World Responsible Tourism Awards: Winners 2014

Zipline over the farm at Parque dos Sonhos

Zipline over the farm at Parque dos Sonhos

A South African animal sanctuary and a Brazilian adventure resort specialising in accessible tourism were announced Joint Overall Winners this morning at the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2014 in London.

11 categories at this year's awards marked the 11th year in which they have taken place. In a special ceremony at the World Travel Market’s Global Stage as part of the World Responsible Tourism Day annual celebrations, South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance and Campo and Parque dos Sonhos jointly took the coveted position of Overall Winners from of a selection of 25 finalists gathered from around the world.

'The judges wanted to recognise two very different winners - Campo and Parque de Sonhos and South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance - for the overall award' said Harold Goodwin, Chair of the Judging Panel. 'The Sanctuary Alliance for demonstrating that animal attractions can liberate previously captive wildlife and, without petting or exploitation, be commercially successful. Parque de Sonhos for demonstrating that truly inclusive tourism can enhance the adventure activity experiences for everyone, and enable families and friends to share their leisure and the experiences. Both winners demonstrate that it is possible to address the rights agenda, to swim against the tide, and also achieve a successful business.'

Justin Francis, managing director of responsibletavel.com pinpointed what makes the Award winners the leaders in responsible tourism:

Our winners have a vision that extends beyond the commercial – linking business success with the wellbeing of local communities and the longevity of their environments. They want to make profits with principles, communicate balance sheets alongside beliefs, and won’t undermine passion in the pursuit of professionalism. They are resilient, determined, humanising advocates for their destinations. They are the future of tourism.

The Awards were once again sponsored by the Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Tourism. Her Excellency Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary for the Oman Ministry of Tourism, who handed out the Awards, said: 'As proud headline sponsor of the Awards for the second time, the Oman Ministry of Tourism is delighted to return to London to meet this year’s inspirational finalists in person.'

Read below for the full list of this year’s finalists, or log on to www.worldresponsibletourismawards.com to read their stories, download images, or watch videos from the Overall Winners.

Joint Overall Winners - sponsored by the Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Tourism: Campo and Parque Dos Sonhos, Brazil and South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance, South Africa

Best Animal Welfare Initiative - supported by Born Free Foundation: Joint Gold Winners: World Animal Protection and South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance

Judges’ reasons for winning: Two very different winners: World Animal Protection has campaigned, with some success, for the industry to exclude performances by elephants and the riding of elephants from their programmes. The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance has successfully used tourism to fund sanctuaries for primates, birds and wild cats enabling them to provide environments where previously abused wild animals, animals that cannot be returned to the wild, can be kept in captive protective habitats, able to live normal and healthy lives. They have campaigned against the practices of pet and play, they are educating their visitors about why these practices should be banned and demonstrating that attractions can be successful without exploiting animals.

Best Aviation Programme for Carbon Reduction - sponsored by Visit Gozo: Thomson Airways, UK/International 

Judges' reasons for winning: This was not a difficult decision in a field where no silvers were awarded. Thomson, as part of TUI, has adopted the same approach to sustainability as the rest of the group. They have accepted responsibility, set targets for carbon reduction, and then delivered on them. Over the past three years, Thomson has improved their airline carbon efficiency by 7.4%, achieving average carbon emissions of 69.5g per Revenue Passenger Kilometre (RPK). They have demonstrated what can be achieved, using current approaches, to improve carbon efficiency.

Best for Beach Tourism – sponsored by Jersey Tourism: Chole Mjini Conservation & Development Co. Ltd, Tanzania

Judges' reasons for winning: The judges were impressed by what has been achieved over the last twenty years by a small tree lodge hotel that accommodates 500 guests a year. A commercial success, the hotel contributes approximately USD 18,000 per annum from the $10 per night bed night levy paid to local societies, this combined with funds raised by the Chole Mjini Trust ($48,000 in 2013) has enabled the running of a health centre, kindergarten and learning centre as well as the provision of education scholarships for secondary and tertiary study. They employ local staff, source locally and have worked to conserve wildlife, for example encouraging the Mafia District Council to introduce a $10 per head fee for whale shark tourism.

Silver Winner: Casa de las Olas, Mexico 

Best City Hotel – sponsored by Los Cabos Tourism Board: Hotel Verde, Cape Town, South Africa

Judges' reasons for winning: Hotel Verde aspires to be “Africa’s Greenest Hotel”. The application demonstrated that commitment and they share it with every guest, delegate and supplier with whom they interact. Hotel Verde stood out in this category, not only as an advanced new build in terms of sustainable technology but also in daily operations:  they continue to reduce waste and energy consumption and communicate their green approach with guests in a quirky and entertaining way as well as providing educational visits for schools'.

Silver Winners: ITC Grand Chola, India, Jury’s Inn, Brighton, UK

Best Cultural Heritage Attraction – sponsored by Wightlink: There was no gold winner for this category but one organisation was awarded silver for their efforts to protect and promote the heritage of their community.

Silver Winner: Festivals of Puebla, Mexico

Judges comments: The judges look for examples of excellent responsible tourism practice, examples that can inspire and which others may replicate. We are also mindful of previous winners and each year seek to ensure that the category winners are on a par with previous winners. We can only select from amongst those nominated and based on the information in the public domain, on the information they provide and the independent references.

Best Destination - sponsored by Visit Norway: V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa

Judges' reasons for winning: The judges were impressed by the scale and thoroughness of the Waterfront’s efforts to reduce its environmental impacts; the refurbishment of the craft market, which will increase the capacity for local craft workers by 50%, and the Food Market that provides an outlet for 50 local producers. Since 2008 the Waterfront has been introducing sustainable green business practices throughout the entire property to increase resource efficiency and reduce cost and also requires its tenants to green their operations too.

Best for Engaging People & Cultures – sponsored by New York State Division of Tourism: Kutch Adventures, India

Judges’ reasons for winning: In the application Kuldip Gadhvi recognised that local people and culture is the backbone of his small business. The judges were impressed by the depth of the cultural encounter, the opportunities to interact, enjoyed by guests and locals, and felt that this was a highly replicable approach requiring little capital. Visitors have the opportunity to eat local dishes, hear local stories, folk songs and music and to meet and purchase directly from the producers when they visit handicraft workshops. Kuldip Gadhvi guides all the tours and ensures that the encounters are based on the values of respect and responsibility.

Silver Winner: Footsteps Ecolodge, Gambia

Best for People with Disabilities – sponsored by Enable Holidays: Campo & Parque Dos Sonhos, Brazil and Cavan Town & Environs, Ireland

Judges’ reasons for winning: The Parque de Sonhos is an inspiring example of what can be achieved when the owners commit to developing an activity product genuinely accessible to all and where the staff and visitors see beyond the disability to enable everyone to share in the activities.  Cavan Town and environs have also gone far beyond ramps and disabled toilets. Since 2007 there have been major efforts to provide an accessible tourism experience for visitors. New by-laws have been introduced preventing businesses displaying obstructive signage or furniture on foot-paths which may prove hazardous or obstructive to wheelchair users or people with visual impairments and with the Chamber of Commerce they are working to make Cavan an ‘Age Friendly Business Town’ offering deals and services specifically for older people. The Parque de Sonhos and Cavan are both pushing forward the agenda on inclusive tourism – others should follow.

Silver Winner: NATIVE Charming Hotels and Accessible Tourism, Spain

Best for Poverty Reduction – sponsored by Tobago House of Assembly: Adventure Alternative, UK

Judges’ reasons for winning: We have previously awarded Gavin Bate, when he won Best Personal Contribution in 2009, but the judges felt that the extent to which he has expanded the operation of Adventure Alternative and increased the flow of benefits to the local communities with which the company works, deserved further recognition.  Over twenty years,  Adventure Alternative has developed companies in Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania, Malaysia, Morocco and Russia using responsible tourism and equitable contracts to create sustainable livelihoods and help people out of poverty.  The judges were impressed by the wealth of detail that Adventure Alternative provided on their impacts and the way in which it is building self-reliant locally owned businesses.

Silver Winners: Lewa Wildilfe Conservancy, Kenya and Mdumbi Backpackers, South Africa

Best for Wildlife Conservation – sponsored by Discover Dominica Authority: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours, Australia

Judges’ reasons for winning: Echidna are committed to reaching both eco-travellers and mainstream tourists recognising that, only by changing the attitudes of large numbers of people can we save our wildlife. They guide 6,000 visitors a year and, using the nature experience, their guides help to create connections between tourists and the koalas without any touching or disturbance. Over the last 16 years Echidna has been reporting annually on wild koala behaviour, social relationships, home range size and tree usage.

Silver Winners: Chambal Safari Hotels Pvt Ltd, India and On Track Safaris, South Africa

Best Short Film for Responsible Tourism – sponsored by Fair Trade Tourism: Travel Oregon: Communities Powered by Travel - John Day River Territory, Oregon

Judges’ reasons for winning: The judges were looking for a consumer facing film that conveyed the qualities of the place and the people and which would inspire travellers to visit. We reviewed some excellent campaigning videos but settled on the John Day River Territory film because it explains beautifully what the place is about and what the visitor’s experience will be. The values of the community, and why tourism is important to them, are powerfully conveyed in this short film.

Silver Winners: GLP Films: Basecamp Foundation - Pioneering Sustainable Tourism in Kenya’s Masai Mara and World Wildlife Fund - The Guardians

People’s Choice in Responsible Tourism – sponsored by Spirit Slovenia: For this category, a panel of judges put forward a selection of winners from the 2013 Awards, the public was then asked to select their favourite.

Winner: Nam Nern Night Safari, Lao PDR

Organisers’ comments': 'When asked to prepare a special video for the People’s Choice this year, Nam Nern rose to the challenge – reminding us all what makes them so special. Developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, they are a model for ecotourism in Laos - involving travellers in wildlife conservation by asking them to keep a record of the animals they see. Each animal is allocated a specific value, the more animals tourists see, the more money villagers get, which has led to a big reduction in poaching. The judges liked this project because of its benefits for both communities and wildlife – and it seems the people agree!'

Runners-up for this category: Chepu Adventures EcoLodge, Chiloe island in Patagonia, The Great Projects, Africa, Asia, South America & Europe, Mara Naboisho Conservancy, Masai Mara in Kenya, People and Places, UK, ReefCI, Belize, Snowcarbon, TUI Nederland, the Netherlands, Village Ways, India & Ethiopia

Green Hotelier is thrilled to be a media partner for the World Responsible Tourism Awards and would love to hear from any winners interested in contributing to our publication. Please connect via Twitter, Facebook or find out more here

For more information on the World Responsible Tourism Awards visit www.worldresponsibletourismawards.com

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