The 2016 results were announced at a ceremony at World Travel Market London, so if you're heading to Thailand or want to check out a top responsible organisation while you're there - you can't do better than these
The Thailand Green Excellence Awards UK highlight Thailand's dedication to the conservation of its natural and cultural resources, and support sustainable tourism development. This year's winners are:
Thailand is rich in natural wonders and its cultural heritage, one reason why people return again and again. We are looking for projects, organisations or other bodies, who offer the best of Thailand and in a sustainable way. It could be a conservation programme. It could be a hotel being proactive in sustainable tourism. It could be a tour company, either local or UK-based.
Winner: Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation
Runner-up: Trash Hero
Judges' comments: We loved the fact that this initiative works on so many levels - not just helping to conserve marine turtles but educating both visitors to Thailand and local schoolchildren about them and the challenges they face. The Foundation works with hotels and with local communities, and influences conservation decision-making at everything from grassroots to high-level.
Community based tourism is when the tourism experience is managed and operated by the local community. The community benefits by receiving an income that can be fairly distributed, and by operating a type of tourism that helps them preserve their community and way of life. The traveller benefits too, as they can immerse themselves in local life by staying in a homestay or participating in a community-run experience. The environment can be the winner too, as this type of tourism can act as an incentive for communities to protect and preserve their naturalsurroundings. Thailand is at the forefront of this type of tourism with some fine examples.
Winner: Andamam Discoveries
Runner-up: The Sarojin
Judges' comments: A previous winner, but the judges couldn't help but be impressed again, unanimously voting this the winner. Adamam Discoveries work from the ground up, acting as a partner for the local communities to bring in responsible tourists. Visitors have a more meaningful and authentic experience, while the communities benefit economically and socially, and it encourages them to keep their traditions alive. A model sustainable tourism program that is inspiring and encouraging others.
Many visitors to Thailand relish the opportunity to interact with animals we want to highlight the very best cases of animal welfare. With this award, we want to reward those places that genuinely care about their animals, and put their welfare first. Places where the animals live in a natural, enriched and healthy environment, and where normal behaviour is allowed.
Winner: Elephant Hills
Joint runner-up: Mahouts Elephant Foundation
Joint runner-up: Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
Commended: Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary
Judges' comments: It is heartening to see so many ethical Elephant Experiences emerging in Thailand, and Elephant Hills is continuing to lead the way, continually improving conditions for its elephants and their mahouts, and highlighting to visitors, to the travel trade, and to other elephant camps, that elephants can be an integral and valuable part of Thailand's tourism offering without being ridden or kept in unnatural conditions.
It is often individuals who make a difference - whether inspiring or driving awareness and change, and making the world a better place. For this category we are looking for a remarkable individual or independent organisation that has made a significant impact on green tourism in Thailand. They can be involved in any sort of project or organisation, providing there is a link to travel, and to UK travellers.
Winner: Trash Hero
Judges' comments: Trash Hero has achieved extraordinary results, cleaning Thailand's beaches of thousands of kilogrammes of trash, providing trash bins (and a free pick-up service) to communities, and educating schoolchildren in the impact of garbage on the environment. The judges were impressed with the way it brings together visitors, locals and local businesses in a fun but meaningful way; with the way it has grown so quickly as a movement, even leading to tourist going back home and starting chapters in their countries; and how it puts Thailand at the forefront of environmentally conscientious travel. In a word, inspirational.
Last June we asked Wanderlust readers to nominate the organisations they felt deserved recognition for their work across four categories; community based projects, volunteer group organisations, animal welfare and nature, marine and heritage tour operators.
The criteria for judging include the sustainability of the projects/organisations, their demonstrable successes, and the legacy benefits for both Thailand and international visitors.
The difficult task of picking the winners fell to the judging panel: Soren Stober (ABTA), Salli Felton (The Travel Foundation), Derek Moore (AITO), Mark Wright (travel industry professional) and Lyn Hughes (Wanderlust Travel Media).
After much deliberation, the results were revealed at the World Travel Market in London in November 2016. The winners were presented their awards by Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, who is known for her charity work and enthusiasm and support for the awards.