Responsibletravel.com, one of the organizers, provided us with the contacts, and the editorial staff of GRT interviewed the protagonists.
We started with three winners from 2013 and we will soon include others to the list.
In this Dossier section dedicated to them, you can read the information that they sent in, about the protagonists and about their good practices, all worthy of being reproduced by those who run projects in tourism development.
In the Travel section, you can read the articles on travels to their destinations
Wildlife Conservation Society - Lao PDR
What is your project doing?
Using tourism as a tool for conservation. We have created a tour within a national park where local people participate as guides/cooks/handicraft producers and cleaners, as well as receiving communal benefits, which provides incentives for conservation of rare species of wildlife.
What is the Project you won the Award for?
Nam Nern Night Safari. It is the first, and currently only, area opened to visitors in Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA, and provides one of the only opportunities in Laos to view rare wildlife, which is done at night while traveling by traditional long-tail boats. The trip is designed to support alternative livelihoods for local people and generate community support for conservation of tigers and other wildlife.
Why do you think that more women are interested in responsible tourism goals (in general and in your organization, if any)?
It gives them an opportunity because gender is an issue given value by responsible tourism. Women also hold special skills appropriate for tourism that can help them earn income.
In general, is gender an issue you consider in your projects?
Yes. We consider gender in hiring villagers as tourism service staff (guides, cooks, handicraft producers, cleaners) and also we are looking for a new lead/English-speaking guide and will give preference to a female.
What is the case, according to your project's impact on gender empowerment, you want to talk about?
We have made gender an issue from the start, encouraging the villagers to include women. We were not able to force them however, and in the first year the tourism service group was male-dominated (only 4 out of 26 were women). We have agreed on new policies for hiring and village tourism staff so that more women now participate, with roughly 18 women participating out of 35 families.
Where is it located?
Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area, Houameuang District, Houaphan Province, Lao PDR. It is one of the ten Wildlife Conservation Society programs in Lao
What does the Community do?
Guide, drive boats, cook food, clean the guesthouse, produce handicrafts for sale and gifts, and protect the wildlife.
How many local women are involved?
Directly employed in tourism: 18 out of 35.
What do they do, or are going to do (related to tourism)?
9 are cooks; 5 are handicraft producers; 2 are cleaners
Can you make an example of how a tourist will meet women?
Tourists will meet women after the tour when a member of the handicraft group gives a gift to the tourist. Tourists may also meet women if they eat lunch on Day 1 in the village. Tourists are traveling with the guides and boatmen, who are men, during the tour, because the tour is inside the park far away from the village, a location where women do not want to go (women do not want to be away from their family for a night and do not want to be walking in the forest or driving a boat).
Have you done a survey or a study on them (could you tell a percentage of women in the Community, numbers about their economical or social improvement)?
We know how many women are in the community and statistics about poverty.
Did they partake in the project making?
Women have been present in our annual village stakeholder meetings in each of our 14 partner communities. The women in the tourism service groups are in trainings and participate in service group meetings.
Women have successfully participated in tourism providing quality services to tourists, which is backed up by visitor feedback (average of 4.5/5 on all service related questions).
What is the first criteria you would suggest to measure the achievement? We measure the success of the project in terms of average wildlife sightings per boat, total income to the communities, the number of families earning income from direct employment in tourism, and in terms of gender the percentage of tourism service group positions held by women.
Do you have one specific case, one woman or group in particular, that have a model story?
All of our women have a special story, but here are two: Ms. Liang was our first woman who was brave enough to travel with the guys upriver to be in the cooking group. She supports her children alone. We also have an elderly cleaner who does not have anyone to support or take care of her. The community decided that she should have the opportunity to benefit from tourism since she really needs the income. She was the first of our cleaning group.
Can you mention more associations or local organizations doing gender empowering projects, your partners, or people you met on location, that could be useful interviewing?
The Lao Women's Union, which has representation in all villages, also our counterpart from the District Information, Culture and Tourism Office of Houameuang District is a woman and a strong advocate for women.
Is it an actually working tourism destination (or what is the prevision plan)?
Yes. It has been in operation since 2010 and continues to receive visitors.
Where could a tourist wishing to go there find information?
TripAdvisor: search Nam Et Phou Louey"