r:travel, official magazine of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2008

Page 1


Your guide to the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards


of the best responsible trips Green wash or green warrior?

and the winners are...

Can you get it right in the credit crunch? www.responsibletravel.com Holidays that respect destinations and local people

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THE AWARDS 28 30 34 38 42

48 52 58 64 70 76 80 84 90

• • • • • • • • • • • • • •

| Overall Winner | Best Destination | Best Personal Contribution | Best Volunteering Organisation | Best for Conservation of Endangered Species or Protected Area | Best for Conservation of Cultural Heritage | Best Large Hotel/Accommodation | Best Small Hotel/Accommodation | Best in a Mountain Environment | Best in a Marine Environment | Best Low Carbon Transport & Technology | Best Cruise or Ferry Operator | Best for Poverty Reduction | Best Tour Operator


| Can responsible tourism beat the credit crunch?

12 | r:travel news 16 | How to spot a greenwasher 18 | 20 top responsible holidays 27 | Where the winners are 94 | How the awards are judged 98 | The trip that changed my life Managing Director | Graeme Gourlay Editor | Roger Fulton Art Editor | Bonnie Coupland Advertising | Jim Walker Printed by | Woodford Litho, Witham, Essex Published by | Circle Publishing


One Victoria Villas, Richmond, Surrey TW9 2GW. Tel: 020 8332 2709, www.circlepublishing.net. Registration number 3090618. All right reserved


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When you have finished with this magazine please recycle it

r:travel | 3

| WELCOME | and destroy local culture. So they are taking measures to attract the right kind of tourism that will help their natural and cultural heritage to flourish and be a sustainable source of income and pleasure for future generations, rather than packing a resort to the max.

NEW FOR 2008 The Awards never stand still, and this year we launch a new Responsible Cruise or Ferry Operator Award. This award recognises that while aviation has been subjected to scrutiny for some time now, cruise operators have slipped below the radar. We created this Award to set the bar for responsible cruise and ferry operators and hope that – as in other categories – it will be raised year after year as operators compete to make the best environmental and social impact both on board and in their destinations. To find out what all the fuss is about, and to join us in congratulating the winners, dive in to our Awards section packed full of features and interviews with this year’s winners – but don’t blame us if you’ve booked

It’s wonderful to be back again with our second issue of r:travel, and the chance to celebrate all the amazing achievements of the winners of our Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2008 – the most competitive of their kind in the world. The aim of the Awards is to inspire tourists and the travel industry by showcasing what it is possible to accomplish through responsible tourism.

SINCE responsibletravel.com launched in 2001, we’ve found that telling the stories

a holiday before you reach the back page! For more information on the Awards

behind our holidays, how they help conserve

and how they are judged, and to read about

natural habitats and benefit local people, is

winners past and present, head over to www.

an incredibly powerful way to create change.


The Responsible Tourism Awards enable us

We would like to finish with a huge thank

to pick the most innovative, replicable and

you to our Awards partners, Geographical

groundbreaking stories in responsible tourism

magazine and World Travel Market who

and share them with the world.

have been with us from the beginning, and

I believe that since responsibletravel.com

Telegraph Travel and BBC World News who

founded the Awards in 2004, responsible

we welcome on board this year. Our thanks

tourism has finally come of age. No

go also to our headline sponsor, Virgin

longer just a specialist niche for diehard

Holidays, all our category sponsors, and our

environmentalists and human rights activists,

expert judging panel. With their support,

consumers now recognise that to travel with

the Responsible Tourism Awards has become

respect for local people and the environment

the most competitive and prestigious awards

gives you an experience that is more real,

scheme of its kind in the world.

more authentic and more enjoyable!

Here’s to the next five years!

Our Awards provide the proof as this year we received more than 1900 nominations for fantastic responsible holidays from members of the public, nearly three times the response five years ago. At the same time, destinations are waking

4 | r:travel

up to the fact that they need to be choosy


when it comes to tourism; that tourism – if

Managing director,

managed badly – can drain natural resources


© Maison de la France / Phovoir

Enjoy eco-friendly holidays in France!

A relaxing and natural spa break in the Loire Valley.

© Huttopia

/Auvergne © Claire Poney nature

© Manoir de Restigné

Nièvre © Gîte de France

For responsible tourism offers and bookings visit www.franceguide.com/nature

Stay at the Restigné manor hotel s bio spa from 102,5 per person for 2 nights A family break in Auvergne in the Claire Poney bio farm. air in the h es fr of th ea br Make your own bread and jam. A ral park in Massif Central natu anda Gîte. Stay in a tipi from 10 per an authentic WWF P person per night ek we 1 r fo le op pe From 260 for 4

Huttop ia campsite in the Rambouillet forest near Paris. Rent a roulotte from 158 for 4 people for 2 nights




What will an economic downturn mean for responsible tourism, often perceived as the ‘organic food’ of the travel industry – better for you, but it’ll cost you more? Pia Muzaffar Dawson finds out

about the impact of the credit crunch on

region,’ he said. ‘These countries are not

travel and tourism. Some industry pundits

only recognising the

insist that everything is ‘business as usual’,

development potential

but others are predicting a bout of

of travel and tourism


and therefore

But leading figures on the responsible

investing heavily in

side of tourism are more upbeat, predicting

new infrastructure

that an economic downturn may prove

and facilities, but

an opportunity to develop and promote

their citizens are

sustainable travel – with a growing UK trend

also seeing rapid

towards holidaying at home.

economic growth boost

The World Travel & Tourism Council

their incomes beyond the

(WTTC) predicted in January that the UK

level where international travel becomes both

travel industry would only be ‘moderately

a feasible and desired option.’

impacted’ by the effects of the global

Indeed, some sources suggest that UK

economic downturn. WTTC president

holidaymakers are not changing their travel

Jean-Claude Baumgarten admitted

habits as a result of the credit crunch. Earlier

challenges, but was positive about continued

this year market research carried out by TNS

development in tourism worldwide. ‘Tourism

Travel & Tourism found that only seven per

growth has been particularly rapid in

cent of British adults would allow the credit

developing countries with the fastest average

crunch to influence their holiday decisions.

growth in tourism arrivals in the Middle East

Almost one fifth still planned to take at least

6 | r:travel






two holidays this year. Tom Costley from TNS said: ‘This data highlights a number of trends that suggest the UK holiday market appears to be resilient in the face of the economic downturn.’ So, what does this all mean for responsible travel? Most of those participating in the TNS survey said they would be taking their holidays within the UK and Ireland. There are hints that economic insecurity may actually be encouraging British travellers to follow the recommendations of many environmental organisations: cut down on flights and holidays abroad. Last month it was reported that British skiers are turning away from more costly

North American skiing holidays, preferring to take their winter breaks within Europe. Bookings to Europe have increased by up to 20 per cent despite those holidays becoming slightly more

industry. County councillor Peter Jones said: ‘With the credit crunch, the uncertainty of foreign travel and the weakness of the pound against foreign currencies, the idea of a three-day break is much more attractive. ‘In some respects people are not going

expensive, compared

for a week abroad but instead choosing

with the same time

two- to three-day holidays. We’ve noticed

last year.

a considerable increase in short-stay visits

The chief executive of VisitScotland, Philip Riddle, sees great potential for promoting local tourism as Brits save their money by taking fewer trips overseas.

where people come to cycle, to walk and enjoy the countryside and to visit some of the many attractions.’ Justin Francis, co-founder of responsibletravel.com believes that as well as offering a richer, more authentic, more

He says people are nervous

thoughtful experience for tourists, taking

about the implications of the global

a more local and responsible approach to

economic crisis. ‘I think one of

travel is actually a way in which

the things that will arise from that

holidaymakers can save money.

nervousness will be people considering staying closer to home for holidays. It’s a good time to capitalise on that.’ The tiny English county of Rutland is also enjoying the benefits to its tourism

‘A myth has developed around the relative costs of travelling responsibly. This has been fuelled by the ethical sectors of other industries such as organic food. The truth is, it doesn’t cost more to stay in locally-run


r:travel | 7



| are about changes in management rather than about philanthropy. Established firms already use their “responsible” approach to build customer loyalty. ‘Responsible Tourism also enhances the experience – a responsible tourism experience is a better experience; and as consumers take shorter or fewer holidays they will want to get more out of them.’ Ashley Toft, managing director of this year’s Responsible Tourism Awards Best Tour Operator winner Explore, which runs small-group adventure holidays around the world, has not yet seen any impact on their

benefits of the forward-thinking approach. ‘It’s untrue that responsible tourism cannot help companies to achieve a good financial tourism is the new way forward, yet many

of the country they are visiting, is right up

simply shy away from it with something

there as a spending priority. And our kind of

approaching embarrassment,’ she said.

trip is not in four or five-star hotels. Getting

lose their conscience in the credit crunch.’ At the recent ABTA Convention she pointed to the logic of improving energy efficiency while global fuel prices are on the rise, saying that ‘with rising commodity prices, smart businesses are concerned about recycling and cutting waste. ‘At a time when the “thrift agenda” is

cost more to use local guides. In fact, it costs

dominating the news, we all need to work

considerably less to do all these things.’

together to keep sustainable travel and the

‘We’re all looking for something a bit more real, more authentic. Once the myth has

environment front of mind,’ she added. Harold Goodwin, director of the

been exploded that tourists only want cheap

International Centre for Responsible Tourism

holidays in the sun, the demand will increase

expects responsible tourism to be part of the

and the responsible tourism movement will

strategy for survival of a significant part of

grow very significantly.’

the industry. ‘Responsible tourism is a form

Just as travellers may find that

of non-price competition – attractive in a

belt-tightening and sustainable living go

recession,’ he said. ‘Responsible Tourism is

hand in hand, those in the travel trade are

not primarily about money. Many of the

also being encouraged to take the worsening

most interesting and successful initiatives

economic situation as a chance to embrace responsible tourism. Echoing calls within the finance sector for significant restructuring according to a long-term vision, Fiona Jeffery, chairman of the World Travel Market, has called for tourism businesses to consider the financial

8 | r:travel

‘And for many people, having an adventure that gets them right under the skin

Hurdle also urges travel companies ‘not to

eat in locally-run restaurants and it doesn’t

like the way we do it, at least,’ he notes.

return. Making a profit from responsible

Travel Foundation chief executive Sue

accommodation, it doesn’t cost more to

sales. ‘That gives me confidence that people

good value is part of the whole ethos of this kind of travel.’

Pia Muzaffar Dawson is a writer for www.responsibletravelnews.com

Explore the Isle of

Kayaking within sight of giant basking sharks; scrambling up sheer rocky cliffs and towering stacks and taking death defying leaps into the Irish Sea. To say that Keirron Tastagh has an active and exciting life on the Isle of Man would be an understatement. But this isn’t just a hobby, this is what Keirron does for a living and he loves every single adrenalin fuelled minute of it. If you’d like to experience more of Keirron’s adventures on the Isle of Man, simply visit our website.

Discover island living at www.Visit Isle of Man.com




How to be a responsible traveller What is responsible travel – and why is it better for you, for your hosts and the planet? Here’s a reminder… RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL doesn’t sound exciting – if anything it sounds a bit onerous. Surely holidays are meant to be fun? Sadly, it’s a popular misconception that responsible travel is not about fun – that it’s travel for the woolly socks and lentils

BEFORE YOU BOOK YOUR HOLIDAY Cut the carbon – plan your route to minimise emissions. Travel by train and public transport where possible, and try to cut back on internal flights. If you can’t avoid flying, offset your emissions. Ask to see the tour operator’s policy for responsible tourism. All

brigade. And if your idea of a fun holiday is

responsibletravel.com members have to have one. Make sure it explains how

roasting on a crowded beach, getting tanked

they minimise environmental impacts and support the local economy.

up on cheap wine or lager, and laying siege to some corner of a concrete Costa, then no,

Beware greenwashing (see page 14) – quiz your hotel/accommodation to see if it really is eco-friendly.

responsible tourism is not about your kind of fun. But if you get your kicks from exploring the world – or even our own little bit of it – then this is for you. It’s a deeper way of travelling that brings you closer to local people’s lives, traditions, and cultures; and is about re-learning how to truly experience nature. It suits life’s adventurers who want real travel not faceless resorts.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL Read up on local cultures and learn a few words of the local language – showing respect earns you respect Remove all excess packaging – waste disposal is difficult in remote places and developing countries Find out if there are useful gifts that you could pack for your hosts, local people or schools. www.stuffyourrucksack.com can help on this (see page 98) Ask your tour operator whether there are local conservation or social projects that you could visit on your trip, and how you could support them

It just takes a little more thought – all tourism has an impact on its destinations; the responsible bit is ensuring that the positive outweighs the negative. Responsible travel

WHILE ON HOLIDAY Hire a local guide – you’ll discover more about local culture and lives, and they will earn an income

respects and benefits the host communities

Buy local produce – rather than imported products

and environment. It’s less intrusive, but more

Do not buy products made from endangered species, hard woods or ancient artefacts

satisfying. You get a bit more out, but you also give a little something back. The travel industry has enabled us to visit many of the world’s most beautiful places, but the way in which the industry has operated has changed many of those places for the worst. Most of the profit has gone to large corporations rather than

Respect local cultures, traditions and holy places – if in doubt ask advice or don’t visit Use public transport, hire a bike or walk when convenient – it’s a great way to meet local people on their terms Use water sparingly – it’s very precious in many countries and tourists tend to use far more than local people Cultivate the habit of asking questions – rather than the Western habit of knowing the answers

local businesses; the environment has been damaged; and the tastes and demands of the


visitors have pushed host cultures aside.

Give your tour operator or hotel feedback about your holiday, including suggestions on

Responsible tourism is not about being

reducing environmental impacts and increasing benefits to local communities.

po-faced: who wants to be a part of that?

Share your experience – you will find independent holiday reviews from travellers on

Neither is it an A-Z of guilt trips. But it is

many responsibletravel.com holidays.

about an industry growing up and taking its responsibilities seriously. Isn’t it time you played your part?

10 | r:travel

| R : T R AV E L



Even more responsible… RESPONSIBLETRAVEL.COM has set up a new business to business website providing up-to-date and relevant news on responsible tourism. The website, Responsible Travel News, also provides advice for responsible tourism businesses via its resources section which gives guidance on best practices, a directory of responsible tourism organisations and a forum where members can talk to each other about issues that are important to them. In addition, a jobs section will cover all

When a billion butterflies beat their wings…

sectors of the responsible tourism industry, with the aim of becoming the place to go for people looking to work in the industry in the UK or overseas. The blog is regularly updated with contributors ranging from

A MONARCH butterfly biosphere reserve

the 16th century but abandoned by the

in Mexico, wooden churches in Slovakia’s

1940s, are now regarded as the abodes of

Carpathian mountains, modernist housing

ancestors and are revered as sacred sites

at responsibletravel.com, says: ‘We want

estates in Berlin, sacred forests in Kenya and

and, as such, are maintained by councils of

Responsible Travel News to be a place

the volcanic island of Surtsey in Iceland are

elders. The site is inscribed as bearing unique

where all of us involved in tourism,

among 27 new sites added to UNESCO’s

testimony to a cultural tradition and for its

whether industry, media or education,

World Heritage List in 2008.

direct link to a living tradition.

who care passionately about travel,

Altogether, 19 cultural sites and eight

Surtsey is a new island formed by volcanic

Cornwall to California. Kristina Roe, communications manager

conservation and sustainable development

natural sites were inscribed at the World

eruptions in 1963-67. It has been legally

can come together to ask questions and

Heritage Committee’s meeting in summer,

protected from its birth and provides the

get answers, have a rant or rave, and make

bringing the total to 878 sites – 679 cultural,

world with a pristine natural laboratory.

contact with others in the industry who

174 natural and 25 mixed – in 145 countries.

Free from human interference, Surtsey has

may have valuable experiences to share.

Papua New Guinea, San Marino, Saudi

produced long-term information on the

Arabia and Vanuatu had sites added for

colonisation process of new land by plant

of us who believe we need to reinvent

the first time.

and animal life.

tourism and that responsible travel is the

Meanwhile, the World Heritage Centre

The 56,259 hectare biosphere lies within

‘It’s an exciting time right now for those

future of the tourism industry, so we hope

has been awarded the 2008 World Tourism

rugged forested mountains about 100 km

you’ll find it a useful resource that helps

Award in recognition of its ‘outstanding

northwest of Mexico City. Every autumn,

us shape this future. We’d love to hear

guidance, support and encouragement to 185

millions, perhaps a billion, butterflies from

your thoughts and suggestions.’

countries around the world by establishing

wide areas of North America return to the site


and monitoring 878 World Heritage sites’

to winter. Clustering on small areas of the

and its ‘outstanding accomplishments in the

forest reserve, they colour its trees orange and

travel industry.’

literally bend branches under their collective

Among the new sites The Mijikenda Kaya

weight. When they take flight, they fill the

Forests in Kenya consist of 11 separate forest

sky and make a sound like light rain with the

sites spread over some 200 km along the

beating of their wings. The sight has been

coast containing the remains of numerous

hailed as ‘a superlative natural phenomenon’.

fortified villages, known as kayas, of the Mijikenda people. The kayas, created from

12 | r:travel

A full list of the new sites can be found on whc.unesco.org/en/news/453

| R : T R AV E L



Latin America tops ethical travel list FOUR SOUTH American countries, one from central America, three from eastern Europe and two from Africa make up the 2008 Top Ten Best Ethical Destinations in the developing world, according to a report by US-based website Ethical Traveler. The list, compiled from a study of 70 of the world’s developing nations, evaluates each country in three categories – environmental protection, social welfare and human rights – to help tourists plan their travel. The results, says Ethical Traveler, identifies countries

A number of sources were used to measure

that are ‘actively improving the state of their

the human rights and civil liberties enjoyed

people and environment.’

by citizens of each country, including

towards improving known situations and the preservation of basic human rights for all.’ Not a single Asian country made it into the

Amnesty International, Reporters Without

Top 10. Runaway development, human rights

a very high level of overall environmental

Borders and the Freedom in the World 2007

abuses, and a lack of strong environmental

health, excellent water resources, biodiversity,

Report from Freedom House. Estonia and

policy kept them all off the list this year,

air quality, and sustainable energy.

Bulgaria stood out in this ranking, with Chile

according to the report.

and Costa Rica also receiving the highest

● Ethical Traveler is a project of the Earth

possible score.

Island Institute, based in San Francisco.

Costa Rica scored particularly well, with

Croatia, with its large percentage of protected eco-regions, was another top performer, as was Argentina (above right),

Reporters Without Borders found

with outstanding water quality and

Argentina to have a very high level of

The winners, in alphabetical

sustainable forestry practices.

freedom of the press, with Nicaragua

order, are:

close behind.

Argentina, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa

One telling aspect in the report’s social welfare category is the mortality rate of

‘Every country has human rights issues,’

young children. Bolivia and South Africa

says the report’s co-author, Ethical Traveler’s

had the lowest rates of infant mortality of

executive director Jeff Greenwald. ‘But it was

the Top 10.

important for us to see efforts being made

Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Namibia, Nicaragua, South Africa. To learn more about Ethical Traveler, visit www.ethicaltraveler.org

Chamonix makes the green running THE FRENCH ski resort of Chamonix has achieved the prestigious environmental ISO 14001 certification after eight months of concerted effort. This award is an acknowledgement that the resort conforms to environmental laws and regulations and is actively working to reduce its effect on the environment. All the partners of the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Tourist Office, under a system of environmental management, undertook to respect the legal requirements of environmental matters. Together, they are working to achieve a lower environmental impact and motivate visitors to Chamonix to do the same. Bernard Prud’Homme, director of the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Tourist Office, said: ‘We aim to be a real force for implementing the development of sustainable tourism.’

r:travel | 13

| R : T R AV E L



Pope calls for sustainable tourism IN AN address marking World Tourism Day 2008, Pope Benedict XVI urged tourists to respect the environment and the cultures they visit.

The train takes the strain

Reflecting his reputation as the ‘green pope’, he argued for a more responsible attitude towards the exploitation of natural

BOOKING TRENDS show that Brits are

followed by Brussels, Paris, the Spanish region

resources. In addition, he stressed the need

looking for alternatives to travelling by

of Catalonia, Chamonix in France and finally

for social tourism, which ‘promotes the

road and air. Instead of worrying about fuel

Tuscany. The booking trends for 2009 are

participation of the weakest classes and can

charge concerns and the credit crunch, Brits

currently indicating that rail journeys further

be a valid instrument to combat poverty

are rediscovering the romance, ease and

afield are proving the most popular, with

and frailty.

environmentally-friendly nature of rail travel.

three rail journeys in America and Canada

Travelsphere, the UK’s leading escorted

‘Experience teaches that the responsible

featuring in the top six, and journeys in

management of creation is, or should be, a

tour operator, reports that 2008 has seen a

the far east occupying second and sixth

part of a healthy economy and sustainable

marked increase in rail holidays, and predicts

positions respectively.

tourism. On the contrary, the improper use of

that 2009 will herald a new era in train travel. European destinations have been the most

Travelsphere’s most popular rail journey in 2009, a Canadian Rockies adventure with

nature and the abuse inflicted on the culture of local peoples also harms tourism.’

popular, with five out of the six bestselling

Alaska Cruise, is outselling 2008’s winner,

rail holidays all taking place in Europe and

‘Lake Garda by Train’, by ten to one. There

solar panels on the roof of the Vatican’s Paul

involving no air travel.

are indications that customers who tried a

VI auditorium. Once working, the project

shorter European break in 2008 now want to

engineers estimate that in about two weeks

have taken holidaymakers to Lake Garda

experience a longer trip in 2009.

they will save 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

in Italy. Morocco comes second, closely


The most popular rail holidays in 2008

Ecotourism boost for Ethiopia THE US IS hoping to use ecotourism as a way to help lift Ethiopia out of poverty. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will work with local agencies in the country to create a five-year programme which will help to protect natural resources and cultural heritage sites and improve the livelihoods and quality of life of local communities. The plan is part of the USAID Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance, which is using tourism development to reduce poverty, stimulate economic growth, promote natural resource stewardship, and conserve biodiversity. In Ethiopia, the Alliance will focus on creating job opportunities, respecting social-cultural values and heritage, and protecting the environment. ‘There is no time to waste for Ethiopia to take advantage of its vast tourism potential. The time is now to prioritise Ethiopia’s travel and tourism industry, to improve tourism and infrastructures, and to protect the nation’s natural resources,’ said US ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Yamamoto.

14 | r:travel

Last month work began on installing 2,700




As more and more companies rush to promote their eco-credentials, how does the responsible-minded consumer tell if their claims are real or little more than greenwashing? Kristina Roe finds that sometimes it’s all in the spin cycle…


way without substantial evidence to back up

a pioneering role in credible responsible

new black’ are a regular staple in everything

those claims.

tourism ventures. But we are also seeing a rise

Without doubt, consumers have cottoned

Rightly so, tourism is one of many

in others jumping on the green bandwagon.

industries that have come under scrutiny

Hotels for example, have come under fire

on to the importance of ‘going green’. This,

over greenwashing. For example, ‘ecotourism’

– it is no longer considered sufficient to ask

in turn, has led to companies launching

is one label often misappropriated by

guests to re-use their towels.

green products, green initiatives and

companies who operate in a natural

green marketing. Although this trend is

environment but are doing little or nothing

customers and damaging for the responsible

undoubtedly headed in the right direction, a

to conserve habitats and species by working

tourism movement, Francis welcomes the

lot of that marketing, whether well-meant or

with local people.

fact that travel companies are beginning to

just hot air, ends up as ‘greenwashing’ – that

Justin Francis, co-founder of

is when a company falsely claims to be acting

responsibletravel.com explains how

in an environmentally friendly or ethical

things have changed since the beginning of the century.

talk about green and ethical issues when eight years ago it was a very different picture. ‘Telling stories about themselves and responsible tourism should be welcomed

‘Eight years ago when responsibletravel. com was launched, we were the first company ever to use the term ‘responsible travel’ and many people in the travel industry thought

because ultimately this is the first step towards transparency. Yes, we need to ensure that there are measures in place to police such claims. However, I believe that we – and the media, especially – need to focus equally on those organisations that are saying

we were mad to use it

and doing nothing at all about responsible

in our company name

tourism as well as those who are beginning

– they predicted it

the process of change, albeit with possibly

would be a turn-off for

over-zealous claims.’

travellers; they thought people just wouldn’t care.’ The truth is actually quite the opposite nowadays.

Dozens of features have been published on the greenwashing of ecotourism, but a published list of those UK tourism businesses who still do not have responsible tourism

Responsible tourism is no longer just a niche.

policies or pursue responsible tourism

Companies throughout the travel industry,

practices, remains to be seen. Many cruise

from tour operator to airline, hotel to car

companies for example, still do not have

hire, even cruise ship, are coming round to

responsible tourism policies in place.

the idea that people do care and that ethics and business can and should mix. ‘On the plus side, we are seeing many more organisations and individuals take

16 | r:travel

But though greenwashing is misleading for

Some would argue that any attempt by companies to offer more responsible holidays is ‘tokenism’ if it involves a flight. Unquestionably, in order to meet the


from daily newspapers to travel brochures.




HOW TO TELL A GREEN WARRIOR FROM A GREENWASHER Here are ten questions travellers should ask of their tourism providers to sort the spin from the truth: 1. Ask the tour company or hotel if it has a written policy regarding responsible tourism – covering the environment and local people. If it’s not written down (‘yeah, yeah, we do all that stuff’) then it probably means they are not taking it seriously. 2. Ask them to describe the single contribution to conservation or the local community that they are most proud of. 3. Ask them how they measure their contribution to conservation and local communities. 4. Ask how many local people they employ, what percentage this is of the total, and whether any are in management positions. recommended emission reduction targets advised by the Intergovernmental Panel on

5. Ask them what they have specifically done to help protect the environment and support

Climate Change in October, the number of

conservation, and which local charities they work with.

UK flights per year needs to come down. As a result, we’re likely to see more interest in

6. Ask them what percentage of produce and services are sourced from within 25km of

holidaying closer to home and more use of

the accommodation.

alternative transport methods where possible. However, the fact remains that tourism is

7. Ask them how they treat waste water (coral and other wildlife is being destroyed by

a huge employer (one in 12 people according

Caribbean hotels pumping effluent out to sea), and how they heat their building (solar is

to WTO), particularly in the developing

better than firewood, which can cause deforestation).

world where it’s growing the fastest. If done properly and responsibly, tourism can be

8. Ask them what information and advice is provided to tourists about local cultures and

of considerable economic benefit to local

social customs.

communities and places a real value on local environments as well as cultural and

9. Ask them if they employ guides from the local community (local guides not only provide

natural heritage.

unmatched insights into local culture, but are also aware of dress or behaviour that might

For the average consumer, it’s possible to

cause offence among local people).

ask a few simple questions that will help sort out the eco-champion from the greenwasher.

10. Ask them for ideas on how you might get involved with local people and conservation in

‘What we really need is rebellious and curious

a worthwhile and rewarding way for you and the destination.

travellers seeking out the truths in travel. There are not, and will never be, any easy answers or absolutes in responsible tourism, but if there are better informed tourists making new choices about better travel then we’ve moved forwards,’ says Francis. ‘Many different local responsible and green tourism accreditation schemes have emerged in recent years to suit particular places or types of travel. Although the idea of a one-size-fits-all global accreditation scheme is tempting, I think in general – providing they are all up to a good standard – that these local schemes are the right way forwards as they acknowledge how different tourism and its impacts can be in different places.’

r:travel | 17

| 20



Give your trip the r:t x factor From the value-for-money option of a self-catering eco-break in Yorkshire to the once-in-a-lifetime experiences of New Zealand, the Himalaya or Antarctica, here’s our pick of holidays that have the r:travel x factor



A relaxing stay in the countryside in a beautiful and unique

Experience the traditional culture and diverse eco-systems of a Thai

straw-bale holiday cottage

coastal fishing village. Join the locals for fishing, Thai cooking, and

r:t x factor Renewable energy, excellent train links, bicycles, organic

handicraft making. Enjoy a relaxing jungle hike, help villagers teach

sheets and towels, local shopping service

English to children or unwind watching a glorious beach sunset.

Cost £245-£280 per week (short breaks available)

r:t x factor Helps ensure sustainable livelihoods through tourism and


handicrafts development. Cost Five days with Andaman Discoveries at £260 per person, based on two people. Includes accommodation, meals, translator and


contribution to community fund. www.responsibletravel.com/andaman

Take a journey of the body and spirit as you travel through the foothills of the world’s highest mountains, taking the toy train to colonial Shimla, experiencing traditional life in the Chamba Valley and


visiting the holiest Sikh city of Amritsar. These mystical lands balanced

Stay at the award-winning eco-lodge Black Sheep Inn overlooking the

between physical and spiritual worlds look and feel very different to

Rio Toachi Canyon System – a day hiker’s paradise – and enjoy walking

the rest of India.

and horseback riding in deep canyons, patchwork sierra fields, high

r:t x factor In Dharamsala you will visit the Norbulingka Institute,

grasslands, cloudforest jungle and a 12,800ft volcanic crater-lake.

developed to train Tibetan refugees in skills needed to preserve the

r:t x factor Supports community development, including village

traditional arts and crafts of Tibet. Tour visits and donations help to

recycling, local learning centre and native-guide training. The lodge

support these traditional cultures.

features solar panels, composting toilets and roof-water collectors.

Cost 15 days (excluding Delhi) for £480, plus a local payment of

Cost Seven nights with Black Sheep Inn: $650 per person, based on

12,000 rupees (approx £140), with Intrepid.

double occupancy. Price includes transport from Quito to Chugchilan.



102 | r:travel

| 20






Experience the best of Costa Rica and Panama on this family

This charming oak cabin sits on the lakeshore, in the midst of

crystal-clear waters with the stunning marine life and spending a few

beautiful forest, and provides a cosy, relaxing retreat with minimal

days helping at a turtle conservation sanctuary. Then, explore the

impact on the environment. Flora and fauna abound. Take out the

wildlife-rich rainforests and striking volcanoes. Finally, visit Panama

raft and listen to fish jumping and the frogs’ chorus or hop on the

City and see the world-famous Panama canal.

bikes and explore the pretty local villages.

r:t x factor Take part in turtle patrols – protecting nests and

r:t x factor Built from local timber and reclaimed materials, the

tagging leatherback and green turtles, and helping to preserve the

cabin, which sleeps four, is off-grid, so green alternative energies are

fragile ecosystem.

adventure. Explore beautiful Caribbean coastline, snorkelling in

used to provide warmth, heat and light. Hassle-free bike hire reduces

Cost Adult from £2,249, child from £1,999, for 15 days with The

emissions and helps the local rural economy.

Adventure Company, including flights, accommodation, entry fees,

Cost Seven nights from £400-£650, with CovertCabin

transport, some meals and the services of a group leader.





King Tut and the Pyramids, camels in souks, pharaohs’ tombs and

Wheatland Farm is managed for wildlife, especially Popehouse Moor, a

swimming and snorkelling in the warm waters of the Red Sea – an

site of special scientific interest, where Devon cattle maintain the culm

adventure for kids and parents alike! For hundreds of years Egypt has

grassland habitat of the rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly. Orchids, barn

wowed visitors with its wonders and this tour takes in the very best,

owls, dragonflies, badgers, bats and dormice thrive alongside three

including the Pyramids of Giza, Tutankhamun’s gold, the Valley of

eco-lodges and a barn conversion – and it’s your stay that makes the

the Kings and an unforgettable Nile journey on a felucca.

farm’s management viable. Solar hot water, renewable electricity,

r:t x factor You’re supporting the local economy by using local

bio-digesters for food waste, and recycling ensure a low-carbon diet.

leaders and guides, staying at different hotels and thus spreading the

And if you’re car free, you’ll be collected from the bus or train.

money across the country.

r:t x factor A low-carb holiday in a great family destination that

Cost Ten days with Explore, from £919-£999 per adult and from

benefits UK wildlife.

£839-£919 per child, including flights from UK. This trip can also be

Cost One week from £200 low season to £550 during the peak season.

booked without flights.

Short breaks are available.



» r:travel | 19

| 20







Get closer to nature, staying in three authentic tented Porini safari

Stay in a traditional cottage or farmhouse b&b in the tiny mountain

camps in wildlife conservancies owned by Maasai communities in

village of Decontra in the Majella National Park and enjoy a variety of

the Amboseli and Mara eco-systems and in the rhino conservancy at

self-guided and organised walks – through alpine meadows and beech

Ol Pejeta. Take night game drives and walks with Maasai warriors.

forests, to dramatic gorges and mountain-tops. Lavish daily packed

r:t x factor The Maasai community earn livelihoods from these

lunches include cheeses from Decontra’s shepherds, and vegetables,

conservancies which also help to preserve wildlife habitat.

honey and eggs sourced from village gardens.

Cost Seven days from £1,650 per person, inclusive of all services in

r:t x factor Help to support rural mountain communities in decline.

Kenya, with Gamewatchers.

Cost Seven nights, with Upland Escapes, from £645 per person,


including hire car (carbon neutral) and the services of a local manager. www.responsibletravel.com/abruzzo

10 A WILDLIFE JOURNEY FROM ANDES TO AMAZON IN PERU A spectacular journey down the cloudforested eastern slopes of the


Andes to the Amazon rainforest. Enjoy one of the best Amazon

Enjoy a snowy adventure 200km north of the Arctic Circle, in a

wildlife experiences on foot, by boat and in treetop canopies, seeing

seemingly limitless winter wilderness. With cross-country skiing,

oxbow lakes with giant otters, and macaw and tapir clay licks.

husky, reindeer and snowmobile safaris, you have all the ingredients

r:t x factor Eco-friendly lodges fully or part-owned by Peruvian

for a fabulous winter holiday.

charities benefit local indigenous Amazonian communities.

r:t x factor Tourism is now key to the Lapp economy especially with

Cost Six days with Tribes, £985pp based on twin share (ex flights).

increased mechanisation of traditional industries such as forestry.


The tour operator spreads the tourist spend as widely as possible by employing local activity providers and using a locally-owned hotel. Cost Seven nights from £1,375, with Activities Abroad.



This volunteer expedition will take you to a remote biodiversity hotspot of the Peru Amazon rainforest. As part of a small international team, you will live and work in the jungle together


with local biologists on an important wildlife survey concentrating

Climb Africa’s highest mountain by the quieter and less-demanding

on four icons of the Amazon: jaguars, pumas, parrots and peccaries.

Rongai Route. Stand on the roof of Africa! This is still a challenging

r:t x factor In working on this project you will aid efforts to protect

trek with a number of days at high altitude.

the area and develop sustainable management strategies.

r:t x factor Treatment of local staff is one of the major differences in

Cost £1,090, ex flights, with Biosphere Expeditions, from 7-19 Dec.

the operational standards offered by tour operators in Tanzania. In the


off season Exodus runs a project to improve the porters’ language skills and future employment prospects. Cost Ten-day trip with Exodus, including six days strenuous point-to-


point trekking, from £1,399, including flights.

A journey of discovery that explores the contrasting Maasai and


Kikuyu tribal cultures as well as Kenya’s spectacular game parks of the Maasai Mara and Great Rift Valley. r:t x factor Support for village schools, payment of school fees


and self-help projects contributes to the

Join a reef clean-up in the Egyptian Red Sea, with the aim of preserving

sustainability of local communities.

a unique ecosystem. blue o two runs these trips at a subsidised price in

Cost Seven days with Into Africa, from

an attempt to make ecotourism more accessible to the mass market.

£895-£995 per person

Evening seminars on reef conservation are conducted by in-house


marine biologist and dive guide Elke Bojanowski.


r:t x factor ‘Hayah’ Reef clean-up safaris aim to raise awareness, educate and encourage active participation in marine conservation. Cost Seven nights full-board on vessel, £549-£699 (season dependent) www.blueotwo.com/red_seaitineraries.cfm?itid=26

20 | r:travel






live it.


love it.

breathe it. dream it. (we do!)

our activity and sailing holidays offer something for everyone, whether you’re a complete novice or seasoned Sunsailor. If you’re looking to have fun on a Flotilla, hopping from one stunning stop to another; discover your own hidden gems on an independent Yacht Charter, or be as active or relaxed on one of our Beach Clubs - we have it all. And with the biggest variety of breathtaking locations around the globe, experienced staff and a world-class fleet you’ll be sure to fall in love with Sunsail!

Call 0844 463 2390 and quote RESPT www.sunsail.co.uk/rtravel ‡Based on Club Colonna 28th November 2008 sharing a standard room - phone for further details. Subject to availability

Yacht Charter

Flotilla Holidays

Sailing Schools

Beach Clubs

breathtaking locations We have invested over £15m in our fleet for the new sailing season. These are available in the following destinations. mediterranean caribbean indian ocean south pacifiic south east asia



| 20






This trek passes through the villages, forests and farmlands of

The far-flung island of South Georgia boasts one of the most dramatic

the Langtang area of Nepal, and offers the option of climbing

and starkly beautiful landscapes on the planet, but it is the wildlife

Kyimosshung peak (4,620m). You will see the 7,000m mountains of

that is truly overwhelming. The island supports vital breeding sites for

the Langtang region and, hopefully, the forest animal and birdlife.

albatross – species that have survived near-extinction in the past and

Time spent with village communities will be very important on this

that now face unsustainable mortality rates due to long-line fishing.

trek, and you are sure to be well received – the tour operator’s sister

r:t x factor Tour operator Peregrine works directly with the Australian

charity has supported school and health projects here.

Antarctic Division to get the Albatross ‘off the hook’, collecting

r:t x factor A chance to visit the school and health projects

donations from passengers onboard their voyages. Every penny goes to

supported by Community Action Nepal.

projects which benefit albatross.

Cost 18 days land-only, £1,045, with Community Action Treks.

Cost From £7,640 per person, twin share in a main deck cabin, for a


24-night expedition voyage, with Peregrine, departing 6 Nov 2009. www.responsibletravel.com/antarcticacruise

18 TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND An unforgettable trip to experience the stunning scenery, wildlife and


culture of the 2008 Responsible Tourism Awards’ best destination and

If you like hiking, but still appreciate a comfortable bed every night,

overall winner. Among the highlights: the Southern Alps, primeval

then the award-winning Kasbah du Toubkal in Imlil in Morocco’s High

rainforest of Stewart Island, and Lord of the Rings country around

Atlas is the ideal base for some great walks – and perfect for combining

Queenstown. Places you’ll stay in include Wilderness Lodge in Arthur’s

with a couple of days in Marrakech. The Kasbah is not a hotel in the

Pass, which was set up to show that ecotourism can contribute to the

traditional sense, it is more an extension of the hospitality that stems

economy and protect the environment through nature conservation.

from the home of the Berbers who run it. The location is only 40 miles

r:t x factor By carefully choosing operators, this trip enables

from Marrakech but the city seems a million miles away.

visitors to New Zealand to get up-close to the wildlife in its natural

r:t x factor Five per cent of Kasbah income funds local village

environment without causing any disturbance.

projects, including an ambulance and a communal incinerator.

Cost 19 days with Audley Travel, from £1,850pp (ex flights from UK).

Cost (ex flights) from £950 pp, for seven nights with Discover Ltd.



22 | r:travel

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S P O N S O R – V I R G I N H O L I D AY S


This year Virgin Holidays returns as the headline sponsor of the Responsible Tourism Awards 2008. These awards give companies and individuals valuable recognition for their efforts to make the travel industry greener, cleaner and more responsible. Started in 2004 by responsibletravel.com, the awards are managed in partnership with Telegraph Travel, World Travel Market, BBC World News and Geographical – the magazine of The Royal Geographical Society

VIRGIN HOLIDAYS is delighted to return

A sustainable focus is part of our company

as headline sponsor of the Responsible

values. Our supply chain’s sustainability

Tourism Awards 2008. It’s so encouraging

performance continues to be audited and the

to see our industry remaining committed

team has also been busy participating in a

to sustainability issues in our sector, and no

variety of community development projects

doubt this year’s winners will provide more

both at home and overseas. We became the

inspiration for us all. Twelve months on,

first long-haul tour operator to build an

responsible tourism remains firmly on the

automatic donation to the Travel Foundation

mainstream agenda where it should be.

into every holiday that we sell. Like the

We remain passionate about responsible

joined us in finding small ways to make a

the awards. Recognising those individuals

real difference.

and businesses that lead the way in this

the Virgin Travel Group with many

As our industry continues to experience

well-publicised trials, research projects and

well-publicised changes and shifts, it’s a

community initiatives, and I certainly look

particularly important time to keep the focus

forward to continuing on the road marked

on sustainable ways of travel and business.

‘progress’ by following his example here at

we have worked hard to embed sustainable principles into our professional DNA.

24 | r:travel

Richard also continues to lead us all in

arena for the future is incredibly important.

Since last year’s awards, as a company


team here, our customers have therefore

tourism and proud to be associated with

Virgin Holidays. Amanda Wills, managing director, Virgin Holidays

‘We at Virgin believe 100 per cent that we owe it to our customers and to our staff to ensure that our future economic growth is built on firm, ethically-sustainable business models. Businesses need to be bold and creative, to develop radical new products and find alternative ways of doing business. Since innovation and creativity are at the heart of the Virgin culture we feel that our group of businesses are well placed to take advantage of the opportunity this presents.’ Richard Branson, 2008



Sponsors of the Responsible Tourism Awards BEST TOUR OPERATOR A tour operator that acts responsibly towards the environment and local people. Sponsored by The Adventure Company

BEST SMALL HOTEL/ACCOMMODATION A hotel, lodge or other accommodation of fewer than 50 rooms that is run with the environment and needs of local people in mind.



BEST LARGE HOTEL/ ACCOMMODATION A hotel, lodge or other accommodation of more than 50 rooms that is run with the environment and needs of local people in mind. Sponsored by Hyatt Hotels & Resorts

BEST IN A MOUNTAIN ENVIRONMENT An organisation related to a mountain environment, such as an eco-friendly ski resort or a trip that contributes to the welfare of mountain porters. Sponsored by Exodus

BEST IN A MARINE ENVIRONMENT An organisation related to a beach or other marine environment, such as turtle conservation or a marine eco-tourism trip. Sponsored by Royal Caribbean

Sponsored by VisitBrighton

BEST LOW CARBON TRANSPORT & TECHNOLOGY An organisation or initiative that is developing or promoting low carbon transport or technology.

BEST DESTINATION A resort, village or an entire country that manages tourism well for the long-term benefit of tourists, conservation and local people. Sponsored by Conservation International

Sponsored by Maison de la France



A cruise or ferry operator that acts responsibly towards the environment and local people.

An organisation that acts to reduce poverty among communities.

Sponsored by the Passenger Shipping Association

Sponsored by PromPeru

BEST FOR CONSERVATION OF ENDANGERED SPECIES OR PROTECTED AREA A group or initiative working to conserve an endangered species or a protected area. Sponsored by South Australian Tourism

BEST FOR CONSERVATION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE A tourism organisation or initiative working to protect and promote cultural heritage.

BEST VOLUNTEERING ORGANISATION An organisation offering volunteering opportunities, such as the chance to work on conservation or social projects. Sponsored by Intrepid Travel

BEST PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION A person who has made an outstanding contribution to responsible tourism. Sponsored by Tourism Ireland

Sponsored by Jamaica Tourist Board

r:travel | 25




5#!3 0OINTS













16 5 21

38 11


12 24 9




20 13



35 22 17

7 19 38





4 3

25 26

14 15 23

36 29 10

37 6 34

WHERE THE WINNERS ARE… 1 Andaman Discoveries, Thailand Cultural Heritage p51

20 Safari Garden Hotel, The Gambia Small Hotel p60

2 blue o two, UK/Egypt Marine Environment p75

21 Holland America Line, USA Cruise/Ferry Operator p80

3 Blue Ventures, UK/Madagascar Volunteering p40

22 Hotel Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, Large Hotel p54

4 Boogie Pilgrim, Madagascar Tour Operator p92

23 Jane Ashton, UK Personal Contribution p34

5 Bouctouche, Canada Destination p33

24 Jungle Bay Resort & Spa, Dominica Poverty Reduction p87

6 Bugbugs, UK Low Carbon Transport p78

25 Kingfisher Bay Resort, Australia Large Hotel p52

7 Caiman Ecological Refuge, Brazil Protected Area/Species p46

26 New Zealand Destination/Overall Winner p28

8 Camps International, UK Volunteering p38

27 Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique Small Hotel p58

9 Christopher James, Tobago Personal Contribution p36

28 Our Native Village, India Small Hotel p63

10 Cottage Lodge, UK Small Hotel p52

29 Peak District, UK Protected Area/Species p47

11 Community Action Treks, Nepal Mountain Environment p64

30 Scottish Seabird Centre, UK Marine Environment p74

12 Diana McIntyre-Pike, Jamaica Personal Contribution p35

31 Shakti Tours, India Mountain Environment p68

13 Ecoventura, Ecuador Marine Environment p70

32 Shigar Fort-Palace, Pakistan Cultural Heritage p48

14 Explore, UK Tour Operator p90

33 Stormsriver Adventures, South Africa Poverty Reduction p88

15 First Choice, UK Tour Operator p93

34 St Peter’s, Broadstairs, Kent, UK Destination p32

16 Foundation City Bikes, Denmark Low Carbon Transport p76

35 TCP, Sri Lanka Protected Area/Species p45

17 Frangipani Langkawi Resort, Malaysia Large Hotel p56

36 Ullswater Steamers, UK Cruise/Ferry Operator p83

18 Gambia is Good Project, The Gambia Poverty Reduction p84

37 Upland Escapes, UK Mountain Environment p66

19 Gamewatchers, Porini Camps, Kenya Protected Area/Species p42

38 Voluntours, South Africa Volunteering p41

r:travel | 27






WINNER New Zealand

‘We’re changing the world – one visitor at a time’ This year’s overall winner celebrates a destination that is committed to developing responsible tourism on a countrywide scale – New Zealand IN NOVEMBER 2006 a director of one of

changes to the way his company operated in

enriched and with a different attitude to the

the world’s largest power companies visited

order to reduce its carbon emissions.

world, then we could, in a sense, say we are

New Zealand on holiday. Looking for an

‘If New Zealand’s South Island can do

changing the world one visitor at a time.’

opportunity to connect with nature and take a

renewable energy,’ he said, ‘then so can we.

break from the stresses of the corporate world,

We’ve got to stop building coal-fired

resorts have eco-hotels – but there aren’t that

he stayed at the Arthur’s Pass Wilderness

power stations.’

many wholly eco-countries. However New

Lodge owned by New Zealand ecologist Dr Gerry McSweeney.

In early 2007 this man’s company was

Many countries have eco-resorts, many

Zealand is setting its sights on becoming

involved in the corporate takeover of a utilities

just that, developing an ethos that feeds

operation that has led to the cancellation of

through every level of the country, into

McSweeney accompanied his guest on walks

eight proposed new coal-fired power stations,

every community, into every individual. ‘The

and canoe trips within the Arthur’s Pass

and a major commitment to environmentally

green image is so important for New Zealand

National Park and spent a great deal of time

friendly and sustainable energy production.

because it’s what a New Zealand holiday is all

During the three-day visit, Gerry

answering many questions that were thrown

While not everyone who visits New Zealand

about,’ says Hickton.

at him. When the time came to leave, the

is going to be in a position to make that

guest requested to meet Gerry McSweeney

kind of impact, Tourism New Zealand Chief

Damien O’Connor agrees, saying that the

again and told of the profound impact his

Executive George Hickton says the vision

environmental protection goals of the New

visit had had on the way he saw his place in

for tourism in his country should be for all

Zealand Tourism Strategy 2015 are recognition

the world. He told McSweeney the experience

visitors to experience something life-changing.

that for tourism to prosper and the benefits to

had inspired him to return home and make

28 | r:travel

‘If we could truly say that visitors go away

New Zealand’s Minister of Tourism

be shared, New Zealand and the tourism sector








‘Broadly speaking, kaitiakitanga is a concept of land stewardship that sees all things – trees, rivers, mountains, rocks – as part of an equal ecological web, and that every piece of this web has a spirit, and every spirit is a family member. This is starkly different to much Christian and Islamic theology which puts man above nature, and proposes that nature is here to serve mankind. This demands a certain respect and responsibility, and wise management’

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID ‘NEW ZEALAND is our overall winner for proving that it is possible to develop a national strategy which uses tourism to help make better places to live and to visit. New Zealand has implemented many of the principles of the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations and demonstrated what national government can achieve – working with the private sector, local

must be sustainable.

operators can promote and benefit from.

communities and local government –

‘New Zealand is the first country in the

by harnessing tourism to benefit their

launched nine years ago has defined how

world to have a fully integrated quality and

people and their environment. If more

our country and our exports are viewed

environmental accreditation system,’

national governments followed their

worldwide,’ he says. ‘But the true potential of

says O’Connor.

example, tourism would make a much

‘The 100% Pure New Zealand brand

the industry will only be realised if we are a

This is how it works: as of August this year,

country with unique sustainability credentials.

all 2,100 or more Qualmark licensed operators

The government is committed to moving

will be required to meet minimum responsible

our country towards becoming the first truly

tourism standards in areas such as energy

sustainable nation in the world.’

efficiency, water conservation, greater use of

In a world where environmental concerns

more positive contribution around the world.’

For one regular visitor to New Zealand,

recycling, waste reduction and improved fuel

Qualmark Green embraces something very

are uppermost for many consumers it is

use. Those who exceed the minimum level

spiritual that is steeped in New Zealand’s

important to help visitors identify products

will be eligible to apply for Enviro-Bronze,

Maori culture.

that fit the bill. To that end, in March this

Enviro-Silver or Enviro-Gold rankings.

year the Minister of Tourism launched a new

‘New Zealand’s natural environment is

American adventure company operator and broadcaster Richard Bangs has been

environmental initiative that looks certain to

the main reason visitors come here,’ says

coming to New Zealand since the mid-1970s.

have a far-reaching impact. It might sound

George Hickton. ‘We also know that visitors

He says: ‘When I first came New Zealand was

a bit corporate, but Qualmark Green is a

are starting to expect things like recycling and

an environmental dark star, bent on felling

significant move. This enhancement to New

energy conservation. Making a difference,

forests, overfishing, and “unprotecting”. The

Zealand’s existing quality accreditation system

even a small one, in the environmental

Maori culture was in danger of collapse; there

for tourism businesses (Qualmark) is aimed

performance of every Qualmarked tourism

was more culture in a cup of yoghurt than in

at making environmental protection good

business will help New Zealand deliver on the

most Maori events.

business practice, and making it something

100% Pure New Zealand promise.

‘But as I kept returning over the years the


r:travel | 29





place kept getting better, and recently it seems

rivers, mountains, rocks - as part of an equal

that while the rest of the world has been

ecological web, and that every piece of this

digging a deeper hole for itself, NZ is building

web has a spirit, and every spirit is a family

a mountain of hope, and is a clear leader for

member. This is starkly different to much

sustainability. Much of that is due to a Maori

Christian and Islamic theology which puts

renaissance and their ancient concept of

man above nature, and proposes that

kaitiakitanga, which has enjoyed not just a

nature is here to serve mankind. This

resurgence, but is being baked into a national

demands a certain respect and responsibility,

ethos - even prime minister Helen Clark has

and wise management.

cited it, and she also announced that NZ

‘Anyway, the country is greener and cleaner

will be the first country in the world to be

than ever before, and is in many ways a model

carbon neutral.

for the rest of the world.’

‘Broadly speaking, kaitiakitanga is a concept of land stewardship that sees all things - trees,


www.newzealand.com www.tourismnewzealand.com

ALL-BLACKS TURNING ALL-GREEN The community: Kaikoura

and planning, then we will prosper, we will

been added, leading to an increase in bird

A mecca for whale-watching and dolphin

be sustainable and we will be a place where

life around the property. The rarest bird, the

swimming, this seaside town of around

people will continue to want to visit, to play,

bittern, is now seen frequently.

3,500 inhabitants, on the rugged east

to work and to live.’


coast of South Island, is only the second


Globe-certified. Other initiatives include a

The resort: Tahi Beach, North Island

Toward Zero Waste 2010 policy; and a Trees

Tahi is an ongoing development with the

The activity operator: Footprints Waipoua Twilight Encounter, North Island

for Travellers carbon emissions offsetting

ultimate aim of being a sustainable five-star

One of only two NZ experiences and

programme. Mayor Kevin Heays says that

boutique resort. The proposed buildings

82 global experiences to be featured in the

as well as appealing to environmentally-

will all be designed within their respective

Lonely Planet’s Code Green publication.

conscious visitors, the initiatives have

environments and use solar and wind power

Maori-owned and operated, it offers guided

been hugely beneficial to the community.

where possible. Some 45,000 native trees

cultural eco-tours through the Waipoua

Furthermore, he sees this as safeguarding the

have recently been planted in areas around

Forest, the largest area of ancient kauri forest

community’s future. ‘If we can ensure that

new wetlands, the beach, and road to

in New Zealand. The tours carry a strong

we are welcoming hosts, guardians of our

enhance the tranquility and privacy of the

environmental message, telling visitors

natural assets and innovative in our thinking

retreat. Two new large wetlands have also

about the destruction of the forests through

community in the world to become Green

30 | r:travel







Some of the most amazing places on Earth are also the most threatened. Conservation International (CI) is a global leader in biodiversity conservation and has over twenty years of ecotourism experience working in Latin/South America, Africa and Asia/Pacific regions. CI’s mission is to conserve the Earth’s living heritage, our global biodiversity, and to demonstrate that human societies are able to live harmoniously with nature. With 840 million people travelling each year and over 33,000 protected areas worldwide, ecotourism is a growing source of revenue for the management of protected areas, and the communities living within and around them. CI’s ecotourism programmes help forge a direct link between the economic benefits from ecotourism and the protection of biodiversity through ecotourism concessions in protected areas, ecotourism job creation, tourism business development support, and developing constituencies through strong partnerships with protected area managers, de-forestation and by possums. The operators

untreated timbers in natural colours so

the private sector, tourism ministries,

are strongly involved with the local

that they cannot be seen from the road or

community organizations and others.

community and schools, with one of their

the harbour.

aims being to create work and opportunities


for locals in this small community.

With thoughtful tourism policies, strategic planning, and community involvement, ecotourism development can help ensure


The conservation project: Project Kiwi, North Island

sustainable use of natural resources as well as

The eco-lodge: The Treehouse Backpackers Lodge, Northland

Project Kiwi is a community trust, run

who are their stewards.

by volunteers with the help of sponsors,


Owners Phil and Pauline Evans have run the

committed to restoring the kiwi population

iconic backpackers lodge for 17 years and

on the Kuaotunu Peninsula (some 15–20

from day one had a holistic view towards

minutes north of Whitianga). It is

running their business with minimum

estimated that the project has restored

impact on land and community. They have

about 400 kiwi. Project Kiwi has open days

planted 10,000 trees, restored two-thirds

over summer for visitors to go into the bush

of the property to bushland, and built the

and see the work.

cabins and wooden homestead using mainly


increase benefits for the local communities,

r:travel | 31




Two communities, an ocean apart, but which had both seen better days, have found innovative ways of using tourism to revive their fortunes – and their pride quick to dispel any thoughts of a doddery approach. ‘We’re helping people who don’t want to retire. We are giving them an opportunity to use skills and abilities they wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to use. But they have to do the job properly – we work to a very professional standard. We are stewards of our cultural heritage, and take a responsible approach. In the village itself, rundown properties have been spruced up as residents have taken renewed pride in showing off their village. ‘In the Victorian era Broadstairs was the place to be, and St Peter’s got forgotten,’ says Brian. ‘This has revived village pride.’ That pride has spread to the church, too. The churchyard is one of the longest in

HIGHLY COMMENDED St Peter’s, Broadstairs, Kent, UK

England and over past decades had become very overgrown. This has now been cleared, using young people on community service orders. ‘I wouldn’t say they enjoy it,’ adds

Village learns its history lesson

Brian. ‘It is their punishment. But they can see a benefit. And the probation service has been given a justice award for the scheme.’ Recently, the village has added three churchyard tours, including World War One and World War Two graves. The group has also won several tourism and heritage awards,

A LITTLE over 15 years ago, St Peter’s, a small

guides that they start an official village tour,

village on the fringes of Broadstairs, a famous

and began working on a route and a script

Victorian resort on the Kent coast, was

– which included three brief vignettes in

power, too. Tour organisers have been invited

described as a ‘backwater’.

which costumed characters would talk about

to share their experience as part of a training

an aspect of the village’s past, a concept

day for Kent clergy and lay leaders on

called ‘first person living history’.

encouraging tourists to visit churches.

Despite a history going back 1,000 years, predating its more illustrious neighbour, it was a bit frayed round the edges, with many properties looking rather uncared for. Around that time, in autumn 1994, Brian

The following March the St Peter’s Village

both local and national. Word of its success has reached a higher

St Peter’s Village Tours take place from May

Tour started. Numbers were strictly controlled

to September. Tours are free, but visitors are

– around eight to ten per group, but that year

invited to make donations which cover costs.

Sleightholm retired after a lifetime – 44 years

about 1,000 visitors took the tour, bringing a

Booking is essential.

– in banking. But he wasn’t ready to slip

welcome boost to the village economy.


quietly into old age. Spotting a notice at St

Since then, 16,000 people from all over

Peter’s Church saying that a group from the

the UK and the world have enjoyed the


Friends of Kent Churches wanted six people

living history of St Peter’s – and the costumed

‘ST PETER’S USES tourism to maintain and

to show them round St Peter’s, he put his

cameos are up to 14 in a leisurely two-hour

develop the community’s sense of place,

name forward – and spent the next week

walk. More than 100 volunteers – mostly

pride in its history and heritage – since 1995

mugging up on the church’s history.

retired folk – fill every role from booking

16,000 visitors have been guided on walks

to greeting, from actor to guide, from tour

showing that there is something of interest to

managers to refreshments.

discover wherever you care to look for it –

The visit went well, and at the end, Brian noticed that the group wanted to look round the village, too. He suggested to his fellow

32 | r:travel

If it all sounds a bit Dad’s Army, Brian is

beyond the more obvious tourist attractions.’




HIGHLY COMMENDED Bouctouche, Canada

The test-tube town comes of age TWENTY YEARS ago, Bouctouche was

sustainable tourism thinking in

expanded to include arts and crafts. Instead

slowly dying. A small, rural community on

Atlantic Canada.

of building a hotel, residents were helped

Canada’s New Brunswick coast, its economy

To visit Bouctouche today is to share in

and encouraged to create 120 bed & breakfast

had centred around fishing, an industry in

a coastal community and seascape that is a

rooms. Local entrepreneurs now provide

decline with the closure of two fish plants

testament to sound planning and continuing

canoe and bike rental, camping facilities

and the loss of 300 jobs.

stewardship. The marine environment is

and restaurants.

After much discussion among the

alive and healthy, the thriving oyster beds

Around 100,000 visitors a year now visit

community leaders, it was agreed that

are a major contributor to a $4 million

Bouctouche, a town of 2,500 inhabitants

tourism and, in particular, ecotourism might

industry in New Brunswick. The renowned

who share a true sense of place, in harmony

revive the town’s ailing fortunes. It had one

Acadian-themed tourism attraction, Le Pays

with culture, nature and environment.

special asset going for it – the Bouctouche

de la Sagouine, created in 1992 to celebrate

It’s a practical model that is now sharing

dune, an impressive 17km sand spit jutting

the culture and dialect of the early Acadian

throughout Canada the lessons it has learned.

out into the bay. But even this unique

settlers, sits like a jewel at the heart of the

habitat was suffering; abused by locals as

inner bay. A vast network of trails threads

of his home town: ‘In spite of her many

an off-roaders’ playground, many of the

visitors and residents alike through the

splendours, Bouctouche is not the greatest

shore-nesting birds and much of the dune

landscape – the dune protected yet accessible

town in the world, but it is the first, the only

vegetation were being destroyed.

via a boardwalk that leaves the fragile grasses

and the most beautiful Bouctouche.’

and habitats undisturbed.


But with the dune as its focal point, the

A local author, Antoine Maillet, has said

community drew up ambitious plans for

Several green initiatives include forest

a town rebuilt around ecotourism – and

management, a wind-power project, and a


in this living laboratory everything had

‘Thinking Green’ campaign involving 1,100

‘BOUCTOUCHE HAS demonstrated that

to be environmentally sustainable and

households in the Bouctouche challenge

tourism can be used to breath new life

economically viable.

– to find ten steps to reduce their ecological

into a community and its endangered

Despite one abortive plan to build a

footprint. Community involvement has been

Acadian culture. Over the past 12 years the

marina, which caused a mudwave that

Bouctouche’s greatest triumph. At every stage

community has come together to build a

engulfed local oyster beds, the community

the local people have been consulted and

thriving new economy based on sustainable

came together to create what has now been

their skills brought to bear. Volunteers helped

tourism following the collapse of its

hailed internationally as the ground zero of

build a farmers’ market, which has since

traditional livelihood, fishing.’

r:travel | 33





Champion of the mainstream One of two joint winners of this award, Jane Ashton believes passionately in bringing sustainability to the wider world of mainstream tourism part of an even bigger company, TUI Travel

strategy, People and the Environment, and

sustainable development Jane Ashton.

has encouraged the workforce from top brass

Jane has been championing the cause

down to get involved – one scheme has seen

of responsible travel at First Choice since

senior management working alongside a

2000, when she first pitched the business

needy community in Costa Rica, helping

case to her board – and found it surprisingly

it to set up an eco-tourism business. And

receptive. But her interest in such issues date

when a colleague visited the company’s

back to her university days in the 1980s. As a

first ClimateCare project – a hydro-electric

modern languages student, she spent time in

scheme in Zambia that provides clean energy

Germany’s Black Forest and saw the damage

to a village community – her blog was used

wrought by unsustainable tourism and the

to raise awareness among staff.

environmental impact of acid rain. IF ANY public perception lingers about

At First Choice, she pioneered their

– and one such individual is its head of

After joining First Choice in 1990, she had

The customer has been engaged, too, through the World Care Fund offset scheme,

holidays labelled responsible, ethical or eco,

roles in brand management, marketing and

and excursions to see Travel Foundation

it’s that they’re a bit specialist, a bit niche.

business development, but ‘after hours’ she

projects. ‘If sustainable development is not

was gradually compiling the sustainable case.

going to happen without our people getting

Travel and tourism still lags behind other retail sectors where organic, fair trade and

‘When I presented it, I expected

eco-friendly products are more evident

scepticism,’ says Jane. ‘Instead, I found I was

on the high street. Many of the current

pushing at an open door.’

examples of best practice are seen in smaller

Over the past eight years she has been a

involved, it’ll only really fly when our customers demand it,’ says Ashton. ‘As the UK moves towards a low-carbon economy, customers will become more

organisations, often steered by passionate

driving force for sustainable tourism, not

carbon-savvy and rightly cynical about

individuals who have given their life to

just within First Choice and now TUI, but

“green” claims. The majority will not forego

ensuring a better world.

within the whole mainstream UK industry.

their annual holiday abroad, but it will be

‘That’s always been my objective,’ she says.

important to show that air-inclusive holidays

when mainstream operators take on board

‘That’s what excites me.’ She helped get

are bringing real economic benefit to host

responsible principles and practices, it’s

tourism charity the Travel Foundation off

countries. Fuel costs will limit aviation

reassuring that some are responding to the

the ground and also the Federation of Tour

growth, probably more than legislation, and

challenge – and that there are some equally

Operators’ Responsible Tourism Committee

drive environmental efficiencies. This will

passionate individuals in the bigger firms.

– two organisations that help the industry to

lead to sustainable development becoming a

address sustainable tourism issues.

“business as usual” challenge as opposed to

But if the big breakthrough will only come

One such company is First Choice, now

the add-on it often still is.’

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID ‘JANE HAS been successfully advocating the case for sustainable tourism in First Choice since the mid-1990s and has taken responsibility for securing change and providing leadership in First Choice, TUI Travel and across the large operator sector, demonstrated by the groundbreaking People and the Environment report and World Care Fund.’

34 | r:travel



JOINT WINNER Diana McIntyre-Pike, Jamaica


WHAT THE JUDGES SAID ‘AN INNOVATOR and leader for many years in Jamaica, Diana has worked with communities to develop village stays and community experiences, and worked with the larger resorts and operators to market them. She has developed the Countrystyle Institute for Sustainable Tourism to provide training to communities in basic hospitality skills, entrepreneurship and environmental awareness.’

into the countryside. As founder of the Countrystyle Community Tourism Network, she has launched a string of organisations dedicated to giving travellers to Jamaica, and throughout the Caribbean, a more authentic experience while putting their tourism dollars into the hands of local people. While building up her family hotel, the Astra Country Inn in Mandeville, she’s opened a

Thunderbird is go! Few people have done more to help create an authentic travel experience in Jamaica than this passionate pioneer of community tourism

tourism training school, set up a Foundation for Sick Children, and won plaudits and support from both government and private sector bodies. Along the way she’s been married – to corporate banker Carey Pike – widowed and raised a family of her own, who are now

THIRTY-FIVE years ago, clutching a diploma

became so popular she had to run them five

following in her tourism footsteps. In Jamaica

in hotel management and catering,

days a week. Many of the guests also wanted

they call her ‘Thunderbird,’ a nickname she

21-year-old Diana McIntyre got a job as guest

to experience Jamaican cuisine, so she began

enjoys. ‘It’s because of my personality,’ she

relations director of the Holiday Inn Resort

recommending restaurants outside the hotel

laughs, ‘I’m always rushing around and I

in Jamaica.

as its own three restaurants did not offer

don’t give up.’

After three months, she noted that her guests were not relating – they were unhappy

Jamaican food.

Over the past five years Diana has

As a result of her initiative, the Holiday

established her most important project,

with the exclusively American atmosphere

Inn got lots of good publicity and became

the Community Tourism programme in

and were not experiencing the Jamaican

famous overnight as a friendly community

association with the International Institute

way of life. Embarrassed, she approached

hotel. Business boomed.

for Peace through Tourism. This has involved

the American general manager about setting

After one year, however, Diana was

48 villages in offering community experience

up a new guest activity, ‘the Jamaica Chit

carpeted by the general manager, reminded

tours and village stays. ‘My vision,’ she

Chat Session’, to introduce Jamaican culture,

who was paying her wages, and banned from

says, ‘was to create tailor-made packages for

heritage and lifestyle. Her boss told her she

recommending restaurants outside the hotel.

visitors wishing to have a diverse vacation,

was wasting her time. In his opinion, most

‘At this point, I knew that my time at

including outreach projects – which I

guests wanted to relax on the beach, drink

Holiday Inn had come to an end,’ says Diana.

marketed as “pick a project” and “adopt a

rum and get a tan. However, he gave Diana

‘I could not stay there and be able to offer

village”, whose citizens would be

the benefit of the doubt and the go-ahead.

only non-Jamaican food.’

encouraged to improve their economic and

Diana chose the hottest time of the day

Diana resigned but she had found her

social life building schools, libraries, youth

– between 11am and 2pm and invited

vocation. Ever since, she has championed

community representatives from all walks of

the cause of community tourism in

life. She threw in refreshments and waited…

Jamaica, campaigning to prise visitors

Sandals Resorts to sign up to her excursions.

Not only did guests turn up, but the sessions

out of the beachfront compounds and

This Thunderbird is all go.

clubs and so on.’ She even persuaded the world-famous

r:travel | 35



HIGHLY COMMENDED Chris James, Tobago



Tourism Ireland is responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas. As such, we have entered the responsible tourism market with one major marketing advantage. Ireland is green. This is why people choose to visit

Paradise found

us, and that is why we have taken a serious commitment to keeping it that way. We are listening to our visitors’ requests to preserve the natural and cultural heritage which is

IN 1994, after working

were producing vegetables in the wrong

uniquely ours. We are also taking our

for British Gas for 20

quantity and at the wrong time. Now the

tourism providers’ need for sustainability

years, Chris James did

hotels get what they want and the farmers

seriously too. And most crucially, we are all

what many only dream of

get a better price for what they grow.

too aware that responsible tourism in Ireland

doing. He took voluntary

The TFT has set up eight school gardens,

can play a major role in the fight to combat

redundancy, moved to

where pupils grow herbs and use the

climate change, and we are striving to lessen

the Caribbean island of

money to buy books. And it has launched a

our impact as urgently as possible.

Tobago and opened a bar… It was the best move he ever made. The bar-restaurant, called Bonkers, was followed by hotels and a villa development. In January

‘Sustainability for Accommodations’ scheme

Ireland has a rapidly growing number of

which assists hotels to reduce energy and

responsible tourism products. However,

water use, and cut waste.

sustaining our cultural heritage is an equally

The Tobago projects have worked so well

important feature of our responsible tourism

he starts work on a responsible luxury hotel

that Chris and his TFT colleagues were asked

products. Such as language holidays in our

with 200 rooms. This is intended to be as

to launch a regional project. ‘We’re working

Gaelic-speaking regions, or cookery courses

sustainable as possible – the plan includes

in the Dominican Republic, St Lucia and just

overlooking the very lakes where the

vegetable, fish and shrimp farms, and an

starting in Jamaica. ‘Everything’s worked,

ingredients are caught. All these are growing

organic spa, using locally-grown ingredients.

there’s been no negatives,’ says Chris, who

sectors in Irish tourism.

Chris didn’t plan to follow the responsible

was awarded the MBE for his environment

path – but it came naturally. ‘Living here you

and community work in Tobago.

We are honoured to be sponsoring the Responsible Tourism Award 2008 for Best

can’t help but be a naturalist,’ he says. ‘It’s the

‘Local people are getting the benefits, and

whole ambience – a good climate with plenty

tourists get a proper tourism experience, not

generous and friendly individuals who make

of water. We call it the capital of paradise.’

a conveyer belt one.’

up the face of Irish tourism as a whole.


Similarly, it is the wide range of individuals


out there working to make a real difference

In 2004, Chris’s ‘place in paradise’ was cemented when, inspired by a visit from the Travel Foundation – the charity set up to help

Personal Contribution. It is the welcoming,

in the world, who make up the face of

the tourist industry become more sustainable


international responsible tourism. We are

– he took on the role of regional director of

‘A HOTELIER and business leader enthusiastic

delighted not only to applaud them but also

the Travel Foundation Tobago (TFT), which

about responsible tourism, Chris was

to learn from them.

has initiated a number of projects to help

influential in getting the Adopt a Farmer


bring real benefits of tourism to islanders.

programme off the ground, managing to

The Adopt a Farm scheme has brought

get fishermen and farmers on the steering

together hoteliers and farmers. Previously,

committee. As honorary regional director of

neither was talking to the other, so farmers

Travel Foundation he has made a difference.’

36 | r:travel

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WINNER Camps International, UK

‘The year we feel most pride in has been one without profits’ Putting your money where your mouth is may sound like a clumsy old cliché but it sums up the decision taken by volunteering organisation Camps International when political unrest turned to violence in Kenya in January this year THIS YEAR’S Kenyan conflict was a bad

coming – and so, no income – the corporate

80,000-acre area of wilderness, including

time for the country’s tourism industry.

approach would be to lay off staff and

its indigenous people, within the Tsavo

Kenya’s biggest revenue earner, employing

mothball projects, in an attempt to salvage

ecosystem. It took a huge chunk of the

250,000 people directly and another 500,000

some profits. Instead the company chose to

company’s cash, but with the worst now over

indirectly, it took a huge hit. Many businesses

maintain local staffing levels and expand its

and volunteers returning, CI is now looking

closed or ran with 25-30 per cent occupancy

commitment to its projects – including the

to the future with renewed optimism.

during what should have been the height of

building of five schools and an orphanage

the season, putting the livelihoods of tens of

– as a long-term recovery solution. Most

feel most pride in has been one without

thousands of local people at risk.

notable has been a new commitment to

profits. But our sustainable projects cannot

the conservation and protection of an

be switched on and off. Maintaining our

At Camps International (CI), managing director Stu Phillips and his team faced some tough decisions. With no volunteers

38 | r:travel

‘Ironically,’ says Phillips, ‘the year we can





commitment to the local people – 150


families – through retention rather than

‘HIGHLY COMMENDED in 2007, Camps

redundancy, was, in the short term, a costly

International has now integrated its


exercise. Nearly a year on, however, the

‘pledge to the planet’ into its business

in 2002, with a commitment to social

attendance and performance in the schools

plan and responded to the post-election

development and environmental protection.

we continued to build has soared, our staff

violence in Kenya – which resulted in

It promises a ‘responsible travel experience’

have managed to provide for their extended

radically reduced tourist numbers – by

for around 1,000 volunteers a year at one of

families, our partnerships with local suppliers

maintaining local staffing levels and

its 17 camps, most of which are in Kenya,

have sustained local industry and there is

expanding their commitment to Kenya

but also Tanzania and, from March, Borneo.

a palpable sense of pride that comes from

projects as a contribution to recovery’

Volunteers are drawn from three distinct groups: school parties, the 18-24 gap year

belonging to a team that has survived a crisis where more than 60 per cent of people live

community and career-break adults from 25

below the poverty line and few children

to 50. Here’s how it was for one volunteer,

demonstrated that the responsible business

have had access to education. With the

who spent a month at a camp in Kenya.

model works. ‘Other operators resorted to a

community also benefitting from clean

“slash and burn” mentality to protect their

drinking water and better sanitation for more

Lynn Buckle, 50, a social worker,

bottom line,’ adds Phillips. ‘But in Africa,

than 2,000 families, CI has handed its camp

from Southampton

you have to be there. If you walk away and

there over to the community so it can run it

‘I began every day serving porridge to

come back later, it’ll be gone. It took us five

as its own ecotourism business.

between 75 and 105 children aged under

without compromising its integrity.’ Moreover, CI’s experience has

years to build up the confidence of those

A healthcare programme in Muhaka has

six. We then worked on transforming a

communities. If we’d lost that, we’d have

eradicated a painful condition called jiggers

classroom, making desks, repositioning

lost the core of the business and all we stand

that had affected some 400 children in the

window frames, plastering, painting, moving

for. Moreover, we don’t have the comfort

past two years. In two other communities,

sand and stones, and levelling off a play area.

of making decisions just based on numbers.

new vegetable gardens and a nutritional

For us there’s always a tangible consequence,

education campaign have improved an

those in the village and the school. We all

when you regularly see not only the staff but

infant mortality rate of 10 per cent due to

worked together, pupils, people from the

their wives and children.’

malnutrition. Alternative livelihoods have

community, and project workers, laughing

been set up, including an elephant dung

and achieving together. At breaks, I played

impressive run over the past six years, being

paper-making enterprise, with the pilot

with the children; I taught them to play

shortlisted for a Responsible Tourism Award

scheme in Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary

noughts and crosses with a stick in the sand.

every year since the awards started. The

replicated in Tsavo and in Tanzania.

Camps International has had an

business has grown from the ground up,

The new wilderness conservation project

‘The work was real and appreciated by

‘The peace I felt at the camp was very calming and there was much time to talk to

its projects developed in partnership with

in Tsavo is a ten-year plan to protect

others and reflect. We all had our reasons

local communities. The flagship schemes

endangered species. Volunteer work will

for going, some life-changing, some to think

have been in Kenya, where, for example,

include sanctuary maintenance and censuses.

about their lives and goals.

CI completed a three-year development

‘Our commitment to what we do is core,’

‘On the second morning a child put her

programme to improve facilities at

says Phillips. ‘It’s not a by-product of tourism.’

hand in mine. She was four and I learned

Makongemni Primary School in an area


later that she was an orphan. That little girl, without knowing, made me feel very special. ‘I sang in the local church and the girls from the camp and I performed a couple of hymns in English for the congregation. We could not give them much but we could share our faith. On my last day I walked back from the school to the camp. It took me an hour as I kept stopping to talk to all the people who had become part of my life. ‘A part of my heart will always be in Kenya, and I’m going back next September. How could I have known the impact I’d have on others, and the impact others could have on me?’

r:travel | 39



HIGHLY COMMENDED Blue Ventures Expeditions, UK/Madagascar

Mad for it


Two new projects have been launched in the past year. The first is a family planning project and weekly clinic in Andavadoaka,

coral, with new species discovered each year.

offering sexual health education and

Diving here is a real joy, and knowing you’re

contraception to the local community – work

doing something worthwhile heightens that.

that complements the Malagasy government’s

Now Blue Ventures’ marine conservation

commitment to curbing population growth,

A LOT of responsible tourism companies

project, that started with just one village, is

operate in some of the world’s poorest

gearing up to create more than 50 locally-

regions. A lot use voluntourists to work

managed reserves over the next five years.

is a carbon offset scheme for volunteers and

on and help fund vital community or

Set up in the fishing village of Andavadoaka,

staff that invests in fuel-efficient and solar

conservation projects. But few manage this

the current project has grown to encompass

stoves for the villages in the Velondriake

tricky job of balancing the needs of the

23 neighbouring villages forming a vast

network. These help reduce the requirement

community and the volunteer better than

network of community-run protected areas

for fuel wood and charcoal by up to 70 per

Blue Ventures Expeditions.

called Velondriake, spanning more than

cent. The ground-breaking project (www.

800 sq km, benefiting more than 10,000

bvco.org.uk) has been adopted by other

Madagascar in 2003, this UK company

people and protecting coral reefs, mangroves,

organisations as their chosen offset scheme.

has given paying volunteers the chance to

seagrass beds and other threatened habitats.

In the five years since it launched in

considered a vital step in fighting poverty. The second initiative established in March

Managing director Richard Nimmo

dive in the fourth largest continuous reef

The new African Development

system in the world – the Grand Recife de

Bank-funded programme will extend

about fisheries management and reef work.

Tulear – and make a real contribution to a

this network to take in most of the main

But that has an economic impact beyond

sustainable marine system. Along the way

fishing areas and promote the sustainable

conservation. Through working with the

Blue Ventures has won several major industry

development of traditional marine fisheries

community we were alerted to other issues.

prizes and got the highly commended nod

along more than 300km of coast.

at the Responsible Tourism Awards on three

Each year, around 140 paying volunteers

says: ‘When we started it was very much

‘The clinic project is helping villagers take greater control of their health and family

previous occasions – twice in the marine

head out to Madagascar to get involved in

size, allowing coastal communities to develop

category, and once for its volunteering.

research and education initiatives, and the

more sustainably. This will promote the

profits from their expeditions have helped

sustainable use of resources and conservation

conservation groups conducting research on

to fund vital community work, including

of the fragile marine systems these

Madagascar’s marine systems. The island’s

alternative livelihood schemes, a school

communities depend on for survival.’

southwest coast is home to some 380 species

scholarship programme and conservation


of reef fish and more than 160 species of

and SCUBA training for Malagasy nationals.

Blue Ventures is one of the few

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID ‘SINCE BLUE VENTURES was Highly Commended in 2007, it has invested in fuel-efficient and solar stoves in Madagascar, offsetting the carbon emissions of the flights taken by staff and volunteers, and opened Andavadoaka’s first family planning clinic, offering sexual health education and contraception to the local community.’

40 | r:travel



HIGHLY COMMENDED Voluntours, South Africa



The village people guides. The village has an eight-roomed lodge and a multi-purpose centre that was built by the local government in 2002. However, no training and support had been provided and so the tourist facilities were largely unused. Voluntours is their main tourist provider. ‘When we met the chief and discussed the tourism partnership the main difficulty was trying to explain how volunteer tourism differed from regular tourism,’ says Marnie. SOUTH AFRICA, 1952. Apartheid was at its

‘Our volunteers wanted to live and work in

Intrepid Travel operate small group

height. The small community of Mapoch

the community which was a bit of a

adventures and cultural trips in most corners

Ndebele Village was forcibly relocated after

mind-change. However, it works well now.’

of the globe and were Overall Winners of the

its ‘home’, on a farm in Pretoria, was declared

‘We started Voluntours as a way of

awards in 2006. Since our first day of

a ‘whites-only’ area. They ended up on land

combining my and Marnie’s passions,’

operations, almost 20 years ago, Responsible

about 40km north west of Pretoria. Today, it’s

adds Jeremy. ‘Marnie found her love doing

Travel has been at the heart of all that we do.

a 45-minute drive from the city; in those days

tourism development in the townships of

Wherever we go in the world, we travel in a

it was a three-day walk.

Soweto and Alexandria. I was involved in

way which respects and benefits local people,

Later, when independent homelands

establishing a food security programme in

their culture and the environment.

were created for the different ethnic groups

Malawi in 1997/8 where I first fell in love

in South Africa, Mapoch found itself in the

with development work.

middle of Bophuthatswana (a homeland for

‘We wanted to make responsible

This award is particularly meaningful to us as we see sustainable volunteering as a way travellers can make a real and personal

the Tswana people), while the Ndebele were

volunteering accessible to the average person.

difference to local communities. We have

relocated to their designated homeland east

You do not have to work for an NGO or give

received inspiring reports from our own

of Pretoria. Mapoch was left isolated.

two years of your life to UN Volunteers or

Intrepid Volunteering programs, both from

Peace Corps to give something back into

travellers and from the rural communities

in a round hole is now the location for

community development. Unfortunately, not

they are working in, so we know how

an extraordinary example of a small but

all volunteer organisations share our

powerful this cross-cultural work is.

effective grassroots voluntourism enterprise

bottom-up approach. We know of one that

– Voluntours – run by dedicated husband and

boasts of sending 700 volunteers a year. How

with companies who are involved in

wife team Jeremy and Marnie Stafford.

can that be responsible?’

grassroots community development and we

This poor, impoverished square peg

The volunteers – and there have been

In response to these concerns, Voluntours

Intrepid Travel is proud to be associated

applaud their efforts in this field. It’s

just 28 in the two years the project has been

launched its Code of Good Practice:

important that as travellers and travel

running – stay in and volunteer either in

Volunteering in South Africa last year.

operators that we do all that we can to spread

the village itself or within the surrounding


the word of sustainable tourism and actually

community, working in education, child care,

follow through on the intent. The world is an

building, music, sport, drama, arts and crafts,


amazing place and we hope to share it with

and small business developments.

‘VOLUNTOURS SHOWS what a small

many generations to come.

family-run business can contribute to


The village has about 270 inhabitants. Most houses have electricity but no running

the development of a marginalised and

water. Most get water from two communal

economically-poor community. By carefully

taps; only a few have a tap in their own yard.

harnessing the enthusiasm and skills of

Toilets are pit latrines.

volunteers, they have enabled the Ndebele

Voluntours co-founder Jeremy Stafford,

community at Mapoch to develop their

recalls: ‘We came in contact with the village

nursery and school, and a bicycle project to

in 2004 by researching a few old travel

improve their lives.’

r:travel | 41




WINNER Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps, Kenya

Into the wilds on an eco-safari Ecotourism has revived an area of Kenya that had been bled almost dry of plant and wildlife – by offering a small-scale, intimate safari experience that benefits the Maasai community IF YOU’VE never taken a Kenyan safari,

an interesting animal, such as a big cat, you’ll

over rough roads, giving more time for

imagine travelling in a nine-seater minibus

be quickly joined by other vehicles. You can’t

wildlife viewing.

for up to five hours over bad roads from

get out and walk and you can’t drive in the

Nairobi and again from park to park.

park after dark.

You’ll sleep in large safari camps and lodges with perhaps 60 to 100 other tourists. The game drives take place inside the parks

That’s the mass-market approach – and it’s not pretty. A Gamewatchers safari and Porini camp

The Porini Camps have between six to ten tents, and a maximum of 12 to 20 guests. Game drives take place in private wildlife conservancies as well as in the parks. In the conservancies there are no other tourist

and reserves with the same driver-guide who

is more than a little different. First, they use

vehicles and you can walk, escorted by

brought you from Nairobi.

light aircraft to fly guests from Nairobi and

Maasai warriors. There are night game drives,

between the parks. This reduces the travel

too. At each camp guests go on game drives

time and avoids long and arduous journeys

with a driver-guide who is based there and

Often you find the animals by following a herd of other vehicles; if you do come across

42 | r:travel



so knows the local area better than some poor guy who’s driving clients round all the parks. As well as the driver-guide there’s also a Maasai spotter in the vehicle. The game drives are all done in open-sided 4x4 safari



‘We believe that this can serve as a model to be adapted in other parts of Kenya and throughout Africa. Our years of success have produced a track record that others have now taken note of ‘


vehicles, not minibuses. So which sounds better to you?

something about it.’ Not only did he want

community to establish the first Conservancy

The Gamewatchers/Porini model was the

to save the land, he was determined to

(Selenkay) on 13,000 acres of their land.

creation of Jake Grieves-Cook, who’d been

work with rural communities so they would

Following the success of Selenkay, in 2005

involved in the safari business in Kenya ever

benefit from the conservation of the wildlife

the 8,500-acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy was set

since the early 1970s.

and their habitat.

up in the Mara ecosystem, followed in 2006

By 1990, overgrazing had thinned out

He decided to apply the low-impact

by the 22,000-acre Olare Orok Conservancy.

the indigenous vegetation in the Mara

approach of eco-tourism which would

eco-system. Bushmeat hunting had killed

generate an income and economic benefits

conservancies was chosen by the Maasai who

or chased away much of the wildlife. ‘The

for the community. Although negotiations

then vacated it, setting it aside for wildlife.

degradation of the place had become so

with community elders proved tricky, in

Soon, each conservancy saw a significant

appalling,’ says Jake, ‘that I decided to do

1997 Jake signed an agreement with a Maasai

increase in wildlife numbers and a

The land which was to be used as


r:travel | 43





The South Australian Tourism Commission is the official tourism organisation for the state


of South Australia. We actively promote our

regeneration of vegetation. At Selenkay,

‘THIS AWARD is for demonstrating that

destination in the UK and around the world,

elephants returned after a 20-year absence

a high-revenue, low-impact tourism

and endeavour to encourage environmentally

and in the Mara conservancies breeding

development approach can benefit the

responsible tourism experiences. South

cheetah took up residence.

local Maasai, enabling them, through

Australia is a premier wildlife destination,

developing conservancies and tourism

where you can see and experience wildlife

in Swahili), situated inside the conservancies,

in partnership with safari companies,

in the wild. Destinations such as Kangaroo

are exclusive, small eco-friendly tented

to create employment and community

Island, the Eyre Peninsula and the Flinders

affairs, comfortably furnished, lit with solar

income and conserve land for wildlife.’

Ranges, including Wilpena Pound, are some

Porini Camps (Porini means ‘into the wilds’

power, with water-saving safari showers and

of the key areas of South Australia that have

flush toilets. Their proud boast is that the entire camp could be completely dismantled,

an abundance of wildlife unique to Australia. ‘We believe that this can serve as a model

The protection of South Australia’s

and within a few hours you’d hardly know

to be adapted in other parts of Kenya and

flora and fauna is a key focus of the state

it had existed.

throughout Africa. Our years of success have

government with strategies such as ‘No

produced a track record that others in the

Species Loss’. This is a ten-year nature

manage and improve the conservancies,

industry have now taken note of and there

conservation strategy, which began in 2007,

pay the lease and tourist entry fees and pay

is a real momentum towards more operators

and at its core is the concept of biodiversity

salaries of the camp staff and the conservancy

setting up conservancies along similar lines.

and maintaining South Australia’s land,

rangers and workers. The camps and

We are involved in helping several others to

fresh water and marine ecosystems through

conservancies currently employ more than

set up similar conservancies and camps.’

community ownership and stewardship ,

The income from the camps is used to

100 members from the communities with

So is it the end of the mass-market safari?

ecological knowledge for decision makers and

take-home wages significantly higher than

Jake doubts it. ‘The existing mass safaris will

public, and understanding and adapting to

the national average. More than 500 Maasai

continue to attract those visitors who wish

the impacts of climate change.

families are directly benefiting as a result.

to have lower prices and who are happy

‘Our partnership with the local communities has made a significant contribution to improving conservation

is delighted to have this opportunity to

restaurants and swimming pools.

sponsor the Award for Best Conservation of

‘But it is encouraging that our guests

of the wildlife and habitat of these areas,’

contrast us favourably with the bigger

says Jake. ‘The members see the wildlife as

mass-market tourist facilities. They enjoy

a resource which belongs to them and are

seeing the wildlife without the presence of

enthusiastic about encouraging wildlife to

other tourist vehicles, and appreciate the

move into their conservancy. And because

quality of our Maasai guides. It’s altogether a

they are no longer dependent on livestock

more intimate contact with nature.’

to support their families, the vegetation and


grass cover has recovered.


44 | r:travel

The South Australian Tourism Commission

with hotel-style accommodation, bars and

Endangered Species or Protected Area. www.southaustralia.com




HIGHLY COMMENDED Turtle Conservation Project, Sri Lanka

But TCP’s innovative approach has reached deeper than just saving the turtles. Income from the turtle-watch tourism has funded road improvements and built bus stops; it’s provided electricity, water and shelter; it’s established and maintained a library. TCP has also formed a local performing arts group and art school in Rekawa to preserve the local culture. A planned visitor centre will provide a stage for this local group – now 50-strong – to perform and generate additional income. The centre will also provide a sales outlet for community products, a restaurant and accommodation. The community has been involved and empowered as never before. Peter Richardson, founder of the Turtle Conservation Project, says: ‘The first night we came here we saw turtles – lots of turtles. But we also saw men working on the beach, drinking, kicking turtles up the beach and

Turning turtle

eating their eggs. ‘Despite that we fell in love with Rekawa and those people and the turtles which were part of their lives. We dreamt that, one day,

IT’S ONE of the most iconic images from

resources. Their solution: the introduction

the turtles in Rekawa would be safe and

nature: hundreds of marine turtle hatchlings

of community livelihood and infrastructure

protected in a way that would be good for

breaking out of their eggs and making the

development, projects to restore the

the turtles but also for the people whose lives

instinctive but perilous dash across an

environment and awareness programmes

depend on the turtles. And, today, that dream

open beach for the comparative sanctuary

such as a turtle night-watch ecotourism

has come true.’

of the shoreline.

scheme in Rekawa village.


And as if natural predators weren’t danger

Today, all the egg poachers, known as

enough, increasingly they have also had to

‘beach boys’ are employed as nest protectors


face a more ruthless enemy: poachers, who

and tourist guides. Alternative income

‘THE TURTLE Conservation Project is

steal the eggs before they’ve hatched and

schemes such as batik crafts, fish breeding,

recognised for its work with “poachers” and

slaughter the turtles for their meat.

coir mat production and farming have

its success in encouraging the “beach boys”

replaced the destructive practices, offering

to become turtle guides, enthusiastically

remarkable project has changed all that by

work, for example to the women divers who

contributing to the protection of the

working with the local community to create

used to be coral miners. Now the community

turtles’ nesting sites, proud of their new

livelihoods based on conserving the turtle

takes pride in its turtles – a turnaround that

status and their role in the conservation of

– and the area’s fragile marine ecosystem.

was highlighted by the BBC series Saving

the turtle.’

The Turtle Conservation Project (TCP)

Planet Earth, in which former Apprentice

But on one stretch of Sri Lankan coast a

was founded in 1993 by a group of young

contestant Saira Khan visited Rekawa to see

volunteers at Rekawa beach, a community

the work being done.

10km east of the south coast town of

She said: ‘The great thing is it’s not

Tangalla. Here, every nest of the five species

outsiders coming in and telling them they

of marine turtle – Loggerhead, Green,

are doing wrong. The conservationists have

Leatherback, Oliver and Hawksbill – that

actually understood the culture, understood

came ashore had been routinely raided every

the people and let them take ownership of

year since the 1970s.

their beach and their animals.’

But TCP realised the interdependency

The work has won TCP many awards and

that existed between coastal communities

accolades, and Rekawa has been declared as

such as the one at Rekawa and the coastal

Sri Lanka’s first marine turtle sanctuary.

r:travel | 45




HIGHLY COMMENDED Caiman Ecological Refuge, Brazil

So good, you have to visit it twice…

the US and Europe), this is a wildlife paradise. Among other plentiful species are reptiles, amphibians, fish, caiman (naturally!) and – best avoided – African killer bees! ‘This is a wild area,’ shrugs Roberto. ‘Guests cannot just wander around freely, they have to have

THE PANTANAL: one of the last great

tourism, even Brazilians had barely scratched

unexplored wildernesses in the world, an

its surface; Roberto visited ecotourism

‘But it is a fantastic place. I love it. It has

immense basin with an area of more than

projects in Africa, Venezuela and Costa

the most beautiful sunsets in the world. And

210,000 square miles, straddling the borders

Rica, and returned to establish a complex of

it’s a place that has to be visited at least twice

of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.

lodges. He invited in scientists to research

– once in the wet season and once in the dry.’

It’s a region of incredible contrasts: during

three endangered species – the blue macaw,

good local guides.

As well as ecotourism, giving visitors the

the wet season the entire basin floods,

the jaguar and the blue-fronted parrot – and

chance to explore the Pantanal on foot, on

forming countless ponds and lagoons that

hosted conservation programmes.

bike, on horseback and in canoes, and to

teem with wildlife. In the dry season the

Macaw numbers have risen from 80 to

see, first-hand, some of the conservation

waters recede and the ground becomes dusty

400, ending poaching as other landowners

work, the ranch also gives guests a chance

and the vegetation patchy, and the wildlife

realised they could attract ecotourists to see

to experience the life of the Pantaneiros, the

congregates around the diminishing lakes.

the ‘symbol of the Pantanal’.

indigenous cowboys, who celebrate their

An ecosystem once abandoned to ‘the

Jaguars, considered a pest by ranchers

mosquitoes and the fishermen’, it is now,

because they killed their cattle, have also

thanks in large part to one man’s vision and

flourished – Roberto has around 45 on his

natural and cultural experience with just a

drive, a new frontier for ecotourism.

ranch alone. They, too, began to be viewed as

touch of adventure.

an asset, not a liability.


Brazilian Roberto Klabin founded Caiman Ecological Refuge in 1986, on a 130,000-acre

lifestyle every July in the Lasso Festival. Together they make for an unforgettable

His tourism model has been much-copied

tract of what he calls ‘transition’ land on the

in the Pantanal, and this, says Roberto, is a


edge of the Pantanal, between the basin and

measure of its success. ‘People love it, and I’m

‘THE REFUGE HAS engaged the community

the higher terrain. The land was once part of

doing a good job here, I think. But the most

in conservation and demonstrated that it is

his family’s Miranda Estancia Ranch; when

important thing is to have a habitat which is

possible to run cattle, pioneer ecotourism

it was parcelled up and divided among the

protected, which will not change. This model

and conserve the hyacinth macaw, jaguar

family in 1983, Roberto kept part of his share

can achieve that and become a sustainable

and the blue-fronted parrot in a Private

as a working ranch but decided to set aside

way to develop in the Pantanal.’

Reserve of Natural Patrimony on the ranch,

13,800 acres to create a private reserve. The Pantanal had no infrastructure for

46 | r:travel

For visitors (and Caiman Ecological Refuge welcomes 2,000 annually, 70 per cent from

contributing to the sustainability of the Pantanal in harmony with nature.’





Peak District Environmental Quality Mark, UK

In peak condition

‘Through networking events people are coming together to trade and to share ideas and experiences and finding they are bound together by common ideals. It’s created an

IF YOU visit the Peak District, there’s a fair

new. But, lately, a new ‘evangelist’ has arrived

environmental community and thrown up

chance you’ll bump into Keira Knightley

to leave her mark – literally – on the

some great alliances and partnerships.’

– she’s already filmed two movies there, Pride

local community.

and Prejudice and The Duchess. And she’s not the only top actress enjoying

Faith Johnson came in four years ago,

Typical are Sandra Oates, of Cannon Croft b&b in Hope, and her local butcher, Watson’s

and has been a one-woman force behind the

Farm Shop. Sandra serves up Peak District

the stunning scenery and historic country

roll-out of the Peak District Environmental

conservation products for breakfast in the

houses such as Chatsworth or Haddon Hall

Quality Mark (EQM), a certification scheme

shape of lamb and cranberry sausages from

– Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson

which rewards businesses that put the

Watson’s own farm, which, to gain its EQM,

filmed The Other Boleyn Girl here, and the

environment high on their agenda. They can

has committed to keep 50 per cent of its

BBC brought in their cameras for a recent

use it to give themselves a marketing edge

woodland in good conservation condition.

version of Jane Eyre.

while conserving and enhancing the national

‘My guests are interested in where their food

park. It’s created a strong, recognisable brand

comes from,’ says Sandra. ‘When I explain

for the park.

about the EQM many of them choose the

It’s given a global stage to the natural beauty of a wonderful area in the heart of England. Unspoilt landscapes, unrivalled

However, says Faith, the benefits go

“conservation” option.’

walking, and activities from rock-climbing to

much deeper. ‘What’s been really amazing

A recent survey revealed that 81 per cent

cycling, paragliding to sailing, attract more

is the way the EQM has brought together a

of EQM businesses had trading links with two

than 10 million leisure visits to the region

community of like-minded people – from

or more other award holders. Altogether 75

each year.

farmers, who are often isolated in society, to

businesses have qualified for the EQM (‘and

shops, hotels and other businesses who can

it’s not just ticking boxes,’ says Faith. ‘Each

in existence since 1951, so thinking and

recognise their dependence on the farmers’

undergoes a rigorous annual audit’) but with

caring for the environment here is nothing

stewardship of the land.

around 3,000 businesses in the park, that’s

The Peak District National Park has been

just a fraction of the potential number that could qualify. ‘The problem is one of resources,’ says Faith. ‘At present there’s only me and we have a tiny budget, relying mostly on our website and word of mouth to spread the message.’ More funding has been applied for, but in the meantime, Faith’s work is attracting interest from other parks and local areas. ‘I feel like an evangelist,’ she adds. ‘In ten years time this approach will be normal. At the moment it seems new and a bit strange.’ www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/eqm

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID ‘THE PEAK DISTRICT National Park has engaged farmers in tourism, encouraging them to network and learn from each other. It has established the Environmental Quality Mark which recognises those farmers who have made a contribution to the conservation of habitat and species; a marketing scheme that makes a difference.’

r:travel | 47




WINNER Shigar Fort-Palace Restoration project, Pakistan

It’s the fort that counts A restored 400-year-old fort is bringing enlightened tourism and economic benefit to a remote region of northern Pakistan IN THE DRAMATIC high-desert rugged

setting provides a gateway from which to

Khan Cultural Service, Pakistan, the Pakistani

mountains of the Karakoram in northern

explore some of the world’s most spectacular

affiliate of the Historic Cities Programme

Pakistan, stands a place of spiritual refuge and

mountain scenery. Here, where the

of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, based in

tremendous cultural significance.

magnificent Karakoram and Himalayan

Geneva, part of the Aga Khan Development

ranges meet, is the most extensively glaciated

Network. Funding is mainly by the Aga Khan,

opened in 2005, is part of a new form of

high-mountain terrain on the planet.

as well as donors from Norway, Switzerland,

cultural tourism in Pakistan that combines

This includes seven of the world’s

Japan and other countries. The programme

international accommodation and services

25 highest peaks, four of which exceed

has won various awards including six

with an intimate first-hand experience of the

8000m, including K-2, the second highest

UNESCO awards and the top Tourism for

unique architectural, cultural, and natural

peak in the world at 8611m.

Tomorrow awards.

The 400-year-old Shigar Fort-Palace, which

heritage of the Shigar Valley. Shigar Fort-Palace is located in the beautiful province of Baltistan, where its

48 | r:travel

The restoration and reuse of Shigar

Salman Beg, chief executive officer for

Fort-Palace is one of several ambitious

AKCSP, says: ‘The initiative is structured to

projects undertaken since 1991, by the Aga

preserve the natural setting, build on local




‘In the beginning there was some wariness about the re-use of Shigar Fort as an exclusive heritage resort; fears that it would turn into a place where all sorts of hedonistic pleasures would occur’


conventional wisdom accumulated over

beginning there was some wariness about the

centuries, revive traditional values that have

re-use of Shigar Fort as an exclusive heritage

anchored society and given it direction over

resort; fears that it would turn into a place

generations, while creating an economic

where wine would flow freely, where all sorts

resource based on cultural assets, that benefits

of hedonistic pleasures would occur, where

the poorest of the poor.’

there would be no respect for local cultural

Locals have first right of employment


conditions. After watching our operation

the scales get tilted in favour of managed

and 20 of the 22 workers were hired locally

for some time, in 2006 the religious leaders

development. Above all, communities and

and trained from scratch. Most supplies are

visited and pronounced that the fort was the

individuals have the wisdom to recognise

bought locally, and transportation for guests

pride of Baltistan and represented the culture

what is of benefit. Sincerity is earned through

is also provided by locals.

of Baltistan fully.’

long-term commitment; AKDN is in for

This is a remote and culturally

However, one of AKCSP’s proudest

the long-term. The restored heritage is an

conservative region, which has traditionally

achievements has been the launch of the

asset and a promise of hope for the Shigar

treated women and girls as second-class

Women’s Social Enterprise, to develop

community for the present and the future.’

citizens. Religious elders hold great sway

women’s working skills and capacities away

over a community that is spread over

from traditional fields such as health and

the conventional sense, adventurers,

20 settlements and has a population of

education. More than 60 women have

explorers, mountaineers and trekkers have

around 12,000 people in 1,500 households.

attended training modules, associated

long frequented the valley (since Martin

Working with The Shigar Town Management

with its various regional projects, enabling

Conway in the 1890s and the Duke of

Development Society (STMDS) – the main

them to participate in AKCSP survey and

Abruzzi in 1905 explored the area) on

community forum – AKCSP has nudged the

documentation work, social appraisals,

their way to the Baltoro Glacier. Many

community towards a more inclusive society

and computer mapping work. ‘In this

Shigar locals have been employed as

that values all its members, male and female.

conservative community that is indeed a

high-altitude porters and also associated

cause of celebration,’ says Salman.

with these expeditions.

‘Keeping the STMDS fully informed and an equal partner on all aspects has helped to nullify any resentment,’ says Salman. ‘In the

‘It is important to build trust and not to make haste. When tangible benefits flow

Although Shigar has not had tourism in

The opening of Shigar Fort has helped in bringing a new type of discerning visitor,


r:travel | 49




and foreign diplomats/NGO workers, who


like to come with their families or their

‘THE SENSITIVE restoration of this

colleagues to relax and enjoy a retreat.’

historic building and its development as

Guests can explore the settlements and

a hotel has placed the property once

locals are more than willing to exchange

again at the heart of the community as

salaams and a hello – the only obstacle to

a cultural and economic asset bringing

much more being a non-familiarity with

employment, microenterprise

English. But you can stroll down to the

opportunities, and social and cultural

bazaar and shop around for local specialities,

empowerment for men and women.’

such as Serpentinite stone. A short walk from Shigar Fort-Palace brings you to a number of heritage sites including

one who is sensitive and respectful towards

the restored 600-year-old Amburiq Mosque,

local cultural norms.

that has won a UNESCO award, or the ruins

Says Salman: ‘Our visitors are almost

of a Buddhist monastery. You can walk along

equally divided between the educated and

the Shigar Nullah (big stream) and watch a

informed Pakistani guests and their families,

local polo match, where one feels as much a participant as a spectator.


But what really grips you here is the peace and quiet, the awesome humbling majesty

THE AGA Khan Development Network is a group of development agencies with

of nature, a starlit night that allows the

mandates ranging from health and education to architecture, culture, microfinance,

Milky Way to be seen in its full splendour,

rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and

or a full moon lighting up the mountains of

the revitalisation of historic cities. It is dedicated to improving living conditions and

the Karakoram. Shigar Fort-Palace is a place

opportunities for the poor, without regard to their faith, origin or gender. The purpose of

of comfort at the end of the road, a sense

the Aga Khan Trust for Culture is the improvement of built environments in societies where

of balance and quiet, and something quite

Muslims have a significant presence.

beyond expectation.



50 | r:travel



HIGHLY COMMENDED Andaman Discoveries,



The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), founded in 1955, is Jamaica’s national tourism agency and is headquartered in the capital city of Kingston. The Board is responsible for the

Old cool Thai

worldwide marketing and promotion of the uniqueness and diversity of destination JAMAICA. The JTB’s mandate has been to promote Jamaica as a preferred travel

DARUNEE PAKDEE, or Cha as her friends

community-based tourism villages in the

destination; identify new and emerging

call her, smiles as she welcomes the group of

region and exchanges have already begun.

consumer groups; cultivate new relationships

visitors to her village on the Andaman Coast,

In the past two years, community

with travel partners and disseminate timely

two-and-a-half hours north of Phuket. Ban

tourism has generated US$20,000 income

and useful marketing information to its

Talae Nok is a village of 67 homes situated

for villagers, while also funding orchid

offices and travel partners worldwide.

between the coral reefs and dense rainforests

conservation, a children’s centre and other

of Southern Thailand.

community projects.

Their visit is part of a community tourism

Anna, a visitor from the US, who spent five

The JTB is the most preferred point of contact for people travelling to Jamaica. Throughout the years, it has been recognised

project assisted by Andaman Discoveries,

days at Balan Tae Nok, said: ‘My time spent

for its leadership and outstanding service

continuing work that saw it win this category

here was amazing! We made soap, peeled

with accolades from industry and trade

at the 2007 Responsible Tourism Awards.

cashew nuts, tapped rubber trees, and wove

partners both regionally and internationally.

Most of Cha’s village was destroyed in

palm roofs. I also toured an animal rescue

All of JTB’s programmes are based on the

the 2004 tsunami, and, due to declining

centre, participated in activities with the

policies espoused in the 10-year Masterplan

fish stocks and mangrove destruction, she

children, and had a delicious Thai cookery

for Sustainable Tourism Development. One

was unable to return to her traditional

lesson! I ended by teaching English in the

of the pillars of this Masterplan is the

fishing lifestyle. With the development

Kuraburi High School. All the people I met

concept of responsible tourism and the JTB

of community tourism, however, both

made me feel welcome.’

encourages every effort, whether domestic or

young and old see the value of preserving

Thamrong Chompusri, director of

international to get more tourism ventures to

everyday Thai culture. ‘We are beginning to

Andaman Discoveries, added: ‘Community

function in a responsible fashion. Many of

understand how to connect tourism with our

tourism goes beyond enjoying a new culture

our own hotels and attractions have been

way of life, and share with people the natural

while supporting sustainable development –

recognized for their efforts in this regard. The

environment that we depend on for our

it’s also a great way to make lifelong friends.’

JTB is proud to sponsor the Best for

culture and livelihood,’ she explains.


Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the

Community members such as Cha offer

Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards.

homestays, eco-tours, and other activities


– allowing visitors to participate in a way of

‘This award recognises how Andaman is

life that so often eludes the casual tourist.

using tourism to benefit and empower the

Andaman Discoveries was founded in 2006


community – providing education, training,

and works as part of the North Andaman

and economic opportunities – and helping

Community Tourism Network, serving as a

it to share its culture through workshops for

bridge between local villages and the private

tourists to learn how to make handicrafts,

sector. Its goal is to develop a network of

cook and harvest cashews and rubber.’

r:travel | 51


L A R G E H O T E L / A C C O M M O D AT I O N


WINNER Kingfisher Bay Resort, Fraser Island, Australia

The accidental eco-tourists Some eco-resorts rely on attracting the converted. And for one resort in an Australian World Heritage site, nature-based tourism is a way of life that can take the unwary and turn them into evangelists A 45-MINUTE fast catamaran ride from

It wasn’t always so, however. For

spa. Last year it welcomed more than 160,000

Australia’s Queensland coast brings you to

more than 100 years, until 1990, logging

one of the world’s natural wonders – Fraser

operations raided its forests, and from the

Island. This miraculous sand island – the

1950s until the 1970s, sand mining exploited

animal species, the resort is a birdwatcher’s

largest on the planet – presents a dazzling

its other great natural resource.

dream as there are 354 recorded bird species

landscape: long uninterrupted white beaches

Tourism first arrived here in the Sixties, but

visitors – including 100,000 day trippers. Surrounded by a wealth of plant and

on the island. Acid frogs, bats and sugar

are flanked by strikingly coloured sand cliffs,

it wasn’t until 20 years ago, that the island

gliders can be spotted at night. Dundonga

ancient rainforests grow in sand along the

got the resort it deserved, with the building

Creek, edged by mangroves, is a hot spot for

banks of fast-flowing, crystal-clear creeks and

of Kingfisher Bay Resort. Conceived as a

ranger-guided canoe tours.

it’s home to 100 freshwater dune lakes – some

nature-based ecotourism destination, it was

Kingfisher Bay itself is a paradise for

tea-coloured and others clear and blue – all

developed using visionary architecture and

boating, fishing, swimming, canoeing,

ringed by white sandy beaches.

local materials to blend with its surroundings.

beachcombing, bushwalking and four-wheel

Fraser Island’s World Heritage listing

The resort has 152 hotel rooms – all below

driving; or you can head out with a marine

ranks it with Australia’s Uluru, Kakadu and

the tree-line – more than 100 self-contained

ranger on the Great Sandy Strait in search of

the Great Barrier Reef. A precious part of

villas, a 174-bed Wilderness Lodge, three

dolphins, dugong and turtles.

Australia’s natural and cultural heritage, it is

restaurants, four bars and a shopping village,

protected for all to appreciate and enjoy.

four swimming pools, tennis courts and a

52 | r:travel

Resort activities are designed to allow guests to enjoy and, at the same time,


L A R G E H O T E L / A C C O M M O D AT I O N


WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Kingfisher Bay wins this award for demonstrating that a large resort accommodating 60,000 guests a year and with 100,000 day visitors can have a low environmental impact, and for educating its guests about conservation, engaging positively with the indigenous people enabling them to share their culture and skilling them for employment.’

‘As they leave,’ says Jodi, ‘more than 50 per cent of guests tell us they have had a life-changing experience. They want to go back home and do something for the environment. Before they come, a lot of visitors still have this warm and fuzzy idea that they’re doing their bit for the environment simply by recycling in the home. It’s not until they arrive and immerse themselves in the environment that they start to realise how much more they can do – and some of it is fairly simple stuff.’ She adds: ‘What in effect Kingfisher Bay Resort has done has been to reinvent the wheel when it came to tourism on Fraser Island – offering more than just a base from which to explore the island, but also an opportunity to learn about the environment and reduce our impact upon it.’

learn about this very special island without

a holiday to bond with their kids, get to

impacting on the environment. Kingfisher

know their partner again and have a relaxing

about them? ‘That a day here is worth a week

Bay Resort’s expert interpretive rangers

time with good food and drink. It seems the

anywhere else in the world,’ says Jodi.

conduct daily tours of the island’s wilderness

‘responsible’ bit creeps up on them.


And the nicest thing anyone has ever said

and explain the natural and cultural history. Resort rangers also offer a daily range of nature walks, both in and around the resort,


to discover the abundant animal and bird life

Kingfisher Bay Resort is used as a case study for industry best practice – and among its many

and to help guests learn about the Australian

responsible and green initiatives are:

bush and how Aborigines and early European

● An energy efficiency programme, incorporating low energy bulbs and room key shut-off

settlers used it for both food and medicine.

systems, saves 855,000 kW hours of electricity per year.

So, given its reputation as a temple of

● Paper, glass, aluminium, tin and plastics are recycled.

ecotourism, you’d think the place would be

● An on-site worm farm turns sewage sludge, waste paper and kitchen preparation scraps

swarming with committed eco-worshippers,

into compost for a herb garden which supplies the resort kitchens.

desperate to prostrate themselves for a

● Through its Dhugamin Indigenous Employment Programme, Kingfisher trains and

‘low-impact, nature-based experience.’

employs young aboriginals.

But, incredibly, they’re more likely to have

● The resort has teamed up with researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast to

come to prostrate themselves besides one of

establish a Fraser Island Research and Education Centre, to study the island’s flora and fauna

the four swimming pools. Media manager

and the impact of tourism.

Jodi Clark says: ‘Our guest surveys show that

● One problem that’s not been solved is that environmental black hole: air-conditioning.

85 per cent are just on holiday – they arrive

‘When the resort was built,’ says Jodi Clark, ‘the villas were not fitted with air-conditioning

without knowing too much and are happy to

as an energy saving measure – however, over the years consumer expectations and market

go on a ranger-guided tour, but really want

demand has shifted – and they now have air-conditioning in the hotel (and some villas).’

r:travel | 53


L A R G E H O T E L / A C C O M M O D AT I O N

HIGHLY COMMENDED Hotel Sigiriya, Sri Lanka


has been developed with villagers themselves, to take guests into the community. The hotel

Roar of the lion

buys eggs, vegetables and bread locally – and has persuaded 90 per cent of its suppliers to change their wrapping from plastic to more

Some hotels are born eco, others have eco

drastically cut. Laundry bags are made of

environmentally-friendly products. The

thrust upon them. One such place is the

cloth and shampoo is dispensed in ceramic

Hotel Sigiriya has also become renowned for

Hotel Sigiriya, a three-star resort at the foot

bottles. Even the use of plastic straws with

biodiversity conservation. Lectures and slide

of the majestic world heritage site of Sigiriya

drinks has been reduced; stewards offer them

shows are staged in a purpose-built eco-centre

(Lion Rock) in south-west Sri Lanka.

but tell guests about the hotel’s preference.

to educate guests about local fauna, flora and

The 79-roomed Hotel Sigiriya opened

Incandescent bulbs have been replaced

in 1971, way before the world had heard

with compact fluorescent ones, and card key

of responsible tourism or environmental

controls have been installed and fixed to the

management policies. Times change, and

air conditioners in each room.

by the late 1990s measures to minimise the

CEO Mr Srilal Miththapala says that

customs, and the hotel is the first in Sri Lanka to be named ‘bird-friendly’. The nearby Sigiriya Rock is said to have been the fifth-century citadel of a fugitive king. Now the hotel it gives its name to has

environmental impact of the hotel were

they haven’t embarked on costly hi-tech

become a green fortress in its own right.

starting to be introduced.

interventions – simply implemented basic,


But it was in 2005 that the Hotel Sigiriya

common sense ideas. ‘A lot of people don’t

had eco-greatness thrust upon it, with the

understand that it’s the small things that


launch of a massive ‘greening’ project.

matter,’ he explains, ‘but it all adds up.’

‘SIGIRIYA HAS retro-fitted the hotel

A reputable environment management

They calculate that current interventions

to increase its energy-efficiency and

consultant worked with the staff for 18

have reduced the hotel’s carbon footprint by

sustainability; it measures its performance

months, on a top-to-bottom environmental

24.82 million tons, while this is predicted to

as a management tool for continuous

makeover. In came initiatives to conserve

increase to 82.38 million tons, following the

improvement and shares that information

energy and water, reduce pollution,

installation this year of a bio-mass gasifier.

with others to encourage them to reduce

step up recycling, increase the use of

The benefits reach out into the wider

environmentally-friendly materials and

community, too. The hotel is helping locals

conserve the natural environment.

to grow gliricidia, a highly carbonaceous

Wastewater is now treated in a selfcontained biological sewage treatment plant and then used to water the garden, saving about 30,000 litres of water. Plastic use has been

plant used for the gasifier, thus providing another source of community income. At the same time, it has started campaigning for a polythene-free Sigiriya, and is carrying out awareness programmes and environmental clean-ups (shramadanas), with local schoolchildren. A hotel excursion – the village walk –

54 | r:travel

their own environmental impacts.’


res and p adventu u ro g ll orld a a whole w cept of sm m n o o c fr e e s th o ck. d ho a little ba y start. C s pioneere e r a e iv h v g e n re a th lo c p x e you ly from 7 years E ture wher responsib n g e res v in For over 2 d ll e a v n a a in tr ve y Adventu a d il h e m v d a e n F li a e Q b s have rience ekking olidays inary expe lking & tr Cycling h rd a o Q W a s tr r Q x u e o fe f T o teer Wildli y Q Volun riences Q m e o p n x o e r t l s a r A pse & Q Cultu urs Q Ecli o T TOURISM y r E o L t B is I S QH N O FOR RESP G A L ility F E H sustainab & m s ri FLYING T u o onsible T s in Resp offset rt e p x E Q wide ns carbon io s is cts world m e je t ro h p ig fl le Q All charitab ent ing local rt o p p u environm S e Q th n o t l impac Q Minima nscience with a co l e v ra T Q

01 9 0 9 9 4 4 084 O.UK .C EXPLORE


L A R G E H O T E L / A C C O M M O D AT I O N

HIGHLY COMMENDED Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa, Malaysia

‘An island that runs on tourism’ CALLING YOURSELF ‘the greenest resort in



Global Hyatt Corporation, headquartered in Chicago, is one of the world’s premier hotel

Frangipani was proactive in getting

companies. The hotels owned, operated,

UNESCO Geopark status for Langkawi

managed or franchised by its subsidiaries

Island, and continues to work with others to

provide authentic hospitality to guests in 45

Resort & Spa set on a 400-metre stretch of

preserve the island’s ecosystem. Community

countries through a passionate commitment

soft, golden sand, on the holiday island of

links are strong – 80 per cent of the resort’s

to personalized service, cultural relevance,

Langkawi, Malaysia, makes with confidence.

workforce is local – and it works with local

and the environment. Global Hyatt

Environmental initiatives are part of the

schools in raising environmental awareness

subsidiaries own, operate, manage or

and raises funds for island-based charities.

franchise more than 365 hotels and resorts

Malaysia’ is a pretty big claim. But it’s one that the Frangipani Langkawi

‘business as usual’ equation for hotels looking for some sustainable progress. But in the two

Langkawi was a sleepy backwater until

worldwide under the Hyatt®, Hyatt

years that Frangipani has been open, it has

1987, when it was granted tax-free status.

Regency®, Hyatt ResortsTM, Grand Hyatt®,

implemented more than 100 green practices.

Today, it’s probably the second-busiest island

Park Hyatt®, Hyatt Place®, Hyatt

of Malaysia after Penang. Tourism is the island

Summerfield Suites® and AndazTM brands

rubbish going to landfill. Garden and kitchen

economy. Almost the whole population earns

with additional properties under

waste are composted to produce an organic

an income from it. Making as much of that

development on five continents. Global Hyatt

fertiliser for use in the organic vegetable

‘responsible’ is the aim of Frangipani.

Corporation is also the owner of Hyatt

Waste-sorting reduces the amount of

garden, which is producing food for the

‘While we can’t change the world, we

Vacation Ownership, Inc., operator of Hyatt

kitchens – and for exchange with other

can influence our immediate environment,’

Vacation Club®. The success of Global Hyatt

resorts. 100 per cent of other food is sourced

says resort manager Mark Suppiah. ‘We

is driven by the commitment and energy of

from local suppliers – and of that 40 per cent

accept that tourism has an impact on the

the approximately 90,000 men and women

is actually produced on the island. The resort

environment but are working towards

around the world who provide exceptional

also rears its own chickens and ducks.

managing those impacts. Our future is linked

service to hotel guests. From the U.S. and

to how we manage Langkawi’s natural assets.’

Canada, reservations for any Hyatt hotel


worldwide may be obtained by visiting www.

The 118-room resort buildings are designed so rainwater can be collected for toilet flushing and irrigation. Mature native


trees are planted to provide shade and reduce


the dependency on air conditioning; green

‘MORE THAN 80 per cent of Frangipani’s

cover helps prevent soil and sand erosion,

workforce is from the local island community

and the resort maintains its own wetland

and 40 per cent of its food is produced

area. Solar panels help reduce energy bills,

on the island. The resort also has a large

bikes are used to move around the resort

environmental management programme

instead of motor vehicles. It doesn’t keep

designed for continuous improvement,

good ideas to itself, either. Best practices are

extensively planting native trees and

shared with other hoteliers.

maintaining a wetland in the resort’

56 | r:travel


Let’s take responsibility!

The Rezidor Hotel Group has an award-winning comprehensive Responsible Business programme in place across its hotels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa since 2001. The programme covers issues such as the health and well-being of guests and employees; resource efficiency relating to energy, water and waste; community outreach and charity. Please visit responsiblebusiness.rezidor.com or one of our 250 responsible hotels to learn more.

Holidays with a Difference, that Make a Difference

Contact - www.natureandkind.com • tel: 0845 362 0300


S M A L L H O T E L / A C C O M M O D AT I O N


WINNER Nkwichi Lodge/Manda Wilderness Project, Mozambique

help of the local community — has turned 120,000 hectares of lakeside land into a

One of Africa’s finest

community-owned conservation area. Through the MWP, community development programmes have so far built six primary schools, a maize mill, a maternity clinic

‘Luxury without the guilt’ is the phrase coined to describe the idyllic offering of this eco-lodge nestled in the unspoilt shoreline of Lake Niassa, Mozambique. It’s a description the lodge owners are proud of – for it shows them that they’ve got the balance just right

and given loans and training in sustainable practices for more than 700 farmers. The support of the local population has been pivotal. Nkwichi has been the main driving force behind the establishment of the Umoji Association, a legal body

LIKE ALL the best ideas, Nkwichi was born

about our goals and the impact this would

empowering 20,000 local people through

in the pub.

have on the local populations. Ancestors

their chiefs and elected representatives.

were consulted and offerings made in respect

Through the association, six communities

brother Paul were mulling over their futures

to the local traditions. The result was a formal

have received their land rights certificates

in a London pub. They kicked a few ideas

letter drawn up by the villagers stating their

from the government – the first and only

around, but by the end of the evening had

full support to the whole project. Armed with

communities in the country to have done

settled on an eco-tourism project in Africa.

this document, the project was born. The

this. The conservation area is included in

year was 1999.

these land titles.

In the mid-1990s Patrick Simkin and his

That was the easy bit. Two years were then spent training up in the skills needed to

In 2002, Nkwichi opened: the main lodge

Nkwichi only employs local people,

implement such a plan, looking for investors

building has a dining room raised high on

including 30 per cent women, two of whom

and for a site.

a platform providing views out over the

are managers. And by ensuring communities

lake. The fig-tree platform built among the

benefit from lodge business, tourism

worked with the UN High Commission for

enormous granite boulders on the lakeshore

continues to be seen as positive. Local choirs

Refugees in the repatriation of Mozambican

provides another popular spot for guests

come to the lodge to sing for guests – and

refugees at the end of the war in the early

to dine or relax. Seven stunning chalets

guests visit local villages for traditional dance

1990s. She had travelled extensively around

– accommodating just 14 guests – made from

ceremonies. Occasionally, a church service

Northern Mozambique and fallen in love

local thatch, wood and stone are hidden

will be interrupted for guests to introduce

with the untouched beauty of Lake Niassa

beneath the treeline and invisible from the

themselves and talk about the churches

(the Mozambique side of Lake Malawi).

lake. All power is solar and the kitchen cooks

where they come from.

One of the first investors, Lola Castro, had

‘I had been travelling around various

with ‘eco-stoves’ which use 70 per cent less

African countries looking for the ideal place

firewood. These stoves are made locally and

to carry out our dream, but without much

are also becoming popular with villagers.

luck,’ recalls Patrick. ‘I followed Lola’s advice,

‘To begin with, it was a bit trial and error,’

‘Luxury without the guilt is a great phrase – and true,’ says Patrick. And Mozambique’s tourism minister has said on Moz TV: ‘This is how lodges should

hired a boat for two weeks and travelled

admits Patrick, now the resident director.

be built in Mozambique – no, this is how

up the length of Lake Niassa, exploring the

‘While I had experience of managing lodges

they should be built in Africa!’

shore, looking for the ideal place to set this

in southern Africa, I had not actually built


project up.

one from scratch. Our first chalet actually

‘The whole area was perfect; untouched,

collapsed during construction, but we all

wild, beautiful and with a population that

learnt quickly and now have one of the most


was willing to participate in the protection of

imaginative designs of any African lodge.’

‘NKWICHI demonstrates what a small,

their natural resources.’

Guests can enjoy a wide variety of nature-

privately-owned, luxury eco-tourist

based activities, including exploring the

lodge can contribute through a $5 bed

the unique ‘Mchenga Nkwichi’ beach was

Niassa bush and snorkelling in the incredibly

night levy; and has been a driving force

discovered. ‘Mchenga Nkwichi’ literally

clear waters of the lake, which contains a

in the creation of the Umoji Association

means sand that squeaks or goes ‘Nkwichi’

greater variety of indigenous fish species

representing 20,000 local people through

when you drag your feet through the soft

– more than 1,000 – than any other lake in

their chiefs and elected representatives.

white sand.

the world.

One of the first, large community

But it was not until a year later that

‘Much of the time on this second trip,’

Funding from the lodge has contributed

associations in Mozambique, it has

says Patrick, ‘was spent sitting under a mango

to the Manda Wilderness Project (MWP),

enabled six communities to secure land

tree, discussing with chiefs and village elders

a charity which — with the support and

rights certificates from the government.’

58 | r:travel


S M A L L H O T E L / A C C O M M O D AT I O N


r:travel | 59


S M A L L H O T E L / A C C O M M O D AT I O N


HIGHLY COMMENDED Safari Garden Hotel, The Gambia

When the Wacky Races come to town THE SAFARI Garden Hotel in Banjul, The

partners have become the Association of

Gambia, is a model of responsible tourism. It

Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET)

hosts courses on the subject, and is often full

and the Gambian National Olympic

of eco-minded travellers and right-thinking

Committee. The decisions are made here by

folk from VSO, the Peace Corps and assorted

some pretty wise Gambians who form the

universities and colleges.

Grant Allocation Committee.’

But once a year, in January, the hotel is

Safari was set up in 1997 by Geri Mitchell

the focus for an extraordinary event that

and Maurice Phillips and was the first hotel

sees 200 mostly old bangers – each costing

to sign up to the Gambia is Good project (see

no more than £100 – converge on this oasis

page 84) that assists local women growers. All

of sustainability after a 3,700-mile charity

27 staff are West African and all are employed

challenge that takes them through Europe

throughout the off season and given paid

and around the top edge of Africa, including

holidays. Local ‘bumsters’ are taken off the

a two-day crossing of the Sahara Desert.

street and trained as official guides, showing

The Plymouth-Dakar Challenge (which doesn’t start in Plymouth and doesn’t end

visitors the country’s bird and wildlife. Much work is now being done with

in Dakar either) is like a real-life Wacky

the villagers of Kartong, on the southern

Races (except without the race part, as the

Senegalese border, where Safari’s owners are

organisers take great pains to point out that

building Sandele, an upmarket eco-retreat

it’s a journey, not a race).

and learning centre in partnership with the

Conceived in 2003 as the cheese to the

local community. Geri explains: ‘Maurice

Paris-Dakar Rally’s corporate chalk, it’s now

and I had a dream of doing something in

in its seventh year, and between 20 December

tourism that puts the local people in the role

and 11 January three groups will set off from

of teacher or mentor rather than servant

Hyde Park, arriving two or three weeks later

or performer, and visitors in the role of

in Banjul, where Safari becomes their base.

participant rather than voyeur.

In Banjul, all drivers donate their vehicle

‘The centre will be based on the belief that

to be auctioned for charity. So far £600,000

we have a great deal to relearn from people

has been raised for Gambian groups, local

here – I have always been struck by the

sports development and small-scale tourism

saying, “When the white man came to Africa,

enterprises that benefit local communities.

he came in search of healing and learning…

Safari’s involvement began just before

he just didn’t know it!”’

the first event, in 2003, when one of the


drivers arrived in The Gambia on work and


happened to be staying at the hotel. Co-

60 | r:travel

owner Geri Mitchell says: ‘She asked if I could


give her a list of organisations who would

‘AN URBAN HOTEL in residential Fajara, the

like to have a vehicle given to them. I loved

Safari Garden Hotel stays open all year to

the inspiration behind the Challenge but had

ensure continuous employment and trains its

misgivings about how responsible it would

staff to become managers. The hotel enables

be to just give the vehicles away. I came up

visitors to engage with people from the local

with the suggestion that we should auction

community, pioneered the development

the vehicles and then let organisations make

of hotel guides, and demonstrates that it is

bids for the money. Since then, the project

possible to do well by doing good.’

SMALL GROUP ADVENTURES WORLDWIDE Discover your Spirit of Adventure Immerse yourself in the diversity of cultures, encounter amazing wildlife and explore spectacular landscapes with us. • 30 years’ experience and over 250 adventures on all seven continents • Small groups of like-minded travellers, minimising your impact • Expert local leaders passionate about their homeland • Authentic, locally-owned accommodation, giving back to the communities you visit • Commitment to responsible travel through the Peregrine Community Trust • All major trip expenses included in price

0844 736 0170 sales@peregrineadventures.co.uk www.peregrineadventures.co.uk

ABTA No. Y0747


S M A L L H O T E L / A C C O M M O D AT I O N



rooms will be fitted with photovoltaic cells and solar panels, and will enable guests to produce their own electricity by using a cycling machine in the bedroom. Christina is a passionate advocate of several New Forest sustainable tourism initiatives, including a tour bus and a car-free scheme that encourages guests to walk, ride or cycle. The most recent is the New Forest Transition Initiative – modelled on an idea which has been taken up by 100 communities in the UK – which aims to empower communities to tackle issues of climate change at local level. Along with seven other community leaders Christina founded a wider scheme for the New Forest and a local one in Brockenhurst. Christina though, is quick to stress that this is a community-owned scheme, calling herself ‘just a bossy cog in the wheel.’ ‘There are about 50 people involved, all of them brilliant,’ she says. ‘It’s about lots of small changes, and about communities taking control to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprints. We’re trying to get solar panels on the school, church and church hall, to create community energy, and are teaching businesses how to reduce their impact.’ Tony Climpson, tourism and economic development officer at the New Forest District Council – and a winner at last year’s

‘It’s about lots of small changes’

Responsible Tourism Awards – adds: ‘Cottage Lodge has had a big impact in promoting car-free tourism, greening its operations and engaging closely with its community. It is hard to imagine how any business could have made a greater contribution to promoting the transition from traditional tourism activities to

WE’RE USED to reading about eco-lodges in

into a model of sustainability, and are inspiring

those that are needed to sustain a responsible

wild and exotic places, so it’s refreshing to find

others to follow their lead.

future for tourism in the New Forest.’

that a cosy b&b in the heart of Hampshire’s

Cottage Lodge has embraced energy


New Forest is trying to give the glamour set a

conservation, resulting in a 50 per cent

run for their money.

reduction in consumption. The lodge collects


and re-uses rainwater and has low energy

‘COTTAGE LODGE has shown how a small

Brockenhurst, looks about as traditional as

lightbulbs throughout. Cleaning is without

business can, in a relatively short period of

a New Forest pony. All beams, low ceilings

chemicals, using microfibres.

time, prove the value of sustainable initiatives

At first glance, Cottage Lodge, in

and knick knacks, the lodge was built in 1650

Christina serves local produce, on locally-

to the businesses, the environment, and the

from timber salvaged from an old ship built at

produced crockery. And planning permission

community of the New Forest. Cottage Lodge

nearby Bucklers Hard. Christina Simons and

has been given for a two-bedroom extension

and its proprietor Christina Simons have been

David Mascord have run it since 2004, and

which will be made from locally sourced

actively engaged since 2004 in proving that

while it’s only got 12 rooms – with another

wood, with recycled newspaper insulation and

sustainability works. Now only 40 per cent of

two planned – they have turned their tiny b&b

locally-sourced reclaimed roof tiles. The new

their guests arrive by car.’

62 | r:travel


S M A L L H O T E L / A C C O M M O D AT I O N

HIGHLY COMMENDED Our Native Village, India

Re-connect with a simpler lifestyle AT ALMOST any resort hotel in the developing

every rooftop. After use, all water is recycled,

world, the chances are that guests will be

and the resort boasts India’s first fully natural

entertained by ‘tribal’ musicians and dancers.

swimming pool.

Hopefully, most of the time these will be



The entire complex has been built using

genuine artists, who may be professional, and

locally-sourced materials – the bricks were

may be drawn from the local community, but

even made on site. All perishable food

find in tourism a way to keep their cultural

comes from local suppliers. The 24 rooms

VisitBrighton is the official tourism

heritage alive. But one group are nearly

are decorated with six different forms of

organisation for the city of Brighton & Hove

always marginalised – the disabled.

traditional Indian art, painted by teams of

and is a division of the Brighton & Hove

tribal and rural artists, and the resort has

City Council.

With this in mind, a new 100 per cent

VisitBrighton includes the Visitor

eco-resort in Bangalore, India, showcases

replicated an ancient practice of Hero stones,

entertainers who are all blind. At Our Native

on which major battles are recorded. The

Information Centre, the call centre, a

Village, up to eight performers, supported by

gardens have been planted with more than

conference sales team and marketing team.

the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, put

80 species of herbal and medicinal plants

Our main tool is our website www.

on weekly shows. They may not be perfect,

– and there are plans to increase this to 200.

visitbrighton.com where visitors can search

but they make the point and put a smile on

The holistic approach extends to guest

and book accommodation, find information

guests’ faces. So much so, that the initiative is

activities. Here as well as ayurvedic massage,

about restaurants, shopping and events in the

now spreading among other operators.

you can have your mind soothed or

city as well as download maps and get all the

pummelled in a soul spa, and enjoy bullock

latest news about what’s happening.

Our Native Village may have been open

We wanted to be involved with the

just two years, but operates on tried and

cart rides, kite flying, traditional Indian

trusted sustainable principles. More than 60

games – even milk a cow. The idea is to

Responsible Tourism Awards as the city is well

per cent of its electricity is generated on site

provide a respite from modern living, to

known for being green and was recently voted

from a mix of wind power, solar panels and

re-connect with a simpler lifestyle.

the most sustainable city in Britain. Apart

bio-gas plants that turned waste into energy. Up to 60 per cent of water is harvested from

‘This way of life was simple yet creative,

from the green spaces we have a lot of health

basic yet rich in experience, responsible yet

food shops and restaurants serving organic

footloose, earthy and yet exotic flavours,’

and local sourced food. As a compact city

says founder and managing director C B

there is no need to use a car and so we always

Ramkumar, who started Our Native Village

encourage people to walk or cycle their way

with his wife and 16 other friends and family.

around Brighton & Hove.

‘For all humans, without exception, our soul

We decided to sponsor the Best Small

is rooted in this simplicity.’

Accommodation category as we have a wide


variety of small hotels and guest houses. From stylish boutiques to uniquely themed, all the


properties have their own character and have

‘Our Native Village has shown that it is

led the way in responsible tourism.

possible for a local family with their friends


to develop an eco-resort that demonstrates how the principles of sustainability can be applied, highlighting the employment and micro-enterprise opportunities that tourism can bring to agricultural villages in India. It’s also maintaining local cultural traditions, and attracting visitors from urban Bangalore, enabling them to share in the rural culture.’

r:travel | 63




WINNER Community Action Treks & Community Action Nepal, UK/Nepal

It’s the height of responsible tourism Trekkers go to the Himalaya for that once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and thanks to the vision of a British mountaineer, their presence has helped transform the lives of the porters who welcome them

EVEN FOR a humble trekker, walking in the

the Sherpa, who have done well out of the

Nepal, set up to channel surplus profits

Nepalese Himalaya is one of the most

mountaineering and trekking industry.

into community projects aimed specifically

awe-inspiring travel experiences planet Earth

Lower down were the porters of the middle

at meeting the needs of the middle hill

has to offer. Tread in the foothills of Everest

hill region who did the more backbreaking

people. This was basic stuff, such as primary

and the other great mountains that have

menial jobs of bringing in the supplies – but

education, and health posts, clean water,

caught Western travellers’ imagination for

despite the local Nepalese agents being well

and high altitude porter shelters and rescue

more than half a century and you’ll take

paid, that money wasn’t reaching the porters.

posts – but all were completed with the full

home memories that will last a lifetime.

In 1989, when the penny dropped, Scott

For mountaineers, the peaks of the

involvement of the communities themselves,

set up a co-operative: the porters were paid

who contributed 30 per cent of the project

Himalaya have long represented the

a fair wage, were properly equipped and fed,

costs, usually in the form of manpower.

ultimate climbing challenge. And one of the

and shelter was provided for the freezing

Himalayan greats is British climber Doug

nights. The formula proved successful and

bottle. Primary education has been followed

Scott. Scott has spent most of his adult life

Scott’s trekking expeditions prospered,

by secondary provision (with the ongoing

in the region and his amazing track record

with travellers enjoying a more rounded

funding of more teachers) and secondary has

includes the first British ascent of Everest in

experience because the porters were fully

been followed by vocational training and

1975 and more than 45 major Himalayan

engaged and talked enthusiastically about

adult literacy.

ascents, of which half have been first ascents.

their way of life, the terrain and their homes.

On his many expeditions Scott developed

But, of course, the genie was out of the

As CAT’s marketing man Robin Ashcroft

In 2001, the trekking business was

explains: ’If you give someone an education,

a great empathy with the Sherpa and the

revamped into Community Action Treks

you’ve got to give them an outlet. Education

other local Nepalese porters – and recognised

– catering for around 350 trekkers a year

breeds ambition, and ambition in a small

that there was a hierarchy. At the top were

– with a charitable arm, Community Action

community is unsettling. The only other

64 | r:travel




option is for them to go to the city – Kathmandu – which can’t support a massive rise in population. But the countryside can, and we’ve set up a number of vocational

future generations to meet their own needs. ‘CAT needs to ensure its employees are

people have as much to teach us about the

projects, such as turning Nepal’s plentiful

assisted whenever there is a downturn in

human condition as we, the outsider, have to

supply of nettles into a flax-like cloth.’

tourism. CAN similarly needs to develop

show them, if not more so.’

carefully and responsibly.

www.catreks.com, www.canepal.com

Similarly, with health, CAT/CAN has established six community health posts,

‘Generally we work on the principle that

and funds 16 nurses and medical supplies in

we are all on our separate journeys and none

the parts government resources don’t reach.

is more or less important than the other. It

With better pre-natal care, infant mortality

may at times seem that those with greater


has declined, and standards all round have

mobility and wealth are somehow more

‘CAT HAS set an example through its use

improved. Again, this feeds the need for

important than those who are more static

of tourism for the economic and cultural

education provision, and so on.

and poor, as in a remote village in Nepal. This

benefit of communities, its provision of

Talking about his work, Doug Scott says:

is wrong thinking, as everyone knows who

health and education services, and its

‘The material help we can bring to Nepal has

has spent time with the local hill people of

work with porters which has contributed

to be carefully channelled in a “sustainable”

the world. Only the visitors’ feelings of

to the development of the International

way, which means meeting the needs of the

self-importance will prevent them knowing

Porter Protection Group.’

present without compromising the ability of

one very obvious fact – that the local hill

r:travel | 65




Escape to higher ground


and shops in rural communities. Usually no more than eight guests stay in a community at one time, and in each region an Upland Manager lives as part of the community, and can introduce guests to villagers, as ‘friends of friends’, keeping contact on a personal, less intrusive level. Upland doesn’t sell flight packages –

LIKE MANY a travel venture, Upland Escapes

was the best in the world, and yet how

instead, guests are encouraged to reach their

– a company offering walking holidays in

difficult it was to remain there due to limited

destinations by train – and in the past year

rural, upland Europe – was born out of its

opportunities for work. In many, we were

12 per cent chose this option.

founders’ own experiences.

welcomed into charming farmhouse B&Bs

Ed Granville, Dick Bayne and Laura Whinney had all worked in the travel industry since 1994 – sometimes together,

‘The inhabitants of the mountain regions

or village guesthouses where we were the

where we operate do not think of themselves

only guests.’

as disadvantaged – if anything quite the

The other epiphany took place at the end

opposite. Our aim is to help them remain

sometimes not – before deciding, in 2005, to

of a great day’s walk in 2004, when the three

living in the mountains they love,’ says Laura.

set up their own company offering the type

companions found themselves sitting at the


of holiday that they felt passionate about.

edge of a mountain village on a sun-warmed rock watching the sun go down. ‘We were


– and one trip in particular inspired their

happy and tired,’ recalls Laura. ‘The view

‘WORKING IN rural Europe, Upland

vision for holidays that could help revive

spread in front of us was a feast for the eyes,

Escapes has contributed to the protection

and preserve the traditional lifestyles of often

and our other senses were equally rewarded

of mountain village lifestyles that are being

remote mountain villages.

by the distant sound of goat-bells and the call

lost, generating income for communities

of a shepherd, and the smell of wild thyme

in marginal and struggling villages and

1,500-mile route from the toe of Italy, right

and curry plant growing nearby. We agreed

successfully encouraging their travellers

up the country’s mountainous spine to the

that our souls were singing, and this has since

to journey by rail, so reducing their

French border. They met some wonderful

become a phrase which defines the Upland

carbon footprint.’

people and explored magnificent mountain

Escapes experience.’

In their case it was walking in Europe

In 2002, Dick and Laura walked a

scenery. But, time after time, they came upon isolated villages in varying states of decline. ‘Some were almost ghost villages,’ says

Since 2005 Upland Escapes has taken around 400 walkers a year – of all ages and abilities – to Europe’s isolated mountain

Laura, ‘with the majority of houses empty

communities in France, Gran Canaria,

and roofless and just a handful of people

Slovenia, and, Italy. From next year,

still clinging to their traditional lifestyles.

Austria and Wales are added to the list of

In others there were more signs of life, with

destinations. Over the past two years more

children and dogs playing in the narrow,

than 250,000 euros has been paid directly

stepped alleys and people chatting at the

to family-run hotels and b&bs, restaurants

water fountain and tending their vegetables. ‘We heard repeatedly from local people how much they loved their villages, how the quality of the air and the water

66 | r:travel


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HIGHLY COMMENDED Shakti Tours, India



We believe passionately in the preservation and long-term sustainability of the world’s mountain environments. We take pride in

Mountain high

being the leading UK operator of worldwide walking and trekking holidays. By supporting this award Exodus hopes to inspire other operators into a similar commitment to the

IF YOU really want to leave the world

Volunteers also go into a local Kumaoni

behind, you can hardly do better than to seek

school to provide lessons in English and

out a tranquil spot in the Himalaya – 75 per

conservation; Shakti is committed to making

ethos of responsible tourism. For 34 years

cent of which is in India, a fact which comes

the region plastic-free, and local children

we’ve been running small group, low impact

as a surprise to many potential visitors.

regularly go out on litter patrols!

travel that benefits the local community.

On one of Shakti Tours’ Village

Shakti’s manager Gemma Hyde says:

world’s great mountain ranges. We were founded by travellers under an

We don’t just pay lip-service to responsible

Experiences, you get an intimate snapshot

‘After four years of operation we have not

tourism, we do it. Thousands of our

of day-to-day rural life in the Himalaya.

seen any negative social impact on the local

customers see our projects in operation all

Accompanied by local porters and guides,

communities who continue to lead their lives

around the world. Here are a few examples:

you walk between remote villages, and stay

without feeling intruded upon.’

NEPAL We have helped to re-house 40-50

in traditional village houses, which Shakti

Shakti’s success saw it highly commended

orphans through the building of the Nava

has spruced up to provide proper comfort

in the 2007 Responsible Tourism Awards, and

Kiran Orphanage.

without compromising their authenticity.

over the past year, the launch of its Ladakh

ETHIOPIA We are restoring the vision

operation has presented a new challenge.

of many people through the work at the

Kumaon in 2004 as The Village Walks. In

‘This region had already experienced tourism,

Gondar Eye Surgery.

2007 it started a similar concept in the former

but many that have gone before us have

INDIA We help finance work done to stem

Buddhist Kingdom of Sikkim in the Eastern

not worked with the local communities

the horrific poaching practices aimed at the

Himalaya. A third village experience was

and have contributed to the denigration

tigers of the Bandhavgarh National Park.

launched in 2008 in the far north of India, in

of local values,’ says Gemma. ‘We help the

• Best Tour Operator in Responsible Tourism

Ladakh – often referred to as ‘Little Tibet’.

communities we work with to be proud of

Awards 2004

what they have, and thus keen to show it.’

• we believe in establishing long-term


relationships with our overseas operators,

Shakti’s Village Experience was born in

Underscoring all the walks – and a stay at 360° Leti, Shakti’s four-room luxury lodge in Uttaranchal – is a commitment to tourism at

and developing partnerships that benefit all

its lightest and most sustainable. Shakti has

• we believe in paying our operators a fair

become accepted in the local communities.


price for a fair delivery of quality

Nearly all its 40 or so staff are local, most of

‘IN THE PAST YEAR Shakti has developed its


its food and materials are sourced locally, and

third village experience in the remote region

the homes that host visitors also benefit.

of Ladakh, demonstrating the replicability of

Shakti works closely with an organisation

their approach in an area which has

called The Leap, which sends volunteers

experienced tourism but where it has not

on six- to ten-week placements carrying

empowered communities nor enabled them

out conservation and environment work.

to share their culture.’

68 | r:travel




WINNER Ecoventura, Ecuador

Galapagos: survival of the fittest The Galapagos is high on many people’s ‘must-see’ list, but the islands’ own popularity puts them at risk. Dive magazine editor Simon Rogerson visited with a company determined to be part of the solution, not the problem THE GALAPAGOS Islands were once known to Spanish sailors as ‘Las Encantadas’, or the

found themselves drawn to these islands. Timeless as its appeal may be, Galapagos is

can the traveller enjoy the beauty of this place without contributing to its problems? I joined a cruise on the Ecoventura vessel Sky

bewitched islands. The local combination

a fragile place. The marine eco-system is just

of strong currents with light winds made

as vulnerable as those of the islands, which

Dancer, which takes groups of up to 20 on

the islands hard to locate: to the bewildered

famously provided Darwin with evidence

tours of the archipelago’s finest dive sites. It’s

sailors, it seemed as though the islands

for his theory of natural selection. But this

an experience aimed at diving purists, as you

themselves were moving, while they and

is a place where the footfalls of man can

eat and sleep on board, the boat acting as

their vessels were stationary.

cause destruction: introduced species such

hotel, restaurant and dive platform.

Today, the Galapagos experience can

as goats and rats have bred out of control,

Sky Dancer has one of the hardest-working

be just as intoxicating, especially from the

competing with vulnerable endemic species

crews I have seen. Every time we left the

underwater perspective. Gazing through

such as the various iguana and giant tortoise

boat, we were briefed on the environment

layers of nutrient-rich water, you may see

species. Meanwhile, the ever-growing human

and its inhabitants by a park ranger who

hammerhead sharks, giant manta rays,

population (mostly economic migration from

also accompanied us on dives and wildlife

dolphins and the biggest fish in the sea, the

the Ecuador mainland) has created a fishing

walks. Whether you’re in the water or on

spectacular whale shark. On land, marine

industry that threatens the archipelago’s

land, you’re never far from wildlife in the

iguanas bask next to sealions and the

spectacular marine life.

Galapagos, so it is important to understand

strangely out-of-place penguins that also

70 | r:travel

With the balance so delicately poised,

the environment in order to preserve it.




On a basic level, this can mean keeping to paths in order to avoid damaging lizard burrows, but when you’re underwater the barriers are less certain. Often, it’s simply a case of allowing sensitive creatures such as green turtles their natural space. Even hammerhead sharks don’t like being crowded, so to make the most of any encounter you have to move carefully through the water. Often, staying still is the best way to get close to a marine creature, relying on its natural curiosity to draw it closer. This is true of the sharks, rays and sealions of the Galapagos – start chasing anything and you end up looking at empty water before long. Different oceanic currents converge on Galapagos, each generating its own environmental conditions. In the main group of islands, you get cool water (ranging between 15ºC and 25ºC), and variable visibility. A typical reef may consist of a series of descending ridges of volcanic rock interspersed by ubiquitous clumps of greenish branching coral in which you may find seahorses, frogfish or blennies. Jacks and baitfish are common, their trailing schools broken by dive-bombing sealions or predatory tuna. Sail 100 miles north of the central islands and you reach the remote outposts of Darwin and Wolf, two natural rock towers rising up from the crashing waves. Around these islands, the temperature is dictated


Timeless as its appeal may be, Galapagos is a fragile place… With the balance so delicately poised, can the traveller enjoy its beauty without contributing to its problems?


by a warmer surface current, but it can also be fierce.

fish retreated into holes in the rock, but out

tactic in such circumstances is to remain on

in the blue there was a carnival of big fish,

the reef and let the rays become accustomed

and descended quickly to the top of the

led by a school of seven big eagle rays. Eagle

to your presence.

reef, hunkering behind a big rock to protect

rays have a timid disposition, but I was in

The best shark encounters took place at

myself from being swept off the reef. Unable

the company of some admirably restrained

Wolf and Darwin, where we could make out

to swim against the current, the smaller reef

divers, each of whom knew that the best

the shimmering outlines of hundreds of

At Wolf, I jumped off the Zodiac inflatable


r:travel | 71


sharks through the thermo cline. Occasionally, a hammerhead shark would


famous wanderers of the Eastern Pacific. Along with the other islands of the Eastern


cruise ships such as Sky Dancer, which journeys to the remotest and most vulnerable

break from the pack and speed over us,

Pacific, the Galapagos is seen as the last

parts of the archipelago. There are regular

tempting me to move into deeper water to

great shark hotspot, but it is under attack

seizures of dried fins in Galapagos, but far

photograph the sharks from below.

by fishermen supplying the Asian shark

more are thought to slip by the authorities.

Swimming out into the current, I looked up

fin trade. The shark-finners are supposedly

By the time they reach the mainland, they

to see the hammerheads approaching.

banned from the marine park encircling the

effectively become legal because there is no

There were sharks as far as I could see,

Galapagos, but their ships are often seen

proof they were taken in protected waters.

moving silently through the hazy water.

laying baited long lines within its borders.

In addition to the hammerheads there

With such a large area to patrol, the park

evolved as a result of its geographical

were groups of Galapagos sharks,

wardens rely heavily on information from

isolation, but in the modern world it is

The unique ecosystems of the Galapagos

subject to the same environmental


pressures as the rest of South America. Ecoventura recognises this, but it is

ECOVENTURA IS A family-owned company, which takes around 3,000 visitors to the

equally aware of the need to convince the

Galapagos each year. Tourism here is both part of the solution and part of the problem.

human population of the Galapagos that

Humans have, in the past, unwittingly brought alien species that compete with native plants

conservation is in their long-term interests.

and animals. The growing number of settlers migrating from the mainland of Ecuador has

It donates funds to a local initiative in which

put pressure on the fragile environment, emperilling the ecosystem. As a result, in 2007,

fishermen’s wives have set up an artisan’s

UNESCO declared Galapagos an ‘at risk’ World Heritage Site.

shop to provide an alternative source of

Since taking the decision to ‘green’ the company ten years ago, Ecoventura has become an industry leader. Among its initiatives is a carbon offset scheme whereby Ecoventura pays the offset amount upfront, without waiting for customers to ‘opt in’. Owner Santiago Dunn says: ‘Our goal has been to inspire others to also be part of the

income for fishing communities. In 2006, it banded with the World Wildlife Fund to establish the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund with the objective

solution for the issues facing tourism in the Galapagos.’

of strengthening the local communities’


ability to manage natural resources

72 | r:travel






through environmental education and marine conservation. We at Royal Caribbean International know

After five heart-pounding days in the northern islands, Sky Dancer set off on the

we have a special responsibility to protect our

long chug back to the central archipelago,

marine ecosystems. Clean oceans are good for

stopping on the way to allow us to dive

the environment, good for our guests and

the remote sites along the northern side of

good for our business.

Isabella, the archipelago’s biggest island.

We have invested heavily in state-of-the-

Some of my final dives were to take place on

art management systems and treatment

this desolate coast, off a headland known

technologies, such as Advanced Wastewater

as Cabo Marshall, in the shadow of Wolf

Purification systems, to reduce our impact on

Volcano. As I descended, I saw a group of

the environment. In addition to meeting and

about 15 hammerheads swimming over the

often exceeding environmental regulations

volcanic rock, followed by two immense

through our Above and Beyond Compliance

schools of chevron barracuda, then a couple

policies, we monitor our activities to ensure

of manta rays! It’s this sort of rapid-fire action

high standards are strictly maintained.

that typifies the Galapagos at its best, a

We manage our business with a talented

snapshot of the ocean as it was a century ago,

team of professionals, who operate with a

before industrial-scale fishing took its toll.

philosophy of social responsibility, good

While the operators of Sky Dancer have done


corporate citizenship and environmental

all they can to minimise the vessel’s impact

‘THIS AWARD goes to Ecoventura for

protection. We are committed to timely,

on the environment, they allow outsiders to

contributing scholarships for education,

honest and forthright communications with

see for themselves just how much is at stake,

and developing microbusiness for local

our employees, guests, shareholders, suppliers

and why the Galapagos is still very much a

women, converting a fishing boat into a

and travel partners. And, we will continue to

cause worth fighting for.

restaurant and boutique providing

seek the counsel of experts.

alternative livelihoods for the wives of

We take our responsibility to the

fishermen. Ecoventura was also among

environment very seriously, and feel it’s

the first cruise operators to be

inextricably linked with our continued

independently environmentally audited.’

success as an industry-leading cruise line. This includes Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd operating the Ocean Fund which provides grants to support marine conservation organisations. Almost US$10 million has been awarded to date since the inception of the Ocean Fund.

r:travel | 73




HIGHLY COMMENDED Scottish Seabird Centre, UK

Puffin, not huffin’ PERCHED ON a rocky outcrop at North

than 280,000 a year. Its success has been

Berwick Harbour, Scotland, overlooking

embraced by the community and in return

the islands of the Firth of Forth and sandy

the centre has become a true local amenity,

beaches of East Lothian, the Scottish Seabird

serving as a venue for the local cinema club

and development manager, says: ‘Thanks

Centre is unique in the world.

(the original cinema closed in the 70s) and

to a lot of hard work by our wonderful

the historic heart of the town, the harbour,

volunteers an encouraging start has been

and yet visitors can get right up-close without

has once again become a hub for local events,

made. However we recognise that bringing

disturbing them. Using solar-powered

including a Seafood Festival. Previously, the

tree mallow under control remains a huge

remote-controlled cameras located on the

harbour had become derelict and neglected

undertaking and will require substantial

islands, visitors can pan and zoom to see the

– the Seabird Centre has breathed new life

commitment and input for some years to

tiniest details (like the ID ring on a bird’s

into the area.

come. This will all be worth it if we can bring

These islands are teeming with wildlife,

foot) and observe thousands of nesting seabirds and marine mammals. The £3.2 million Seabird Centre, which

And one of its greatest achievements has been to halt the drastic decline in

back the delightful puffins to these islands.’ Other initiatives being backed by the

the local puffin population. Until 2006,

centre are a plan to make North Berwick

was opened in May 2000 by the Prince of

Craigleith Island was a major puffin colony,

Scotland’s first plastic bag-free town, and a

Wales, is an independent conservation and

but the spread of an invasive plant – tree

lobster hatchery to help increase the area’s

education charity dedicated to inspiring

mallow – introduced more than 300 years

lobster population, improving its long-term

people to appreciate and care for wildlife

ago by lighthouse keepers for medicinal

sustainability and benefiting struggling

and the environment. All proceeds are

purposes, and boosted in recent years by a

fishing communities throughout Fife and

reinvested in the work of the charity and the

milder climate, had formed a dense jungle

East Lothian.

centre relies on the help of all its volunteers,

preventing the puffins from using their


members and sponsors to survive.

burrows. With the population down from 30,000 nesting pairs in 1999, to fewer


Bass Rock – one of Sir David Attenborough’s

than 5,000 a year ago, the Seabird Centre

‘THE USE OF webcams and other innovative

12 wildlife wonders of the world – and the

launched SOS Puffin, recruiting more than

ideas has enabled a high volume of visitors

original idea for a small centre came from a

200 volunteers to clear the tree mallow and

to have a great experience of nature, while

local businessman and amateur birdwatcher

restore the habitat. This £230,000 project

organising 200 volunteers to remove invasive

and photographer, Bill Gardner. Original

is ongoing but already there is evidence of

tree mallow and enable the puffins to return

projections for annual visitor numbers were

puffins returning to their burrows.

to their nesting burrows on Craigleith has

Its inspiration was the gannets on the

60,000 – the centre is now attracting more

74 | r:travel

Charles Marshall, the centre’s fundraising

been a considerable achievement.’




The start of a new Red Sea WHEN JASON Strickland and Nathan Tyler

campaign – a global drive to monitor reef

been studying the oceanic white-tip shark

launched their Red Sea diving operation

degradation – accomplish rubbish collections

in the Red Sea since 2004, with the aim of

blue o two seven years ago they pretty much

and take part in presentations and seminars.

encouraging divers to get involved in shark

wanted to revolutionise the way liveaboards were run in the region. They wanted to do away with shoddy service, damaging reef dives and exploitation

‘Our aim,’ says Jason, ‘is to make our guests aware of the global problems in a local

conservation projects. ‘Over the past year we have worked hard

context and give them the opportunity to

to continue making a positive contribution to

help safeguard the future of our oceans.’

the marine environment,’ says Jason. ‘When

of local people. Instead they built their own

Blue o two dive guide Karin van Beeck,

fleet of three luxury boats, looked after their

who helped create the programme, adds:

I was a little nervous – do people really want

staff – even teaching them to read as well as

‘Our first trip sold out within a week – people

to go on holiday to work? But the response

dive – and looked after their clients (now up

really want to help. Now we are shouting

has been amazing.

to around 4,000 a year), teaching them about

about it in the hope more operators will

sustainability and conservation

follow our lead. The more people we can get

Red Sea and we will be dedicating one of our

helping to clear up the mess that tourism

vessels to reef clean-ups throughout January.

Last year their campaign to raise standards and environmental awareness was rewarded

leaves behind, the closer we are to the start of

with a win at the Responsible Tourism

a brand new Red Sea.’

Awards. Job done, then. Well, not quite. Winning the award last year has simply

Other initiatives developed over the past

we decided to start offering reef clean-ups,

‘Our aim is complete sustainability for the

‘What we have discovered is that this is just the beginning – the more you do, the more you realise what you can do. And with

year have been a proposal for a plastic bag

the support of the diving community, we

spurred blue o two on to spread their ‘best

ban in Hurghada, which it’s hoped will

really can make a difference.’

practice’ ideas among other dive operators

get the shore community thinking about


and give something back to the Red Sea. The

conservation and all things sustainable.

launch of their ‘the Red Sea…to dive for’

This is coupled with a push to encourage


campaign has received so much interest that

liveaboard operators to run efficient

‘RECOGNISED IN the 2007 awards,

they are now running regular reef clean-ups.

recycling schemes, using a new waste plant

blue o two has demonstrated how, by setting

to the south of the town. Blue o two is also

an example, a company can encourage others

the most damaged reefs and those facing

launching an education programme with a

to become sustainable operators, developing

the greatest danger. During the safari they

local orphanage charity. Back on the boats,

initiatives such as the marketing of reef

conduct scientific research, collecting data

the company has begun dive trips with

clean-ups, recycling and supporting

to support the Project Aware Coral Watch

marine biologist Elke Bojanowski, who has

education in a local orphanage.’

On these pioneering trips, guests visit

HIGHLY COMMENDED blue o two, UK/Egypt

r:travel | 75




WINNER City Bikes, Copenhagen, Denmark

On your free bike! The Danish capital, Copenhagen, has taken a misused symbol of the Sixties and turned it into a thriving scheme that’s helping tourists and locals alike to keep their carbon footprint down BACK IN the Sixties, in the hazy hippie

The White Bicycles scheme, immortalised in

from April to November. You deposit a

era, the Provos, a counterculture group in

a hit by the pop group Tomorrow, was abused

20DKK coin (about £2) and get your money

Amsterdam, painted 50 bicycles white and

and fizzled out. But its spirit didn’t die.

back when you return the bike to a rack. It’s

left them around the city for anyone to

In 1995 a free bike scheme, Fonden

like a supermarket trolley – but without the

use. The idea: you’d ride one to where you

Bycyklen, the Foundation City Bikes, was

wanted to go, then leave it for another needy

launched in Copenhagen, and this time it

citizen to use.

worked. Today, around 2,500 city bikes are

to shoppers to students to tourists. One was

placed in 110 racks around the old town

given to US President Bill Clinton when he

Alas, idealism wasn’t totally alive and well.

76 | r:travel

wonky wheels. Anyone can use them, from commuters




A GOOD MORNING Planning a visit to Copenhagen? Christian Christensen from City Bikes helps you make the most of a morning in the old town… ● Head for the tourist office opposite Tivoli – there is usually a good chance you can pick up a city bike from the rack there. ● Cycle to the opposite side of the harbour to Islands Brygge to join ‘the Vikings’, hardy souls taking an early-morning dip in the new aspirations. CO2 emissions here have been

harbour-basin pool at the waterfront.

reduced by 25 per cent in the past 15 years. And the lofty political ambition is to make

● Afterwards, warm yourself gently in the

the city the bike capital of the world by

morning sun before heading to a coffee

2015. Already one-third of all journeys in

house in Christianshavn for breakfast beside

Copenhagen are made by bike, and there are

the canal.

300 km of cycle paths. The city bike system embraces Copenhagen’s cycle culture and

● With luck your city bike will still be in the

Copenhagen has embraced the city bike.

rack where you left it. Venture out along the

Christian Christensen, one of two unpaid

harbour to Holmen to see the mix between

board members who run the foundation,

new housing estates and old military buildings

says: ‘When the scheme was introduced it

now being used variously as an architecture

was meant as a means of public transport

academy, music academy and film academy.

you could use from the station or bus stop

Stop off at the impressive new opera house.

to your work. It has never really worked that way on a big scale. So the philosophy today

● Hop on a harbour bus to Nyhavn,

is quite simple: with the city bike system

bringing your city bike with you. Pedal

we encourage people to cycle as a symbolic

through Nyhavn, past the old ships in the

contribution to making Copenhagen green.

canal, and cross the big square to the Queen’s

‘The system also has a “social profile”

palace Amalienborg.


since those who maintain the city bikes

‘HAVING AROUND 2,500 city bikes

are rehabilitees on a six-month training

● If you’re feeling fit, you could test your

available for free use by locals and

programme qualifying for a job.

endurance with a long ride to Østerbro at the

tourists demonstrates the scale and

‘Overall, Copenhageners feel these are

north end of the lakes and ride the bicycle

replicability of an initiative that reduces

their bicycles. They call or email us when

line alongside the lakes down to Vesterbro

the carbon footprint and promotes

they have seen one outside the city bike zone

at the south end. Don’t ride too fast, or you

exercise. The Foundation works with

(see map, above), and we fetch the bikes

won’t notice the swans, the mothers with their

Incita, skilling locals and enabling them

back. They are proud of them and see them

children, the joggers, the old people in their

to gain employment.’

as a part of the identity of Copenhagen. Still,’

wheelchairs, the pretty women smiling at you

he adds, ‘a lot of our bikes are vandalised.

or the other cyclists who overtake you – those

And around 25 per cent disappear every year.’

city bikes are a bit heavy…

visited Copenhagen in 1997, called, naturally

Plans are in place to upgrade the system

City Bike One! Similar free schemes operate

from spring 2010, with the new system

● In Vesterbro, ride through the narrow streets

in Denmark’s second city Aarhus and in

presented at an event to coincide with the

to Halmtorvet for a café lunch. Leave the bike

Helsinki, while swipe-card variations run in

UN climate conference in December 2009. ‘I

in the rack – you still haven’t shopped, and it’s

several European cities including Barcelona,

don’t think the delegates will ride the bikes

worth browsing the small, stylish and quirky

Paris and Vienna. Cambridge tried it with 300

though,’ says Christian. ‘December in

shops in the Latin Quarter behind “Strøget”.

bikes – all were stolen within 24 hours.

Denmark is dark, cold and wet!’

But first: enjoy your lunch!

Copenhagen is famous for its green


r:travel | 77




Getting it right is as easy as riding a bike A COLD, drizzly day in October may not

helping support workers – a project that’s still

have been the ideal time to sample the

supported by Bugbugs.

zero-carbon alternative to a London cab – the


Riders don’t just act as ferrymen for

pedicab – but it was an eye-opening way to

Londoners looking for the green option,

take in some familiar sights along the south

they are also guides, able to show tourists a

bank of the Thames.

different view of London. They are used for

These modern-day rickshaws might look a


corporate events, pr stunts and most carry

bit cumbersome, but in the hands of Bugbugs

advertising. ‘They are a fun way of injecting

managing director Friedel Schroder, getting

awareness about cycling and carbon-free

about is, well, as easy as riding a bike.

transport, while getting a feel for London,’

Maison de la France is the French Government

says Friedel. ‘Everyone who’s in it is really

Tourist Office and has been based in London

self-motivated and positive.’

since 1920.

Surprisingly light, they’re as manoeuvrable as a two-wheeler, and the perfect size for slipping between bollards to reach the parts of London four-wheeled vehicles can’t. Pedicabs appeared in London ten years

As yet, London’s 750 or so pedicabs –

It is the main point of contact for British

spread over 21 companies – are not governed

travellers to France and for UK tourism

by a black cab-style licensing system, and

professionals. France offers an exceptional variety of

ago, and Bugbugs is one of the original

currently operate a voluntary code. But they

pioneers. Operating a fleet of 60 pedicabs,

are working with Transport for London to

expansive landscapes. From the north to the

they have trained more than 800 riders,

develop a fair and appropriate licensing

south, east to west, 80 per cent of France is

enabling them to earn a living (average

scheme for this new ‘old’ form of transport.

countryside. Its 59 national and regional parks

around £200 a week, but sometimes as high

It must be said pedicabs are not universally

as £1,000) – and pay for studies or even

loved – London cabbies are not fans,

personal dreams.

and while Friedel says he respects and

make sure that visitors can enjoy France’s natural beauty responsibly. Environmental laws ensure that France’s

understands their reservations and need to

5,500 km of coastline are protected from

manager when he got hooked on the pedicab

protect their interests, he maintains that the

property developers. France is also one of the

idea, notes that among his riders he’s had

pedicab is a vehicle whose time has come.

key players in the Kyoto Treaty talks.

Friedel, who was working as a bank

It’s never been more eco-friendly to travel

a couple of professors earning extra cash

‘It wouldn’t have worked 20 years ago,

to fund expeditions to Peru and Siberia

when people were too into their cars. But it’s

to France from the UK, thanks to the

– and even a Conservative politician. He’s

right for now. We need something like this to

numerous ferry and train connections

also on nodding terms with London mayor

push people in a more green direction.’

between the two countries. Most notably,

Boris Johnson, himself a keen cyclist. Many

‘We really want to resolve the licensing

France can boast the TGV high-speed trains

riders have gone overseas to set up their

system,’ he adds. ‘It’s taken TfL a long time

which emit very low levels of carbon and

own pedicab operations in other cities. One

to get this through, but when it does, “best

connect the French regions and cities at

rider, fondly remembered as Ben, went to

practice” firms such as ours will win out over

speeds reaching 357mph!

Namibia, where he established a cycle charity

the cowboys who give pedicabs a bad name.’ www.bugbugs.com

Maison de la France will continue to support responsible travel to France, and is proud to sponsor the Best Low Carbon


Transport & Technology category in the

‘Over the past ten years Bugbugs has offered

Responsible Tourism Awards.

carbon-free transportation around central


London using state-of-the-art pedicabs, rickshaws or bugs and provided a route into employment for 800 people. In 2007 they carried 26,000 people, many of them tourists, an alternative to fossil-fuelled journeys.’

78 | r:travel

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Photo: Simon Rogerson

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WINNER Holland America Line, USA

Cruise Control A few eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of a Best Cruise or Ferry Operator category in this year’s Responsible Tourism Awards. Cruising does not have the best reputation when it comes to sustainable tourism. Indeed these floating cities have been accused of having a worse impact on global warming than planes. But progress is being made and this new category acknowledges the environmental strides being taken by one industry giant – and also celebrates a much smaller UK ferry operator whose roots go deep into its lakeland community CRUISING IS a rapidly growing sector of

businesses. According to Climate Care, a

every year. The Independence Of The Seas,

the holiday market. In 2007, a record 1.34

cruise liner such as Queen Mary 2 emits

for example, part of the Royal Caribbean

million Brits took a cruise, a figure expected

0.43kg of CO2 per passenger mile, compared

International fleet, carries more than 4,000

to reach 1.5 million this year. Meanwhile,

with 0.257kg for a long-haul flight. That

passengers, has a water park with a wave

nearly 42 million passenger ferry journeys

makes it greener to fly than to cruise.

machine, an ice rink and a boxing ring!

were taken between British ports and the

On a typical one-week voyage a cruise ship

continent, Ireland and British islands last year.

generates more than 50 tonnes of garbage

You might think that spending so much

and a million tonnes of grey (waste) water,

These vessels are substitute resorts – in effect, floating cities. There is much debate over what

time cocooned at sea would have a minimal

210,000 gallons of sewage and 35,000 gallons

economic benefit cruise ships bring to local

impact on the surrounding environments,

of oil-contaminated water. On average, cruise

destinations. Stopovers can be brief and the

local economies, people and cultures, but

ship passengers each account for 3.5kg of

estimated amount a cruise passenger will

cruise liners have a significant ecological

rubbish daily – compared with the 0.8kg each

spend on an island excursion is £40. Cruise

impact and generally bring limited economic

generated by local people on shore.

ships mostly stock up at their home port,

benefit to local communities and small

80 | r:travel

Newer and bigger ships are being built

making minimal purchases en route and



therefore the level of income that remains in

off all their engines and connect to the local

the local economy is minimal.

grid which uses clean hydro-electric power.

But cruise lines say that they are working

In 2007 this initiative reduced dockside

hard to minimise their environmental

emissions by 65 per cent, and that figure is

impact, and one, in particular, stands out:

expected to rise to 75 per cent in 2008.

Holland America Line (HAL). Take a Holland America cruise, and, at

Dave Kircher, of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, welcomed Holland America’s shore

some point you’ll probably see a presentation

power commitment at Seattle, saying: ‘We’ve

about the company’s environmental efforts.

not seen much willingness from other lines to

A stewardship video will take you behind the

approach us, but Holland America have really

scenes, in the galley and in the engine room,

stepped up to it and are leaders in this area.’

to see how black and grey water is processed,

Among other environmental initiatives are

to the garbage room to see how rubbish is

reduced fuel consumption, an experimental

sorted for recycling. It’s not sexy, but Holland

seawater scrubber system to reduce sulphur

America likes to show it off all the same.

dioxide and particulate matter emissions, an

In 2006, Holland America spent more than

advanced on-board water waste treatment

US$4.5 million and partnered with the Port

system, environmental officers on every ship,

of Seattle and local environmental groups

and a robust grassroots feedback scheme that

to install shore power facilities. Typically,

enables any crew member to suggest ways to

when a cruise ship is at berth, at least one

improve environmental management.

of the diesel engines is running which emits


A new Ship to Shelter programme in

It’s all part of a process, says Bill Morani, Holland America’s vice president of environmental management systems, that

pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen and

Seattle collects unneeded and reusable goods

makes good business sense as well as helping

sulphur, as well as greenhouse gases and

from the vessels, from bed linen to furniture,

the environment. ‘People say, “When did

particulates. Shore power in its Seattle home

cookware to toiletries, towels to TVs and

Holland America decide to go green?” But

port enables Holland America’s ships to turn

donates them to Seattle area charities.

it wasn’t a sudden decision; it’s something


r:travel | 81




WHAT THE JUDGES SAID ‘HOLLAND America Line has recognised that the industry has negative environmental impacts and is accepting responsibility for doing something about it. It has reduced dockside emissions by 20 per cent, developed and implemented an Avoiding Whale Strikes training programme, increased recycling by 50 per cent and introduced new scrubber technology.’

we’ve been doing for several years. Back in

with local communities, sponsoring arts and

tourism is not a niche that excludes some

June 2006 our environmental management

culture, including building an Alaska Native

sectors. To create real change in destinations

system was certified to ISO 14001 standards

Heritage Centre in Fairbanks. Native Alaskans

all sectors of the market need to embrace

[the environmental quality benchmark].

work as travel guides on Alaskan cruises to

responsible tourism – especially huge sectors

Part of that required us to set targets and

educate and entertain guests about the native

like the cruise industry. It is for this reason,

objectives. It took us a year and a half to get

culture, wildlife and flora. Holland America’s

plus the fact that I believe that the Awards

there, which is quite an accelerated pace and

computer training programme ‘Avoiding

can successfully encourage positive change,

we set aggressive targets.’

Whale Strikes’, developed in cooperation

that we’ve chosen to include this sector.’

Last year, Holland America’s fleet of 14

with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric

‘We all impact the environment,’ says

ships carried more than 720,000 passengers

Administration’s National Marine Fisheries

Morani. ‘We need to identify the things we

on nearly 500 cruises to 314 ports of call in

Service, has been so successful that NOAA

do that cause that impact and come up with

97 countries, territories or dependencies.

is distributing it free to other maritime

control measures to reduce it. As an industry

‘Wherever we go,’ says Morani, ‘our goal is

industries and shipping companies.

we are figuring out how to do that, and share

to leave the place in as good a condition as when we find it.’ Around Alaska, it has improved its links

82 | r:travel

Commenting on the inclusion of the new

knowledge around so it won’t just benefit the

award, Justin Francis, managing director of

cruise industry but the entire maritime field.’

responsibletravel.com, says: ‘Responsible




HIGHLY COMMENDED Ullswater Steamers, UK



Ullswater takes it to the bridge As the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) JUST FIVE miles off the M6 motorway in

and Pooley Bridge, and the company uses

celebrates its 50th year, it recognises the

Cumbria lies one of the most beautiful

local produce aboard and in its café, and

many challenges that lie ahead. Originally

spots in England – Ullswater. This gently

encourages environmental best practices

formed to represent the interests of shipping

curving eight-mile stretch of mirrored water,

among its suppliers, staff and customers. It

companies in response to the arrival of the

ringed by magnificent mountains, offers

also now sponsors the Tourist information

jet aircraft, today the association represents

breathtaking tranquility whether you’re

Centre in Pooley Bridge which had been

44 cruise brands and 16 ferry members who

striding the slopes above the water or taking

forced to close through lack of funds.

operate in the UK. As well as promoting the

a leisurely ride on it. Ullswater Steamers have been sailing on

The company is proud of its heritage – and the area’s associations with the likes

benefits of sea travel, it works with members on minimising the environmental impact.

this most beautiful of England’s lakes for

of Wordsworth, Sir Donald Campbell, A W

Passenger travel by sea provides great

almost 150 years, and its vessels remain the

Wainwright and links to Arthurian legend.

economic and social benefits. 1.5 million

perfect way to enjoy the area. Each year

History boards at its Pier House HQ reflect

Brits are expected to take a cruise in 2008,

nearly 200,000 visitors take a cruise aboard

these – and tour commentaries pass the

while nearly 42 million passenger ferry

one of the four beautifully maintained

history on to visitors.

journeys were taken between UK ports and

heritage boats – and with 10p from every

‘The company has worked quietly

the continent, Ireland and British islands

ticket donated to its Tourism & Conservation

behind the scenes for many, many years,’

Partnership, Ullswater Steamers has raised

says marketing manager Rachel Bell,

more than £20,000 over the past ten years

‘and we’re keen to involve visitors in our

of transport; however, the PSA and its

towards access and conservation projects in

environmental campaigns – we offer tips

members are aware of their environmental

the Ullswater Valley.

for tourists and have introduced divider

responsibilities and committed to addressing

bins on our boats to help them recycle.’

the issues so that we may all continue to

This year the company has stepped up its conservation work, adopting another

And she adds: ‘You don’t have to use up

last year. Shipping is one of the most efficient forms

enjoy the benefits. Huge strides have been

cause close to the area’s heart – the Save

air miles flying all over the world to find

taken in minimising the impact of shipping.

the Squirrels charity – running events, a

dramatic scenery. It’s right on our doorstep.’

There has been great investment in state-of-

photography competition and cruises to raise


the-art management systems and treatment

awareness of the need to preserve habitats of

technologies and members are committed to


eliminating pollution through improved

‘A PIONEER for sustainable tourism in the

environmental policies and by sharing

Steamers, says: ‘One of the key reasons

Lake District, they carry 196,000 people

best practice.

that people use our steamer service is our

a year. Ten years ago they introduced a


commitment to conservation, so helping to

visitor donation scheme with proceeds to

ensure that the habitats of red squirrels are

the Tourism & Conservation Partnership

preserved is another way we can show this.’

for projects in the Ullswater Valley; by

the threatened red squirrel. Jim Walker, chief executive of Ullswater

Efficiency measures and new technology

encouraging people to travel one way by

have helped the steamers reduce their energy

steamer and then walk or cycle back they

consumption and environmental impact

have helped to disperse visitors – and make

as they ply between Glenridding, Howton

them healthier.’

r:travel | 83



WINNER Gambia is Good project, The Gambia

84 | r:travel





How Gambia eased its growing pains Poor rural farmers in The Gambia have been able to grab a sizeable share of the lucrative tourism market thanks to a project that has helped them meet the exacting demands of local hoteliers

glimpse of hippos and crocodile surfacing, and baboons playing on its banks.

THE GAMBIA is a well-established ‘winter

dividing residents into north or south bank

Though winter tourism is a major source

sun’ tourism destination. One of West Africa’s

inhabitants. Steamers can navigate the river

of business in The Gambia, attracting around

most peaceful nations, it’s a narrow lick of a

for 140 miles inland. For the first 80 miles, it’s

100,000 visitors a year, mostly from the UK

country, surrounded by Senegal on all sides

fringed with mangrove-covered banks, later

and Europe, it is virtually all package-tour

except for its 50 miles of Atlantic coastline.

giving way to red cliffs topped with green

trade, controlled by Western-owned big tour

vegetation. Dotted with ferries, fishermen

operators, airlines and hotels. Thus, most of

of life in The Gambia, stretching from the

in dugout canoes and cutters loaded with

the tourist money that should find its way

Atlantic Coast 186 miles into its interior,

groundnuts, the river offers the occasional

into the local economy instead leaks out

The Gambia River is a dominating feature

of the country. The big operators even get


a sizeable chunk of the tourists’ spending money because they arrange the excursions.

Ebrima Jawara, a grower from Daru Fodeba village, explains how being part of Gambia is

But in 2004 the Gambian community

Good has helped: ‘Quality seeds and training have helped me to achieve higher yields,

fought back. A collaboration between

a longer harvest period and good prices. Last year I bought one pack of tomato seeds for

Haygrove, a UK fruit and flower grower

600 dalasi [£12]. When I finished harvesting I had earned 22,000 dalasi [£450], which is at

which supplies major UK supermarkets, the

least three times what I would have got without Gambia is Good. Presently, I have an Irish

international charity Concern Universal and

potato plot in my garden and three nurseries of hybrid cabbage and tomatoes. Now, my

local groups in Gambia, found that farmers

dream is to increase my cultivated areas and earn more money.’

in Gambia were missing out on trade with

Jonsoba, a grower from Kambong village, adds: ‘I heard through GiG about a new cabbage variety and got some seeds. Two months later I harvested three bags of big and

high value tourist hotels and restaurants. At the same time that thousands of kilos

beautiful cabbage heads. I sold these to GiG for 2,800 dalasi [£58]. Before, I could not expect

of local produce were going to waste – often

to earn so much money. Next year I also plan to try out a new sweet pepper variety.’

not even making it beyond the garden gate


r:travel | 85






In the past year Gambia is Good has diverted £34,000 of sales away from the importers and into the hands of the local, small-scale producers


It is a great honour for PromPeru to sponsor the Responsible Tourism Award for Best for Poverty Reduction. Peru’s own tourism industry acts as a tool to help combat poverty

– the businesses were importing truckloads

away from the importers and into the hands

as it is continuously aiding the improvement

of produce from Holland, France, Spain and

of the local, small-scale producers.

of the quality of life of the Peruvian by

even neighbouring Senegal. Although the hotels were willing to buy

A further innovation saw Gambia is

generating sustainable development and

Good link up with The Travel Foundation

income throughout the country. This helps to

high-quality Gambian produce they were put

to launch their own farmyard, which is used

consolidate a common identity and

off by unreliable local supply, inconsistent

to demonstrate best-practice and generate

strengthen commercial relations between

quality and shortages during peak periods.

additional income through production and

Peru and the rest of the world.

With £197,000 funding from DFID’s Business Linkages Challenge Fund, a fair trade horticultural company, Gambia is

tourism – so far more than 1,000 First Choice tourists have visited the farm on excursions. ‘Supplying the hotels was not easy in the

Tourism is the third highest earning industry in Peru, after mining and oil production. The UK is the largest European

Good, was set up to start to turn this around

beginning,’ admits Adama Bah, The Travel

market for visitors to Peru and during 2007

for the benefit of poor rural Gambian

Foundation programme co-ordinator. ‘A lot

the number of UK visitors to Peru increased

communities. Haygrove worked with local

of capacity building was needed to match

by 11 per cent and we would expect to see

subsistence growers to improve irrigation,

supply with demand. We ourselves import

similar growth figures for 2008.

grading of harvests, distribution and

from Senegal to meet any shortfall while we

marketing. Producers have been given access

are still building that capacity.’

promotion of exports and tourism for Peru,

to quality seeds, pesticides and fertilisers that


executes strategic policies to promote tourism

were not previously available. Over-produced

and Peruvian exports within international

items were replaced with in-demand ones such as courgettes and broccoli. Initially Gambia is Good worked with 30



growers but now works with 1,000, of which

that it is possible for 1,000 local growers,

most are businesses run by women.

90 per cent of them women, to produce

Hoteliers have welcomed the initiative

20 tonnes of vegetables and fruit in the

with open arms – 80 per cent are

tourism season to supply hotels and

participating and are now buying 20 tonnes

make a real contribution to reducing

of produce a month during the season. In the

poverty in The Gambia – this is a local

past year GiG has diverted £34,000 of sales

project of international significance.’

86 | r:travel

PromPeru, the commission for the





HIGHLY COMMENDED Jungle Bay Resort & Spa, Dominica

Island of hope JUNGLE BAY launched onto the Caribbean holiday scene in 2005 as a radical alternative to traditional Caribbean sun’n’sand resorts. The 55-acre boutique hotel is unique in many ways – not least of which is its founder, local-born businessman and developer Sam Raphael. It’s rare for upscale Caribbean properties to be developed and operated by local Caribbean people. The resort features 35 wooden cottages perched on stilts, in the midst of the rainforest. Amenities include an open-air restaurant, pool, spa, yoga centre and nature trail. And Dominica doesn’t fit the Caribbean profile. This relatively unknown rainforest island has almost no beaches, above-average rainfall, a rugged coastline and no direct flights from major destinations. The most radical departure, however, is Jungle Bay’s philosophy; that it is possible to develop and profitably run a luxury hotel that conserves the environment and creates jobs and

spa attendants, cooks, room attendants,

a garden and access to fresh water. But the

economic opportunity for the local population.

maintenance people and managers.

collapse of an entire industry required a new

Around the turn of the century, the

The story of the resort forms part of the

mind-set – and Jungle Bay provided it.

island’s economy came to a shuddering halt

experience for visitors who can also visit

with the demise of its subsidised agricultural

some of the many community projects

in the tourism industry in the Caribbean,’

trade, sending 8,000 small Dominican

Jungle Bay supports, including the House of

said Raphael. ’The Jungle Bay philosophy

banana farmers into bankruptcy.

Hope, a home for disabled orphans, which

is beginning to blossom. The real Jungle

will expand to house the elderly and battered

Bay story is that out of an unfortunate set

built over five years by large numbers of

women and their children. One unexpected

of circumstances, the Caribbean tourism

previously unskilled ex-banana farm workers

sideline was a decision by the staff to donate

industry might have a viable alternative

using discarded rocks and reclaimed timber.

ten per cent of their tips to help such projects.

to old practices, one which will be more

Jungle Bay filled part of that void. It was

Because tourism was new to the southeast

The success of the Jungle Bay model has

‘This is the beginning of a quiet revolution

sustainable in the long run.’

region of Dominica, Raphael and his wife

not gone unnoticed. The government is now

Glenda set up a local NGO, the South East

convinced that low impact tourism is key

Tourism Development Committee to lay the

to the future of Dominica, and Jungle Bay is


groundwork for its brand of ecotourism, such

seen as the ‘signature resort’.

‘JUNGLE BAY is a leader in responsible

as developing trails, and training guides.

Accepting a World Saver award earlier


tourism and poverty reduction in Dominica

this year, Sam Raphael said Jungle Bay was

– 85 per cent of the payroll goes to local

and fishermen have had a new market for

changing an entire community. This lush

employees, the resort supported the

their fresh organic produce, handicraft

island, more akin to a chunk of Costa Rica,

development of local enterprises to create

producers and heritage dancers have had a

doesn’t match the familiar poverty image of

employment and to supply organic produce,

venue for their trade and 60 villagers have

subsistence farming in a dry, dusty landscape

fish and craft production; and runs a House

been trained to host visitors as tour guides,

parched by drought. Most Dominicans have

of Hope for disabled children.’

Since Jungle Bay opened, small farmers

r:travel | 87



HIGHLY COMMENDED Stormsriver Adventures, South Africa


company began in 1998, more than 500 local people have been trained as adventure guides. Many of them have since gone on to take up senior positions locally and abroad, working in Dubai, Bahrain and Europe as operations managers. In addition, the company has initiated, and is involved in a number of programmes within the communities. These include an empowerment catering company, Stormsriver Caterers, which supplies all catering supplies to Stormsriver Adventures. A school feeding programme, which supplies three meals a week to 200 children of Stormsriver West Primary School, has been sponsored by Stormsriver Adventures for the past four years. An animal welfare project involving the children and their pets helps to create a value system for about 150 youngsters, many of whom have very little. And about 1,800 free educational excursions are provided for children every year. All this has helped Stormsriver become the first – and so far, only – tourism company to achieve Fairtrade accreditation. Future projects to be supported include the Vegetable Door Project which aims to ensure that poor families become selfsufficient in basic vegetables; an HIV/AIDS awareness programme; and a community

A head for heights – and for business

recycling scheme. ‘Tourism has the potential to lift the poverty spiral,’ says Ashley. ‘Our operation has created a tourist-friendly environment which has in some way or another benefited the entire community. We are respected as a company that cares about the plight of

AFTER A 26-year stint in the pharmaceutical

forest floor. The scenery is spectacular and

our community and one which is always

industry, corporate high flyer Ashley

the bird life, in particular, is incredible.

prepared to assist. In turn, I believe that our

Wentworth figured it was time to give

The concept of guiding people through

community is starting to understand the

something back, time to make a tangible

the upper canopy of a rainforest originated

value of tourism.’

difference to poor communities and protect

in Costa Rica, where adventurous biologists


the environment.

devised new ways to access the forest canopy so they could conduct research on


eco-adventure company situated in a rural

its undiscovered ecosystem. The idea soon

‘STORMSRIVER only employs locally, all staff

village in the Tsitsikamma forest on South

developed into a breathtaking form of

have a profit share, pension and medical aid;

Africa’s east coast. Here around 30,000 guests

ecotourism, with local professional guides

the company employs 60 permanent staff,

a year can take part in a number of activities,

talking you through the forest ecology.

putting 400,000 euros into the local economy

The result was Stormsriver Adventures, an

including Africa’s first canopy tour.

Stormsriver’s policy has been to only

through salaries and local sourcing, they

employ from the local community, with

also support school feeding and HIV/AIDS

from one platform to another along a steel

all staff sharing in the profits and receiving

programmes – they have made a significant

cable suspended up to 30 metres above the

pension and medical benefits. Since the

reinvestment in their local community.’

The three-hour tour involves traversing

88 | r:travel


Nepal–Mera Peak Expedition 6,476m 22 October – 13 November 2009

Join Scope in the ancient kingdom of Nepal. Realise a dream and trek to 6,746 metres whilst raising vital funds for a great cause. For an information pack now: Call 0800 0191 200 Visit www.scope.org.uk/adventures Text Event Mera and name and address details to 60003* *Standard text message rates apply Scope is a registered charity

Quote ref: Travel




WINNER Explore, UK

It’s in the blood If you cut Explore, it will bleed responsible tourism. From its small beginnings 27 years ago, it has blended idealism, practical skills and an unquenchable thirst for authentic discovery into a simple and successful formula

EXPLORE HIT the road in 1981 thanks

the culture and appreciating the wildlife

to three travelling companions who had

without seeking to change them.

breathed travel, eaten travel and slept travel

Around 85 per cent of their tours use local

for as long as they could remember – among

guides, and 51 per cent are entirely local-led.

them Travers Cox, who left his Australian

This figure will rise to 63 per cent next year,

homestead as a teenager on the back of a

with Cuba, India, Costa Rica, Nicaragua,

rusty two-wheeler, and never looked back.

Oman and Algeria among countries going

They began Explore with two phones and

local tour leaders in 2006-07, and another

villages of northern Thailand on foot; a

159 in 2007-08.

Rajasthan desert safari by camel; south-west

90 | r:travel

exclusively local-led. Explore trained 249

a telex, offering just four trips – through the

But possibly the most radical innovation is

Turkey by bus and boat and down the Nile by

its new carbon offset pledge. For some time

felucca. Now the company offers 500

Explore has offset carbon emissions for all

adventures in 130 countries, including short

staff flights and encouraged its customers to

breaks, family tours, cycling and school tours.

follow suit through voluntary offsets. Since

But they’ve never strayed from the core

1 January 2008, however, Explore has included

concept that travel is best experienced in

in each tour cost a sum to be donated to

small groups, meeting people, learning about

projects that reduce global carbon emissions.




‘We have thought long and hard about the current environmental concerns and are convinced that carbon offsetting all customers’ flights is a step in the right direction’


It’s not an opt-in or an opt-out, it’s just there

company appointed a full-time responsible

on your bill – like it or lump it.

tourism manager.

‘We are the first large travel operator to

‘It’s been a natural progression for us,’ says

do this,’ says managing director Ashley Toft

Toft. ‘We’ve always worked with local people

– himself a former Explore tour leader, who

– that way a large part of customers’ money

has ‘grown up’ with the company. ‘This has

ends up in the local economy of the places

been no small decision as we expect to hand

we visit. And some of the projects we support

over a cheque for several hundred thousand

have come about through suggestions from

pounds each year. We have chosen our

local people themselves.

offsetting partner very carefully, as well as the specific projects our funding will help.’ He went on: ‘We have thought long


‘When we first started putting a name to these principles – responsible travel – we were greatly encouraged by the support of our

and hard about the current environmental

suppliers, their respect for us for promoting


concerns and are convinced that carbon

these issues and their willingness to engage

‘A LEADER in implementing responsible

offsetting all customers’ flights is a step in the

in the process. We ask a lot more of them

tourism principles for many years,

right direction. We’re taking a stand – there’s

in that everything we do is geared towards

Explore has been recognised for training

a lot of talk about these issues at government

responsibility and sustainability.

and employing local tour leaders,

level, but something needs to be done.’

‘The company was pioneering RT before

pushing its suppliers to deliver, investing

Explore has chosen Climate Care as

it was even being talked about and this get-

£300k into projects including energy-

its designated carbon offset partner, after

on-with-it spirit remains central to what we

efficient cooking stoves in Cambodia,

working with them for a number of years.

do and we enjoy it. The whole responsible

and most recently for appointing a

Explore will be supporting specific projects

approach runs through the company’s veins.’

full-time Responsible Tourism Manager.’

which either reduce emissions at source or


absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, including: funding a small paper factory in India that


uses sugar cane waste to power its machines; providing hundreds of energy-efficient

FOR MANY people, even in a credit-crunched world, having an adventure is right

cooking stoves in Cambodia; supporting

up there on their list of spending priorities. Londoner turned ‘Explorer’ Ian Murphy

clean development through hydro-electric

visited Egypt in search of his – and found it in the desert sands

power in China and continuing the reforestation of the Kibale Forest in Uganda. At home, in Farnborough, Hampshire, Explore has expanded its ‘greener office’

‘Nothing can beat night in the Egyptian desert. A camp fire blooms instantly from logs doused in petrol. Three Toyota Landcruisers are parked in a U-shape, and carpets hung around them to form a windbreak. “What’s for dinner, Mohamed?” we cry to our guide. “Fox,” Mohamed replies, right on cue. It turns out to be chicken cooked in silver foil.

scheme, including a cycle-to-work scheme,

Later, Mohamed teaches us to drum, beating out rhythms, which we ineptly imitate.

and joined Hampshire’s car-share scheme.

Mohamed then shows us dancing Bedouin-style. We try to swing our hips as sinuously as

It also set up a new five-figure investment

him. If the Bedouins are shocked, they hide it well.

partnership with The Gorilla Organisation

The day is just as good. After breakfast, we are toppling up the side of a seif or sword

and an Explore team donned gorilla suits to

dune. The trick is to find unbroken sand and move quickly. I leave Graham, a Canadian

take part in the Great Gorilla Run around the

engineer, floundering about near the bottom while I climb rapidly to a ridge. For half

City of London in September.

an hour, I am in dune heaven. Sitting at the summit, voices are coming up to me with

New long-term charitable projects include

stunning clarity from the encampment below. The dunes dazzle and shift as the sun rises

sponsoring girls through high school in

higher. It is the most calming sight. In my mind I save it up and bottle it. I know it’s going

Morocco, adopting an orphaned elephant in

to be the perfect antidote to rush-hour traffic jams and delayed Tube trains.

Sri Lanka, and it has joined Travel Operators

A few hours later we all go dune crazy. We are riding in the Landcruisers towards a lunch

for Tigers, an industry-wide campaign to

stop at Sitra oasis. Sometimes we descend slopes so steep it seems the jeep must overturn. But

support more responsible use of forest and

the noonday light has tricked us, and before we know it, we are racing up the opposite slope.

wilderness areas in India. And in October, the

We don’t know how we’ll adjust to normal life again. For us only the desert is enough.’

r:travel | 91




HIGHLY COMMENDED Boogie Pilgrim, Madagascar

Born to boogie

her from the start. Near their three lodges – the newest of which, Mananara, was built in 2007 – they have built and supported three schools and health posts. They also hire and train local guides who often take tourists to their own villages. Boogie supports the conservation of Tsarasaotra Park, and its whale-watching MILLIONS OF years ago Madagascar, an

sustainable tourism offers one of the best

tours involve guests in research. In fact, many

island about the size of France, split from

hopes for achieving that.

of Boogie’s tour itineraries take travellers

mainland Africa. Like the fabled Lost World,

Sonja Ranarivelo was barely 20 years old

to see development work, such as projects

it has an almost mythological reputation,

when she created Boogie Pilgrim in 1988, but

involving children at risk. In 2002 it created

being home to more than 250,000 species, of

she has been an integral part of this process.

Go To Madagascar, an association of tour

which around 70 per cent are found nowhere

German-born, she came to Madagascar as a

operators, with the aim of raising awareness

else on the planet.

child and grew up surrounded by what she

and training in responsible tourism.

But despite its biological and cultural richness, Madagascar is also among the

calls ‘my beautiful island’. Respponsible tourism has not always been

Says Sonja: ‘The communities welcome visitors because they are proud to show their

world’s poorest countries, ranking 149th

an easy sell: not all communities share the

culture and way of living. We explain to

out of 175 on the UN’s poverty index. The

interest in conservation. ‘We are often seen

our guests that underdevelopment is just a

average Malagasy makes around one dollar

as potential “policemen” who disturb their

northern concept; they will see that most

a day, and 70 per cent of the population

everyday life,’ says Sonja. ‘It takes a lot of

Malagasy are happy people.’

suffers from malnutrition. And it’s not just

time and energy to change that and to get


the human population that is suffering. Every

their confidence and cooperation.’

year as much as a third of the country burns

For the past 20 years she and her Malagasy


and one per cent of its remaining forests is

husband Thierry have built Boogie Pilgrim

‘BOOGIE PILGRIM has demonstrated over

levelled, despite a slash-and-burn ban.

(named after a character in an Elton John

the past ten years the difference that tourism

song) into the leading inbound tour operator

can make to conservation and the livelihoods

forests and unique biodiversity is key to

in Madagascar. Now, it has three lodges and

of local communities through employment

the country’s economic development – and

a staff of ten, four of whom have been with

and local sourcing of goods and services.’

Conserving what remains of Madagascar’s

92 | r:travel





First, make the right choice

AT THE Adventure Company we recognise we are accountable for the way we affect the destinations and the local communities we travel to. For many years we have placed

IT’S EASY TO dismiss mainstream tourists as

understanding of local culture. Ticket books

more interested in flopping on a beach by a

sent out recommend buying locally-made

concrete Costa complex. And for most, how

souvenirs; First Choice Holiday Villages,

on trains, camels or boats, and stay with

much their holiday helps the environment

catering for around 100,000 tourists, feature

local families or in local guest houses. All our

or benefits the local community is not a

local handicrafts in their shops and stage

guides also live in the destination countries

primary motivation. But pitch it right, as First

weekly craft fairs for local craftspeople.

so you benefit from their knowledge and they

Choice is doing and you can encourage mass-

Travelife environmental audits – a

market to start making the right choice. First Choice customers have the option to

new common standard developed by the Federation of Tour Operators – have been

responsible travel at the heart of our business. During our tours you’ll travel like locals;

benefit from the money and skills which go, and stay, in the area. We are also committed to improve our

donate £1 per adult – and 50p per child – to

carried out in 270 hotels in the past 16

destinations’ infrastructures through the

the company’s World Care Fund, with First

months, identifying targets for water and

Adventure Company Foundation. Funds

Choice (now part of TUI Travel) matching

energy consumption, and energy-saving

donated by our passengers are put towards

them pound for pound. Eighty per cent of

initiatives are in place to make First Choice’s

carefully selected community projects. These

this fund goes to Climate Care to support

airline as fuel efficient as possible. These

are small grass-roots initiatives that really

environmental projects and 20 per cent goes

measures have saved about 34,000 tonnes of

make a difference such as building houses in

to The Travel Foundation, a charity caring for

CO2 in the past year – equivalent to taking

Sri Lanka, a community centre in Nepal and

local communities in holiday destinations.

10,000 family cars off the road for a year.

equipping schools in Morocco and Ecuador.

A third of customers makes a contribution;

Jane Ashton is now devising a responsible

Finally, if you decide to travel with us

that percentage dropped sharply when the

tourism strategy across the whole of TUI.

you’ll receive our responsible travel leaflet; a

company raised its initial 40p voluntary levy

‘Making the business case for responsible

simple travellers’ code, which helps you make

to £1.50, before settling on a pound, showing

tourism isn’t that hard,’ she says, ‘On the

a positive difference to the countries and

that while mainstream consumers ‘care’ they

environmental side it’s important to be

places you’re journeying through.

don’t care so much! ‘We’ve learnt how price-

sustainable. On the social side it makes the

sensitive the market is,’ admits Jane Ashton,

travel experience more meaningful.’

business in a way that respects and benefits

TUI’s head of sustainable development.


the destinations we travel to; without their

The World Care Fund was launched in

We are dedicated to managing our

environment and way of life the fascination

March 2007 and First Choice customers


of travel is lost.

raised more than £1 million in the first year.

‘FOR TEN YEARS First Choice has been


This year the fund has been rolled out across

quietly working to make its operations more

other TUI brands, and the company expects

sustainable, demonstrating what a large-

to raise up to £2.5 million for overseas

scale tour operator can achieve. It has put

projects – testament to the importance of

sustainability at the core of its business model

engaging mainstream spending power.

and transparently reported their progress in

Many resorts have set up a ‘sustainable excursion’ that offers customers a better

its People and Environment report; it has been a leader in the sector.’

r:travel | 93




The winning mentality What makes a winner? Harold Goodwin, professor of responsible tourism management at Leeds Metropolitan University, director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism, and chair of the judges, talks r:travel through the selection and judging process for the Responsible Tourism Awards HOW ARE THE AWARDS JUDGED? The nominations for each category are sent to one of our Masters or PhD students in the International Centre for Responsible Tourism. They read through the nominations and do some basic research on them. As chair, I moderate that process and sometimes a nomination is moved to a more appropriate category. The top 15 or so are then sent questionnaires and the nominees asked to tell us what they have achieved on the social, economic and environmental aspects of responsible tourism. They are also asked to provide references, which we take up and give to the judges. Two judges work together on each category to select three or four nominees which they then present to the rest of the panel and make a recommendation. These are debated, drawing on judges’ knowledge and additional background provided by independent referees approached by me as chair. There is usually a keen debate but generally a consensus emerges, occasionally there is a vote.


toughest categories to win are probably

We are looking for the best practices in

tour operator, small hotels and personal

responsible tourism, for new approaches

contribution – some really good practice is

and examples that others can emulate; we

not even commended in these categories.

want to encourage change through the

In other categories, for example low carbon

awards. We also look for a track record and

transport & technology, cruise operators and


evidence of delivering social, economic and

volunteering, the competition is less stiff. But

Many of those recognised want to remain

environmental benefits to the communities

it’s growing; when we first included poverty

at the cutting edge; they take pride in

and their natural and cultural environments.

reduction the initiatives we were looking at

developing and implementing their policy.

were much weaker than they are today.

Anyone who has been a winner or been


highly commended previously has to explain what they have done since that’s new. Often,

nominations, compared to 1,700 last year.


And the standard rises every year – it was

Yes it has – we look for better and better

from those who did better than it did, and

much harder to win this year than it was

practice and the evidence to back up the

is likely to go on to be a winner. Others rest

back when the awards started in 2004. The

claims that the businesses are making.

back on their laurels and disappear. The

For a start, there were more than 1,900

94 | r:travel

a company which was highly commended one year will push hard to improve, learning

| HOW standards are rising and only the best can win or be commended.




Meet the judges HAROLD GOODWIN, chair of the

SUE HURDLE is the chief executive

judges, is professor of Responsible

of The Travel Foundation, the

Tourism Management at Leeds

government and industry-backed

demonstrating that a new approach works

Metropolitan University and director of the

sustainable tourism charity that helps the

– we want to see what the company is

International Centre for Responsible Tourism

UK travel industry to take effective action on

contributing itself or in the way it works

– a post-graduate research and training

sustainable tourism.

with suppliers and purchasers and, of course,

centre, where he runs an MSc in Responsible

the customers – but our focus is on what the

Tourism Management.

nominee has achieved and its sustainability.

director and a founder of bgb JUSTIN FRANCIS is founder and


DEBBIE HINDLE is the managing communications and has worked

managing director of online travel

on sustainable travel issues for organisations

directory responsibletravel.com,

ranging from tourist boards to NGOs. She is

founders and organisers of the Responsible

also a member of the United Nations World

Tourism Awards, and is a Trustee of The

Tourism Organisation’s Crisis Action Team.

Travel Foundation.

But small is not always beautiful. One of

KEITH RICHARDS is a barrister

the fundamental principles of responsible

FIONA JEFFERY is chairman of

tourism is that anyone involved in tourism

World Travel Market, and chairman/

can be more responsible. Some of the

founder of the international travel

and ABTA’s head of business development and consumer affairs. He is responsible for policy and strategy

large operators are beginning to make real

and tourism industry charity – Just a Drop,

work on corporate responsibility including

improvements; if they are the best in the

which aims to deliver clean water to more

sustainable development, holiday health and

category they should be rewarded. One of

than 1.1 billion children worldwide.

safety, and disability access issues.

the many mistakes ecotourism made was a refusal to engage with the mainstream, which

NEEL INAMDAR is the ecotourism


meant it ghettoised itself. We need to change

business advisor for Conservation

travel editor of the Telegraph Media

the mainstream industry.

International, and a liaison and advisor between private corporations and


non-governmental organisations.

Group, a position he has held for the past ten years. He is also the author of Last

Days In Cloud Cuckooland, which deals with the end of colonial rule in Africa.

Competition will continue to grow – we’ll

ANDREW COOPER is the director

also see more criticism of carbon offsetting

general of both the Federation


and concern about access to potable water for

of Tour Operators, and the

publisher of Geographical magazine

local communities.

International Federation of Tour Operators.

and runs Circle Publishing which also produces DIVE, Active, Business


IAN REYNOLDS was chief

Franchise, r:travel and Christian Aid News.

executive of the Association of British Travel Agents from 1994


Helping to raise awareness of responsible

until September 2005. Among his current

tourism in the industry and among

roles is director of NTP Limited, which

the executive director of the

consumers, recognising the achievement of

provides training throughout the travel

She currently oversees the International

responsible businesses, engaging the


Business Leaders Forum’s Youth Career

International Tourism Partnership.

Initiative, Digital Partnership, and

mainstream – it is very important that the awards are presented in the heart of the

TRICIA BARNETT is the director

International Tourism Partnership

international industry at World Travel Market

of Tourism Concern, the UK-based


and that they are announced on WTM World

charity that campaigns for ethical

Responsible Tourism Day – it is also

and fairly-traded tourism.

important that they are being emulated.

r:travel | 95


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r:travel | 97




as safe in my life as I was with the three men we met. One, Brahim, said to me: “While you are with us, I am your father.” And he meant it. I had this sudden realisation that I’d imposed another responsibility upon someone who already had a lot to deal with. ‘We got involved in the routine of this extraordinary journey that they make twice a year. I learnt an incredible patience and resilience. At one point we were caught in a sandstorm for 48 hours. We had no tents; we just had to hunker down. You had to totally shut your brain down. You can’t go anywhere; you can’t even open your eyes. ‘When we travelled, we’d get up at 2am. It’d be freezing cold and we’d walk in the dark for four hours, then ride for another ten. ‘Those people became pivotal to our lives. I’ve never seen them since, but every journey I take I feel they’re with me. Towards the end we found out they hadn’t originally planned to go to Timbuktu, but to their camp 200km north. They would keep the salt there until the summer when the price went up and

The road to Timbuktu For TV presenter Kate Humble – back on our screens last month in the BBC’s Autumn Watch series – a long-cherished dream to undertake a desert journey in Mali proved to be the inspiration for a simple, but effective new way that travellers can help third world communities

sell it then. But they were going to take us to Timbuktu – it was a matter of honour. However, we persuaded them to drop us at a small oasis settlement, where vehicles would come from Timbuktu every few days. While we waited we stayed with a local family and visited the local school where we offered to talk to the class. And one kid asked: “How long does it take to get to your country by

‘I HAD wanted to travel with the camel salt

caravan heading north. Amazingly, it turned

camel.” I said: “The sea is in the middle”

caravans to Timbuktu for ten years. I’m not

out that they were members of Shindouk’s

– but they didn’t know about the sea.

even sure where the idea came from – it was

extended family – but not as high in the

something I’d read, or heard or seen, that the

hierarchy, so when he asked if they would

world, and then it hit me: it would have

Berabish Tuareg carry salt from mines in the

take us on their journey the poor blokes had

been so easy to have brought one with me if

Sahara to Timbuktu to sell in the market.

no choice but to agree.

I had known how much difference it would

‘After a lot of research, I made contact

‘So began our five-week journey in the

‘The teacher asked if we had a map of the

have made to people there. That was the

with an American aid worker who said: “Just

desert. It was the most incredible experience.

catalyst for the idea that became my website

come here and see if it will work.” So in

It was the most time I spent with very

stuffyourrucksack.com. It’s become the thing

January 1999 my husband Ludo and I flew

traditional Muslim people, but I’ve never felt

that I’m proudest to be associated with.’

to Bamako, and then by bus and plane to Timbuktu, where this woman introduced us to a Berabish guide called Shindouk, who, basically, made it all happen. ‘We loaded up a vehicle with petrol, rice,

STUFFYOURRUCKSACK.COM Launched by Kate Humble last year, this is a website where travellers can help each other to give practical assistance to people

dates and nuts and set off into the desert

who have the least, but often give the most. It’s not about taking

in search of one of these caravans. But we

sweets and pens to encourage children to beg; nor is it about handing

broke down in the middle of nowhere and

out money. It’s about helping small, legitimate organisations that

were resigned to turning back when we saw a

get little or no help from their government or from NGOs.

98 | r:travel

A word from your sponsor. Congratulations.

As proud sponsors of this year’s Responsible Tourism Awards we, like the many individuals and companies recognised for their efforts, are continually striving to make our business more sustainable for a greener, cleaner future. So on behalf of Virgin Holidays, congratulations to the winners. Through your efforts the whole world gets to reap the rewards. To find out more about our commitment to a more sustainable future visit virginholidays.com/responsible