Supporting communities while you're on holiday in Asia
17th January 2019 | by Guest author
Over our decades of travel in Asia and the rest of the world, we've seen a great deal of evidence that 'travel done right' can really benefit the communities and habitats we visit. When travel operators work in close collaboration with local people and reputable NGOs, they can create local jobs, contribute to education, and provide a profitable motive for protecting vital habitat. Community-centric tourism helps places recover from natural disaster, and gives us an excellent opportunity to give something back to our hosts. Our Destination Specialists have suggested just a few of their favourite places where you can give back to the communities that you visit.
Shinta Mani Foundation, Siem Reap, Cambodia
This highly successful blend of non-profit and a very lovely for-profit hotel and restaurant has resulted in 100s of local students graduating fully trained for work in the hospitality industry, as well as funding education, healthcare, well-building and toilets in rural Cambodian communities. The foundation was begun by a Cambodian businessman whose boutique hotel in Siem Reap is one of the finest in the country, so supporting the project is a win-win! We have received wonderful feedback from clients who got involved with the Foundation during their holiday. You don't have to be staying at the Shinta Mani Hotel to take part in the more hands-on experiences, so if you'd like more information just ask your Destination Specialist.
Big Brother Mouse & Mr Ken, Laos
Few books are available in Laos, and rarely reach the children who need them most. Big Brother Mouse is a locally run project committed to changing this by publishing learn-to-read books and circulating them, partly by asking visitors to help with the distribution. On our experience, you'll meet the inspirational Mr Ken, a young local whose deep community roots have helped him grow this innovative social enterprise, and you'll get the chance to join in an English class by playing some language games, and handing out the Big Brother Mouse books. With the help of Ken, the teachers will give you a further introduction to the school and an insight into local life.
Koh Yao Noi Community Connection, Phuket
Koh Yao Noi was quite badly affected by the 2004 tsunami, and residents of this sleepy island rely predominantly on fishing and farming for income. During this Selective Asia experience you will spend the day with the villagers, learning about their traditional lifestyles and post-tsunami recovery efforts. Discover more about fish farming, visit a rubber plantation and a small batik workshop, share a home-cooked lunch in a family home, chat with the villagers and visit the local market. A contribution to the community fund is included in the tour.
Elephant Transit Home, Sri Lanka
Situated inside Uda Walawe National Park, which is home to around 500 elephants, the Transit Home is an elephant orphanage where you can learn how orphaned elephants are cared for before being released back into their natural habitat once they are strong enough to survive. All efforts are made to minimize human contact with the elephants, but you will be able to watch them being fed and bathed. Read our policy on elephant projects and wildlife sancturies...
Three Good Spoons, Yangon, Myanmar
Join a cooking class at Three Good Spoons in Yangon, and you'll be doing more than (hopefully!) creating a delicious Burmese meal under the expert tutelage of Chef Kevin, who was private chef to the US Ambassador to Myanmar for 25 years. Alongside hands-on cooking experiences for tourists, this social enterprise provides fee-based classes for locals who wish to improve their kitchen skills and nutrition knowledge; all profits are spent on free hygiene, nutrition and cookery classes for Yangon's unemployed and disadvantaged women.
Gayana Marine Resort, Borneo
This idyllic tropical island resort is dedicated to the conservation of the Gaya Island's marine environment, and its on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre (the only one of its kind at an island resort) propagates endangered giant clams and coral. Guests can help to replant the coral on the reefs, and enjoy some spectacular snorkelling around the resort.
Gal Oya Lodge, Sri Lanka
In collaboration with Gal Oya Lodge, the Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust have been granted permission to set up camera traps inside of Sri Lanka’s spectacular Gal Oya National Park. They’ve already photographed four different individual leopards, and the long-term aim is to get a deeper understanding of the density and number of cats in the park, and size of their territories. Guests can visit the on-site research centre to learn more about the conservation work being undertaken by the Gal Oya Lodge team, and both adults and kids can get involved with setting and reviewing the camera traps.
Hsithe Irrawaddy Dolphin Experience, Myanmar
The critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin's dramatic decline has had a knock-on effect on the Ayeyarwady's riverside fishing communities, many of whom learnt to fish cooperatively with the dolphins through a series of signals and calls. This conservation project works closely with local fishermen to offer tourists the chance to spot the dolphins, along with exploring the region’s cottage industries and witnessing day-to-day life in these riverside communities. It's been so successful that funds have been reinvested into building a simple guesthouse in Hsithe, bringing much-needed employment to the region.
Fang, northern Thailand
The entire region of Fang is a community-based-tourism success story, having transformed itself from a valley of opium-growers to an upstanding group of tea farmers via communal tourism initiatives. You'll find yourself welcomed with self-assured warmth as you join the locals to pick tea, learn to cook, trek in the hills and relax in the nearby hot springs. Read more...
Free the Bears, Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, Cambodia
This Selective Asia experience takes you to a rescue centre near Siem Reap for a day with the Free the Bears team, who oversee a sanctuary for over 100 rescued bears, who live in forest enclosures. You'll get behind-the-scenes access to sections closed off to the general public, an insight into the important work that takes place here, and the opportunity to meet the current bear residents and help the team to prepare food and special treats for the animals.
Arakan Nature Lodge, Myanmar
This remarkable responsible tourism project in Myanmar is a true eco lodge, and guest experiences explore but have no detrimental impact on the lodge's unspoilt natural surroundings of forested hills, mangroves and untouched, clean beaches. South Rakhine is one of the poorest regions of the country, and inspirational Swiss owner Ueli Morgenthaler is passionate about creating job opportunities amongst the local community, actively recruiting and training staff from nearby villages. You can be confident that the money you spend during your stay goes directly into the hands of the local people.
Loikaw, Kayah State, Myanmar
Kayah State is a picturesque region, home to the largest concentration of ethnic groups in Myanmar. Supported by the International Trade Centre, a handful of novice Loikaw tour operators participated in extensive training, leading to a tourist programme which focuses on the region’s unique culture and impressive natural assets. The close relationship these operators have with local villages encourages the communication and trust of the villagers; visitors have an exceptional opportunity to mingle with the locals and participate in a range of activities, bringing job opportunities and boosting incomes alongside preserving cultural heritage in a sensitive manner.
Elephant Conservation Centre, Sayaboury, Laos
Staffed by an international team of elephant veterinarians, the centre is considered to be the first elephant hospital dedicated to victims of logging accidents as well as those affected by diseases. Take a day-trip from Luang Prabang to be guided through the centre’s facilities by a member of the ECC team, who will explain about ongoing projects and introduce you to some elephants at the Socialization Area, created for the elephants to freely interact and establish bonds as they would in their natural environment. It’s a great opportunity to observe elephants behaving as elephants, without receiving any instructions from their mahouts.
Mu Cang Chai Eco Lodge, Vietnam
Taking a starring role in our Vietnam Beyond the Ordinary holiday, this charming eco-lodge is dedicated to habitat conservation and supporting the local community. They create jobs for locals both in the lodge and amongst its rural partners, using locally sourced food and ensuring that environmental impact from guests is minimized. You can join in rice planting & harvesting, help locals fix old houses, visit local homes, and learn survival skills from forest experts.
A Little Eco Lodge, Inle Lake, Myanmar
This family-run guest house was constructed from locally sourced natural materials, and its home-cooked meals use seasonal ingredients grown in their organic garden. Moreover, staff are recruited from surrounding communities, given extensive on-the-job training, and actively encouraged to develop their skills in the hospitality industry. The lodge operates ‘A Little Loom’ weaving centre, which provides much-needed income for local women, and conserves traditional Shan state weaving designs and techniques.
Soneva Resorts, the Maldives
The carbon-neutral Soneva group raises the bar for this tropical archipelago with its extraordinary array of community and habitat focused initiatives. Keen to contribute to a greater purpose as well as preserving their resorts' pristine locations, the group does things like bottling their own water & using the proceeds to fund clean water access elsewhere in the world, and using funds released by making their own charcoal to buy fuel-efficient stoves for people in Myanmar and Darfur. They run regular symposiums on environmental & social collaboration, and undertakes an annual self-appraisal to ensure they are staying responsible.
Six Senses lodges, Bhutan
Despite being a world-renowned chain of luxury hotels, Six Senses put an awful lot of effort into doing the right thing, and no more so in Bhutan, a country that is carbon neutral and measures its national success in terms of happiness rather than GDP. Six Senses is collaborating with Bhutan's Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) and local farmers to develop an eco-village, and its lodges each have an organic garden growing produce native to local climate and altitude, contributing to self-sufficiency and hugely reducing the carbon footprint of each property.