Wanted: Responsible Tourism Heroes for Wild Asia’s 2014 Awards


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April 09, 2014

Amy McLoughlinWild Asia's Responsible Tourism Awards is an annual award programme specifically focused on sustainable tourism best practices.

Established by Wild Asia in 2006, it aims to recognize those who are making a positive difference in their destinations and communities through responsible business and sustainable management practices.

The 2014 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards is seeking inspirational examples of businesses and initiatives based in South or South East Asia.

Tourism That Benefits People and Destinations

Over the past few years, through the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, we have seen the power that tourism can have on preserving cultural heritage, bringing together communities and create sustainable alternative livelihoods. Responsible tourism can be a significant force for social and cultural benefits in Asia.

Responsible tourism is about preserving the essence of destinations, for the benefit of people who have called those places home for generations, and for those who have come to soak up its rich culture or vibrant communities for a week or two.

We've been inspired by Winners who invest in local infrastructure, make wise and transparent contributions to development charities on their doorstep, and empowered communities by building the capacity of local people's skills.

Recognizing Those Who Inspire

This year we have two "Most Inspiring" Categories, one for tourism businesses (accommodation providers or tour operators) and the other for initiatives (NGOs, campaigns, etc.).

For businesses the Most Inspiring category is for those most exceptional ventures that are reaching all criteria in responsible tourism, meaning they are doing excellent things to reduce their environmental impact and maximise the positive social impacts they have. Moreover, our Judges are looking for businesses that go above and beyond. What do they do to influence and inspire? Could their successes be inspirational lessons for others to follow suit and practices be adopted elsewhere? How have they been creative or innovative to make tourism a force for good?

I'm really excited about the Initiatives category, as this will open the doors to grassroots projects that we might not have heard of before. They're going to be competing on the international stage and have the opportunity to be recognised regionally and globally. For this category, we're looking for anything from an advocacy campaign, to a training programme, or a community based association. We are especially looking for efforts to educate travellers and bring together communities.

Annual Journey of Discoveries and Sharing

I’ve been working as the Wild Asia as Responsible Tourism Awards Manager and Associate Specialist since 2012, and for me, the beginning and the end of every year are the most exciting parts.

As we launch the Awards it's like stepping out into the unknown, we see entries from emerging destinations and hear of inspirational business models for the first time. We get to know the contestants over the coming months, and the Awards crescendo at ITB Asia in Singapore, Asia's biggest travel trade show in October.

The Awards ceremony at ITB Asia brings together businesses of all shapes and sizes from different corners of the region. I love that a 5-star resort chain can be competing next to a farming cooperative homestay programme, and both are humbled by each other's efforts.

Looking Ahead and Looking Back

As this year's award categories focus on people (social, economic, and cultural benefits), in the 2015 edition we plan to focus on the environment (resource efficiency, wildlife conservation, and biodiversity management).

We also have exciting ideas for 2016, since the year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards. We will be celebrating the milestone with a "Most Improved" award category, inviting back all past Winners to the programme.

Amy has a decade-long, varied background in responsible tourism, with hands-on experience in the UK, India, Malaysia, and Cambodia.