LONDON: Four Thai hotels and resorts, an elephant sanctuary and a non-governmental organization promoting community-based tourism have been conferred the Responsible Thailand Awards 2019 in recognition of their commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism.

Organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in cooperation with the UK publishing company Wanderlust Travel Media, the Awards “recognize and celebrate organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to sustainable tourism developments, as well as help protect the country whilst engaging and educating tourists on local environmental issues.”

The Awards were presented at the World Travel Market (WTM) on November 4, 2019, in a ceremony presided over by the Minister of Tourism and Sports, H.E. K. Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

K. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of TAT, said “This year, consumers engaged in the Awards, sharing their thoughts on who should be a Responsible Thailand winner. It’s great that consumers are so aware of responsible travel choices in Thailand, but we have a lot more work to do to educate an even greater number of visitors coming to the Kingdom.”

The criteria for the Responsible Thailand Awards that the judges followed included the sustainability of each organization, their demonstrable successes and legacy benefits for both the Kingdom and visitors to it.

Responsible Thailand Award: Best Marine, Nature & Heritage

Winner: Thavorn Beach Village Resort & Spa, “Save Nakalay Reef” Project

“Save Nakalay Reef” is the first coral learning center and nursery in Phuket that began planting coral artificial structure frames and recovering broken coral to rehabilitate in an onshore nursery. Undertaken in collaboration with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), the project was designed to restore, preserve and grow natural coral reefs in Nakalay Bay.

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.

Responsible Thailand Award: Best Animal Welfare

Winner: Samui Elephant Sanctuary

Samui Elephant Sanctuary is the first elephant sanctuary established on Koh Samui in Southern Thailand. Set on forested land, it offers a safe retirement home for elephants which can no longer work in the logging and tourism industries.

Judge’s comments: The Sanctuary has battled adversity to give elephants a better life and is a model for an ethical elephant’s experience. Education is key to their work, and an outreach program is informing locals and visitors alike about the issues surrounding elephant tourism.

Responsible Thailand Award: Best Community Based Tourism

Winner: G Adventures / Planeterra

Planeterra is G Adventure’s non-profit partner dedicated to ensuring communities touched by tourism benefit from the opportunities it provides. Planeterra helps empower local people to develop their communities, conserve their cultures, and create human and supportive systems for their endeavors.

Judges’ comments: This is a genuine and impressive case of tourism being a force for good. Nearly 700 community members are already directly benefitting from these new projects, and they will serve as a great model for the future.

Responsible Thailand Award: Best Eco-Lodge / Eco-Hotel

Winner: Soneva Kiri

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 horn bills to Koh Kut.

Responsible Thailand Award: Best Hotel

Winner: Zeavola Resort

The Zeavola Resort is directly on the beach of Phi Phi Island embedded into a jungle garden. If offers barefoot luxury.

Judge’s comments: Zeavola is taking sustainability seriously with a range of initiatives, which are measured and reported on. They have even gone as far as publishing a “Little Green Book”.

Responsible Thailand Award: Best Green Steps

Winner: Poppies Resort

A boutique hotel on the southern end of Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui. They 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 which will hopefully influence other organizations.