector engagement in international cooperation projects. A particular focus is laid on the tourism industry, amongst other sectors such as agriculture and ICT. Sarah Schwepcke, an innovation management and youth employment specialist, holds Master Degrees in International Management and International Affairs & Governance by the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and the CEMS Global Alliance in Management Education. Building on her private-sector focus, she has been working on behalf of GIZ-implemented programmes in Egypt and Southeast Asia for the past five years.