Hunting for eco-holidays in Malaysia

Trend of Europeans seeking wildlife conservation work
Inbound agents in Malaysia are seeing a trend in catering to Europeans’ rising interest in participating in wildlife conservation and charitable causes during their holidays, TTG Asia reports.
Demand has grown 10% per year for the last three years, claims Alex Lee, CEO at Ping Anchorage Travel & Tours, with tourists mainly from Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, France and Switzerland. Last year, the company handled around 3,000 volunteer tourists.
“The market is still niche and we would like to grow it organically by working with outbound agents from Europe and OTAs,” said Lee, who described such tourists as high yield and willing to spend on food and accommodation, and donate their time and money to the causes they believe in.
Most ‘voluntourists’ are FITs, over 35 and in groups of less than 10 people, Lee says. They typically spend one to three days of their total stay, which ranges from one to two weeks, on volunteer activities.
Terengganu-based Ping Anchorage works with WWF-Malaysia, University Malaysia Terengganu and the local municipality to promote mangrove replanting and sea turtle and terrapin conservation at Setiu Wetlands. It also promotes tree replanting at Lake Kenyir and visits to meet native people.
Discovery Overland Holidays has seen a 30% increase in volunteer holidays since 2015.
It works closely with NGOs such as the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, the Malaysian Nature Society and the Malaysian Primatological Society to develop programs that include opportunities for visitors to do light maintenance work, feed the animals and clean their cages.
“Our main challenge is finding conservationists and activists who are passionate in their area of expertise to share their knowledge with our guests, as this will make the program very meaningful,” said senior product development manager Kingston Khoo. “Most [guides] are volunteers and the challenge is to arrange programs to fit their schedule.”
Managing guests’ expectations is the key to success, Authentic Borneo director Marco Wunsch pointed out. “We explain to our overseas partners who will then highlight in their brochures that accommodation in conservation areas is basic and some programs such as night walks to see the slow loris are off the normal walking trails,” he said.
TTG Asia