And the 2017 winners are....

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

Each year, the Thailand Green Excellence Awards highlight Thailand's dedication to the conservation of its natural and cultural resources, and support sustainable tourism development. The 2017 winners are:

Animal Welfare

This category is designed to reward those places that genuinely care about animals and put their welfare first. They should be places where the animals live in a natural, enriched and healthy environment, and where normal behaviour is encouraged. There also needs to be a tourism element to the place.

Winner: Elephant Hills

Thailand's first luxury tented camps, Elephant Hills, offer multi-day nature tours – including unique Elephant Experiences which prove that elephants can be an integral part of the country's tourism without being ridden or kept in unnatural conditions. They've continually impressed the judges, being crowned winners of the Animal Welfare category for the fourth year in a row.

Judges' comments: “Still leading the way in ethical elephant practises, not just in Thailand but worldwide. In the past year, Elephant Hills has become Thailand's only elephant camp which is completely chain-free.”

Community-based tourism

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.

Winner: G Adventures

A tour operator which has offered small group tours for 25 years, G Adventures works with its ground partners to link together and educate remote hill-tribe communities in sustainable development, hospitality and literacy, so they can be better adapted to tourism for future visits from travellers.

Judges' comments: “This organisation's initiatives go far beyond a PR exercise or list-ticking. It's really commendable and a shining example to other international tour operators.”

Eco Lodge/Hotel

This category seeks to reward an eco lodge or ‘green’ hotel which is actively promoting its eco-friendly credentials. The judges look for hotels that, regardless of size, go well beyond the basics (such as recycling) and can prove they are making a positive difference to Thailand, whether through conservation, working with communities, education or other methods.

Winner: Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp, Khao Sok National Park

One of the world's only floating luxury tented camps, this also has a strong claim to be one of the greenest. Its unique waste management system has zero impact on the park, and it generates its own energy by solar and wind power. It also has wildlife monitoring projects and supports local schools.

Judges' comments: “Head and shoulders above the other nominations, thanks to its passionate ethos, and holistic, sustainable approach. The judges all commented how much they would love to stay there!”

Marine

Thailand is blessed with stunning coastlines and a rich marine ecosystem. In this category, judges are looking for a project, organisation or other body which is actively targeting marine conservation issues or marine animal welfare.

Winner: Mai Khao Turtle Foundation

The foundation helps both to conserve endangered turtles which nest on Mai Khao beach, and educate visitors and local people about them and the challenges they face. It also works with hotels and local communities, and has a resounding influence on conservation decisions in the region.

Judges' comments: “This is a great example of corporate/non-profit collaboration, and a role model on how such a partnership can work.

Runner-up: Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort

Hotel

This category is designed for hotels which are actively developing their green initiatives. The judges are looking for establishments, regardless of size or category, which are improving their sustainability. This category does not consider hotels which are already known for their green credentials, or which already specialise in ecotourism.

Winners: The Six Senses Hotels – Samui and Yao Noi

These two Six Senses hotels offer authentic Thai farm experiences through their initiative, Farm on the Hill, which sustainably produces food through its organic garden, greywater catchment system and bio char ovens. Plastic straws are also banned, replaced by lemongrass straws, and they also take part in numerous community engagements.

Judges' comments: The judges were impressed by “the awareness, sustainable initiatives and community outreach of both the Six Senses hotels”.

Green Steps

In this category, judges are looking for a tourism-related organisation which has recently made steps – however modest – towards introducing a sustainable travel policy. This is open to an organisation of any type, so it could be awarded to a tour operator, transport provider, restaurant, accommodation or attraction.

Winner: Layana Resort & Spa, Koh Lanta

This resort is intertwined with the local landscape. Among its list of initiatives, it has restored a pier in Baan Mard Rar village, which offers its guests a unique speedboat journey to the resort and helps fuel the local fishing industry. It has also contributed computers to a local school, planted 1,600 square metres of land with coconuts, and constructed its own water storage reservoir to support the resort and community.

Judges' comments: “The resort has some great examples of new initiatives which are benefiting both local communities and the resort's guests.”

How the winners are picked

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.