On the list of finalists of Responsible Tourism Award 2017 is a game lodge in Botswana, a fynbos protected area in South Africa, a social enterprise in Vietnam, a tour operator working to benefit local communities in Limpopo, a European city, a group of guest cottages in Kangaroo Valley in Australia and a company enabling travellers to walk from village to village in rural India.
Prerna Shah reports on Village Ways’ journey in building a new eco-tourism venture with demonstrable social outcomes.
Reality Tours and Travel is based in Mumbai and is most famous for their Dharavi slum tour. Following the success of their ever expanding product range in the city, they have recently spread their wings to the capital, Kerala, and Rajasthan. Their tagline is “see the real India”; guests get beyond tourism to experience authentic destinations in India, and their unique social business structure supports community development projects along the way.
Based in Malaysian Borneo, Borneo Eco Tours has been a pioneer in responsible nature tours since 1991. Two of the most popular destinations in which they operate includes the iconic Kinabatagan River, where guests can enjoy their award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge and Borneo's famed primates, and Kudat, which provides opportunities for guests to visit and support cottage industries (supported by their partner NGO, BEST) along the scenic coast.
BEST Society, which stands for Borneo Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies, supports rural communities in Malaysia’s Sabah establish and improve their own social enterprises, improving their quality of life through business. Moving away from charity, now the NGO focuses on capacity building in social entrepreneurship, and is increasing access to markets for cottage industry artisans.
The ChildSafe Network, delivered by Friends International, is helping to protect vulnerable children in tourism destinations across Cambodia and other parts of South East Asia. Travellers can sometimes unknowingly put children at risk of exploitation, and the ChildSafe 7 Tips helps tourists make the right choices in responsible travel to advocate child safety. Beyond that, ChildSafe is also working behind the scenes to get children off the streets, through vocational training, supporting their parents through employment, and generating employment through social ventures.
Andaman Discoveries in Thailand was born out of tragedy, and formed shortly after the Boxing Day Tsunami when villagers decided that community-based tourism would allow them to generate additional income and support their traditions, culture, and lifestyle. Since then, Andaman Discoveries has been offering various tours (volunteer trips, family holidays, and educational visits for schools) to empower the local community. Their Moken Experience tour supports nomadic communities preserve their culture through responsible tourism.
After a year's absence, WildAsia returned once again to stage the Responsible Tourism Awards, the region's top green honours that hoteliers and tour operators aspire towards. The winners of their 2012 Responsible Tourism Awards were announced at ITB Asia held in Singapore. This year, there were four specific award categories ranging from community engagement, culture preservation, nature conservation to resource efficiency, plus one generic category for the "most inspiring" responsible operator. Finalists had to demonstrate excellence in various areas of sustainability and, of course, responsible tourism practices. They were assessed based on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Criteria.