The Tourism Authority of Thailand unveiled the 2019 winners of the Responsible Thailand Awards, in conjunction with Wanderlust Travel Media, during World Travel Market in London at a lunch ceremony presided over by the Minister of Tourism & Sport, H. E. Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
The Responsible Thailand Awards were created to highlight, and further promote, Thailand’s dedication to the conservation of its country’s precious natural and cultural resources. The Awards recognise and celebrate organisations in the travel and tourism industry that have made an outstanding contribution to sustainable tourism developments, helping protect the country while engaging and educating tourists on local environmental issues.
Since June 2019 readers of Wanderlust magazine have been nominating the organisations they felt deserved recognition for their sustainable work across six categories:
- Marine, Nature and Heritage
- Animal Welfare
- Community-based Tourism
- Best Eco-Lodge/Hotel
- Best Hotel
- Green Steps
“We are so proud of the continued success of our awards and the wider interest our Responsible Thailand campaign with Wanderlust has garnered this year,” said Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor. “A total of 339 nominations were made, a huge increase from the 67 nominations in 2018, and 45,000 people engaged with the campaign website, up from 6,500 in 2018, sharing their thoughts on who should be crowned a Responsible Thailand winner. The huge increase in interest and engagement with our awards this year is testament to how important eco-friendly choices are to the traveller and why Thailand will keep working on sustainable initiatives and developments.”
A panel of expert judges had the unenviable task of choosing just six winners, casting their deciding vote on consumers’ nominations. The criteria the judges followed included the sustainability of each organisation, their demonstrable successes and legacy benefits for the Kingdom and for visitors to it.
The winners they collectively chose are:
Marine, Nature and Heritage:
Thavorn Beach Village Resort & Spa for the ‘Save Nakalay Reef Project’
Profile: The ‘Save Nakalay Reef’ project, www.phuketcoralconservation.com, is the first private natural reef coral restoration joint collaboration with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. We are the first to restore, preserve, and grow natural coral reefs in Nakalay Bay. We are the first coral learning centre and nursery for Phuket and began planting coral artificial structure frames, recovering broken coral to rehabilitate in an onshore nursery. We have rescued over 1,500 corals, thus far.
Judges’ comments: “A great example of a hotel actually pioneering a green project and taking it seriously; a great example to its visitors and to other hotels.”
Samui Elephant Sanctuary
Profile: Samui Elephant Sanctuary is the first elephant sanctuary established on Koh Samui in Southern Thailand. Set on forested land, we offer a safe retirement home for elephants that have worked exhausting hours in the logging and tourism industries. Our focus is to raise awareness among tourists and locals of the plight of the Asian elephant and what we can all do to protect the species.
Judges’ comments: “The sanctuary has battled adversity to give elephants a better life and is a model for an ethical elephant experience. Education is key to their work, and an outreach programme is informing locals and visitors alike about the issues around elephant tourism.”
Profile: G Adventures, and its non-profit partner, Planeterra, have founded two new social enterprise projects in the past 12 months, supporting community-based tourism in areas that had previously been bypassed by travellers.
Judges’ comments: “This is a genuine and impressive case of tourism being a force for good. Nearly 700 community members are already directly benefiting from these new projects, and they will serve as a great model for the future.”
Profile: Soneva Kiri is a luxury resort with a strong focus on sustainability. It has developed its own Soneva Carbon Calculator to monitor the full footprint of its operations, including energy consumption, air travel, ground travel, freight, food, paper, waste and water.
Judges’ comments: “This was an easy and unanimous decision. Soneva Kiri really is making a huge difference through its ongoing work to be as environmentally friendly as possible, and in its commitment to fighting climate change. Indeed, they are making a positive impact in many areas, not least through reforestation and in reintroducing hornbills to Koh Kood.”
Profile: The Zeavola Resort is directly on the beach of Phi Phi island, embedded into a jungle garden. It offers barefoot luxury.
Judges’ comments: “Zeavola is taking sustainability seriously, with a range of initiatives that are measured and reported on. They have even gone as far as publishing a ‘Little Green Book’.”
Profile: A boutique hotel on the southern end of Chaweng Beach that went plastic-free in February 2018.
Judges’ comments: “Poppies eschews plastic bottles and straws and makes guests aware of this initiative even before they arrive. An excellent first step that will hopefully influence other organisations.”