And the 2018 winners are....

If you want to champion sustainable tourism when you visit Thailand, get in touch with these award-winning ventures and organisations

Marine, Nature & Heritage

Winner: Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa, Merlin Beach

Contact: Pim Manasakul (pim.m@marriott.com)

Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa, Merlin Beach is a family-friendly resort located on a beautiful, secluded beach. In collaboration with the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) it has created the Merlin Butterfly Sanctuary, with over 30 species of butterfly. It also works with the IUCN and Sea Bees Diving to conserve the restore the unique reef ecosystem in front of the hotel, and is involved in the Mangroves for the Future Project. The hotel employs fulltime conservation experts and educates its guests in awareness of environmental issues and how they can help.

Judges’ comments:

“It’s refreshing to see a hotel think beyond the care of guests, but also proactively work on conservation of the local environment. The partnership with the IUCN is taken seriously, and the hotel clearly takes pride in the innovative work it is doing.”

 

Animal Welfare

Winner: Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park rescues and rehabilitates victims of the tourism and trekking industry, and educates tourists on their plight. As well as its own centre it is working in collaboration with communities and other projects to promote ethical elephant experiences.

Judges’ comments:

“It’s heartening to see the journey that this organisation has taken. It has championed the welfare of elephants and campaigned for better lives for them. It is doing a fantastic job of educating both locals and visitors that there is a better way to treat these magnificent creatures.”

 

Community Based Tourism

Runner-up: The Sarojin

Winner: Mahouts Elephant Foundation

Contact: Sarah Blaine (sara@mahouts.org)

Mahouts elephant foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving and protecting the lives of Asian elephants. It works on the ground to develop sustainable, welfare focused tourist experiences supporting the needs and livelihoods of the indigenous mahouts, their families and local communities, together with the needs of the elephants.

Judges’ comments:

“It’s encouraging to see an organization combining elephant welfare and habitat conservation with benefits to communities too. Furthermore, it is offering visitors to Thailand a unique and exceptional experience. A model solution which deserves to grow and flourish.”

 

Eco-Lodge/Eco-Hotel

Winner: Elephant Hills

Contact: Chris Kaiser (chris@elephanthills.com)

Elephant Hills are Thailand’s first luxury tented camps. They offer nature safaris in and around Khao Sok National Park. Activities include ethical elephant experiences, kayaking, walking and boat trips.

Judges’ comments:

“Elephant Hills is fully committed to sustainability and is a model for how a luxury travel experience can also educate and conserve.”

 

Hotel

Runner-up: Marriott Thailand Business Council

Winner: The Sarojin

Contact: Kate Kemp (kate.kemp@sarojin.com)

The Sarojin is a luxury boutique resort in Khao Lak with community engagement at its heart.

Judges’ comments:

“The Sarojin not only offers a great guest experience but clearly spreads the revenues from those guests locally, benefiting people, animals and the environment. Their innovative excursion programme is robust and demonstrates how well they work with the local community.”

 

Green Steps

Runner-up: BEES

Winner: Akaryn Hotel Group

A small group of boutique hotels and resorts. They have removed single-use plastic from the hotels, claiming to be the first in Asia to do this.

Judges’ comments:

“A sterling example of what a hotel group can do to help conserve Thailand, with its ambitious initiative to remove single use plastics setting a great example to other hotels, while raising awareness among visitors.”

 

How the winners are picked

Last June we asked Wanderlust readers to nominate the organisations they felt deserved recognition for their work across six categories: Marine, Nature and Heritage; Animal Welfare; Community-Based Tourism; Eco-Lodge/ Eco-Hotel; Hotel; and Green Steps.

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: Clare Jenkinson (ABTA), Martin Symington (Travel Journalist), Julie Middleton (The Travel Foundation), Derek Moore (AITO) and Lyn Hughes (Editor-in-chief Wanderlust Travel Media).

After much deliberation, the results were revealed at the World Travel Market in London in November 2018.