A few months ago, The Travel Word put its support behind the seventh annual 2013 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, a contest that honors exceptional tourism providers in Asia with business strategies that meet responsible tourism criteria.
Now, after reviewing more than 45 quality applications from a geographically diverse pool of contestants, the award judges last month announced the winners. The laureates were selected for their commitment to furthering the goals of responsible travel in six award categories and celebrated on October 25th at a live event held in conjunction with ITB Asia.
The Travel Word is pleased to share news of the 2013 Awards winners, all businesses that represent the best of the Asian travel market for their commitment to sustainable travel and their constant efforts to bring about positive change in their destinations.
Best in Community Engagement and Development
This award recognizes exceptional commitment to supporting the local community and economy in which a business operates. The 2013 winner is Lisu Lodge, part of a community-based project that seeks to conserve the natural heritage of the hill tribes of northern Thailand.
Commended for its commitment to the community, the Lisu Lodge focuses on outdoor tours such as walking, trekking and biking. The lodge has also helped create a sustainable local economy through capacity building and employment, has empowered women’s groups through the conservation of heritage crafts, and has contributed to a local development fund for community initiatives led by indigenous communities.
Best in Cultural Preservation
This award recognizes tourism businesses’ engagement and efforts to preserve, enhance and promote local cultures and heritage.
Located in the heart of rural Rajasthan, in India, winner Apani Dhani offers eco-friendly accommodations and socially responsible tours with locals such as cooking lessons and initiation to traditional arts and crafts. Hailed for its involvement in heritage preservation and awareness-raising efforts among travelers, Apani Dhani has a multifaceted cultural mission that engages the community on many levels, supports local artisans and cottage industries, and campaigns for the protection of historical buildings.
Best in Protection of Natural Areas and Wildlife Conservation
This award recognizes tourism businesses’ consideration of their local environment and biodiversity by actively supporting and protecting natural assets.
Located on Mabul island, off the east coast of Borneo, Scuba Junkie dive resort provides daily dive trips to more than 25 islands, including Sipadan Island (frequently voted one if the world’s top 10 dives sites) in the Celebes Sea. To protect the local marine environment and wildlife, the company partners with a range of organizations, government institutions and local communities. Scuba Junkie also manages the Mabul Turtle Hatchery, chairs an annual marine week and advises the Semporna Shark Sanctuary.
After winning the Best In Protection award, Rohan Perkins, Scuba Junkie’s Environmental Project Manager, said “I believe that this award and others like it serve to not only highlight such amazing efforts that are carried out by operators across Asia, but also highlights the issues and the real efforts to overcome them in such areas. No one does such things for the purpose of awards. Quite the opposite! But it is so important that these awards exist to showcase what can be done, what is being done and hopefully also to inspire others to take up the torch in other areas of tourism and start to protect the environment in which they work and the people that call those areas home. For us, responsible business is a huge source of pride and has served to make us strive to do better in our area of Sabah.”
Best in Resource Efficiency
This award recognizes excellence in waste, water and energy management and sustainable architectural design in order to minimize the business’s environmental impact.
Based in the heart of the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka, the winning resort, Heritance Kandalama, is built facing the rock fortress of Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Endorsed by both ISO14001 and ISO50001 management systems for energy and water efficiency, Heritance Kandalama continuously achieves its own goal of reduced consumption. The business also has a strong commitment to promoting environmental education by partnering with 30 local schools and various organizations devoted to conservation.
When asked about winning the Best in Resource Efficiency award, Heritance Kandalama staff explained what winning means for the resort and for Sri Lanka as a whole.
“Sri Lanka has very high biodiversity, multiple ethnicities,and a cultural heritage which was not known by many people in the world due to the lack of publicity and terrorism activities. The Wild Asia Award gives our resort and the country the opportunity of publicizing our exemplary qualities, especially our responsible tourism practices, in unique world forums. Further, we have become one of the very few organizations in Sri Lanka to earn the Wild Asia Award and the only resort in Sri Lanka to win this prestigious award twice within last five years. Due to these recognitions, our resort has now gone to the world market. Now, other resorts in Sri Lanka are learning from us and are replicating our activities, making our country well known as a sustainable tourist destination. In my parts in the world, ‘sustainable’ and ‘responsible’ tourism are only buzzwords, but we aim to maintain the real meaning of these terms. As many tourism businesses strive to reduce their cost of operations, we believe the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award scheme introduces the concepts of reducing cost without compromising the quality of the products and services providing increased business viability.”
Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Accommodation Provider
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, and by allowing for maximum positive impacts to the local community and minimum negative impacts to the environment.
As the most inspiring accommodation of 2013, Soneva Resorts has become one of the travel industry’s greatest innovators in Thailand and Maldives. The acronym SLOW LIFE (which stands for Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun- Experiences) explains the Soneva philosophy. In addition to a fully sustainable business model that focuses attention on the resort’s social, economic and environmental impact, Soneva supports clean-water projects, an orphanage initiative and a hunger-alleviation charity. Soneva has also helped implement a local ban on shark fishing, established a coral restoration project and is continuously striving to improve its resource efficiency.
Most Inspiring Responsible Tour Operator
This award recognizes the tour operator that excels in all of the key principles of responsible tourism.
ViaVia Tours, based in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, offers something unique – including adventure, gastronomy and culture – all while supporting local community development. By contributing profits from its tours, ViaVia helps to support educational, social and cultural projects in and around Jogjakarta. Some of the many areas in which ViaVia has excelled include providing humanitarian assistance in cases of local natural disasters, establishing a rural community library, and setting up free classes and training sessions to local groups and guides.