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Winners of Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards Announced

Wild Asia, a social enterprise that promotes sustainable travel, community-based development and conservation of natural areas, recently announced the 2009 winners of its Responsible Tourism Awards, presented annually to tourist accommodations that exemplify best practices for sustainable tourism.

This year’s awards ceremony was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on October 28. Awards were given in three different categories: Large to Mid-size Accommodation Operators, Mid-size to Small Accommodation Operators, and Community-Based to Homestay Operators. Award winners are selected based on a checklist of 40 criteria including support for local employment and economies, respect for local laws and cultures, recognition of children’s rights, environmental protection, efficient use of resources and responsible waste management.

The award for best Large to Mid-size Accommodation Operator went to ITC Mughal, a five-star hotel chain in India that has made being “green” one of its main goals. The company has adopted a wide range of environmental initiatives at all levels of its operations, from water and energy conservation measures to efficient waste management to training local suppliers to be more sustainable.

In the Mid-size to Small Accommodation Operators category the award went to El Nido Resorts in the northwest Palawan region of the Philippines. The coral reefs surrounding the El Nido Resorts are an environmentally protected area, and the resorts have adopted strong environmental policies, including sewage treatment, a tree-planting initiative and the installation of solar panels at some of the properties.

The final award, in the Community-Based to Homestay Operators category, went to Sunderbans Jungle Camp in India. Located in a challenging wetlands environment, Sunderbans has integrated closely with the nearby community through educational outreach in schools and employment of local women at higher income levels than those offered elsewhere.

The other finalists for Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards 2009 were: Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa in Malaysia, Soneva Fushi in the Maldives, Nikoi Island in Indonesia, Lamai Homestay in Thailand, and Andaman Discoveries, also in Thailand.

As the awards reflect, responsible travel is a growing industry in Asia. Wild Asia offers advisory services to help tourist accommodations and other travel suppliers improve the sustainability of their practices. Among other resources, Wild Asia has developed a checklist to help companies identify strengths and weaknesses to determine whether they are reaching their responsible tourism goals.

In 2010, Wild Asia plans to kick off the year with a two-day responsible tourism training workshop for tour operators and hotel managers. The workshop will focus on working with local communities to minimize negative impacts while simultaneously building a financially thriving business. For more information about this workshop, Wild Asia’s other initiatives or responsible tourism in general, visit www.wildasia.org.

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