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ITP member Soneva Fushi is among those tourism companies selected for their outstanding approach to sustainability and responsibility at destinations. The overall winner is an eco-resort on the Indonesian Island of Bintan; Loola Adventure Resort.
The awards ceremony took place at World Travel Market London’s Global Stage, as part of the annual WTM World Responsible Tourism Day celebrations. Judges chose Loola for its application of a radical Dutch business model; the Polder Model.
Developed in Holland in the 1980s, the ‘Polder Model’ is a collaborative, consensus-based way of working between employers and employees, making everyone a stakeholder in the business. By setting up local staff as entrepreneurs, running and managing their own businesses within the workings of the resort, LooLa has increased local incomes by 20-50%, has a zero staff turnover through education and development opportunities and gains excellent customer feedback.
Professor Harold Goodwin, chair of the judging panel said, “Each year we look for organisations which will surprise and inspire change, and Loola’s approach, which gives local staff the opportunity to run and own their own businesses within the resort, is not only exemplary but successful; a win-win way of working which leads to increased local incomes and better guest experiences. The judges singled out Loola for its innovative business model which creates shared value from tourism with the local community.”
The judges’ reasoning on awarding Loola overall winner states: “The judges look for examples which are surprising and inspiring. LooLa is based on the principle that a good business can and should benefit all other stakeholders too: local community, staff, and clients. The judges singled them out because of their innovative approach, based on the Dutch “polder principle” - that all stakeholders should benefit - and because they have proved that it works. LooLa sells a package in Singapore that includes accommodation, activities and food, but the staff operate their own shop and sell drinks, extra menus, massage, wake-boarding and so on. Each department runs its own budgets, and the staff keep surpluses as long as guests are satisfied.
These initiatives result in a 20 - 50 % increase in local staff incomes and guests are encouraged to pay a bit extra to participate in community projects such as the building beds, roads, and waste water processing systems.”
Other winners named are:
Campaign Against Canned Hunting & Hetta Huskies named winners of Best Animal Welfare Initiative supported by the Born Free Foundation.
The judges said: The Campaign Against Canned Hunting has been engaging with the tourism industry and is applauded for the considerable success it has had in raising awareness of the commercial exploitation of lions, which are petted as cubs, used as photo props in ‘walking with lions’ experiences, then later shot just out of their cages by trophy hunters. The Campaign Against Canned Hunting has found that “once travel agents, tour operators and volunteering agencies know the truth, they quickly discourage clients from visiting such facilities.” Hetta Huskies based in Finland carry some 4,000 clients per year at their husky sled dog farm. The judges recognised both the high standards of sled dog welfare practised in the operation and that, having established a viable business with higher standards, they are now able to campaign for change from within the industry.
Silver Winners: Lotus Travel & the Donkey Sanctuary
LooLa Adventure Resort and Soneva Fushi named winners of Best for Beach Tourism sponsored by Visit Jersey.
The judges said: Two very contrasting winners. A luxury resort with significant success in reducing its carbon footprint, the judges recognise Soneva Fushi in the Maldives for demonstrating what can be achieved, at scale, in improving environmental performance and benefitting local people. By contrast LooLa, an adventure resort in Bintan catering for family and educational groups impressed the judges with its unique business which has resulted in zero staff turnover and local incomes 20-50% higher than they otherwise could be. Rainwater collection systems, green aircon and waste water gardens are all also highly replicable.
Silver Winners: andBeyond and Turtle Bay Beach Club
Loop Head Peninsula, Ireland named winner of Best Cultural Heritage Attraction sponsored by Wightlink.
The judges said: On Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Loop Head Peninsula shares local people’s heritage with tourists for the benefit of both, with sites of interest identified through a heritage audit undertaken by local people. The judges were impressed by the bottom up approach using a tourism initiative to encourage a community to discover, own and protect its heritage.
Silver winners: Cnoc Suain and Bushmans Kloof.
Gansbaai, South Africa named winner of Best Destination for Responsible Tourism sponsored by Visit Norway.
The judges said: Two hours from Cape Town in the Overberg, Gansbaai is home to a cluster of responsible tourism businesses - and these businesses have come together, cooperating with each other and the local authority to make Gansbaai a better place to live for local people. The judges were impressed by how much more the businesses, which include Grootbos and Dyer Island (both previous winners of our Responsible Tourism Awards) have been able to achieve by working together and with local government.
Silver winners: Aruba and Cyprus.
Endeavour Safaris and Scandic Hotels named winners of Best Accommodation for Disability Access sponsored by Enable Holidays.
The judges said: Running mobile tented safari camps in southern Africa, Endeavour Safaris demonstrate that it is possible to enable people with a wide variety of disabilities to enjoy the same safari experience as their families and friends. With specially-adapted mobile camps, Endeavour Safaris prove that tourism accommodations, even in the wildest of environments, can be enjoyed by nearly all tourists, no matter what their needs. Scandic Hotels are applauded for their top-down, all-encompassing approach to inclusivity, integrating accessibility into all parts of their hotel business from floor to board level. Like Endeavour, they address a wide range of disabilities and particularly impressed the judges with their leadership – developing an e-learning course and making this freely available to their peers across the tourism industry.
Silver Winner: RuralSuite Hotel Apartamentos.
Urban Adventures named winner Best for Engaging People & Culture sponsored by Audley Travel.
The judges said: Part of Intrepid and established in 2009 Urban Adventures offers an alternative to the standard city tour offering the opportunity to visit local neighbourhoods with a passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic local guide or friend, not only supporting local entrepreneurs, but empowering them too. The judges were pleased to see that local partners, within the framework of a Responsible Travel Code of Conduct, are able to own and manage their own businesses and in return for commission on tours sold, Urban Adventures, provide these local partners with the technology, marketing, and sales support to promote and sell their tours. All in all, leading to different and arguably better experiences for tourists and locals alike.
Silver Winners: Felin Talgarth Mill, Connemara Wild Escapes
Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge named winner Best Hotel for Local Sourcing sponsored by Colorado Tourism Office
The judges said: Based in Morocco’s Argan Forest near Agadir, the judges were impressed by Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge’s ability to report in detail on its impact on the local economy, with 81% of money spent within a 50km radius, and staff employed from nearby Berber communities. By offering guests local experiences such as cooking and craft classes, and starting up an organic food basket scheme with deliveries in Agadir and neighbouring villages, Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge has successfully developed a wide range of economic activities with the local Berber communities to their mutual advantage.
Silver winners: Shangri La’s Villingili Resort & Spa and Matava, Fiji
TUI UK & Ireland named winner Best Innovation for Carbon Reduction sponsored by Visit Gozo
The judges said: Often tour operators are rightly criticised for pushing responsibility for achieving sustainability targets down their supply chain, but TUI have proven to be an exception. Last year we awarded their airline, Thomson Airways, for delivering real carbon reduction targets, and this year the judges recognise TUI UK & Ireland for their holistic approach to reducing carbon consumption in their shops and offices. By working with staff to change behaviour and with investment in new technology TUI UK and Ireland have achieved a 40% reduction in carbon emissions in their offices between 2010 and 2014. The judges believe this is a highly replicable approach and a good example of a large tour operator taking responsibility to reduce carbon emissions rather than leaving it to others.
Silver Winners: Airport Authority Hong Kong and North Sailing
Agri Tourism Development Company Pvt Ltd named winner Best for Poverty Reduction sponsored by the Tobago House of Assembly.
The judges said: Recognising that farm incomes in India have become stagnant in recent years, the Agri Tourism Development Company has worked with 750 farmers in 218 locations across the state of Maharashtra to empower them to diversify into tourism, resulting in a 33% increase in income over and above previous levels. These farmers are now offering packages which give families in India’s urban areas the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of activities from animal feeding and farm walks to festivals, folk dancing and music. The judges were impressed by the scale of the programme and the resulting number of small farmers developing supplementary incomes to raise themselves out of poverty.
Silver winners: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, OneSeed Expeditions and Uakari Floating Lodge
Uncornered Market named winner Best Responsible Tourism Blog sponsored by Fair Trade Tourism
The judges said: True to their motto ‘driven by curiosity, guided by respect’ Uncornered Market is a blog with a goal to create a movement of respectful travellers. People, not just place are always at the centre of its content, dispelling fears of the unknown and assuring readers that travel can be a force for good. The judges were pleased to see them unafraid to tackle gritty topics in their writing – for example around volunteering or giving gifts to begging children. The blog has inspired other bloggers to extend their travel horizons with its thoughtful, engaging writing and has impressed the judging panel by reaching over 1.2 million people monthly via the blog and social media platforms combined.
Silver winner: Travel for Wildlife
Ullswater Steamers named winner Best Sea or River Cruise
The judges said: Since 2011 Ullswater Steamers have begun to monitor their performance in reducing water and carbon emissions, and work with other local public transport providers, and the Lake District national park, to encourage people out of cars. They excel at work in the local community and have become an important local employer. Ullswater Steamers were highly commended in these Awards in 2008 and 2011, and with their Gold win today the judges recognise how much progress it is possible to make by adopting a strategy of continuous improvement in sustainability and keeping at it - and the judges feel they provide a real example which other cruise operators need to follow.
Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education named winner Best for Wildlife Conservation sponsored by the Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council
The judges said: Based in the southwest of Madagascar, Honko is working with coastal communities to improve livelihoods by restoring and protecting the mangrove environments on which they are dependent. Honko empowers these communities to take charge of their mangrove resources and use them to secure sustainable and resilient livelihoods. The success of Honko as an ecotourism and training organisation is now being used as a model in other mangrove wetland regions, it is a challenge to make mangroves attractive to tourists. Although the ecotourism initiative is small and only part of its strategy, visitor numbers grew 60% between 2013 and 2014. The judges wanted to recognise that Honko has achieved sustainability and has demonstrated what a small scale initiative can achieve for impoverished local communities and their environment.
Silver winners: Coral Cay Conservation, North Island Seychelles and Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge
World Animal Protection named winner of the People’s Choice in Responsible Tourism in association with National Geographic Traveller (UK) Magazine, sponsored by the Catalan Tourist Board.
The organisers said: Our Awards seek to inspire tourists and the tourism industry alike. This Award reveals what the travelling public find the most inspirational. Last year the judges were impressed with the success of World Animal Protection’s ongoing Compassionate Travel campaign, reaching out to international tourism bodies, tour operators and travellers to bring an end to the unnecessary use of wild animals in tourism. With this Award, World Animal Protection show they have won over the people who can really create change, and that we can all be compassionate in travel.
Speaking at the awards in London, Justin Francis, Managing director of Awards organisers Responsible Travel explained how the Awards were founded to change the face of the tourist industry. “The aim of the Awards is to inspire the tourists and the tourism industry by what is possible to achieve through responsible tourism. In our 12th year we have added one more inspiring winner and more remarkable stories which will shape how the industry and tourists think about the future of tourism.”
Simon Press, Awards Judge and Senior Exhibition Director for World Travel Market London said, “The standard of entries to this year’s Awards have been of a phenomenally high standard. Loola Adventure is a truly inspiring example of responsible tourism at its finest, demonstrating that all stakeholder can benefit from well-planned and well-run tourism projects.”