Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Leaders in Destinations" Workshop: Registration Now Open!

Wild Asia is starting 2010 with a regional 2-day training workshop to inspire operators in making a shift towards responsible tourism. This participatory training session will provide practical knowledge and concepts for tourism operators, hotel managers, and CSR leaders to take steps in creating innovative solutions to offer a responsible tourism experience within the business sphere while protecting the local environment, working with community, and illustrating how these practices can benefit your business financially.

Next Workshop:
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Venue: Equatorial Hotel Kuala Lumpur
Date: 20 & 21 January, 2010
The workshop will provide the participants with skills to start implementing responsible tourism practices and policies in their businesses. The workshop will cover topics such as:
• The principles of RT
• How to adopt RT practices
• The meaning of RT Checklist
• Marketing techniques using RT case studies and practical examples

30 seats are available for the workshop and is on a "first-come-first-serve" basis. Workshop fee is set at RM 1,470 nett for the 2-day workshop.

Interested? Visit Leaders in Destinations for more info!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Introducing the Winners!

After a much anticipated wait, Wild Asia announced the winners of the Responsible Tourism Awards 2009 at the cocktail reception at Istana Hotel on 28 October, 2009. Joined with us to celebrate this victorious event are our sponsors, corporate partners, members of the media and more importantly our finalists namely; Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Nikoi Island, Sunderbans Jungle Camp and El Nido Resorts.

Through self-evaluation checklist submissions and site verification visits by judges and fact-finders to all finalists’ destinations, the winners have demonstrated their strong abilities to meet the Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Award checklist’s forty criteria, which comprehensively cover aspects of local employment and economies; respecting local laws, cultures and sensitivities; responsibilities towards employees and communities; recognising children’s rights; and protecting the environment through a suite of conservation initiatives, efficient use of resources, as well as having a responsible waste management system.

And the winners are:

• Large Accommodation Operators

ITC Mughal, Agra, India

• Mid-sized to Small Accommodation Operators

El Nido Resorts, Miniloc, Philippines

• Community-Based to Homestay Operators
Sunderbans Jungle Camp, Bali Island, India

Wild Asia would like to congratulate winners and finalists for their commendable efforts and commitment in achieving high standards of environmental protection and social responsibility that form the critical pillars of their business philosophy.

We would also like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to our sponsors; CSR Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Sime Darby, Keresa Plantations, The Star and Dot and Line Graphics for their continuous support.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sime Darby Plantation Supports Responsible Tourism

Sime Darby's sponsorship for the Sustainable Island Programme 2008-2010, a joint project between Wild Asia and Reef Check Malaysia to protect Malaysia's coral reefs, has significantly expanded this year to include RTA09, thereby demonstrating Sime Darby's willingness to move beyond Malaysian shores to tackle the bigger picture of responsible tourism within Asia.

A big thank you for the much needed support from Wild Asia's long-time partner, Sime Darby Plantation.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

RTA 2009 Judges Summary

Our RT Awards site visit team and this year's judges met on Friday 25th September to discuss and agree on the results of the site visits. We met in person and were also joined by two other judges who were away in Vietnam and Sabah via skype. This gave us an opportunity to hear feedback from our team who visited all finalists across Asia: India, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia.

We also had a chance to review the site visit reports and to note improvements for next year's Awards. One of the changes we had to make as a result of this meeting was a clarification of the Award's categories. Based on our site visits and feedback from the operators, we found that two of the finalists belonged to different categories. We decided to re-categorize Nikoi Island and Lamai homestay due to these findings, in order to adequately judge the two operations among finalists in similar categories. We apologise for the oversight on our part.

Large Accommodation Operators

- Shangri La Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa, Malaysia
- ITC Mughal, India

Mid sized to Small Accommodation Operators

- El Nido Resorts, Philippines
- Soneva Fushi, Maldives
- Nikoi Island, Indonesia

Community-based to Homestay Operators

- Andaman Discoveries, Thailand
- Sunderbans Jungle Camp, India
- Lamai Homestay, Thailand

We also deliberated on the 6 principles that we had judged from; understanding of tourism impacts; creating a “sense of place"; sustaining Responsible Tourism; communicating Responsible Tourism; internalizing Responsible Tourism and sphere of influence.

This provided room for debate and found that it was especially hard when the operators were equally strong on a number of these principles. Nonetheless, by the end of the 2 hour meeting the team had all agreed on the winners of each category!

Judging Process
  1. Operators' submissions of their self-assessment checklist is verified during site visits and amendments (if any) are made based on findings.
  2. After site visits, fact-finders submit a report to the Judges, which details the 6 principles as above.
  3. Upon completion of all site visits and submission of amended checklists and site reports, judges and fact-finders meet to review both checklists and reports, and discuss strengths between finalists in each category to decide on a winner.

So what's next? The team will be working on a "RT report" based on this year's entries and we will also be sharing with each finalists our site report and revised checklist. This, we hope, will be useful to the finalists as they plan their operations in the future. We will now start to focus on our planning for the networking sessions and closing event. We hope to see many of you at the ITB Asia "RT networking session", our closing cocktail party or our annual workshop.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Andaman Discoveries Selected for BBC World Challenge!

Congratulations to our finalist Andaman Discoveries for making it in the BBC World Challenge! This opportunity will provide the social enterprise with international reach and recognition.

Why is it exciting?

The World Challenge is a global competition hosted by BBC World News and Newsweek magazine, in association with Shell. 12 finalists, including Andaman Discoveries were selected from more than 900 nominations on the basis of their innovation at grassroots level in "countering socio-economic and environmental issues".

“…the BBC World Challenge is a chance for us to share with people the difference we are making. Whether it's providing income to women's handicraft groups or training the next generation of conservationists, community-based tourism allows visitors to enjoy the traditional Thai way of life, whilst helping to preserve the unique culture of our region.” Tui Chomphusri, Director of Andaman Discoveries.

Catch Andaman Discoveries’ profile on 17 October 2009 at 2.30pm (GMT) and repeats on 18 October at 2.30am, 9.30am and 5.30pm (GMT). Support Andaman Discoveries and vote for them!

Video profiles of all the finalists will be available on World Challenge during the voting period 28 September-13 November. To vote, simply visit the World Challenge website. Winners will be announced on 5 December in a ceremony held at The Hague, Netherlands.

About Andaman Discoveries

Founded in the wake of the 2004 tsunami, Andaman Discoveries has grown from providing emergency disaster relief into an internationally acclaimed community-based tour operator. Over the past five years the social enterprise has helped tsunami-affected communities achieve environmental, cultural and financial sustainability through conservation programs, vocational training and providing interactive cultural tours for responsible tourists.

Find out more about Andaman Discoveries through the eyes of Wild Asia’s RTA fact-finders.

Wild Asia wishes you the best of luck!

For more information, visit Andaman Discoveries' website

Final Site Visit: Nikoi Island, Indonesia

Responsible tourism at its best can allow us to trial a lifestyle that may counter the ecological crisis and bring us closer to nature. At Nikoi Island in Indonesia guests are separated from their air conditioning and consumer gadgets and provided instead with a low-energy beach front house without walls. The luxury here is to be able to smell the sea from your room, to be able to hear the insects as you sleep and enjoy the cooling mist of a tropical downpour from your daybed.

Nikoi has established a Foundation based on neighbouring Bintan Island that they hope will allow them to extend their ideal of profitable and ecologically sustainable development into the local community. The Foundation is modelled on the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) of Thailand.

The Foundation will be managed by a local hero employed by Nikoi especially for the job. Sam, originally from Bintan, found his fame through jumping ship in New York, buying a small yacht and sailing home single handed to Bintan. Although still in its infancy the Foundation has already established sailing classes, a children’s’ library and facilitated a teacher exchange program with neighbouring Singapore.

The heart of Nikoi Island, the thing which gives it its sense of place, is its beautifully crafted driftwood buildings. The same buildings are also the reason for its exceptional environmental performance. An important measure of a building’s sustainability is its carbon emissions; represented by its energy consumption and energy embodied in its construction. Many ‘green’ buildings sing about their energy saving gadgets but gloss over the energy that was required to produce their concrete structure. Use of recycled or waste materials such as driftwood does not drive depletion of primary resources and the energy cost and environmental destruction that goes with it.

Nikoi’s low energy policy extends to consumption too and you will find that the only electrical fittings in each house of 100m² area are 8 LED light bulbs and one fan, the latter ingeniously fitted inside a mosquito net. Few surfaces on Nikoi are painted meaning no hazardous chemicals and a purely natural environment. The driftwood is weathered by salt water; you can dig your toes into the sand floor in the dining room and smell the alang grass thatch above the bed.

The Style of Nikoi’s architecture is elegant and understated and this also applies to the owners’ philosophy. They are a little reticent about their achievements, partly because in the words of one of the owners “it just made sense to do it this way” and also because they realise that “this is and may always be a work in progress.”

In the two years that the island has been operating they have been surprised to be full most of the year. With this level of popularity and their attitude to social and environmental sustainability, Nikoi look set to become a leading light in Responsible Tourism in Asia.

By: Ian Hall

Special note:
Nikoi Island is one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Mid-sized Tourism Operator). For more v-blogs on Responsible Tourism Awards 2009, please visit us on YouTube.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In Print: Reza's Interview with NST

Wild Asia is on a media roll! A profile article on Reza Azmi was published in a local newspaper, The New Straits Times. Here is a reproduction of the actual interview we would like to share.

Reza is wild about the environment
By Beatrice Thomas

KOTA KINABALU: FOR a man who has dedicated his life to changing the conservation habits of people across Southeast Asia and beyond, Reza Azmi is the first to admit that he was never much into nature.
The founder of environmental organisation Wild Asia says he spent a lot of time outdoors as a child but it was not until he entered university, and a subsequent opportunity to work for WWF Malaysia, that his attitude towards the environment changed.

"WWF basically said 'here's RM20,000 and we want you to go to Borneo'," he says of his first job with WWF Malaysia at the age of 24.

"They just said: 'We have no project there at the moment. We don't even know what we want you to do but you've got a botany degree and we know you're interested in people, so why don't you come up with something?'"

What Reza crafted was five years of research that looked at forest fragments -- or what are left after years of logging and development -- that eventually earned him a PhD.

That was in the mid-1990s.

In 1998, Reza left WWF Malaysia to start his own conservation project, which would go on to be known as Wild Asia.

With its beginnings as an online collection of stories about the places he had visited, Wild Asia has grown into a full-time project with a staff of seven people.

Reza says Wild Asia hopes to inspire businesses and communities.

"Our focus is literally on people's backyards, whether it's a community or a business with a land bank. This is because at the end of the day, these are people who are rooted to where they are."

A boarder from the age of 14 at the prestigious Aldenham School in Elstree, England, and later educated at St Andrews University in Scotland, the 38-year-old initially studied marine biology before he grew "fed up dissecting animals all the time" and switched to botany.

Born in Kuala Lumpur to a Malay father and Pakistani mother, Reza, the youngest of three sons, jokes that he is the only one in the family working outside the "corporate world". One brother is a partner in an auditing firm and the other is a chartered surveyor.

With Wild Asia, Reza concentrated first on Asia's forestry industry, which he claims is devastating the environment but since then, has steered it in a new direction -- palm oil production and the effects of tourism on the environment.

To gauge the impact of tourism on the environment, he has come up with the annual Responsible Tourism Awards, where self-assessments by tourism operators are judged by a team he put together.

He says despite palm oil being a lucrative business in Asia, the ever-growing thirst to expand the industry's footprint needs to be kept in check.

"We're at the stage where we are going into those areas where we shouldn't and developing land that people didn't want developed in the first place.

"That's where all the complications are now coming from. This isn't the 1950s, when we had a whole different scenario in terms of land and development pressures."

Sitting in a cafe near his apartment in Taman Desa, Reza has just returned from India and is suffering the effects of an upset stomach, something he shrugs off as an unfortunate side effect of the amount of time he spends in different, often remote, parts of the world.

Although easy to talk to and passionate about his work, he finds it difficult to describe Wild Asia in a few words, saying it is an ever-evolving concept and one which he is continually learning from.

"Having the confidence to do it is a big step, especially as we did not know what we were getting ourselves into.

"We have an idea of what people are saying that others should do. But it's tricky when you're looking at existing management systems. You tell them about climate change (and) they've got no idea about what's going on."

Companies are now hiring Reza's Wild Asia team to train their staff and advise them on how to improve their sustainability practices.

It's Wild Asia's biggest source of income, together with corporate grants.

Reza admits that relying on sponsorship and not donations is limiting how much he can do with Wild Asia.

But he is optimistic, saying that his work is helped by a growing realisation on the importance of staying environmentally friendly.

"You really don't have alternatives," he says. "It's not good enough now to say 'well, don't do anything' because we've passed that.

This article was published on 27 October 2009

Read all about it: 2009 RTA on NST

Wild Asia's Responsible Tourism Awards gained the attention of a local Malaysian Newspaper, The New Straits Times (NST). Below is the article which highlighted our 8 finalists.

Sabah resort in shortlist for coveted tourism award

By Beatrice Thomas

KOTA KINABALU: Shangri La Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa in Kota Kinabalu has been shortlisted as a finalist for a prestigious award on responsible tourism together with several other luxury resorts and community-based tourist operations across Southeast Asia.
The only award of its kind, the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards was created in 2006 to promote environmentally sustainable destinations throughout Asia.

Now in its fourth year, the award is aligned to the United Nations' World Tourism Organisation's Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria.

After analysing a field of 315 entries from countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, Wild Asia founder and director Reza Azmi has revealed two finalists in each of the four categories.

- Community-based: Andaman Discoveries, Thailand; and Sundarbans Jungle Camp, Bali Island, Indonesia.

- Small: Lamai Homestay, Thailand; and Nikoi, Indonesia.

- Medium: El Nido Resorts, Philippines; and Soneva Fushi, Male, Maldives.

- Large: Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; and ITC Mughal, Agra, India.

Reza said it was critical that tourism operators were recognised and rewarded for their contributions towards a greener environment.

"This award is not only a recognition of their efforts but it's also an award for learning and sharing."

As part of the judging process and to help tourism operators make changes, they are required to submit a self-assessment covering environmental, social and economic factors and a commitment to responsible tourism.

The assessments are then analysed by the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism team before three judges, including for the first time eco-architect Ian Hall, carry out site visits.

Reza said responsible tourism covered more than just the environment but also social and economic responsibilities to a region, such as how a business approached labour issues.

He said claims by tourism operators that they were eco-friendly operations also needed closer examination.

"One of the major criteria is whether or not they give us any confidence that they do understand what their social and environmental impacts are," he said.

"Sometimes they can talk for hours and hours about all these green things but then you get this feeling that they don't actually know what they were talking about."

Reza said many of the tour operators also wielded huge influence as politicians and top businessmen stayed there.

He said people could do their part for the environment by staying at places that carried out responsible tourism.

The winner from each category will be announced on October 29. Visit www.wildasia.org for more information.

Published 27 October 2009

Inside Knowledge: What Others are Doing

When: 29-30 October 2009

Where: Istana Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Wild Asia is organizing a 2-day Responsible Tourism Training Workshop for general managers in tourism, sustainability professionals, business owners and the media. The workshop will provide a background on sustainable principles in tourism and showcase numerous case studies from around the Asian region.

Confirmed speakers for the workshop include;

Mr Gopinath Parayil - CEO and Founder of the Blue Yonder and Nila Foundation, India on “The Blue Yonder: Responsible Tourism Initiatives for the Benefit of Local Destinations.”

ITC Mughal – “Greening Initiatives within a Large Hotel Chain.”

Ms Amanda Pummer - Environmental Consultant for GreenAsia Group, Indonesia on “Green Washing or Lifestyle Making?”

Mr Rees Jones Stuart - Managing Director of Camps International Ltd, UK on “Profits for the Planet”

Ms Sarah Baxter - Responsible Tourism Advisor, Wild Asia on “Green Marketing and Selecting Online Marketing Channels.”

The workshop is an excellent opportunity to learn and share with your peers, as well as, an opportunity to take home ideas for your own businesses. For the media, the workshop will highlight areas where travel journalism can expand.

What's in Store?
View the draft programme here.

USD120 per person. Concessions are available for members of the media.

To find out more or if you wish to attend the workshop, kindly contact us.

Awarding the Winners: 2009 RTA Cocktail Reception

When: 28 October 2009

Where: Istana Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Find out who the winners are at the cocktail reception for the Responsible Tourism Awards Finalists and Winners taking place as above from 6.00-8.30pm. There will be a presentation of this year's finalists as well as providing a networking platform and an opportunity for media to meet the finalists, winners and judges.

We are also keen to meet people from the tourism fields and make new friends! Join us for a night of mingling and learn about who are and why we are engaging the tourism industry.

Only invited guests and registered workshop participants only. For more information and attendance, kindly contact us.

Wild Asia at CSR ASIA Summit

When: 27-28 October 2009

Where: Istana Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Come over and find our booth at the CSR ASIA Annual International Summit happening right here in Malaysia! The Annual Summit is Asia-Pacific's most innovative and challenging conference on corporate social responsibility (CSR). This year's theme, "Sustainable Business as the Road to Recovery" will explore current hot issues in CSR and leadership strategies in times of crisis.

Wild Asia will be a part of this exciting event and we can't wait to introduce who this year's Responsible Tourism Awards finalists are to the general public so don't miss this chance!

For more details on the topics and registration, visit CSR ASIA.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Responsible Tourism Networking at ITB Asia

When: 22 October 2009, 6-8pm

Where: Suntec City, Singapore

Wild Asia will be present at the ITB Asia Trade Show for the Asian Travel Market on 22 October! The Trade Show, happening from 21-23 October 2009 in Singapore is a high profile event showcasing international travel exhibitors and attracts industry professionals of the MICE, Leisure and Corporate Travel sectors.

Come over and have a chat with the team! We would love to hear your say on Responsible Tourism either from a traveler's or manager's perspectives. What's more, the event provides an excellent networking ground and a platform for exhanging ideas and inspiring novel and innovative thinking!

To attend the event or if you would like to give a presentation on Responsible Tourism please contact the organizers or RSVP on Facebook.

Friday, September 18, 2009

7th Site Visit: Andaman Discoveries, Thailand

Relief is the immediate step after a natural disaster. Then what? An uncertain future lays ahead for communities whose livelihood and surroundings have been directly affected. Fisherman villages in Southern Thailand had to rebuild their lives and look for new opportunities to sustain their families after the 2004 tsunami.

Andaman Discoveries (AD) previously known as North Andaman Tsunami Relief (NATR) stemmed from tsunami relief pioneered by Bodhi Garrett to serve communities he had lived with and respected. After the initial rebuilding of homes through community-driven tsunami relief, it soon progressed into long-term post-tsunami development programs. Participatory workshops and community meetings sparked the idea of potential tourism as a means of economic renewal. Villagers wanted to welcome tourists in a way that will not bring negative and harmful impacts like that of mass tourism.

Since then, AD works closely with interested villagers on vocational training (covering aspects of tourism, guiding, hospitality, small business management, community development, English and computers). The idea was to maximize and utilize local knowledge and local people as a means of tourism. Villagers return empowered to set up home-stays and design a holiday experience for guests.

Now, guests can choose from six villages to stay in – mostly fishermen communities. Accommodation is simple and clean often with a fan, mattress and mosquito net for a good night rest. Guests are assigned to different host families whom they will spend their time with. Often times, guests leave with great memories of relationships being made. Some even stay to volunteer.

Activities in each village are focused on preserving the culture, religion and environment within the village. Busy your day with big net fishing, batik and soap making, cashew and fruit harvesting or even teaching English to villagers. Conservation programmes such as mangrove and orchid replanting are also encouraged to educate guests on the natural surroundings.

The majority of the money of each trip goes directly to the villagers and 20% of guests’ in-village costs are donated to the community fund which funds community-led projects. AD helps provide communities with new sustainable livelihoods to replace those they lost in the tsunami.

By: Deborah Chan (Kuraburi District, Phang Nga Province, South Thailand, 12- 15 September 2009)

Special Note: Andaman Discoveries is one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Community Based Tourism). For more v-blogs on Responsible Tourism Awards 2009, please visit our YouTube Channel.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

6th Site Visit: ITC Mughal, India.

10th September 2009

“Green” has become a fad amongst many hotel chains but learning about the ITC Mughal approach has been a refreshing change. Their journey began more than 10 years ago and they are now at a stage where they are innovating ways to cascade their impact not only across its workforce, but to their suppliers and vendors. Their initiative cuts across both environmental and social programmes and there is a strong management system in place that allows for engagement of staff, as well as, innovations from the “shop floor” to be adopted by the management. There is also a good deal of sharing and benchmarking within the ITC group (i.e., inter-hotels) and between ITC business units (e.g., food industry vs hotel industry).

There are a number of good environmental initiatives (e.g., energy conservation, waste management) and the team has brought them down to each unit of the hotel. Figures are tracked and units are empowered to find new innovations or work processes that can improve their targets. Such an approach has led to improvements in waste management in housekeeping (e.g., segregation at source) or seemingly complicated laundry procedures that maximize loads or the screening of all items to be washed and grading them for light to heavy washing. There are numerous other examples but the important point is that the team has reached a maturity that allows them to not only develop new methods of doing things (or where justified, new investments) and to continually improve.

One of the other features of ITC is the people and clearly they are doing the right thing in this dimension too, hence the numerous best employee awards. There is a genuine hospitality and care that comes across from all the staff and from the interviews it was clear that many of them see this more than just a job. Having an attrition rate of less than 1% annually with the average age of staff at 46, it is clear that they value working with the company.

Finally, whilst the location has complex social-political challenges which exasperate environmental concerns, the team has also been trying to find ways to work beyond their hotel. This has been in the form of engaging Government officials, training for tourism service providers (outside of their employment) or training and mentoring their many local suppliers to adopt some of their green practices (greening of their supply chain). Addressing this dimension will be a challenge and it will be interesting to see if the team begins to address them in the same zeal that has made their internal programmes a success.

Watch our video slide show or view the pictures here:

Site Report By: Reza Azmi, Leong Siok Hui and Emran.

Special note: ITC Mughal is one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Large Tourism Operator). For more v-blogs on Responsible Tourism Awards 2009, please visit us on YouTube.

5th Site Visit: Sunderbans Jungle Camp, India.

4th September 2009

The Sunderbans wetlands provide a hostile living environment with its vast tidal eco-system. The villagers have adapted a way of life that allows them to earn a livelihood from the sea and use the land to sustain crops that would otherwise succumb to the saline waters (through an elaborate system of embankments and ponds). Their simple, yet precarious lives are tested by annual monsoons or cyclones. They live among swamps and gather forest products under the vigilance of tigers, snakes and crocodiles. Despite the challenging environment, the people have settled here for at least half a century. Within this context, the Sunderbans Jungle Camp was born – a lodge for tourists to experience the region and to directly support initiatives that improve the village’s quality of life.

There are two “heroes” that help make this jungle camp stand out. The first, a Sunderban local named Anil Krisha Mistry, is a reformed poacher and founder of Bali Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society (BNWCS), who decided to do something to protect the Sunderbans environment. The second is Help Tourism (HT), which provides capacity building and commercial interest to sustain local Community-Based Tourism (CBT) projects. The Sunderban Camp is one of their 29 CBT projects. BNWCS and HT have found a working relationship that is built on trust over time. One of the most impressive aspects of the camp is the consultative approach the owners took to set up the camp through dialogues, workshops and consensus.

There is little distinction between the camp and the village due to the design of the lodge and the way the camp’s facilities are open to the community. You will be amazed by the “traffic” of men, women, children who use the camp’s tube wells or the informal kindergarten set up by HT for the local kids. No doors are locked and in the seven years since the lodge was opened, no theft has been reported because the camp is very much part of the community. The camp also supports other projects like setting up a small clinic, creating mangrove plantations and providing educational outreach to local schools. The camp supports a number of self-help groups: e.g., a group of village ladies who used to harvest baby prawns in a non-sustainable way and were afflicted to skin diseases due to day-long submersion in water. Today, they are working as cleaning ladies at the camp and earning a higher income. They enjoy more time with their families and also manage to have micro-savings which are used for their children’s education. On top of giving out bonuses and incentives to the employees, HT contributes a fixed amount of annual royalties to BNWCS. Ultimately, this HT model ensures that, regardless of profits, there is a long-term commitment to improving the education, health and environment of the locality and its people.

In the words of the society’s founder, “it’s not more money that we need, we need more opportunities for people to earn a good living here in the Sunderbans. What is the point of making more money to buy land in Kolkata and forget about where we came from?”

Watch our video slide show or view the pictures here:

Site Report By: Reza Azmi, Leong Siok Hui and Emran.

Special note: Sunderbans Jungle Camp is one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Community Based Tourism). For more v-blogs on Responsible Tourism Awards 2009, please visit us on YouTube.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

4th Site Visit: Lamai Homestay, Thailand

A five hour drive away from busy Bangkok, Lamai Homestay offers its guests the simple yet authentic experience of living in the rice village of Kho Phet in North-eastern Thailand. Jimmy White and his wife Lamai Ormnock run the homestay. From dawn till dusk they accompany guests on tours within and outside the village – tirelessly explaining the Isan way of life, making sure guests are well fed with mouthwatering Thai cuisine and even changing bed linens to ensure a comfortable stay.

The homestay only allows 6 guests per visit usually spanning between 3-5 days to ensure personalized attention and minimize impact on the environment and daily routines of the villagers. The house was built on barren land mindful not to take up precious rice planting space. There is an eco-dwelling hut just few steps away from the main house made from mud and rice husk bricks and supported by bamboo structures. The homestay also encourages biodiversity by surrounding the land with native trees and plants to promote that habitation of various species of insects, birds, lizards, snakes, butterflies and frogs.

Energy and water conservation comes as second nature to the homestay as Jimmy and Lamai operate the homestay similar to any household who has savings in mind. Water is vital to the village as this season of drought posed critical to the paddy fields. The homestay goes the extra mile by channeling all grey water from the guest rooms into the flourishing garden.

With the inclusion of the homestay, surrounding villages have benefited economically through income generated from tourists – from buying locally hand-woven silk to contributing to the upgrading of the local school. The homestay plays a vital role in educating guests on the cultural diversity of the village folk. Guests are encouraged to participate in the daily routine of villagers to avoid disrupting their schedule. Choose to food forage with the villagers in hunt for scorpions, beetles and frogs with spades and shovels or watch the delicate process silk making from boiling silk worms, spinning, dyeing to weaving the silk – this is truly a genuine and unique Thai village experience!

By: Deborah Chan (Ban Kho Phet, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, 31 August-3 September 2009)

Special note: Lamai Homestay is one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Small). For more v-blogs on Responsible Tourism Awards 2009, please visit our Youtube Channel.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

3rd Site Visit: El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Surrounded by majestic limestone cliffs dating back 250 million years, El Nido Resorts (ENR) have been operating in El Nido, northwest Palawan, Philippines, since 1981. A Protected Area, El Nido's vibrant coral reefs in pristine waters are home to over 800 fish species and thick forests are sanctuary to 100 bird species, most of which are endemic to Palawan.

As such, ENR takes environmental protection seriously. Integrated sewage treatment plants ensure that no raw sewage and greywater are discharged into sea. Final treated effluent is used for gardening and toilet flushing, while neutralised biological solids are used as fertilisers. This directly reduces consumption of water, which otherwise have to produced through energy-intensive desalination processes.

While desalinating plants were established to minimise sourcing from mainland El Nido, the company proactively protects three of El Nido watershed areas totalling 333 hectares through tree-planting, where voluntary contributions from guests go to tree nurseries and other activities for the upkeep of the watersheds.

Additional to other energy-saving strategies being implemented, solar panels were installed on three islands. In further reducing carbon emissions, while at the same time providing alternative livelihood to the communities, ENR have urged local farmers to adopt organic agriculture and responsible livestock rearing to cater to the increased percentage of local purchases by ENR, which currently stands at 56% from 20% last year.

Working with the community and local government in areas of scientific research in marine protection and rehabilitation, responsible purchasing policies, and law enforcement monitoring efforts, ENR's supervisors have gone to the ground to pride various skills training aimed at expanding the local pool of manpower for the resort, at the same time, enable participants find employment. 73% of ENR's workforce comes from El Nido and neighbouring villages within 50km of its operations. Except for one, the rest are from other regions of the Philippines.

With no hospital and only one doctor for more than 30,000 inhabitants in El Nido, ENR's full-time doctors render free medical consultation to targeted local communities twice a week, moving between villages to reach out to those who are remotely located.

By: Shafinaz Suhaimi (Palawan Philippines, 26 - 30 August 2009)

Special Note: El Nido Resorts (ENR) is one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Mid Size). For more v-blogs on Responsible Tourism Awards 2009, please visit our YouTube Channel.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2nd Site Visit: Soneva Fushi, Maldives

Fringed by coral reefs that meet soft white sand, rings of blue hues from crystal clear waters surround the 1190 islands of the Republic of Maldives. Soneva Fushi, located idyllically on Kunfunadhoo Island of the Baa Atoll, offers all the charm one would expect of the Maldives in utter sophistication and luxurious comfort.

Tucked away in lush tropical vegetation, 65 villas stay cool from the hot and humid Maldivian weather. The limited villas allow for exceptional service by attentive hosts, predominantly male, at a guest to host ratio of 1:4. Generously spaced out for privacy and nestled in nature, the villas and other buildings are constructed and crafted from renewable and certified-sustainable sources.

Fast moving towards its ‘Zero Carbon’ goal by 2010, Soneva Fushi had a carbon footprint audit carried out and a suite of carbon emission reduction strategies are being implemented. One ambitious experiment worth highlighting would be the Deep Water Cooling of villas and other buildings using nature’s renewable resources – i.e. cold deep seawater, resulting in 70% energy saving through more efficient air-conditioning.

Other carbon reduction (and waste reduction) measures include growing the resort’s own food in the organic gardens and sourcing produce from local farms and fishermen, thereby reducing air miles and non-biodegradable packaging, not to mention rewarding the human gastronomic sense with the freshest ingredients.

0.5% of Soneva Fushi’s annual revenue goes into their Social and Environmental Responsibility Fund (SERF), which supports national and international programmes on health, education, conservation and community development.

Whether you decide to go barefoot and stroll along the beach or jungle paths, star-gaze at the Observatory or dive into the depths of the sea, or even indulge in their award-winning spa treatments, one is bound to embrace Soneva Fushi’s S.L.O.W. L.I.F.E. concept – Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wholesome, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experience...The real experience guests repeatedly return and stay on for.

By: Shafinaz Suhaimi (Kunfunadhoo Island, Baa Atoll, Republic of Maldives, 20 - 24 August 2009)

Special note: Soneva Fushi is one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Mid Size). For more v-blogs on Responsible Tourism Awards 2009, please visit our YouTube Channel.

Friday, August 21, 2009

1st Site Visit: Shangri La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa

Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, may be a large sized resort renowned for its impeccable service and beautiful surroundings; however it is what happens behind the scenes that makes this hotel outstanding. The resort has been recognized by Wild Asia as one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards because of an array of best practices that have been adopted and applied.

One of the best practices of responsible tourism is "Their participation and Support of the Local Community through a range of philanthropic activities". They sponsor many schools in the area, including La Salle secondary school, Sabah College, and Seri Mengasih, a school for mentally challenged students. They have adopted 4 students this year and have helped to provide an education for these children. They have raised funds for and donated various items to the schools, such as books, magazines, play grounds, recycle bins and others. The resort has also involved students in environmental activities, such as beach clean ups and recycle buy back centers within the school.

Another responsible tourism best practice worthy of noting is "their strong commitment to local employment and worker’s welfare". Shangri La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa guarantees excellent staff conditions, as well as extensive training in environmental management for all employees. Over 90 percent of staff is from Sabah, and many of them have worked at the resort for over 20 years. It is not uncommon to find two generations of a family working at the hotel.

Finally, Shangri La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa is involved in a range of "innovative environmental activities that promote conservation". They have adopted Zero beach, a public beach located adjacent to their resort property. They have accomplished a dramatic cleaning of the beach area, and try to promote local environmental awareness through education in surrounding schools. The resort has an organized and efficient recycling separation process, as well as composting all organic waste with Bokashi, a microbe enzyme that speeds up the composting process. Recently, the hotel has taken the initiative to involve both local schools and hotel guests in making EM mud balls containing this microbe in order to release into polluted streams. The mud balls slowly dissolve and release microbes into the water stream to help improve water quality. The resort has also taken on the immense uphill battle of helping to clean up the neighboring water village, wrought with layers of rubbish.

Shangri La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa understand the importance of being a leading role model in local environmental conservation and social empowerment. They have a long uphill battle presented before them, but are committed to improving the surrounding natural and cultural heritage.

By: Melissa Cornejo (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, 11-14 August 2009)

Special Note: Shagri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa is one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Mid Size). For more v-blogs on Responsible Tourism Awards 2009, please visit our YouTube Channel.

Monday, August 10, 2009

RTA Judging - First Roundtable Meeting

Finally after months of plotting, sending emails and organizing Skype chats - the core Responsible Tourism Awards team meets to plan the way forward for the awards and the upcoming site visits.

We share some of the highlights of our day here:

Our team spent the day discussing the problems of defining Responsible Tourism, how our checklist was developed and what we have learnt are "traits" that give us confidence in a "Responsible Tourism" operator. Listen to this podcast here:

You can also download the recording here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

RTA09 Gets Another Supporter

Our awards gets a big boost through an unlikely alliance - an oil palm plantation company! Keresa Plantations and friends, have pooled their resources to give RTA09 a much needed financial support. This is great!

Why did they bother? Maybe they see value in what we do. I do know they are on their own "green journey" and are making meaningful improvements to how they do business - even for an oil palm company. We'll be keen to see what those changes are in the coming months but we already know that steps are being taken to improve their environment and better working conditions are being realised.

WA still needs financial support. Help us by supporting our annual awards. We have invested our hearts and what cash we have into this programme that has now gained International reach. We can make this event truly effective through secure financial support. Email us if you are able to mobilise support within the next month!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Green Journey with Malaysia Airlines!

Today we signed our agreement with Malaysian Airlines (MAS) for them to sponsor our flight tickets for the Responsible Tourism Awards for the next 3 years. That's really good news!

In true Wild Asia style we have also agreed to help MAS on their "Green Journey", or at least be on hand to mentor their evolving Green programme. This is an exciting new engagement for us as it gives us a chance to influence our own national carrier and tap into the transportation market.

Can MAS go green? I am feeling optimistic. It is a big job made difficult when dealing with such a large and complicated organisation. This year, we are playing a back seat role and using this time to understand MAS and their operations better. Let's see where this opportunity goes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

RT Awards 2009 Finalists Announced!

The Wild Asia RT Team has deliberated on the entries and has chosen this year’s responsible tourism finalists. Once again we saw entries from across Asia, namely from Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and India. The entries received were of high quality based on the strength of the completed WA RT Checklist (a self-assessment tool) and had posed a challenge to the judging process. Even deciding on the most appropriate category is challenging for the team.

This year, our judging team was assisted by Sarah Loftus (UK) and Sarah Baxter (Taiwan), two alumni of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism's Master Programme in the UK, who helped us vet through each entry and highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. Our decisions were made impartially, in which the finalists were selected through in-depth research and guided by analysis and recommendations by qualified verifiers.

Our Finalists for 2009

Mid Size
Community-Based Tourism (CBT)

What's Next?
The RT team will be heading out on a manic schedule for ground visits of all the highlighted properties. The objective of these trips is to learn and verify on-ground practices. Our Fact-finding team includes a fact-finder to verify the completed self-assessment checklist, a communications member to report on the findings and a photo/videographer to document the fact-finding process. The team will be feeding back reports to the judging team, and we'll be sitting down together at the end to make our final decisions in search of this year’s Responsible Tourism winner.

More in October
We will be working on a mad timeline to provide the following at the very latest, by end of the year:
  1. Verifiers report on all entries for 2009 with a round up of the challenges faced by operators in Asia.
  2. RTA Blog entries for all site visits.
  3. Feature stories on all site visits.
  4. Video blog (Vlog) for all site visits.
  5. DVD for the 2009 awards (e.g what is RT?, our thoughts on the finalists and examples of good practices.)
  6. Web video promo on summing up the 2009 awards.
  7. Lots of pictures and video footage.
Want to learn more?
As part of our efforts to share our learning, all finalists will be invited to our annual RT Training Workshop which will be attended by a selected pool of media and tourism operators. This unique 2-day workshop, now in its 3rd year, provides the essential grounds to understand and learn from operators already committed to Responsible Tourism in Asia, hence titled “RT in Action!” To register (seats are limited) for the workshop, please visit our website.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

RTA 2008 video now live!

Having spent hours editing, slicing, rendering and all sorts of post processing - Wild Asia's Responsible Tourism Award 2008 video is finally worthy of viewing. Many thanks to Emran Taib and his team for their meticulous hard work and sacrificed rest to see this through.

Catch a glimpse of what Responsible Tourism (RT) is all about and find out what some of the tourism operators are doing to create a positive impact on the environment and the local communities surroundding it. The video highlights RT best practices as examples for other operators to step into the programme and to help tourists make a green and sound travel plan for their next trip.

Keep an eyes peeled on this space as we bring you video snippets of RTA 2009 finalists site visits - happening in the coming month!

Draft Programme for "Responsible Tourism for Media & Tourism Professionals" Training Workshop

Our draft programme for this year's annual workshop is now live. Check it out and do sign up for places. Seats are limited. This year the workshop will focus on members of the media and tourism professionals.

About the workshop?
This annual training workshop provides a background to sustainability principles in tourism and numerous case studies from the region. The workshop aims to help arm the media, property owners, managers and tourism professionals with what is going on in the region. The workshop format and discussions will make this a truly engaging event. By sharing the winners’ best practices and demonstrating how easy and beneficial Responsible Tourism is to implement, we hope to inspire change with other operators. Who should attend? We are targeting the workshop at the media and tourism practitioners (managers or business owners) and will be focusing on practical examples from Asia. We also think people who sell tourism (marketing managers) would also benefit from the workshop. It will help you understand what you will be marketing and more importantly, help you market meaningfully.

To learn more about the workshop, click here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

RTA on FuturArc Magazine

A few months back, journalist Y-Jean Mun-Delsalle from FuturArc contacted us to propose writing a story on Eco-Tourism for their Green Issue. FuturArc is a quarterly journal published by media group BCI Asia "that showcases the new and progressive in architecture in Asia-Pacific. Recognising the significant impact the built form has on society and the environment, FuturArc advocates for architecture that demonstrates creativity, social responsibility and sustainability. It encourages architects, engineers and developers to become innovators in design and early adopters of technologies."

FuturArc published its annual green issue highlighting pertinent issues concerning the world of architecture and the environment. "Travel with a conscience" was the story churned out by Y-Jean with quotes from Dr. Reza about eco-tourism and its impacts on the natural, built and social environments. The article also highlighted reasons why people participate in eco-tours and what improvements could be made and new initiatives taken to lessen the impact on the environment.

Click on the image below to read the article. If you would like a soft copy of the article, email rt@wildasia.org. Enjoy the read!

Add Image

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 2009 Update: Chance to Wild Asia site visits

Wild Asia is keen to work with keen Malaysian-based photo or video talent. We are looking out for someone that can help us bring out the best in this year's finalists. If you are chosen you will get an exclusive privilege of joining our fact finding mission this year.

Why bother?
A chance to visit new places and get behind the scenes with some of the region's most inspiring tourism operators. Your work will help us highlight the winners and do more to inspire others.

The catch?

None really. Wild Asia's work is always licensed under the creative commons banner and you will hold all rights to your material. We just ask for the freedom to use your photographs to highlight the cause.

The costs?
Your basic travel costs (flight tickets and accommodation) will be fully covered. Other travel related costs (meals, in-bound travel) is on your own.

The date(s)?
Visits are planned for August and September. If you are able to spare at least 5 days per trip (and there are 8 planned across Asia) you stand a chance to be part of as many trips as possible.

Do send us a link to your work before 27th July 2009 and let us know the dates you can travel between August to September. If you need more information, do contact us at rt@wildasia.org.

Monday, June 29, 2009

RTA on World Hotel Link & Make Travel Fair

In this day and age, technology plays an important role in business, engagements and the people we reach. Wild Asia has been privilege to be featured on both World Hotel Link and Make Travel Fair.
"Make Travel Fair was established at the end of 2006 as an online platform to communicate some of the global issues associated with travel, to encourage education amongst travellers and to encourage travel as a means of education." - taken from http://www.maketravelfair.co.uk
Find our feature here: http://www.maketravelfair.co.uk/2009/06/12/wild-asia-responsibly-connecting-people-to-place/

"Worldhotel-link.com Limited (WHL) is owned and operated by a team from Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, India, South Africa, Switzerland, the USA and Vietnam. WHL started life as a development project in the Mekong region trying to find a way to get travel product from the developing world online and able to be transacted just as it is in the West. Our Mission: Offering a unique online booking service to both travellers and travel service providers by marrying the best of what can be done locally (local knowledge, local relationships, respect for local environment) with best practices in global marketing, technology and information systems that are appropriate for use in all countries." - taken from http://www.whl.travel/
Find our feature here: http://www.whl.travel/blog/?p=711#more-711

Monday, June 8, 2009

Exciting updates on RTA 2009

RTA 2009 is coming into being! Malaysian Airlines Berhad (MAS) has agreed to sponsor our judges’ flight tickets and Keresa Plantations & Friends has also dug deep into their pockets to contribute in a big way! Big thank you to both companies… We are still keeping our eyes peeled for more sponsors to make this a successful event. Email rt@wildasia.org for more info.

Entries have since been rolling in and a few have caught our judge’s eye! We still have space for a few more entries… if you have not submitted your entry, you still can! We are accepting entries until 21 June 2009.

One of Wild Asia’s RTA 2008 winners, Tree Tops Jungle Lodge in Sri Lanka got a mention in National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Check it out… http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/2009/04/world-travel/eco-tourism-costas-christ-text/2

Our "RT in Action" Workshop is also in progress. Take a sneak preview at the developing programme here: http://docs.google.com/a/wildasia.org/Doc?id=dnd7fq5_222h6vdvr3c&hl=en. Registration is open from now until September 2009. *Don’t miss this chance! Sign up NOW!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Awards now open!

"Nominations are now open till 21st June 2009! "
Submit YOUR ENTRIES now!

Wild Asia is looking to hear from accommodation operators from across Asia (big or small, privately run or community driven). The awards, now in it's fourth year is one of the only awards for Responsible Tourism that's actually driven by Asians! All entries are screened by Wild Asia's team using a self-assessment checklist (now aligned to UNWTO's Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria) and all finalists are visited by a team of fact-finders. The winners will be announced this year at CSR Asia's Annual Summit in Kuala Lumpur 28-30th October 2009.

For more information on this awards, visit our website: Wild Asia.

**Any inquiries about this awards, request for the Entry Form or need to submit the entry form, do send email to : "rt@wildasia.org" **

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Judges for RTA 2009

The judging for the 2009 RT Awards will be led by :
Our judges and a team of "fact finders" will be sent out to visit all finalists and to collect more evidence of best practices. These site visits will be reported back to the judging panel whom will be tasked with selecting a winner from each category.

As with previous years, emphasis will be placed on the following criteria:

+ Sense of place — whether tourists understand their destinations better through operators’ efforts.
+ Sustainability — whether these RT efforts are long-term.
+ Involvement of guests — do the operators involve their guests in their RT practices?
+ Internalisation — how much is sustainability part of the day-to-day operations?
+ Reach — are the ideas and practices shared across the destination or industry?

What makes the awards different is that our site visits are as much about us learning from real practitioners, as well as, a chance to share best practices we have learnt from our trips. All visits are documented and used to develop educational resources (training/leaflets) and used to generate stories on each property.

What the judges found last year: Earth friendly retreats.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our Awards have a home!

We are pleased to announce that our awards this year will be held in conjunction with CSR Asia's Annual Summit, a gathering of CSR (corporate social responsibility) professionals from around the world.

This is what they have to say:
"Running for the 7th time in 2009, the CSR Asia Summit is our annual flagship event which aims to be the most innovative and challenging conference on CSR in the Asia-Pacific region. Amidst the global economic crisis, CSR is more important than ever. With the theme “Sustainable Business as the Road to Recovery”, the event will explore key CSR issues and strategies to demonstrate leadership in times of turbulence. The topics will be focused on Asia and bring new insights for businesses, governments, NGOs and other CSR practitioners."

For more about the event, click here.

Sign up for our annual workshop!

Our annual “RT in Action” (CSR in Travel) Training Workshop is a 2-day workshop and will be held on the 29th-30th October 2009.

This workshop provides a background to sustainability principles in tourism and numerous case studies from the region. The workshop aims to address property owners, managers and tourism professionals. The media will also be invited to attend the workshop in order to increase reach and make this a truly engaging workshop. By sharing the winners’ best practices, and demonstrating how easy and beneficial Responsible Tourism is to implement, we hope to inspire change with other operators.

Who should attend?
We are targeting the workshop at practitioners (managers or business owners) and will be focusing on practical examples from Asia. We also think people who sell tourism (marketing managers) would also benefit from the workshop. It will help you understand what you will be marketing and more importantly, help you market meaningfully.

Details ("RT in Action" Training Workshop):
Date: 29th-30th October 2009
Participation fee : USD120 ( 2-day workshop)
**Seats are limited so do book a place early to avoid disappointment!**

View the latest workshop programme.

Contact us and book today!!

** Want to know more about the "RT in Action" Training Workshop? **
Click here for more information!!

Supporters needed

Be a partner for this year's awards and help us make a difference!

Learn more about it from our website....we have sponsorship packages that range from title sponsorship to smaller contributions.

Please view our presentation online here.