ViaVia Tours, Indonesia – Most Inspiring Tour Operator

winner[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates ViaVia Tours for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner. This award recognizes the tour operator 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 responsible tourism business of the year.

ViaVia tours are as varied as Jogjakarta is populated and they all offer something unique. Adventure, gastronomy and culture. ViaVia in Jogja offers art space to young local artists and is also often the venue of concerts, Friday night Jazz, performance art, film festivals and debates. Parts of the ViaVia profits go to support educational, social and cultural projects in and around Jogjakarta.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Excellent community development, resource efficiency for such a small project.
  • Internal and external impact assessment.
  • Strong in the “influence and inspire” area.
  •  Supporting local artists.
  • Inspirational commitment to supporting marginalised groups (e.g. HIV).
  • Plan to improve energy efficiency.
  • An active company achieving good results and customer numbers.

Inspiring Management

  • Guest information on sustainable tourism: website, peronsal communication, guided walks, welcome briefing, brochures, books.
  • Internal and external environmental and social impact assessments.
  • Staff dedicated to following Indonesian law.
  • New guides go through a weeklong training, specialising in cross cultural communication.
  • All staff have job descriptions where their roles are outlined, with performance appraisals identify capacity building needs.
  • Some staff have participated in Sustainable Tourism training with international specialist. All core guides received a Training of Trainers by specialist.
  • The Manager has her Graduate and Post Graduate Degrees in funded by ViaVia.
  • Gives preference to smaller accommodation suppliers, each is visited and partnership built on shared RT principles.
  • Participated in local and national panel discussions on sustainable tourism.
  • Work with partners, provide partners opportunity to visit, join trainings and tours to learn.
  • Provide informal consultancy to local travel agencies who are interested in “copying” concepts.
  • Host free annual training (approx. 20 people) on cross cultural communication and guiding skills; workshops on social enterprises for students.
  • Facilitated training on sustainable tourism for tourism students of several universities in Jogjakarta (UNY, UPN, and others).
  • 2008 external sustainability assessment (Exchange Belgium) and regular interns assess.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Guides develop personal relationships with villages and seek feedback. Annual meeting to discuss plans and feedback.
  • Organise street festival to engage neighbourhood and other businesses.
  • Work with ILO and other organizations to provide trainings to local communities on tourism, e.g. establishing homestays.
  • Provide humanitarian assistance e.g. emergency relief after 2006 Jogjakarta Earthquake and 2010 Mt. Merapi Erruption; fundraising after the 2006 Nias Earthquake; Awareness raising and fund raising during World Refugee Day in 2004.
  • Constructed 26 houses after 2006 Earthquake.
  • Waste management and environmental training to schools in villages they work with.
  • Supported a community library in Sukamade Village which they visit on Overland tour.
  • Financially and non financially supported the Jogjakarta Mural Project Sama-Sama You Are Welcome in 2003.
  • Provide venue spaces for charitable events.
  • Fund the university education of 5 women (4 staff, 1 non-staff).
  • Funded a life saving surgical operation in Belgium for one of staff.
  • Fair Trade Shop, which provides opportunities for economically disadvantaged people, (e.g. street children, HIV sufferers).
  • Provides regular safe venue for meetings of Narcotics Anonymous, and other marginal groups.
  • 100% local staff and 100% local management.
  • Many staff have progressed from low skilled jobs to management within the business.
  • Staff paid living wage, health insurance, maternity leave, holidays.
  • Has a restaurant, which also uses as much local and organic ingredients by small local producers as possible. No-MSG, No-Palm Oil.
  • In tours visit home industries, guests to buy locally.
  • Child sexual exploitation policy signed by all staff and made available to guests.
  • Promote women in the work place and equality, but some challenges due to culture.

Cultural Preservation

  • Customers told about acceptable dress in brochure and pre-tour briefing.
  • Supports one of the last surviving Javanese ‘Ketoprak’ Theatre Groups.
  • After the 2010 Mt. Merapi Eruption held public meeting with fundraising about the damage caused by the ash, and the future risks to local temple complexes, with key note speaker (British archaeologist Tony Tack).
  • Contribute tourist fees to heritage sites.
  • Promote maintaining local access to heritage sites (e.g. Borobudur).
  • Provide opportunity for young local artists every few weeks to decorate Via Via or exhibit and they take a lower than average commission (30%).
  • Offer Bahasa language courses and Batik courses.

Resource Efficiency

  • Promote sustainably sourced products.
  • No plastic bag policy, refillable water bottles,
  • Furniture made from recycled materials e.g. old boat.
  • In the office use LED lighting, taps checked for leaks.
  • Trees 4 Tours carbon offset scheme.
  • Local school take old paper for recycling.
  • Composting.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Maximise public transport on tours.
  • Trees 4 Tours™ concept supports local farmers with tree planting per tour in a vehicle.
  • Staff trained on species and library provided.
  • Contribute tourist fees to protected areas for e.g. turtle conservation.
  • Discuss environmental and conservation issues on tours.
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Papua Expeditions, Indonesia – Most Inspiring Tour Operator

finalist[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his post congratulates Papua Expeditions for being recognized as a 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Finalist. This award recognizes the tour operator 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 responsible tourism business of the year.

Papua Expeditions offers keened-out, professionally guided birding, general wildlife, hiking and trekking expeditions in New Guinea’s Wild West. Permanently based in West Papua, their ecotourism programme focuses exclusively on the little-known western half of New Guinea under Indonesian administration.

Our favourite things about them!

  • Excellent policy in regards to attracting local people, not sending guests to ceremonies, all round excellent responsible business model.
  • A good example of responsible tourism business in a destination that face various external challenges in terms of business conditions.
  • An inspiring model demonstrating that responsible business ethics and sustainability practices are important no matter what.
  • “Learning while doing” training approach to support local capacity building.
  • 100% local staff.
  • Strong stance against exploitation of children.
  • Focus on growing regional client base as a concrete example of positive and business-focused climate action.
  • Within a remarkable and largely undiscovered destination, provides inspiring management, contributes to community engagement and development, cultural preservation and the protection of natural areas and wildlife conservation.

Inspiring Management

  • Provide information on web, pre-tour guide, and through interaction on tours on sustainable tourism approaches.
  • Internal environmental and social impact assessments.
  • Operates in a corrupt and poor region and maintains policy on clean governance, following ‘legal mass’ to adopt most appropriate solution under conflicting circumstances.
  • Trains staff ‘learning while doing’.
  • Consults tribal leaders about fluid land ownership laws to ensure their accommodation suppliers are compliant.
  • Published article on practice in eco tourism publications to inspire others.
  • 2010 Highly Commended Wild Asia RT Awards.

Community Engagement and Development

  • Provide ‘respectful usage’ fee to local communities for conservation.
  • Prevent ‘pay and go’ attitude and have long term MOU agreement with host communities to make benefits more long lasting.
  • Established Cenderawasih Fund for Community Development, 10% net profit donated. Funds small scale initiatives e.g. health care, social conflict resolution, relief, education.
  • 100% local workforce, 100% local management.
  • Yearly staff review and identify training needs.
  • Purchase local organic fresh produce and adhere to local market fares, to prevent tourist inflation which results in local people out-competed.
  • Support like-minded businesses wherever possible.
  • Encourage guests to buy local services not included in activities e.g. handicrafts.
  • Employ up to 80 different day-workers per month, all of whom are entitled to ancestral land-rights and/or reside at the destinations within portfolio, all receive the same basic training through ‘learning while doing’.
  • Facilitate ‘inter-cultural exchanges’ of motivated day-workers between destinations, it provides networking and possibilities for learning from culturally different Papuans. Proved beneficial toward character- and leadership-building.
  • Carefully selected city hotels with policies against sexual exploitation of children.
  • Do what they can to promote women’s rights and equality but can prove challenging given cultural context.
  • Staff exceed provincial minimum wage.
  • Tours are delivered by indigenous people so able to communicate after each tour feedback; bi-annual meets with land-owners and village elders.

Cultural Preservation

  • Do not engage guests with ceremonies as have strong reservations whether it adds value to local people. Rather they promote experiencing day-to-day life instead.
  • Always respects any prohibitions on visitation imposed by indigenous communities and closely follow their instructions where visitation is permitted.
  • Local language is provided in briefing.

Resource Efficiency

  • Oppose printed materials, online business.
  • Garbage prevention policy, non-recyclable waste is no more than 15g per guest per day.
  • Use of battery power or fire wood (local traditional methods) only in the field.
  • Office – energy efficient lighting and laptops, switch off policy.
  • Water usage is very low so little opportunity to reduce further.
  • Does not use carbon offsetting as remains controversial.

Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation

  • Encouraging more Australia guests (now about 70% of guests) rather than European or USA to reduce international travel.
  • Encourages locals against deforestation by bringing tourists to those areas because of those natural resources.
  • Maximise use of public transport or use energy efficient vehicles if hired.
  • 5 year pilot project in Raja Ampat – agreement with customary landowners in a bid to preserve the entire Orobiai River catchment (92 sq km of virtually untouched primary forest, set in visually stunning topography, and globally threatened wildlife).
  • Community Conservation and Ecotourism Agreement (CCEA) seals direct structured payments by Papua Expeditions to customary land-holding groups on Waigeo in return for carefully defined and monitored conservation and education outcomes.
  • Indigenous guides have clear understanding of conservation issues and communicate with guests.
  • Provide birding guidelines to prevent disturbance.
  • Improved access through close consultation and assistance from indigenous communities, improved more than sixty kilometres of trails across the destinations.

2013 Responsible Tourism Award Finalists

finalistFinalists Revealed!

2013 has been a record year for the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards. In its seventh year, we are pleased to announce our best year yet! We received 45 quality applications from the widest geographical spread to date, including entries from all corners of South and Southeast Asia region: India, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar, Vietnam, Nepal and Cambodia.

Our panel of judges had their work cut out picking our 2013 Finalists, especially in our Tour Operator category which received the highest number of entries.

We are over the moon to reveal our 2013 Finalists. The following will now undergo the next round of judging and our 2013 Winners will be announced at our signature ceremony hosted at Asia’s biggest business-to-business travel trade show, ITB Asia, in Singapore this October. In an effort to ensure transparency and promote best practice to inspire others, this year we will be publishing case studies on all our Finalists…we look forward to sharing with you soon.

Congratulations to all our Finalists and good luck.

Best in Community Engagement and Development

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

Bali CoBTA webBali CoBTA, Indonesia more

Bali Community Based Tourism Association (Bali CoBTA) is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that promotes sustainable tourism. By facilitating the development of community based tourism villages, tourists are given a unique opportunity to experience local culture and community life, while communities are empowered to earn an additional income by preserving and showcasing their culture and heritage. Why Wild Asia loves them!

The advisory committee and organisational structure of the association (including the governor of Bali!) is really a great achievement.

Lisu Lodge webLisu Lodge, Thailand more

Named after the Lisu hill tribe village that is found near the lodge, Lisu Lodge is part of a community-based project that aims to conserve the natural heritage of the hill tribes of northern Thailand. The Lisu migrated from southern China and Tibet in the early 20th century. Why Wild Asia loves them!

A ‘Village Bank’ fund set up to support local communities – an innovative example of how a business can contribute to local well-being in a concrete and practical way. Tangible, quantifiable contributions to local capacity and development funding.

Best in Cultural Preservation

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

Apani Dhani webApani Dhani, India more

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. This charming and peaceful ecolodge, is an ideal place to start or finish a journey in Rajasthan. Why Wild Asia loves them!

Strong commitment to arts and cultural heritage.   Has shown two decades of local leadership in responsible approaches to tourism.

Sampran webSampran Riverside, Thailand more

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. Why Wild Asia loves them!

Provides a unique Thai cultural experience with a focus on cultural and architectural preservation.  Has a long history of serving the tourism industry & providing local employment opportunities through the preservation and presentation of Thai culture.

Best in Protection of Natural Areas and/or Wildlife Conservation

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

Ranweli webRanweli Holiday Village, Sri Lanka more

Ranweli Holiday Village is an eco-friendly resort located on a 22-acre peninsula where mangrove forests and winding rivers converge to meet the sea. Located only 18 kms from Colombo’s International Airport, Ranweli is the perfect base to explore the fascinating history, culture and nature of Sri Lanka. Why Wild Asia loves them!

Lots of tangible examples: e.g. contributions to conservation, education, carbon offsetting, sewage treatment, green purchasing, and mangrove rehabilitation.

Scuba Junkie webScuba Junkie, Malaysia more

Scuba Junkie provides daily dive trips to more than 25 islands in the Celebes Sea in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Whether you want macro diving at Mabul and Kapalai or wish to dive with sharks and turtles at Sipadan Island (frequently voted in the top 10 dives sites in the world) Scuba Junkie will take you there. Why Wild Asia loves them!

Exemplary awareness raising, solar power, $70,000 spent on waste cleaning, best available sewage treatment, reef check, turtle hatchery, no seafood (wow!), dive against debris…

Best in Resource Efficiency

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

Frangipani webFrangipani Langkawi Resport and Spa, Malaysia more

This secluded and eco-friendly resort is situated on a 400-metre stretch of soft golden sand along Pantai Tengah, southwest of Langkawi. All 117 rooms, villas and suites are spacious, tastefully decorated to provide a calm feeling and relaxed atmosphere. Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa is the first resort in Langkawi to implement Green practices to preserve the environment. Why Wild Asia loves them!

‘Walks the talk’ when it comes to responsible and sustainable tourism approaches.

Heritance webHeritance Kandalama, Sri Lanka more

Heritance Kandalama is an architectural masterpiece by Geoffrey Bawa, built overlooking the eighth wonder of the world – the rock fortress of Sigiriya. The hotel sits at the heart of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, close to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Why Wild Asia loves them!

A well known contributor to sustainable tourism practices across Asia Pacific.

Also recognised by our Judges:
  • ITC Gardenia, India more
  • Soneva Fushi, Maldives more

Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Accommodation Provider

T+L 2012(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 Kiri webSoneva Resorts, Thailand & Maldives more

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. Why Wild Asia loves them!

Soneva just go so far beyond business as usual… innovation after innovation, active and creative on serious issues.

Sukau Rainforest webSukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysia more

Sukau Rainforest Lodge nestles on the banks of one of Borneo’s most important waterways, the Kinabatangan River, home to many of Borneo’s magnificent wildlife. Sukau Rainforest Lodge offers the rare comfort and luxury in the midst of the Borneo Rainforest whilst retaining an Eco-Lodge ethos, the delicate balance of true sustainability. Why Wild Asia loves them!

Active conservation and environmental practices. It’s a great achievement to have raised over 1 million RM on community projects.

Also recognised by our Judges:
  • Nikoi Island, Indonesia more

Most Inspiring Responsible Tour Operator

This award recognizes the tour operator 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 responsible tourism business of the year.

Papua webPapua Expeditions, Indonesia more

Papua Expeditions offers keened-out, professionally guided birding, general wildlife, hiking and trekking expeditions in New Guinea’s Wild West. Permanently based in West Papua, their ecotourism programme focuses exclusively on the little-known western half of New Guinea under Indonesian administration. Why Wild Asia loves them!

Within a remarkable and largely undiscovered destination, provides inspiring management, contributes to community engagement and development, cultural preservation and the protection of natural areas and wildlife conservation.

Via Via webViaVia Tours, Indonesia more

ViaVia tours are as varied as Jogjakarta is populated and they all offer something unique. Adventure, gastronomy and culture. ViaVia in Jogja offers art space to young local artists and is also often the venue of concerts, Friday night Jazz, performance art, film festivals and debates. Parts of the ViaVia profits go to support educational, social and cultural projects in and around Jogjakarta. Why Wild Asia loves them!

Excellent community development, resource efficiency for such a small project. Strong in the “influence and inspire” area.

Also recognised by our Judges:
  • Andaman Discoveries, Thailand more
  • Reality Tours & Travel, India more

Sustainability Training for Tour Operators – October 2012 (Bangkok)

Following our recent partnership with Travelife, Wild Asia is proud to announce the 2-day ‘Sustainability for Tour Operators’ training course organized by Travelife this October in Bangkok. The free course is targeted at tour operators (company executives, contracting and marketing managers) and travel associations and tourism boards.

Dates: The training will be provided twice

  • 17th & 18th October (Wednesday & Thursday)
  • 24th & 25th October (Wednesday & Thursday)

Venue: Bangkok, Thailand (exact venue TBC)

After completion of the training, participants will be offered support in the use and implementation of the knowledge, methods and tools that have been acquired in the training. This support will be in the form of follow-up meetings and individual coaching sessions. The ultimate goal is to prepare travel operators for sustainability certification in order to increase your competitiveness in the global markets.

The training will be conducted by Chris Thompson and Naut Kausters, both leaders and practitioners in sustainable tourism with more than 20 and 15 years’ experience individually. The training is designed to be hands-on and interactive using a variety of learning techniques.

What will you learn?

At the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Understand the concept of sustainability in tourism
  • Recognize the key environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism
  • Understand the roles and responsibilities of tour operators (inbound/outbound)
  • Identify the types of actions tour operators can take in the field of transport, accommodation, excursions and customer communication
  • Identify quick wins for your own business and for your suppliers
  • Set realistic sustainability targets and identify methods of measuring success
  • Identify personal sustainability USP’s (Unique Selling Points)
  • Communicate sustainability achievements in an effective way to your clients
  • Use your sustainability achievements to create more business (marketing)

How to register?

Book early as training slots fill up quickly. To register, complete the registration form below and email to n.kusters@cbi.eu. You will receive a confirmation upon successful registration.

Choose from the two dates: 17th & 18th October (Wednesday & Thursday) OR 24th & 25th October (Wednesday & Thursday)

Cost: Free of charge. Sign up now!

Registration deadline: 30th September 2012.

Participants should have relevant experience in the tourism business and master the English language on professional level.

Stay in touch for the latest training updates and sign up for Wild Asia’s e-alerts.

Download the Agenda and Registration Form

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Supporting organisations

  • TEATA, Thai Eco and Adventure Tour operator Association
  • ATTA, Association of Thai Travel Agencies
  • ABTA, The British Travel Association
  • ANVR, The Dutch Association of Tour operators and Travel Agents
  • CBI, Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries
  • IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative
  • Travelife, Sustainability in Tourism
  • Wild Asia, Responsible Tourism Initiative

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Wild Asia & Travelife

For more than ten years Wild Asia has been working across Asia championing the benefits and potential of developing a tourism industry that benefits local places and people through their Responsible Tourism Initiative (RTI). Wild Asia’s RTI works with businesses to improve their social and environmental practices to meet and exceed global standards. By creating partnerships with businesses within the industry, they aim to inspire and create change to benefit our environment, wildlife, people and communities.

Travelife, developed in 2005, was set up to support an efficient and cost effective introduction of sustainability principles for the tourism industry. They offer industry-wide standards for sustainability management and certification and provide best practice guidance and support for tour operators implementing them through the provision of training, tools and references. Travelife, originally initiated in Europe, is already supported by more than 15 national travel associations who promote Travelife across their members.

The partnership with Travelife is a perfect marriage of values. Wild Asia will be the Asia based Travelife delivery partner, offering training and support to tour operators across the region. Tour operators will benefit greatly from having locally based expertise at hand.

Together, the sustainability partners will support tour operators achieve green accreditations, enhancing the tourism offer for customers and improve marketing for the region. Adopting responsible tourism principles through the Travelife training programme and management systems will not only improve participants’ corporate social responsibility profile, it will also provide significant cost saving opportunities, enhance relationships with staff and host communities, and open doors to new marketing avenues.

If you are a tour operator based or operating in South East Asia and are interested in beginning your journey towards sustainability, please contact Wild Asia to enquire more about joining the Travelife scheme. Contact rt@wildasia.org.

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Taman Negara: Sweating, Swimming and Sustainability

For many visitors to Peninsular Malaysia, Taman Negara (Pahang) is on the hot list, described by Rough Guides as “the most spectacular jungle scenery you’ll ever come across”. It’s easy to see why our largest national park is also our most popular with travellers from home and away.

But just how is the world’s oldest rainforest coping with high volumes of guests? Amy from Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Initiative (and writer of our Let’s Unravel Travel series) goes exploring through the national park to see what evidence there is of tourism related issues.

Tree-mendous Taman Negara?

It’s my first visit to Taman Negara and I’m very excited to see what nature the dense jungle has to offer. Travelling throughout Malaysia as a tourist, you are bombarded with imagery for Taman Negara’s adventure, its natural wonders and its greenery.

For those of you who have not yet visited, I’ll set the scene. Picture walking on a boulder strewn beach to a gurgling river, shadowed by an emerald jungle so tall and dense that at first it appears impenetrable. Tributaries of the chocolate coloured river meander through secret passages into the forest’s unknown, leading groups on boats of hollowed trees. Mysterious jungle sounds of exotic birds echo and the humidity and heat hit you like a wave. At first glance Taman Negara is everything it’s promised its leech-proof sock sporting guests it would be: a tropical paradise. Delve a little deeper and the scars of tourism begin to show.

My first disappointment is right at the entrance of this beautiful national park. It is swarming with jetskis and engine powered boats that buzz like mosquitoes. I doubt I’m alone in dreaming of a silent gliding canoe through the trees to reach the heart of the park. Yet the noise and commotion from what’s really populating the river has shattered me. Is this really necessary? Wouldn’t the visitor experience be enhanced if there was less river traffic?

Entering the park, however, I’m pleased to see some really positive initiatives. The onsite shop offers an inspiring scheme to reduce waste and litter, return your empty bottles and cans and get RM1 in return. The only in-park hotel has some really informative signs about Taman Negara’s visitor charter; what you should do and not do to look after this natural environment. Nature guides are advised to enhance your visit. Plant species are sometimes labeled, educating visitors about the rich biodiversity.

Yet…I can’t help but feel the negative experiences are outweighing the good work that’s clearly being done. I’m saddened to see extensive footpath erosion when efforts have been gone into building robust walkways (which are damaged and closed in places, forcing heavy booted tourists to trample on beaten earth or vegetation). I cringe at poorly maintained educational signs that are overgrown or covered with litter. I shudder at a traffic jam of chugging boats that dodge boys (yes, not buoys!) in a designated family swimming area. And I lose sleep over the unethical promotion and delivery of village safaris to Orang Asli (aboriginal) settlements.

Luckily, I’m not alone in these concerns. In 2010 the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management from the Universiti Teknologi MARA Shah Alam, performed a research project on the sustainability and visitor impacts within the national park. Their findings revealed that visitors themselves are disappointed with overcrowding, litter and soil erosion. Worryingly, these visitors also believe “that the environmental conditions are likely to worsen in the future if the management does not take immediate action”. (Othman, Anwar and Kian, 2010)

So what happens now?

Wild Asia is currently working on a consultancy project to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in some of Malaysia’s most important and breathtaking nature based tourism destinations. We’re on the lookout for things that need improving in some of our best natural assets and developing practical steps to improve the responsible tourism management of them. One of the ways is that we always recommend destinations follow the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Criteria for Destinations. Wild Asia also offers bespoke training courses to any type of tourism operator to ensure an effective understanding of sound business practices are in place. If you are an operator and would like to know more about greening your business practices, get in touch.

References

Othman, Anwar and Kian, 2010. “Sustainability Analysis: Visitors Impact on Taman Negara, Pahang, Malaysia”. Journal of Tourism, Hospitality & Culinary Arts.

2011 Inspiring Responsible Tourism Stories

Each year, Wild Asia reaches out to the tourism industry seeking Inspiring Responsible Tourism Stories. In 2011 we featured the Top Three Inspiring Responsible Tourism Stories at ITB Asia. These stories told the tale of what operators have done for the destination and local community. They motivated others to innovate new ideas in their destination.

A degraded rural landscape transformed into lush wildlife sanctuary, a resort fully committed to the development and success of the local community, and a courageous project to train and empower community members to work towards responsible tourism. These three Inspiring Responsible Tourism (RT) Stories were presented at the Responsible Tourism Event at ITB Asia on October 21, 2011.

Wild Asia and The Blue Yonder set out to find the most inspiring stories from around Asia. These stories were chosen in order to highlight exceptional examples of responsible tourism and have them inspire tour operators and hotels that embracing responsible practices is possible.

A judging panel comprised of members from Wild Asia, The Blue Yonder, The Green Circuit, and ITB Asia, carefully reviewed over 15 stories that were submitted from Asia. The panel of judges scored the stories on how inspirational their RT practices are and their potential for others to replicate these practices or take the experience and learning to be applied elsewhere.

The judges deliberated and three stories blew the judges away that they decided on a tie!

Top 3 Inspiring Stories

Congratulations to the top 3 winners for their efforts in responsible tourism, and inspiring others to embrace a different kind of travel; one that incorporates responsibility towards the earth and local people.

Wild Asia & Travelife Partnership

Wild Asia is proud to announce an exciting new partnership with the international sustainable tourism certification and training scheme, Travelife for tour operators.

For more than ten years Wild Asia has been working across Asia championing the benefits and potential of developing a tourism industry that benefits local places and people through their Responsible Tourism Initiative (RTI). Wild Asia’s RTI works with businesses to improve their social and environmental practices to meet and exceed global standards. By creating partnerships with businesses within the industry, they aim to inspire and create change to benefit our environment, wildlife, people and communities.

Travelife, developed in 2002, was set up to support an efficient and cost effective introduction of sustainability principles for the tourism industry. They offer industry-wide standards for sustainability management systems and provide best practice guidance and support for tour operators implementing them through the provision of training, tools and references.

The new partnership with Travelife is a perfect marriage of values. Wild Asia will be the Asia based Travelife delivery partner, offering training and support to tour operators across the region. Tour operators will benefit greatly from having locally based expertise at hand.

Together, the sustainability partners will support tour operators achieve green accreditations, enhancing the tourism offer for customers and improve marketing for the region. Adopting responsible tourism principles through the Travelife training programme and management systems will not only improve participants’ corporate social responsibility profile, it will also provide significant cost saving opportunities, enhance relationships with staff and host communities, and open doors to new marketing avenues.

Reza Azmi, Founder and Director of Wild Asia, the only Asian grown organization dedicated to responsible tourism across the continent, speaks out about the exciting new partnership. “We’re delighted to be working with Travelife. Becoming accredited Travelife Auditors and Regional Representatives is great news for Asia. We look forward to working with locally based tour operators, helping to improve their business, tourism for Asia, and protecting our diverse environment and unique and treasured cultural heritage. Sustainable tourism has never been more important, and in demand. A recent Lonely Planet survey revealed a staggering 93% of people said they would purposefully partake in environmentally-friendly travel. Businesses must step up to the demand”.

If you are a tour operator based or operating in Asia and are interested in beginning your journey towards sustainability, please contact Wild Asia to enquire about joining the Travelife scheme. Please contact us at rt@wildasia.org.