Saturday, August 28, 2010

RTA 2010 Finalist Site Visit: PEPY Tours

What better way to explore a country than on two wheels with a saddlebag packed to last for 2 – 3 weeks. It’s all about local travel – taking in the sights, sounds and smells of a destination. The satisfaction of exploring the nook and cranny of a road less travelled and forging friendships with local people - that’s exactly what PEPY Tours offer to their travelers.

PEPY ("Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself") Tours was established in 2005 by Daniela Papi and her friends, who traveled to Cambodia and realized the sheer education deprivation in the country. Moved and inspired by the experience, they set out to raise funds to build the first-ever secondary school in Chanleas Dai Commune, about 45 minutes from Siem Reap. At the same time, they planned subsequent bicycle tours around Cambodia as a means of raising funds. Since then, PEPY has evolved from being a small informal group to a legal organization with over 30 Cambodian staff working in the rural parts of Cambodia to reach children and youth through education and leadership programmes.

The unique characteristic of PEPY’s tours lie not only in the authenticity of its travel but also in the educational aspect. PEPY seeks to create sustainable changes within an individual, resulting in long term effects even after the traveler leaves. They do so by engaging travelers in insightful and thought stimulating activities to help travellers learn and understand social and environmental issues surrounding tourism. Their goal is for travellers to leave Cambodia with a transformed view and attitude of how they live, travel and give.

During our 4-day visit to PEPY, we heard numerous stories of lives being empowered and changed because of the PEPY’s efforts. Youth from the rural parts of Cambodia are given the opportunity to study, fulfil their dreams and reach their highest potential. PEPY is in the business of empowering individuals in hope that they will change the hue of the future in their country. "If we can help our employees reach their full potential, then naturally the organization will inevitably reach its best," Daniela shares.

*PEPY organizes bicycle tours and education & experiential non-biking tours.

Written by: Deborah Chan (Siem Reap, Cambodia: 14 – 17 August, 2010)

Special Note: Pepy Tours is one of the finalists for the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards(Category: Tour Operator). For more v-blogs on Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards, please visit the Wild Asia Channel.

Friday, August 27, 2010

RTA 2010 Finalist Site Visit: Soneva Gili

White powdery sand meets crystal blue sea all at your doorstep on one of the most beautiful islands in the Republic of Maldives. Located on Lankanfushi Island in the North Male Atoll, Soneva Gili hosts 45 luxury villas, which offer a simple yet sophisticated design and luxurious comfort, all perched on top of the crystal sea. The limited number of villas allow for exceptional service by attentive staff, at a guest to staff ratio of 1:6. The villas and other buildings are constructed and crafted from renewable and certified-sustainable sources.

Responsible tourism is engrained in all aspects of the operation, stemming from the founders Sonu and Eva who are committed to running an environmentally and socially responsible business. Throughout the years, the entire team at Soneva Gili has embraced this passion and are all stewards for improving their environment and local communities. At Soneva Gili, they realize the fragile and important ecosystem in which they operate and know that in order for their business to thrive, they must have an extremely low environmental impact along with positive social impact in local communities.

The resort has been recognized by Wild Asia as one of the finalists for the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards because of an array of best practices in responsible tourism. One of the best practices at Soneva Gili is their strong commitment to local employment and worker’s welfare. The resort guarantees excellent staff conditions, as well as extensive training in environmental management for all employees. Soneva Gili believes that the success of its business depends, amongst other things, on its qualified, motivated and happy staff.

Another responsible tourism best practice worthy of noting at Soneva Gili is the carbon reduction and waste reduction measures. Since 2008, a 'carbon tax' of 2% has been included in Soneva Gili’s guest villa rates to offset flight-related emissions. This money is used to finance clean energy projects and community development in developing countries, such as India, through a non-profit organization called The Converging World.

The resort has also invested a great deal in innovative technologies that reduce both waste and carbon emissions. For example, a desalinization plant is used to provide all water for the operation, including drinking water (thus not importing any plastic water bottles onto the island). The implementation of heat recovery systems which capture hot exhaust from the generators, in order to heat water for the entire resort, is another example of innovative techniques used. The resort also has its own organic gardens and sources produce from local farms and fishermen as much as possible, thereby reducing air miles and non-biodegradable packaging.

In terms of social contributions, 0.5% of Soneva Gili’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. Soneva Gili strives to empower local NGOs and promote economies. They understand the importance of being a leading role model in local environmental conservation and social empowerment, and try "to create innovative and enlightening experiences that rejuvenate guests’ love of SLOW LIFE".

Soneva Gili’s "S.L.O.W. L.I.F.E." concept – Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wholesome, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experience… is the real experience guests feel when staying at this resort. An extremely relaxing and pure environment, friendly staff and management, superb and healthy food, and the true feel of a Robinson Crusoe adventure while indulged in luxury is what Soneva Gili is all about and why many guests repeatedly return. The resort exemplifies a holistic approach to responsible tourism, and its passion and commitment towards the environment and local community shines.

Written by: Melissa Cornejo (Soneva Gili, Lankanfushi Island, Maldives: 11 – 14 August, 2010)

Special Note: Soneva Gili is one of the finalists for the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Small to Mid-size Accommodation). For more v-blogs on Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards, please visit the Wild Asia Channel.

Monday, August 2, 2010

RTA 2010 Finalist Site Visit: Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa

Self-learning and discovery is what Frangipani Resort and Spa promotes. Dispersed all over the resort are little notes, reminders and thought prodders informing guests of their green practices and encouraging them to participate in this noble effort. The green team at the resort are well trained environmental wizards with a flair for communication. Throughout our stay there, new features, ideas and innovations were revealed to us – from the way the new eco-friendly building was constructed to incorporate a garden rooftop to reduce heat transference to the guests’ rooms to the traditional sophisticated method of waste water channelling.

This modest resort tucked away on the quiet stretch of Pantai Tengah, Langkawi, Malaysia boasts of its seclusion and family friendly features. A generous expanse of rugged beach spans the resort overlooking several bold and luscious islands across the horizons. Families enjoy day activities offered by the resort and settle in at night with music at dance at the Mentari Restaurant serving local delights that suit the international palate.

Frangipani is seriously committed in putting the 3R concept (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) into practice by monitoring, managing and innovating new ways to minimize waste generated in the resort. With the water shortage concern on the island, the resort is mindful of the impending scarcity and has built 85 water tanks to harvest rainwater. The rainwater is treated and channelled to various pipes for washing and gardening. The resort even has its own wetlands where grey and black water enter from septic tanks. This waste water is naturally treated by a precise selection of plants such as water hyacinth, convolvulus, mimosa and water lilies coupled with a mechanically induced aeration pump. The treated waste water is then pumped out of the wetlands for gardening and sustaining the veggie patch and animals on its little farm.

Blessed with 10 to 12 hours of sunlight a day, the resort has taken advantage of the natural light and heat by installing solar panels on each building. Hot water offered to the guests’ is heated by solar panels as a result eliminating the need for electric-generated heaters.

Generous and passionate about educating guests’, travellers and local communities, Frangipani frequently hosts environmental education workshops for student groups from universities and local schools at the resort. On top of that, Frangipani is committed to support local communities through a mesh up of environmental education and economic support. One such example is a social project with the single mothers at Tuba Island to produce and sell handicraft made from recyclable and natural materials such as newspapers, sea-shells washed ashore and pandanus leaves.

Frangipani Langkawi has come a long way and its success story lies in the owner’s vision to see the resort as one of the greenest properties in Malaysia.

Written by: Deborah Chan (Langkawi Island, Malaysia: 26 – 28 July, 2010)

Special Note: Frangipani Resort & Spa is one of the finalists for the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Large-size Accommodation). For more v-blogs on Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards, please visit the Wild Asia Channel.