Issuu on Google+

In association with The Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Tourism


of the best responsible trips

Is there a future for wildlife tourism?


and the winners are...

Your guide to the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards Travel like a local

Covers.indd 1

28/10/2010 17:49

OmanAdpages.indd 1

28/10/2010 17:08


The Awards 6 34 40 44 54 56 60 66 72 76 80 82 86 90

OVERALL WINNER Best destination Best for conservation of cultural heritage Best for low carbon transport & technology Best for poverty reduction Best responsible cruise operator Best in a mountain environment Best volunteering organisation Best for conservation of wildlife & habitats Best in a marine environment Best tour operator for local economies Best accommodation for local communities Best personal contribution Best accommodation for the environment


© Huaorani Ecolodge

10 14 18 22 28 30 33 94 98

r:travel news Does wildlife tourism have a future? Rise of the responsible heroes 20 of the best responsible trips Travel trends: Human Nature Meet the sponsors Where the winners are The judges’ verdict The trip that changed my life


Roger Fulton ART EDITOR | Becca Higgins ADVERTISING | Christine Rowe PRINTED BY | Polestar, Colchester PUBLISHED BY | Circle Publishing EDITOR |


PhotosIndia – Exotica/Photolibrary A boy dressed as Hindu god, Shiva

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


Paper supplied by Sappi Fine Paper Europe which holds both the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Systems) certifications. Sappi Fine Paper is quality certified with ISO 9001, OHSA and environmently certified with EMAS (Eco Management and Audit Scheme) and ISO 14001.

When you have finished with this magazine please recycle it

r:travel | 3

Contents.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:46


Travelling like a local Welcome to the fourth issue of r:travel, the only consumer travel magazine dedicated to responsible tourism. In it we feature the stories of the winners of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards, which we founded in 2004. I hope that you might find your next holiday inside, and be inspired by how these tourism leaders and pioneers are creating new ways to travel and to sustain and enhance tourism destinations


hat is it to travel like a local? Travel that’s not just a brief stay somewhere, but a real connection with the people, the landscape, the culture and the environment. It’s like really living somewhere and enjoying the peace and quiet or the excitement of the place as much as the people who live there do. Of course, to travel like a local requires some expert local knowledge. A little local knowledge turns a good holiday into a great holiday. That means that your tour company, accommodation owner or guide needs to have designed your holiday in consultation with local people. Only in this way can you hope to discover the real and authentic places and experiences that set responsible tourism apart. When this consultation with local

people is done right it creates something quite remarkable in tourism destinations – travel that keeps destinations unspoilt by tourism; holidays that help build schools, conserve cultural and natural heritage, build water pumps, schools, eco homes – you name it. You can relax in your hammock knowing that all this is happening as a result of your holiday, or, if you wish, go and see or take part in it. Do everything or do nothing. The choice is yours. This year’s Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award winners are remarkable people. People with a deep connection with the places in which they offer holidays; people who

are committing to keeping these places special and giving a helping hand to local communities. People who, because of this, you can trust to help you travel like a local. Happy travels,

Justin Francis Managing Director, PS: If you find or know of a tourism business that sounds like the above I’d like to know for next year’s Awards and for Email me at

4 | r:travel

Justin'sWelcome.indd 1

29/10/2010 14:52

OmanAdpages.indd 2

28/10/2010 17:08


Sumba rhythms The overall winner of the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards has a remarkable aim, to make poverty history in a small corner of the Indonesian archipelago

6 | r:travel

OverallWinner.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:52

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID The Judges were impressed by the unquestionable scale of change achieved by this comparatively small resort. Importantly, Nihiwatu has been able to leverage income from what is a very luxurious tourism experience to alleviate poverty among the Sumbanese, and has done so without compromising the comfort of that experience.

r:travel | 7

OverallWinner.indd 2

29/10/2010 15:52

overall winner

overall winner Nihiwatu, Indonesia


ihiwatu is a resort with meaning. Its goal is simple: to ease the burden of poverty on the eastern Indonesian island of Sumba through tourism. If that sounds an audacious, even arrogant proposition, the success of this intimate hideaway resort founded by an American couple Claude and Petra Graves, makes you believe that tourists really can do good. There really aren’t that many of them – with just 14 rooms, no more than 600 stay each year, yet they donate an annual average of $400,000 to support a range of health, education and economic initiatives. That money, channelled through a foundation set up by the Graves, is literally saving lives: ‘We have been able to drop malaria infections by 85 per cent in an area of about 90 square miles,’ says Claude. ‘In doing so we have saved the lives of 53 children in the past two years alone, but there would be hundreds more that we have saved but not documented.’ Their Sumba Foundation began by digging wells – 44 to date – now

providing clean water to more than 14,800 people living in 161 villages, and greatly reducing the incidence of dysentery. It has established five health clinics, staffed with 13 nurses and one doctor who rotates between them. Together, they provide reliable healthcare to more than 18,000 people. Malaria medicines are free, and 9,000 specially-treated mosquito nets have been distributed in villages – also free. An extensive malnutrition prevention programme provides 2,000 children with healthy lunches three times a week. Holidaying dentists have helped treated 1,300 villagers, and the clinics provide thousands of reading glasses to the community and bring in surgeons to carry out 280 cataract surgeries during a two-week stay. The Graves also bring in volunteer plastic surgeons who perform cleft palette, burns and other reconstructive surgery. The foundation supports 14 schools in Sumba, building and renovating classrooms, providing books, teaching aids and sports equipment, and funding scholarships for the best students who are also offered jobs when they graduate.

In the community, they have created a range of business opportunities, including five organic farms which sell to Nihiwatu, but their most successful economic initiative is a bio-diesel project which buys up coconuts from 120 families to create the fuel it, too, sells to the resort. Of the 200 staff who work at the resort and for the foundation, 95 per cent are local Sumbanese. ‘We have created employment for hundreds of Sumbanese in an area where there was none at all,’ says Claude. ‘The truth is that we have become the economy.’ Claude Graves didn’t plan to be such a responsible superhero. That’s not to say he had no good intentions. The original concept for his resort included the more traditional way of using a percentage of the profits to do what he could for the local community. But once the former construction manager from New Jersey and his wife arrived in Sumba at the end of the 1980s, they realised that wouldn’t come close to fund what needed doing. ‘We had no idea until we got there how drastic the situation was,’ recalls Claude. ‘It became apparent that we could make all the money in the world and giving ten per cent of it wouldn’t even make a dent. From that point my wife and I committed ourselves to do a whole lot better.’ ‘We spent years working to gain the trust of the community. Sumba is a very remote island with a society that has been living far outside the norm of the rest of the civilised world. ‘In the first years we spent much of our time in the villages sharing our vision to the elders who really had no idea what we were talking about. But we persevered and eventually were accepted by the local tribe and given the approval by the elders to build what is now Nihiwatu. But believe me,

8 | r:travel

OverallWinner.indd 3

29/10/2010 15:53

it was not easy. We lived without water or electricity for years and suffered repeated bouts of malaria, just as the tribal villagers did. ‘We have created something meaningful out of a nearly impossible situation. When we started developing Nihiwatu in 1989 it took two and a half days of arduous travel to reach our site. There were no roads, water or electricity and the villagers had never seen any foreigners. Now our guests are dining at Nihiwatu three and a half hours after leaving Bali. ‘We’ve been doing this for nearly ten years now and it still astounds me,’ says Claude. ‘It’s amzing how generous our guests are. You could never do what we’ve been able to do just using profits. ‘People want to support projects, but they want to know where their money is going. The key with Sumba is that

here you can see the money at work, and feel it, photograph it and have a connection with the people who benefit. Here you really do feel like your money is making a difference.

Many do come back to see how it’s going – and about half will say “What’s next?”’ Best for Poverty Reduction, page 54

Sumba’s in the blood Sumba is one of the few islands in Indonesia where a majority of the population still follow the ways of their ancestors. Throughout the year many fascinating rituals take place, and the most spectacular of all are the Pasola ceremonies that take place during the months of February and March. The Pasolas are wild, martial events (see picture on previous page) involving hundreds of charging horsemen battling

with spears on a large playing field. Serious injuries are common and there are occasional deaths of horses and even riders. In fact, a Pasola is not considered successful without a proper amount of bloodletting. In Sumba blood on the ground is necessary to make it fertile, and one of the aims of the Pasola is to make the conditions right for the rice harvests that take place in the months of April and May.

The lap of luxury Opened in 2001, Nihiwatu is a small, highly exclusive resort, set in 468 acres, but with just six luxury bungalows and two villas. Guests can do as little or as much as they want, from lazing around the pool or in the spa to riding one of the world’s most perfect surfing waves. There’s world-class fishing and diving, boat trips, horse-riding, mountain-biking, trekking, birdwatching, yoga and Sumbanese cultural experiences.

r:travel | 9

OverallWinner.indd 4

29/10/2010 15:53

One-fifth of the world’s vertebrates faces extinction according to the most comprehensive stock-take ever done of the Earth’s mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. However, the situation would be worse were it not for current global conservation efforts. The study, published in the journal Science, used data for 25,000 species from The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, to investigate the status of the world’s vertebrates. The results show that, on average, 50 species of mammal, amphibian and bird move closer to extinction each year due to the impact of agricultural expansion, logging, over-exploitation and invasive alien species. The percentage of species threatened ranges from 13 per cent of birds to 41 per cent of amphibians. ‘The backbone of biodiversity is being eroded,’ says American ecologist and writer Professor Edward O. Wilson. ‘One small step up the Red List is one giant leap forward towards extinction.’ Southeast Asia has experienced the most

Train without the strain Travel by train to ski resorts in the Alps will be easier this winter thanks to a groundbreaking deal between 16 tour operators, Eurostar and Rail Europe, brokered by eco-friendly ski website The deal offers skiers the chance to book a range of rail-inclusive packages to resorts in France, Italy and Switzerland. The operators have a pool of

tickets between them, allowing them to offer lower fares than would be normally available to independent travellers. Daniel Elkan of snowcarbon. – highly commended in the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards – says: ‘Few such packages existed, which seemed crazy to us. So we identified the best train connections and negotiated thousands of rail

dramatic recent losses, largely driven by the planting of export crops such as oil palm, commercial hardwood timber operations, agricultural conversion to rice paddies and unsustainable hunting. The study emphasises the positive impact of conservation efforts. Biodiversity would have declined by nearly 20 per cent if action had not been taken, it says. It highlights 64 mammal, bird and amphibian species that have improved in status due to successful conservation. This includes three species that were extinct in the wild and have been re-introduced back to nature: the California Condor, and the

journeys for skiers at preferential rates, covering every week of the 2010-2011 season. The result is that this winter there will be a whole range of new rail-inclusive packages offered to destinations such as Chamonix, La Clusaz, Samoens and Serre Chevalier in France, and Sauze d’Oulx, Sestriere and Claviere in Italy. • For details, see

• See also feature, page 47

Daniel Elkan/snowcarbon


Conservation can stem species’ slide to extinction

10 | r:travel

News.indd 1

29/10/2010 14:43


Black-footed Ferret, in the US, and Przewalski’s Horse, in Mongolia. Legislation to ban commercial whaling has seen the Humpback Whale move from Vulnerable to Least Concern. ‘While the outlook for many species is still grim, this report is a testament to the real impact conservation work can have,’ says Harriet Nimmo, Chief Executive of Wildscreen, which is working to raise the public profile of threatened species. ‘We need to urgently address our disconnection from the natural world and will only succeed in rescuing species if we successfully communicate their plight, significance and value.’

TOP SPOT Sri Lanka has been voted the top place to visit by the New York Times – reflecting the expected boom in the country’s tourism industry following the end of the 25-year civil war which closed off swathes of the island.

Galapagos taken off danger list The World Heritage Committee has removed the Galapagos Islands from its Red List, the register of sites endangered by environmental threats and overuse. The Islands were first put on the danger list in 2007 at the insistence of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since the 1990s the Galapagos have seen a boom in population, fishing and even tourism which have placed increasing pressure on this fragile ecosystem. At first the Ecuador government paid little heed to the growing threats to the archipelago but its placement on the Red List was a wake-up call in Quito. The government took action to reverse some of these threats. It started by evicting 5,000 people believed to be illegally living on the islands, and went on to enforce tighter controls on immigration and quarantine as well as implementing a $15million fund to combat invasive species. The government has also increased regulation on tourism in an attempt to minimise its negative impact and maximise the positive. The World Heritage Committee voted to remove the Galapagos Islands from the danger list stating that the Ecuador government has made considerable progress towards protecting the archipelago. While acknowledging this progress, the IUCN recommended against the removal of the islands from the Red List arguing that there was

Feeling less vulnerable: the humpback whale

Citizen of the Galapagos: the marine iguana

still a lot of work to be done. The Galapagos Conservation Trust also feels that it is a mistake to remove the Galapagos from the danger list, stating that: ‘Galapagos may no longer officially be a World Heritage Site In Danger, but its unique biodiversity is still very much at risk.’ Other world sites still on the danger list include the Belize Barrier Reef System, the Pantanal in Brazil, Komodo National Park in Indonesia and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

• Meanwhile, 21 new locations have been added to the list of World Heritage Sites this year – including 11 former prison camps for convicts sent to Australia by Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries. The nuclear test sites of Bikini Atoll have also made the list.

r:travel | 11

News.indd 2

29/10/2010 15:43


Lease deal boosts Mara conservation Basecamp Explorer, awarded Kenya’s prestigious Gold Ecotourism medal for three years in a row,  has signed a unique long-term lease agreement with the Maasai community on the eastern border of Masai Mara. The establishment of the 50,000-acre Naboisho conservancy, with Basecamp Explorer as the chosen lead tourism partner, is an important step towards sustainable community development and wildlife tourism in the Masai Mara. In what’s described as a holistic approach to wildlife conservation, the land includes areas for cattle grazing as well as a buffer zone for wildlife, whose density is growing fast in this region. The pioneering partnership involves a direct agreement (ie no middlemen!) with almost 500 Maasai landowners whose future income from wildlife tourism is secured in the agreement. Fees will be paid regardless of tourist numbers in the Naboisho. More than ever, close cooperation and consultations with the Maasai community

Wet and wild! Twenty five destinations across Europe have been awarded European Destination of Excellence awards in Aquatic Tourism by The European Commission. The aim of the awards is ‘to draw attention to the value, diversity and shared characteristics of European tourist destinations’ and  ‘to encourage tourists to see these emerging locations as not dissimilar from well-loved destinations but with their own equally valuable charm’. Among the chosen 25 are: The Biebrza Valley and Wetlands, Poland: the floodplains of Biebrza are among the last untamed rivers in Europe. The meandering Biebrza River

are of pivotal importance to protect what has been called The Seventh Wonder of the World, the annual migration of animals between Tanzania’s Serengeti and Masai Mara. The migration is one of the world’s truly great spectacles, made up of more than one million wildebeest, hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles in perpetual motion. Following the grazers are the hunters – lions, cheetah, hyenas and leopards. The long-term future of the Mara is threatened not only by water shortages, but also the expansion of agricultural lands (wheatfields), population growth combined with poverty, and the splitting up of former communal land. The agreement was in part made possible by Basecamp Explorer’s conservation-minded network and through its new innovative partnership with Norfund, Norway’s Investment Fund for Developing Countries. Basecamp Explorer Kenya operates three ecolodges on the savannah of Masai Mara, in close partnership with the Maasai communities.

floods in spring, turning large meadows into lakes. Apart from picturesque scenes, Biebrza is home to a large bird population, which represents one of the major bird clusters in Central Europe. The Grand Site du Marais Poitevin, France: the Green Venice of France – chosen for having the ‘largest woodland marshland on the Atlantic coast’ and ‘one of the richest natural habitats in France.’ Loop Head Peninsula in Co. Clare – Kilkee, Ireland: has an ‘incredible diversity of marine and bird life’ with great white cliffs and large stretches of open sea. WaterReijk Weerribben Wieden – Giethoorn & the Wetlands, The Netherlands: described as the Venice of the Netherlands because of its natural beauty and tranquil boat rides.

12 | r:travel

News.indd 3

29/10/2010 14:43


Masai Mara warriors

We’re getting all dressed up for our 10th birthday In less than six months will celebrate its 10th birthday! Over the past ten years we’ve made it our responsibility to select and market more than 4,000 special holidays from all four corners of the planet run by some amazing tour operators and accommodation owners. If you’ll be going out of your way to have an incredible holiday, then you’d expect us to go out of our way to find it. All the holidays share one thing. They put something back. They build schools, communities, factories, water pumps, eco homes. They take responsibility for the travel you do and the livelihoods you affect. Travelling with us is not just a brief stay, it’s a real connection with the people, the landscape,

the culture and the environment. It’s like really living somewhere and enjoying the place as much as the people who live there do. On every holiday page you can read our commitment to how every holiday makes a difference locally. You can also read what other travellers who have been there have experienced. To mark the successes of the past and look to the future a brand new look will be unveiled – a new design, new logo and a revamped site easier to use for both travellers and members. We’ll go on working in the same way with many of our tour operator and accommodation members – tracking bookings from which we earn commission. However from the spring we’ll introduce a new model where

accommodations and small tourism service providers – local attractions, local guides, museums, farmers markets etc – can create and manage their own listings on the site for FREE. In June we launched our sister US site – responsiblevacation. com – in response to a rapid growth in visitors from the US. Accounting for one in ten site visitors and with the US media showing increasing interest in the responsible tourism movement, it seemed the right time to reach across the pond.

What’s the question? We’re the answer!

The Biebrza wetland

In June our community site IKnowAGreatPlace. com, launched a brand new Q&A service, allowing a worldwide community of travellers and local people to ask and answer any travel questions. Wondering if you can get married in Antarctica or looking for an authentic hamam in Istanbul? Simply post your travel question to www. We’ll find the answer and email you when we’ve got it. Our secret algorithm digs into our vast databases of travellers and travel experts to identify the people most likely to be able your question. For example, they might live where you want to go; have recently visited there; share your interests or be an expert on this place or activity. We contact them on your behalf and put your question to them. This way we help you to get expert local knowledge from around the world. With a membership of nearly 6,000 travellers and locals sharing their tips, photos and blog posts, we’ve created the perfect pool of insider advice.

With a rise of 43 per cent in questions a month and more than 20,000 visitors each month we’re on our way to becoming the world’s favourite travel Q&A site. Until now modern travel has failed to connect local communities with the tourists who want to visit the places they live in. Destinations with big marketing budgets and guidebooks and apps developed by large publishing businesses dominate tourism, sending tourists to the same hotspots and keeping local people out of the conversation. With, you can avoid being one of the thousand people a day queuing for the tourist bus to the Lost City in Machu Picchu or standing in line for a restaurant in Paris with all the other Brits clutching the same guidebook.

r:travel | 13

News.indd 4

29/10/2010 14:44

Does wildlife tourism have a future?

Wildlife tourism has grown enormously in popularity over the past 30 years or so and is widely regarded as important for the conservation of wildlife. But is wilderness just the new luxury, or can it remain a force for good in a rapidly changing world? r:travel asks four experts to look at which way the wind is blowing

14 | r:travel

WildlifeFeature2.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:32



eople have had a fascination with wildlife since the beginning of civilisation, but it took the story of an orphan lioness cub being returned to the wild to spark a seismic shift in the way we wanted to see our animals: alive and in the wild, rather than mounted on a wall, turned into a rug or behind bars in a zoo. The legacy of Born Free – and most especially the lush, romanticised 1966 Hollywood version starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers as Joy and George Adamson – cannot to be dismissed lightly. Coinciding with the growth of mass tourism and air travel, it became possible for the public at large to see wildlife at large in its natural habitat. Africa, and particularly countries with a British connection, such as Kenya, came first, but wildlife tourism soon spread around the world. Now you can view animals in the wild pretty much anywhere – from the big cats of the Masai Mara to the giant tortoises of the Galapagos, the orang-utans of Borneo and the whales in our oceans. Today, wildlife is booming, but those at the responsible end of the tourist industry warn that it is on the cusp of being a good or bad force. More and more people want to see animals, but are we in danger of over-exposing habitats and wildlife to people and risk losing the very creatures and habitats we are so desperate to see? In India, for example, the head of the country’s National Tiger Conservation Authority recommended the phasing out of tiger tourism because it was damaging the broader ecosystem. In the Central African Republic researchers concluded that gorillas are being stressed by the attention of tourists and are also vulnerable to human diseases such as the common cold. On the other hand, wildlife tourism has been an undoubted boon for conservation. In many developing countries it has been the force that Continued on page 16

r:travel | 15

WildlifeFeature2.indd 2

29/10/2010 15:33

Many of us go with a too-high expectation. We’re so used to seeing wildlife documentaries that we want an Attenborough-style encounter Continued from page 15

keeps logging, mining and intensive farming at bay – but only where fully-formed partnerships exist with local communities. As well as helping through direct funding for conservation work, wildlife tourism creates jobs for local people – as guides, drivers, cooks, housekeepers, handymen, mechanics, security guards and other services. These incomes often support large extended families and help to establish the viability of conservation. But, crucially, if these communities do not benefit more from ecotourism than other activities, then the pressure to encroach further on the habitats will increase. Put simply: what pays stays. Around the world national parks are seen as ‘a good thing’ – and they undoubtedly provide oases of conservation. However, in many cases, the establishment of parks and reserves has brought local communities into conflict with park management. In Zimbabwe, for example, in addition to

the alienation of their land, adjacent communities suffered extensive crop damage from marauding animals. Revenue from tourism flowed into the central treasury and local people received little compensation, if any, for destruction of their crops. Nor did they have access to park resources such as meat, grazing areas, wood or other products. In such circumstances, it is little wonder that poaching of wildlife and destruction of park fences became increasingly common. Managing our own expectation as wildlife tourists is also important. Many of us go with a too-high expectation. We’re so used to seeing wildlife documentaries that we want an Attenborough-style encounter. But we need to think of that as an exceptional experience (one, after all, often gained by TV crews after months and months of patient waiting) and not an everyday one and learn to take as much pleasure from the sights, sounds and smells of the habitats themselves. Zoos unfortunately paint an unnatural picture that it is easy to see wild animals, which it is, of course, in a zoo where cages are small and often lacking vegetation and enrichment. In the wild it is very different, particularly in habitats with lots of vegetation. People need to learn to be patient, quiet and respectful of the animals they are viewing. There is certainly a tendency for the marketing of wildlife tourism to over promise. This puts pressure on guides to bend the rules to get sightings.  Another aspect – highlighted in the Best Volunteering category of the Responsible Tourism Awards (see pages 66 to 71) – is the use of volunteers to help with conservation work. These ‘citizen scientists’ have been with us for years, helping field scientists gather vital data, or assist in the creation of a local infrastructure to support conservation. Is this perhaps the best future for wildlife tourism? More doing, less looking?

the experts Daniel Turner, senior operations officer, Born Free Foundation ‘I hope that responsible viewing practices will be adopted by all tour operators, ground agents and national government – this is the only way the practice will become truly sustainable. Travelife and The Travel Foundation both have codes of practice for tour operators and ground agents, and numerous other codes have also been established. These need to be harmonised and adopted by governments and enforced through regulation. Members of the public also need to realise what impacts they might have should they disregard best practice guidance. Local communities need to be involved in all levels of tourism engagement and benefit financially – learning the importance Zoo supporters say they do vital research work

16 | r:travel

WildlifeFeature2.indd 3

29/10/2010 15:33


Prof Lyn Beazley, chief scientist of Western Australia

‘Getting wildlife tourism right means balancing the biodiversity of

a place and its local needs and if you don’t value wildlife then eventually you won’t have tourism at all. Wildlife tourism should be about education as well as excitement and entertainment and when this happens it is a powerful force for good. We can’t lock places away and just leave them; actively managing conservation areas is something we have to embrace and tourism can bring revenues to support the area as well as boosting research – some of the science issues we face are so important we need more people involved, we need citizen scientists, who help with gathering data and often these citizen scientists are also tourists. Some people consider zoos or any wildlife experience where the animals are in captivity to be bad but there are fantastic research programmes run by Perth Zoo, which demonstrate where zoos can be a force for good. A turtle species thought to be extinct was brought back from the brink in one of the breeding projects at the zoo.’

Justin Francis, MD ‘Our wildlife and biodiversity is getting scarcer. More pressure is being put on protected areas. Wildlife tourism will have to be more tightly managed, with regard to tourist behaviour and expectations, by using zoning (including areas with no tourists) and ensuring local economic benefits. Climate change means wildlife will need to move to more suitable habitats. This will prove hard or impossible if we have just isolated islands of protected areas. Corridors between them – through inhabited areas – are slowly being developed. To make this work communities will need to be compensated – the money will have to

come from somewhere. The most important thing to recognise is that tourism alone cannot solve this – it rarely earns enough income for local people. Tourism has to be far better planned alongside other sustainable livelihood strategies.’

Kathy Gill, strategy director, Biosphere Expeditions ‘If we don’t encourage people to appreciate wildlife, then we will lose wildlife. If we encourage them too much, we could start to lose it too. But our interest in wildlife can only be positive in the long run, even if some of the issues at the edges need to be sorted out. Bad wildlife tourism can become good wildlife tourism. In the Amazon jungle of Peru, for example, macaws in cages and monkeys tied to posts for the entertainment of tourists are now a rare sight. Climate change will have a massive impact in the future. Some habitats are going to shift so that some species risk being lost. The wildlife tourism dollar becomes more important. If we can fund more conservation activity, we can support these places more effectively. But local partnerships are essential in this. Local communities have to benefit from wildlife conservation or it just does not work. I hope that more and more people who want to contribute in terms of manpower and get a bit hands-on will carry on looking at wildlife, but include some conservation work in their trip, to help develop a greater depth of understanding of the problems of human/animal conflict and what it means to work in conservation. The more we appreciate how fragile the world is, the more we will want to contribute to saving it.’ ■ © Biosphere Expeditions

of preserving the natural habitat. I would like to see tour operators recognising the work of conservationists in the protection of species and their habitats – giving tourists the chance to see conservation in action.   More tour operators need to recognise the impacts that they may be having on the natural environment, and seek to reduce and phase out those impacts, and work to increase the benefits to the habitats, the conservationists and the local communities through tourism initiatives. Responsible or sustainable tourism should be regarded as an intrinsic part of tour operations and not just for those who choose to take that option or for elitists.’

r:travel | 17

WildlifeFeature2.indd 4

29/10/2010 15:33


The rise of responsible heroes

Responsible sounds more Clark Kent than Superman. But appearances are deceptive. Behind every great responsible tourism idea there is usually a passionate, visionary man or woman with the drive and charisma to turn their dream into a real, sustainable travel venture. Here, four of the best responsible heroes tell what inspired them


Debbie Watkins, 44, from Andover, Hampshire THE PROJECT Carpe Diem Travel, in Cambodia, Laos and South East Asia – journeys that capture the soul of the country. HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN?

Until 2000, I had a successful corporate career in IT in the City of London – then an unplanned holiday to a place

I’d never heard of, and a series of chance meetings, changed my whole life. In December 1999, some friends who had taken a year out to go backpacking asked if I wanted to come and meet them for a few weeks. The first time I could get off was the end of January – and they were planning to be in Cambodia then. Even the travel agent didn’t really know where it was – and, as a city exec normally used to beaches in Antigua, I had to borrow all my “backpacking gear”! My two weeks there, less than two years after the end of the Khmer Rouge

genocide and civil war which killed 3 million people, changed my outlook on life – and I decided to take a year out to do something useful. I went back to Cambodia and met up with Marc, a Dutch guy who was volunteering for an NGO. We became captivated by the country, and the warmth and sincerity of the local people. The idea of starting a travel business came from two directions. Both of us wanted to be able to share with the outside world the places we had seen, the people we had met – to enable a real insight into the country, its history

18 | r:travel

SuperHeroes2.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:12

Monks in Luang Prabang, Laos

and people. During our time in Cambodia, we had met many wonderful people who, despite obvious intelligence, integrity and initiative, were unable to find anything but the most menial work. Over a few beers one evening came the idea to combine the two aims – providing work, training and a sense of purpose to local people in need, while offering international travellers the kind of up-close, personal experiences rarely encountered in package tours. How did it come together?

Sheer hard work, lots of mistakes, more hard work. We have since added trips to Laos (having also lived there for two years), and will be adding one or two more destinations over the coming year. We have stayed true to our aim of directly benefiting the local people and environment, and as part of this have recently set up another small social enterprise which makes beautiful and functional items from recycled plastic

bags reclaimed from the streets and fields of Cambodia – you can read about it at Oh, and Marc and I married in a Cambodian Buddhist ceremony in December 2001 and have two children, an 11-year-old boy we adopted in 2002 and an eight-year-old biological son. What makes it so good?

The relationships we have developed with the local people and the way that we’ve helped people to help themselves… and the number of clients who write to tell us how much their journey has changed their outlook on life. What is your travel philosophy?

A saying by Proust sums it up for me: ‘The real voyage of discovery does not consist in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’ The reason for travelling is to learn from other cultures, and in doing so, learn something about yourself.

The hero

Carol Atkinson, 47, from Howden, East Yorkshire The project Home Grown Home – Environmentally friendly self-catering accommodation in rural East Yorkshire.  How did it all begin? I was studying for an MSc in Architecture  at The Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales when I had the idea of building with straw and sharing it with the world – a straw bale holiday cottage  is unique and an ideal showcase. I researched our first cabin for my thesis, monitoring its thermal performance. How did it come together?

Planning permission was the hard bit. Our  local planning department were having none of it but thankfully the Continued on page 20

r:travel | 19

SuperHeroes2.indd 2

29/10/2010 15:13

Continued from page 19

local councillors were more supportive and overturned the planners’ decision. It was  two years and quite a battle to get the permanent cottage, so that’s how the idea for the world’s first straw bale caravan was born – the straw bale cabin is actually built on wheels so that we could get temporary permission and move it if necessary! The planners’ main objection was ‘unsustainable location’. They said holidaymakers would not use  the fantastic little railway station,  a mile away. But they didn’t know about responsible travellers! Many of our bookings come through and a high proportion  either arrive by  train or use the train for day trips into Hull or York. My whole family was involved in constructing the cottages – I’m very grateful and proud of them all  What makes it so good? 

Quiet country location, super insulated straw bale walls, natural materials throughout creating a very special feel. It’s looked after  by me (I take bookings, do the cleaning, wash the organic bedding, collect from the station, get in provisions from the local town etc) What is your travel philosophy?

You can’t beat personal service and local knowledge!

The hero

Will Bolsover, 33, from Brighton The project World Primate Safaris and World Big Cat Safaris – Ex-safari guides with expert knowledge. How did it all begin?

My first visit to Africa was when I was 18 and I went out to do some teaching on my gap year. I was immediately fascinated by the place and the contrasts of life that I encountered. Returning to the UK I decided to change my degree to French with African and Asian Studies. From here I went into guiding/tour leading and focused on Africa as my area of speciality. After a couple of years of guiding I worked for another tour operator and then decided that my interests lay in responsible, eco-friendly, specialist niche travel. For that reason I decided to set up World Primate Safaris (five years ago) and then shortly afterwards, World Big Cat Safaris. How did it come together?

With a lot of hard work and support from friends and family! World Primate Safaris started (as I think most tour operators started) in a damp basement

on one laptop in Shepherd’s Bush! My specific destination knowledge and experience from guiding has definitely assisted me in structuring what is a unique product in a busy market place. There is no getting away from the fact that living in and understanding a destination makes a huge difference as to how you sell it at the end of the day. Securing a consumer protection licence was a real struggle at first. They require a history of your accounts when you have not even started trading yet – confusing! And I honestly don’t think we would exist if it was not for the internet. In the old days we would have had to do all of our advertising through the broadsheets, magazines, etc which would have been very expensive. What makes it so good?

Huff and puff all you like, but you won’t blow this straw house down!

We are very niche. Our products do what they say on the tin. Our client base is growing because they trust what we say and we put them in the right place at the right time in order to maximise their wildlife viewing

20 | r:travel

SuperHeroes2.indd 3

29/10/2010 15:13


still operate most of the business whilst out on the road.

The hero

Phil Colley, 46, from London The project The Oriental Caravan – in the footsteps of poets, pilgrims, merchants and explorers…

experience. We support local communities and grassroot projects whenever possible; avoiding the large charities and organisations and going for the projects where we know our money will reach the people on the ground rather than being wasted on petrol for 4x4s. A percentage of our turnover is donated to the conservation of endangered species throughout the world. We also just love what we do! In the office we are nearly all ex-guides or have worked in Africa or Asia for a fair stint…so we love to get back out there regularly and keep our knowledge up to date!

 How did it all begin? When the original adventure travel companies that grew out of the overland ‘hippie dream’ at the end of the 60s and early 70s began to ‘sell out’ and become more commercial, I decided to try to keep the original spirit alive by setting up my own company. At the time I was working as a trek leader/tour guide for one of the biggest companies around and, though I have happy memories, when the new owners brought the ‘time and motion’ people in I realised it was time for me to move on. The original idea came to me in 2000 whilst working as Mandarin interpreter and ‘Mr Fix It’ on a vintage car rally that took me from Turkey right across Central Asia to Beijing. The idea was to set up the world’s first mobile travel company – a ‘travel company’ in its truest nomadic sense, because, although there is always the base in London, the company itself was travelling as I could

What is your travel philosophy?

Travel means meeting, learning and experiencing. It is one of the best educational tools that there is and it is through travel that you learn the most important lessons in life. Travel opens one’s eyes to other people’s challenges and everyday life scenarios which are very easy to ignore when sitting back in the comfort of the western world.

Miyajima torii – the floating gate to Itsukushima Shrine – at sunset

  How did it come together?

It was a steep learning curve as I had to start everything completely from scratch. Having set up the first trip (to Japan!), I sent out a hand-written postcard to everyone on my list of former tour groups announcing the new venture. To my amazement I managed to get an almost full group for the very first departure. Since then the Caravan has pioneered some of the most exciting trips in the Far East and has certainly managed to visit the parts that other tourists seldom reach. What makes it so good?

We’re probably the smallest travel company in the world and remain totally independent. We’re certainly not dictated to by shareholders trying to squeeze as much profit as possible! We make a point of getting far beyond the ‘tourist façade’ to help our clients see a country as it really is – if the country has beautiful mountains you’ll see them, but if it has a dodgy human rights record, or a history it’s trying to hide, we’ll let you know about that, too. We travel in small, friendly groups, usually less than ten, escorted by the multilingual owner of the company (me!). This enables us to eat at small restaurants, drink at small bars where they know us well now, and stay in small, characterful accommodation. Obviously people have to make a certain leap of faith to travel with us but those that do generally never look back – we’ve been going for more than ten years, about half of our clients are multiple repeat customers and you only have to look at our client comments page to realise we must be doing something right.  What is your travel philosophy? Travel is a privilege unavailable to most – those of us lucky enough to be able to travel have a duty to travel responsibly.

r:travel | 21

SuperHeroes2.indd 4

29/10/2010 15:13

RT Holidays

r:travel’s top 20 trips tours

From Beijing to British Columbia, you won’t go far wrong if you

1 Beijing to Kathmandu tours, choose one of these amazing holidays with the r:t factor Mountains & Monasteries tours

This epic overland journey will reveal the great archaeological sites of China, take you across the vast Tibetan Plateau through remote villages, and into the great mountain kingdom of Nepal. Soak up the spiritual atmosphere at the hilltop monasteries and enjoy a panoramic view of Mount Everest – this is an experience you’ll never forget. RT Factor: This tour operator’s long standing relationship with the local Tibetan communities means you can visit the school and play basketball with the children at lunchtime or visit a project in Lhasa called ‘Braille without Borders’ for the blind Tibetans. Cost: From £2,420 (28 days) excluding flights. We can arrange flights from the UK. With Intrepid. Explore the Tibetan plateau

2 Galapagos cruise options, tailor made Cruise around the islands in the comfort of a beautiful yacht, accompanied by a well-qualified naturalist who will take you to see blue-footed boobies, giant Galapagos tortoises, marine iguanas, and waved albatross. You will also have the opportunity to go swimming and snorkelling and, if you’re lucky, may be joined by sea lions! RT Factor: The proximity to such a vast array of wildlife means you will have many magic moments and the commitment and

ethos of your guides will help you understand how vital it is to uphold environmental ideals. You truly will feel privileged to have been in such a beautiful place. Cost: From £1,999 (8 days) excluding flights, based on sharing a twin cabin. We can arrange flights from the UK. With Tribes Fair Trade Travel. Galapagos-Cruise


3 Petra & Wadi Rum holiday This awesome journey will take you from Jordan’s national treasure, Dana Nature Reserve, with its wadis and mountains extending from high plateau to desert lowland, through the ancient, rose-tinted city of Petra, camping under the stars at the stunning Wadi Rum and finishing off with a dip in the saline waters of the Dead Sea. RT Factor: You will stay in locally owned accommodation, eat in local restaurants and

use local guides who will explain the ways of their country. Making local payments to Bedouin communities mean they directly benefit from your visit and some of your money goes directly to Dana National Park. Cost: From £1,099-£1,489 (9 days) including flights from the UK. From £699£859 excluding flights. With The Adventure Company.


4 Wildlife and cultural tour to Ethiopia The Omo valley is Ethiopia’s largest nature sanctuary and is rich in spectacular game as well as home to an astonishing mix of ethnic groups and tribes known for their artistic impulses. As well as enjoying the beautiful scenery and wildlife, you will receive a warm welcome from these colourful people and marvel at their ancient and complex culture.

RT Factor: You will stay in locally owned accommodation which reward initiatives against deforestation and land degradation. You also visit a project in Konso which protects biodiversity and cultural sites. Cost: From £1,396 (14 days) excluding flights. Price based on two people sharing. With Highway Tours. Ethiopia-Tour

22 | r:travel

Top20.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:18



5 North Cornwall luxury hotel

6 Port Antonio boutique hotel, Jamaica you space to sit and relax. The fire adds a comforting touch on crisp winter days while a steaming cappuccino and a homemade cake add the final touch to your welcome.

This family hotel, cherished and nurtured over 40 years gives guests memorable holidays on the unique North Cornish coast. Light and airy with spectacular views across North Cornwall’s cliffs, the public rooms give

RT Factor: This hotel offers a carbon offsetting scheme for guest’s journeys to Cornwall, donating £10 towards planting new trees at the local wood. All staff members receive environmental training on arrival and all hotel employees are part of a Green Team actively encouraging each other to do their bit. Local charities are supported by the accommodation owner each year such as Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) and the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society. cost: From £164-£246 per night based on 2 people sharing a non-seaview room. With Bedruthan Steps Hotel & Spa. Cornwall-Luxury-Hotel


Overlooking the town of Port Antonio, the Caribbean coast and the Blue Mountains, this hotel offers quiet, peaceful surroundings for those seeking a very special, off-the-beaten track experience. This enchanting intimate hideaway hotel offers superb vistas – spectacular by day and romantic by night. RT Factor: Recommended by ‘Frommers 150 Most Romantic Caribbean Hideaways’, this charming, elegant eco-hotel believes that every enterprise has an obligation to protect the environment and to offer something of tangible benefit to the community. cost: From US $138  (£87)-US$320  (£202) per room per night based on two people sharing,  excluding flights. With Hotel Mocking Bird Hill.


7 Kasbah du Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains

8 Under the Thatch

This Kasbah is a welcoming environment for those seeking a comfortable mountain refuge, and for those who wish for superb rooms in a stunning setting. It is also a conference centre for those who are searching for a venue that inspires, one that provides peace in a spectacular and remote location, whilst providing the best of modern equipment.

Ffosffald Isaf is a modern ‘green’ conversion of a traditional West Wales farmhouse in a secluded location with fantastic views across the famous Teifi valley. Built in 1903, this stone cottage farmhouse is clean, bright and modern inside and the ground-source heat-pump provides ‘green’ heating 24 hours a day.

RT Factor: A five per cent levy is made on the Kasbah income and handed to the village association and Education For All. These associations provide the ambulance service to the local population and visitors and college education for girls from the rural High Atlas. cost: From €65  (£55)-€220  (£187) per person per night depending on room type. Kasbah-Toubkal

RT Factor: Brought to you by Under The Thatch, which provides historic and unique properties that are managed in an ethically responsible and sustainable way. cost: From £133-£271 per couple, based on two nights. Other accommodations available, all with Under The Thatch.

r:travel | 23

Top20.indd 2

29/10/2010 15:18

RT Holidays


9 Skiing with snowcarbon


11 Cuba cycling tour This relaxed cycle route allows you to visit all the ‘must see’ places that Cuba is famous for: the crumbling colonial buildings of Havana, the music of Trinidad and the revolutionary history of Santiago. Pass through stunning countryside with a patchwork of plantations, tobacco farms, fields and jungle, and appreciate the traditional way of life that continues today. RT Factor: As this is a cycling trip with a maximum group size of 18, environmental

impacts are automatically reduced as well as being able to have a much greater interaction with the local communities visited along the way. Most staff are Cubans,  including the drivers, mechanics, guides and office staff. cost: From £1,799-£2,399 (16 days) including flights from the UK, from £1,229 -£1,479, excluding flights. Single supplement £150. With Exodus. Cuba-Cycling

Why fly to a ski resort in Europe when you can take the train? snowcarbon is an independent website that shows you which resorts are easiest to reach and how to book the lowest fares. They will provide exact journey details and also guide you through the booking process. RT Factor: Brought to you by snowcarbon, who team up with tourist boards and resorts to promote low carbon travel! cost: Ski packages with train fare included from £445, with snowcarbon. activity

10 Canyoneering in Costa Rica  This unique, multi-sport adventure combines rappelling, down-climbing and river tracing in a deep, tropical canyon. Imagine yourself in the midst of thick rainforest at the top of a magical canyon full of tropical waterfalls with surprises each step of the way. RT Factor: Brought to you by Desafio Adventure Company, whose adventure tours enable them to support staff in their private business ventures and training. cost: From $90 for half a day. Other packages available with Desafio Adventure Company.


12 Patagonia trek, Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares Patagonia remains one of the world’s great trekking destinations – a vast wilderness with stunning mountains, turquoise lakes and massive glaciers. The adventure includes Santiago, to Punta Arenas, Chile’s most southerly city. Cross the border into Argentina, visit the Perito Moreno glacier – arguably Patagonia’s finest – on the way to Los Glaciares National Park. RT Factor: This trip supports a wide range of local businesses from the guides to

locally-owned small lodges and the first eco lodge south of the Amazon. During this itinerary, you spend four nights at the remarkable eco camp, a cluster of geodesic domes based on the hut-designs of Patagonia’s ancient inhabitants who lived in perfect harmony with their environment. cost: From £2,195 (13 days) excluding flights. We can help arrange flights from the UK. With Wilderness Journeys. Patagonia-Trek

24 | r:travel

Top20.indd 3

29/10/2010 15:19


13 Gorilla safari in Rwanda Enjoy this unique opportunity to track Gorillas in their natural habitat, meet gorilla researchers and visit the Mountain Gorilla Project in Rwanda. You will also get to meet the Rwandese people and see how they are working hard to rebuild their livelihoods.

RT Factor: Money raised from this tour helps support the education of the guides themselves and also goes toward the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Projects which helps to ensure their healthy future. Also, in purchasing the Gorilla permits themselves, you are investing back into the park and its

facilities and paying for rangers’ wages and education. cost: From £1,425 (5 days) excluding flights, plus two gorilla permits at £350. With Steppes Discovery. Rwanda-Gorilla wildlife


14 Orangutan conservation holiday in Borneo

15 Kenya lion safari The lion population has declined by 30-50 per cent over the past two decades, a reduction largely due to habitat loss and conflict with humans. This unique nine-day safari will provide you with an authentic and close-up insight into lion research in some of Kenya’s most stunning areas.

See captive orangutans being rehabilitated, the semi-wild orangutans of Semenggoh Nature Reserve and the seven different habitats of Borneo in the amazing national park at Bako. You will also spend a week in the rainforest to meet the Iban tribes, custodians of the wild orangutans of Batang Ai National Park.

RT Factor: There is no direct handling of any animals on the tour as all are trying to be returned to the (or are already) wild – how’s that for real wildlife tourism integrity! cost: From £1,095 (14 days) excluding flights, with Way Out Experiences. Orangutan-Holiday

RT Factor: The research formulated on this tour will create strategies for the long-term conservation of lions by understanding the issues and threats facing their population. Joy’s Camp, at which you stay for the first two nights, supports the local communities of nomadic Boran. cost: US$5,740  (£3,608) US$6,490  ( £4,079) (9 days). Price based on minimum of four people. With Gamewatchers Safaris.


16 Azores conservation holiday This conservation work expedition will take you to the Azores archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to study whales, dolphins and loggerhead turtles. You will photograph minke, blue, fin, sei and sperm whales, bottlenose and Risso’s dolphins and record them for local and international monitoring databases.

expeditions to all corners of the Earth. They always work in close conjunction with local people and scientists and try their best to ensure that the fruits of the expedition work benefit the local helpers, their society and the environment they live in. cost: From £1,180 (10 days) excluding flights, with Biosphere Expeditions.

RT Factor: This operator is committed to running real wildlife conservation research Azores-Holiday

r:travel | 25

Top20.indd 4

29/10/2010 15:19

RT Holidays

once in a lifetime

once in a lifetime

once in a lifetime

17 Dominica luxury eco-resort

18 Philippines community based marine conservation

19 Borneo river cruise in Kalimantan, Indonesia

This resort is perched on 55 acres of jungle surrounded by the Morne Trois Piton National Park, the only World Heritage site in the Eastern Caribbean, home of the second largest boiling lake in the world. Think hiking through the rainforest to emerge at a breathtaking waterfall, mountain biking through local villages, sea kayaking, snorkelling and more.

The tropical paradise that awaits you in the Philippines will mesmerise even the most seasoned diver but for how long? Many of the world’s reefs are threatened by over-fishing, tourism, shrimp farming and of course climate change. It’s never too late to contribute to the conservation of these beautiful and hugely important ecosystems with this expedition.

During this trip you will explore Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo Island, where rivers remain the natural highways. Relax on a jungle river journey on the Rungan River, pass by Orangutan islands and on to traditional Dayak village only accessible by river.

RT Factor: This accommodation employs 59 Dominicans, virtually all from the villages immediately surrounding the resort. They are a leader in providing education and training opportunities. Positive contributions are also made to the conservation and biodiversity of the area through the development of a comprehensive nature interpretation centre onsite to inform guests about the flora and fauna of the local area. cost: From US$93 (Cottage & Breakfast) US$209 (spa adventure package) per person per night on a double occupancy. With Jungle Bay Resort & Spa. Dominica-Eco-Resort

RT Factor: This is an intensive, fulfilling and truly conservation-focused marine expedition that has been built on the shoulders of giants such as David Bellamy OBE and Peter Raines MBE, both knighted by the Queen for their services to biodiversity! The coral reefs of Southern Leyte remain some of the least disturbed and least researched habitats in the Philippines. cost: From £750 (2 weeks) excluding flights (divers). With Coral Cay Conservation.

RT Factor: Payments for canoe rental directly benefit the village on each visit. Local communities are also benefited and engaged with by the use of local guides, purchasing of local foods and supporting local Sangers (village musicians and dance groups) by encouraging guests to take part in lessons or watch their performances. cost: From Rupiah 10,000,000  ( £706) Rupiah 11,500,000  ( £811) (7 days) excluding flights. With Kalimantan Tour Destinations. Philippines-Conservation

once in a lifetime

20 Grizzly bear watching holidays in British Columbia, Canada Spectacular viewing from hides and/or small boats of British Columbia’s formidable grizzly bears in the wilderness of the Great Bear Rainforest. This area is one of the best places in the world to observe grizzly bears and many other forms of wildlife including black bears, wolves and bald eagles. RT Factor: Their goal is to safely view bears in a natural setting while eliminating or minimising impact on them, always keeping in mind that the wildlife’s need to forage, rest, or travel takes precedence over viewing activities or any desire to get a closer look. cost: From £2,630 (6 days) including flights from the UK. With Audley Travel.

26 | r:travel

Top20.indd 5

29/10/2010 15:20


l Tranquility l Inspiration l Wellness

Costa Rica Ideal for sustainable vacations, groups and workshops Seasonal Offers All inclusive Packages Ongoing Yoga Retreats Yoga Teacher Trainings

Lots FOR SALE at Samasati Gated Community

027_Ads_2010.indd 1



29/10/2010 11:11

Wanting a good holiday is just Human Nature Virgin Holidays has launched a new sustainable holiday brand for the more thoughtful traveller – the Human Nature Collection


rom volunteering in South Africa, Thailand or Kenya, to biking through Bangkok, Human Nature holidays have been created to show that it is perfectly possible to have an unforgettable holiday, while at the same time leaving a positive imprint on the place you’ve been to and the people you’ve met. Human Nature holidays benefit local people and help protect the environment in holiday destinations. They allow you to get under the skin of local cultures and appreciate the natural environments of your holiday destination, rather than just passing through. And you can feel good, knowing that your holiday choices are making a positive difference. It’s a different style of holiday, more

individual and slower paced, off the beaten track and away from the crowds. But it’s still the same quality customers expect of Virgin Holidays. There are five different holiday types to choose from in the Virgin Holidays Human Nature Collection, ranging from cultural exchanges to rejuvenating natural escapes. • GIVING SOMETHING BACK HOLIDAYS: five-night volunteering trips in Kenya, Thailand or South Africa, provided by Virgin Holidays’ partner Madventurer. • REAL WORLD ADVENTURES: provided by Intrepid, these are all tours which allow customers to get acquainted with local food, culture and traditions in worldwide

destinations, in the company of an expert local guide. • BACK TO NATURE: single centre holidays from Virgin Holidays��� existing product range, which take customers close to the natural world. • SMALL AND REAL: Small Hotels of the Caribbean goes worldwide. Small, often family-run hotels giving an authentic flavour of local way of life. • SURPRISINGLY SUSTAINABLE: a range of hotels from Virgin Holidays’ existing programme that have all worked with its in-house team to reach a high standard in looking after their environment and local communities. All certified by the Travelife Sustainability in Tourism scheme.

28 | r:travel

HumanNature.indd 1

29/10/2010 12:04

travel trends

What the travellers think Sanica Menezes stayed at Raming Lodge, Chiang Mai, Thailand, a Real World Adventure

Jonathan Winfield took a trip to Blue Haven, Tobago, a Surprisingly Sustainable hotel

‘The Thai people are so welcoming and friendly and the trip was a great way of learning about Thai food and culture. We went to a cookery school which was very professional but we also got a feel of the local culture on a trip to the markets and bazaars to buy ingredients. Everything was taken care of and so well organised, we were left to enjoy and explore the city and culture at our own pace, without having to worry about anything.’

‘The Blue Haven has an amazing location with spectacular views out to sea. It’s been designed so that it makes the most of the onshore winds to cool the rooms, meaning that it’s fresher than other hotels and you’re helping the environment because less power needs to be used through air conditioning units. It’s taking sustainability seriously, but that doesn’t mean you compromise on luxury.’

Nikki Mortimer went on safari to the Porini Lion camp, Kenya, a Back to Nature hotel

Jacqui Wakeman has just returned from Little Palm Island, a Small and Real hotel

‘At Porini Lion camp we really went back to nature, but because we were camping in luxury tents with hot showers and big soft beds, we could combine comfort with an amazing genuine feel of Africa. Johnson, a local Maasai tribesman, who works on the conservancy and collects rent from its visitors, was happy to tell us all about his people and culture and treated us to a demonstration of his tribal dance. It’s a unique experience of Africa which you just can’t get in big western-owned hotels.’

‘Everything about Little Palm Island is designed with relaxation in mind and it’s the perfect way to escape the pace of modern life for a day or two. You can do as little or as much as you please but the staff are always happy to help with tips and ideas on what to do in the local area. We headed off with a picnic to explore the tranquil backwaters and nothing will ever come close to the feeling of seeing dolphins and turtles in the wild!’

Need to know… Is this an environmentally friendly holiday? What about the carbon dioxide from flying and global climate change? We recognise that air travel has environmental impacts and are working hard with Virgin Atlantic to reduce these impacts. The Human Nature Collection is an opportunity for customers who still want to travel abroad to have a holiday with an emphasis on looking after the local environment and local people, once you arrive. We are keen to encourage customers to offset the carbon emissions from their flight through offsetting.html. The money paid goes to fund projects which prevent CO2 being emitted. Specific details can be found on the website.

the destination and you also get a more authentic experience. In addition, a charity donation is costed into every holiday we sell (£1 per adult and 50p per child). We work with the Travel Foundation ( to use this money to help care for the people and places we visit. In 2009 we raised £250,000 in this way.

What are the benefits of this holiday to the local environment? Many of the Human Nature hotels and excursions: • actively support local conservation projects • properly manage waste, water and energy to look after the local environment.

Who is a Human Nature holiday for? Do the local communities get some of the money from my booking?

Anyone who is looking for something other than simply lying on the beach for two weeks or dashing around theme parks.

Yes. Many of the hotels and excursions in the collection have been chosen because they prioritise employing local people and using locally owned businesses, so more of your money stays in

The Human Nature collection is available online, through and retail trade partners including Co-Operative Travel Centres.

r:travel | 29

HumanNature.indd 2

29/10/2010 12:04

Headline sponsor

Virgin Holidays returns as the headline sponsor of the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards. 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, the awards are managed in partnership with Metro Newspaper, World Travel Market and Geographical – the magazine of The Royal Geographical Society


his is the fourth year that VIRGIN HOLIDAYS has the honour of being headline sponsor of the Responsible Tourism Awards and we remain as committed to its values and goals as ever. As an organisation, we have continued in the past 12 months to identify and implement ways in which sustainable business practices can be woven in to our company DNA – and look forward to being further inspired by this year’s entrants. As an industry, we’ve all experienced another year of challenging trading conditions. What these awards should remind us of is the importance of not becoming distracted from what must be a long term and consistent dedication to implementing tangible responsible travel commitments. Despite – or more accurately – because

of the obstacles we must all negotiate, innovation, creativity and focus must be our watchwords. Innovation – that readiness to do things differently – is something that particualrly characterises all of the entrants to this year’s awards. I never cease to be inspired by the example they set in taking a risk to deliver something in which they believe, and making it possible for the rest of us to share their vision. At Virgin Holidays, we’ve done our best to echo that dedication to difference. Alongside our ongoing support of the Travel Foundation (which saw us contribute over a quarter of a million pounds to their projects in 2009) we launched the Human Nature Collection earlier this year – our first brochure dedicated solely to sustainable holidays. Most

excitingly, we have also announced our intention to open a Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean in 2011. This not-for-profit facility for the development and incubation of business ideas will be developed in partnership with Richard Branson’s own charitable organisation Virgin Unite, and represents a tangible contribution to the future of a region that has given us and our customers so much over the years. We can’t wait to see the Centre develop in the years to come. On behalf of Virgin Holidays, I wish all of this year’s nominees the best of luck in the future, and would like to thank them for their inspiring example in showing us all how it can be done. Amanda Wills Managing Director, Virgin Holidays

30 | r:travel

CategorySponsors.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:03


Sponsors of the Responsible Tourism Awards

The Oman Ministry of Tourism is sponsoring the following five award categories: Best destination

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

Best conservation of cultural heritage

Best low carbon transport & technology

Best responsible cruise operator

A tourism organisation or initiative working to protect and promote cultural heritage.

An organisation or initiative that is developing or promoting low carbon transport or technology.

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



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. Best for poverty reduction

Best volunteering organisation

An organisation that acts to reduce poverty among communities.

An organisation offering volunteering opportunities, such as the chance to work on conservation or social projects.



Best tour operator for local economies

A tour operator making the greatest investment in the local supply chain, by employing local people, staying in local accommodations, sourcing local products, crafts and experience and encouraging their travellers to purchase locally.

Best for conservation of wildlife & habitats

Best in a marine environment

Best personal contribution

A group or initiative working for the conservation of wildlife and/or their local habitat, such as a national park or wildlife sanctuary.

An organisation related to a beach or other marine environment, such as turtle conservation or a marine ecotourism trip.

A person who has made an outstanding contribution to responsible tourism. SPONSORED BY:



Best accommodation for local communities

Best accommodation for the environment

A hotel, lodge or other accommodation with a positive impact on the local supply chain and local people.

A hotel, lodge or other accommodation run with an innovative approach to local environmental issues and carbon reduction.



r:travel | 31

CategorySponsors.indd 2

29/10/2010 15:03

Conservation & wildlife management

Marine conservation

Elephant and cheetah monitoring

Veterinary care and rehabilitation

T. +44 (0)1454 269182

Sexy? Graceful? Threatened? EXTINCT?


How would you describe a shark?

Log on to

and see how you can help by becoming a member 032_Ads_2010.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:57

the responsible world

Where the winners are... 7 25

10 27

18 11


23 9 31 16 15 20

12 8 21 13 2 30 5 26 6 1 29 28

1 Bedruthan Steps Hotel & Spa, UK, Accommodation for the Environment 2 Biosphere Expeditions, UK, Volunteering Organisation 3 Blue Ventures, UK/Madagascar, Volunteering Organisation

3 17 4 22

19 32

16 Kalimantan Tour Destinations, Indonesia, Cruise Operator 17 Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association, Australia, Best Destination 18 Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco, Mountain Environment 19 Matava, Fiji, Marine Environment

4 Booderee National Park, Australia, Conservation of Cultural Heritage

20 Nihiwatu, Indonesia, Poverty Reduction

5 BTCV, UK, Volunteering Organisation

21 Nurture Lakeland, UK, Best Destination

6 Coral Cay Conservation, UK, Marine Environment

22 Orion Expedition Cruises, Australia, Cruise Operator

7 Correnรงon de Vercors, France, Mountain Environment

23 Punta Islita, Costa Rica, Accommodation for Local Communities

8 Cuyaqui Wayi de Vicos tourism committee, Peru, Accommodation for Local Communities

24 Sam Raphael, Dominica, Personal Contribution 25 Scott Rains, US, Personal Contribution

9 Desafio Adventure Company, Costa Rica, Tour Operator

26, UK, Low Carbon Transport and Technology

10 Ecosphere, India, Mountain Environment

27 Shakti Himalaya, India, Mountain Environment

11 Hotel Mocking Bird Hill, Jamaica, Accommodation for the Environment

28 snowcarbon Ltd, UK, Low Carbon Transport and Technology

12 Huaorani Ecolodge, Ecuador, Accommodation for Local Communities

30 Under the Thatch, UK, Conservation of Cultural Heritage

13 Jo Baddeley, UK, Personal Contribution

31 The Great Orangutan Project, Malaysia/Indonesia, Volunteering Organisation

14 Jungle Bay Resort and Spa, Dominica, Accommodation for Local Communities 15 Kaliandra Foundation, Indonesia, Poverty Reduction

29 Steppes Discovery, UK, Conservation of Wildlife and Habitats

32 Zealandia: the Karori Sanctuary Experience, New Zealand, Conservation of Wildlife and Habitats

r:travel | 33

WorldMap.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:55


WINNER Nurture Lakeland, UK

James Bell

How to play the numbers game – and win

34 | r:travel

BestDestination.indd 1

29/10/2010 11:44

Responsible tourism is not just about holidays for handfuls of people in unspoilt places – it’s about safeguarding the places where millions love to roam. And for that, this charity begins at home


ur love affair with inspiring wild, empty spaces can provide a lifeline for efforts to conserve such beautiful natural landscapes – but, of course, it can also be their undoing. While tourist numbers are capped in some places, such as Machu Picchu, and while the remoteness of wilderness destinations like the Antarctic can aid their survival, the relentless march of visitors goes on right in our back garden: among the lakes and fells of Cumbria. Around 15 million people visit the

Lake District each year – predicted to rise to 18 million – with a staggering 92 per cent coming by car. And while no-one’s talking of the region becoming choked with fumes from millions of cars, caravans and motor-homes, there’s no escaping their collective impact on traffic congestion and carbon emissions. The population of Keswick, for example, swells from 6,000 to as much as 100,000 in the peak season. Erosion of the paths across the fells is a huge problem – the patter of millions of tiny footsteps, coupled Continued on page 36

Wastwater in Cumbria

r:travel | 35

BestDestination.indd 2

29/10/2010 12:25

Best destination

Frozen Derwent Water

Continued from page 35

with rain and wind erosion is wearing down many of the best-trodden paths. And something easily forgotten, like guest laundry, can affect the water quality in the lakes, through the use of phosphates in cleaning materials – quite apart from the strain of so many visitors on local water supplies (despite the floods of last November, reservoirs in the Lake District were only half-full after a dry spring and summer). One of many organisations working to develop sustainable tourism across the region, Nurture Lakeland (formerly the Tourism and Conservation Partnership) was set up 17 years ago, but has expanded its reach considerably over the past two years since becoming a registered charity. Besides the lakes themselves, its catchment area also extends west to the coast, north to Carlisle and

Hadrian’s Wall, and east into the Eden Valley. Working with visitors and a growing network of tourism-related businesses (230 at the last count) it nurtures a range of projects to raise awareness of sustainable practices and improve the quality of life for guests and locals. One of the latest is the Fresh Air is

‘Nearly half of visitors want to leave the car behind but don’t really know how to… It can be daunting, especially if you don’t know the area’ Free campaign which aims to get us out of our cars once we arrive, or better still, leave them at home altogether. Naturally, we love our cars. They are, as Nurture Lakeland’s sustainable tourism advisor Amy McLoughlin says, ‘our security blankets’.

‘But nearly half of visitors want to leave the car behind but don’t really know how to,’ says Amy. ‘It can be daunting, especially if you don’t know the area.’ Now, for example, Nurture Lakeland is working with 50 hotels to create a bespoke guide that will bridge the information gap about other ways to get around, and to highlight attractions right on their doorstep. ‘We want to get people to connect with the local town they are staying in – from local food and drink to cultural heritage such as the small museum they might otherwise miss,’ says Amy. Nurture Lakeland is also bringing together other interested organisations, including some of the bigger players such as the National Park Authority and the Cumbria Tourist Board to lobby for more integrated ticketing on buses and ferries to help people get

36 | r:travel

BestDestination.indd 3

29/10/2010 12:25

around. For £16, you can buy a Ruskin Explorer which will take you by bus and boat to the Ruskin attraction at Coniston Water; and the Cross Lakes Experience can get you from Windermere to the Beatrix Potter House at Hawkshead. ‘We are aiming to get a 20 per cent WHAT THE JUDGES SAID With over 17 years experience of inspiring businesses to support conservation and adopt sustainable tourism practices Nurture Lakeland is a pioneer of local tourism partnerships. This destination’s results speak for themselves – £1.7 million has been raised working with 1,200 tourism businesses in fundraising for local conservation projects. Campaigns such as a car-free scheme and the Herdy Fund have been successful at encouraging visitors to the area to ditch the car, as well as promoting the conservation of the Herdwick sheep, and the rural lifestyle associated with upland fell farming in Cumbria and the lakes.

30 conservation and cultural heritage projects both large and small. So far around £1.7 million has been raised in this way, but, with around 60 per cent of visitors indicating that they are willing to make a contribution, there’s a huge reservoir of goodwill ready to be tapped. Says Amy: ‘Theoretically, if you could get all our visitors to donate a pound or 50p, that could make a huge difference to our work.’ ‘For 17 years we have been engaging local business communities and championing the benefits of sustainable tourism policies and practices. People haven’t always known who we are because the businesses are our “front of house”, but our work is very important and we are committed to protecting this area for now and for the future.’

Fixing the fells ONE OF THE HIGHEST-PROFILE conservation projects supported by Nurture Lakeland is Fix the Fells. Some 160 footpaths have been fixed since 2002, leaving 60 still to repair. Surprisingly, fixing footpaths is a touch controversial with some visitors who believe it takes away some of the adventure of striding around the fells.

‘But,’ says Amy, ‘it’s not just about repairing uneven walking surfaces, but is also about protecting delicate upland environments and flora and preserving traditional methods used to produce paths. This includes lining them with the wool from Herdwick sheep – a relatively rare breed and very much part of Cumbrian culture.’

Walkers on Grisedale Pike

Keira Holt

Keira Holt

reduction in travel from the participating businesses,’ says Amy. Another campaign is Love the Lakes, which raises awareness among residents and businesses about the environmental benefit of switching to ‘lake-friendly’ products, which helps safeguards the lakes’ biodiversity. A pilot project covering Bassenthwaite and Derwent Water is set to be rolled out in the south lakes. Meanwhile, another new campaign, A Green Eden, aims to encourage businesses in the Eden Valley to be greener and market the area as the ultimate green destination. Crucial to all the campaigns – including Fix the Fells (see panel below) – is the Visitor Payback Scheme which encourages donations via Nurture Lakeland’s member businesses and channels the money into a range of

r:travel | 37

BestDestination.indd 4

29/10/2010 11:44



HIGHLY COMMENDED Kangaroo Valley, Australia

Oman Ministry of Tourism

Gary Steer and Ray Moxon

THE SULTANATE OF OMAN’S Ministry of Tourism is committed to safeguarding and enhancing cultural, natural and heritage values, and ensuring that all forms of tourism are conducted in a sustainable way. The Ministry has adopted the Sustainable Tourism principles developed by the United National World Tourism Organisation, and encourages Oman’s tourism businesses to adopt UNWTO and related (eg ISO and IFC) guidelines and standards, and contribute to the wellbeing of local communities through social and environmental programmes. In developing infrastructure and services, consideration is given to social and environmental values, as well as to precautionary and preventative principles. The Ministry has prepared a Development Control Plan Framework to guide development and enhance the long-term sustainability of the tourism industry. In restoring and managing heritage forts and castles, as well as managing reserves and attractions, the Ministry gives priority to the needs of, and opportunities for, local communities. The marketing of Oman as a destination for responsible tourists highlights its heritage, cultural and natural values. The Ministry is now formulating a Responsible Tourism Policy. The Oman Ministry of Tourism is a proud sponsor of the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards.

Arts in the valley

38 | r:travel

BestDestination.indd 5

29/10/2010 11:44

You can’t tie this Kangaroo down! THE TINY NEW SOUTH WALES town of Kangaroo Valley (population 340) is so hidden that unless you knew it existed you should never find it. Yet, somehow, each year around 200,000 visitors do. Located about two hours southwest of Sydney, Kangaroo Valley sits in a natural amphitheatre of high sandstone escarpments enclosing a lush river valley. Much of it falls within the boundaries of Morton National Park, and visitors come to enjoy a variety of mostly short-stay activities, such as rugged bush walks, cycling and riding trails, canoeing on the Kangaroo river scenic drives, romantic waterfalls and idyllic picnic spots. Australia’s National Trust has listed the landscape and many of the village buildings for their scenic beauty and cultural significance. It’s clearly a spot worth looking after. The Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association is committed to the preservation of this naturally beautiful place and encourages visitors to respect the environment, wildlife and residents alike. An example of this is the KVTA-based initiative that resulted in Kangaroo Valley being declared ‘Australia’s first mainland town to be plastic bag free’, in 2003. Perhaps it comes with being encircled with mountains with just one winding road in and out, but this community (add in a few hamlets and the population tops out at around

1,000) has always been a bit independent and ready to stand up for what it believes in: right now that’s the environment, their sense of place, and a responsible approach to tourism. In 2005 Kangaroo Valley fought off plans by the government to raise the Tallowa Dam wall which would have created significant environmental damage. In 2007 it tried to stop the road traffic authority cutting down an avenue of 95 mature trees. By 2008 almost a third of the Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association’s membership had pledged to go carbon neutral, as part

Fitzroy Falls

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Kangaroo Valley is a great example of small but powerful messages creating real and lasting change in a destination. This small, not-for-profit local community organisation has achieved recognition from the County Council for building the wider community’s capacity to be more sustainable. The Association encourages visitors to engage with the local environment and minimise the impact of their visit – for example, by encouraging visitors to use the village water fountain and purchase re-useable water containers, and it is the first plastic-bag-free town in Australia.

of the Green Kangaroo campaign to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This year it successfully lobbied to have maintenance work on the historic wooden Hampden Bridge done during the evenings and not during the day. The KVTA has reduced litter, silenced loud music at night and clamped down on drunken behaviour at camping grounds. It’s lobbied to keep a rural bus service, implemented a historic walk, planted new trees and encouraged the local shops, galleries and cafes to promote locally-made products. Chris Warren, president of the KVTA, says: ‘People quite often feel helpless and of no consequence in larger population bases. Here everyone is a stakeholder. ‘We face challenges with landowners and developers who want to make changes which are not in keeping with our scale and landscape. Until Kangaroo Valley’s sense of place is respected we will always face such challenges.’ The association now wants to encourage tourists to stay longer and spend more, thus increasing the economic benefit to Kangaroo Valley but not the carbon footprint. ‘Above all,’ adds Chris, ‘we want tourism that enhances the quality of life for Kangaroo Valley.’

r:travel | 39

BestDestination.indd 6

29/10/2010 11:45

best for conservation of cultural heritage

winner Booderee National Park, Australia

Where the past lives on Given Australia’s rocky history with its Aboriginal people, Booderee National Park is a very positive place. A visit here, to its lovingly maintained bushland is an encounter with the cultures and traditions of the past


ooderee is an Aboriginal owned place. For the local Koori people, who have lived off the land here forever, it holds the evidence of their ancestry. It is the home and spirit of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community, who were given back the park lands in 1995, since when Booderee has been jointly managed with the Australian government – one of only three such parks in the country (the others being Kakadu and UluruKata Tjuta). The park lies on the New South Wales coast at Jervis Bay, a three-hour drive east of the national capital Canberra and a similar drive south of Sydney. It encompasses more than 100 sites of Aboriginal significance, freshwater lakes, and both surf and gentle bay beaches. Just off the coast is Bowen Island, home to a colony of  Australia’s unique little penguins.  Dolphins are a year-round feature in the bay with a resident population of more than 70, and in spring the annual  East Coast whale migration brings humpback and southern right whales and their calves into the bay. 

Booderee has an abundance of wildlife to observe. If you have time you can tick off the 26 types of mammal, 200 bird, 17 reptile, 14 amphibian, 308 fish and 625 known plant species. But Booderee’s most precious asset is its past – revealed by the Aboriginal people themselves in what is a living cultural centre, through interpretive activities including free talks and self-guided walks. Booderee also contains the only Aboriginal-owned botanic gardens in Australia. Here visitors can explore hundreds of native plants from the local area and discover their significance to Aboriginal people - as bush tucker and for medicinal use. Booderee is an Aboriginal word from the Dhurga language meaning ‘bay of plenty’ or ‘plenty of fish’. This place has provided sustenance and shelter for many hundreds of generations of Aboriginal people, a living classroom for thousands of years, as Aboriginal people pass down their understanding of how to properly manage and live with the environment. The Wreck Bay community itself is set within 403 hectares of private land not

open to the public, but which is surrounded by the national park. Community members engage with the public on their own terms. Some choose to work closely with visitors, others prefer to work behind the scenes. Aboriginal people are employed at all levels. The park’s board of management has an Aboriginal majority and local Aboriginal people are also contracted to do all the major works in the park, what the judges said Booderee is proof that a partnership between government and a marginalised community can work to protect cultural heritage through long-term conservation goals. The Park’s Botanic Gardens is the only Aboriginal-owned botanic garden in existence. The judges recognised the partnership for preserving the privacy of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community within the sanctuary zone, and using tourism to the National Park for securing their livelihoods. With 430,000 visitors a year bringing in 1.2 million Australian dollars and with 80 per cent of the workers Indigenous and living within the park, the future plan for the community to take over sole management of the park is very real.

40 | r:travel

CulturalHeritage.indd 1

29/10/2010 11:34

Connecting with the past: a junior ranger group dance

including maintenance of tourism infrastructure, such as roads, buildings, walking trails and boardwalks. Some 80 per cent of all workers in the park are local Aboriginal people. The park promotes the use of local language in signage, public information, and in award-winning ‘bush classroom’ programmes with the local schools. ‘We are actively involved in progressing the vision of the Wreck Bay community to solely manage its lands and to become economically independent,’ says park manager Martin Fortescue. ‘We gradually outsource park functions to the community as and when they are ready to take them on. And we’re supporting the growth of Aboriginal business enterprises in the park. With more than 430,000 visitors every year the market opportunity for the Wreck Bay community is considerable.’

The marvellous mingo Koori man Bernie McLeod is the third generation of his family to work at the Botanic Gardens. A keen educator, Bernie is the current manager of the botanic gardens. What he doesn’t know about the plants in his garden isn’t worth knowing. For example, take the humble mingo… ‘The botanic gardens showcase plants such as xanthorrhoea australis (known locally as mingo), which has been used by the local Aboriginal people of this region for thousands of years for food, medicine, tools and tool-making, as well as an indicator species (a biological compass) that, if you know what to look for, tells you which way is north. The plant, also known as a grass tree or kangaroo tail, has a ‘skirt’ of long grass-like leaves, flower spikes, three to four metres long, that were often used as spear shafts. They grow naturally in the

sandy soils of this coastal region and often ooze resin from blackened trunks after fires. This sap is used as an adhesive for wooden tools – joining spearshafts and spearheads, and mending wooden bowls. The nectar from the flowers is also sweet and can be sucked direct or mixed with water for a natural and refreshing sweet drink. A versatile plant. Then there is the crinum (or swamp) lily. It has a sap used by the Koori to take away jellyfish stings, and fibres that are used as a bandage to repair minor cuts and scrapes.’

Xanthorrhoea australis – the mingo

sponsored by

Jamaica Tourist Board

The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), founded in 1955, is Jamaica’s national tourism agency and is based in the capital Kingston. The Board is responsible for the worldwide marketing of the uniqueness and diversity of destination JAMAICA. Its mandate is to promote Jamaica as a preferred travel destination; identify new and emerging consumer groups; cultivate new relationships with travel partners and disseminate useful marketing information to its offices and travel partners worldwide. The JTB is the most preferred point of contact for persons travelling to Jamaica. Over the years, the JTB has been recognised for its exceptional leadership and outstanding service, with accolades from industry and trade partners both regionally and internationally. All of JTB’s programmes are based on the policies espoused in the Ten-year Masterplan for Sustainable Tourism Development. One of the pillars of this Masterplan is the concept of responsible tourism and the JTB encourages every effort, domestic and international, to get more tourism entities to function responsibly. Many of our own hotels and attractions have been recognised for their efforts in this regard. The JTB is proud to sponsor the Best for Conservation of Cultural Heritage in these awards.

r:travel | 41

CulturalHeritage2.indd 2

29/10/2010 12:29

best for conservation of cultural heritage

highly commended Under the Thatch, UK

Thatch the way to do it!

Back in 2001, architectural historian Greg Stevenson was living in a house in West Wales that was actually two cottages – one habitable and the other, Ffynnon-Oer Isaf, a wreck. To restore it properly meant a lot of research as it was built out of clom, a Welsh form of cob. The project was a success, incorporating the first clom walls to be built in Wales for over a century – but it cost £85,000, way over budget. To recoup some of that outlay, Greg decided to let out Isaf as an authentic holiday let. Meanwhile he moved on to the next project…and the next. And so Under the Thatch was born – a niche self-catering cottage agency, in which the profits are used to buy and restore historic buildings in Wales, saving many from almost certain demolition. ‘That first house was full from day one, so we realised there was a huge demand for a historically interesting house,’ Greg says. In 2005 Greg took on his first ‘agency’ cottage, using the profits to help fund the restoration work. Under

the Thatch now has a roster of 75 properties, ranging from the luxury to the quirky – including shepherds’ huts, show-wagons, gypsy caravans and even Wendy, a restored Edwardian railway carriage perched on a clifftop at Aberporth overlooking Cardigan Bay. All are run in a sustainable way; some are off-grid, others have low-carbon heating systems, solar power and compost toilets. A flexible pricing policy ensures one of the highest year-round occupancy rates (between 80 to 100 per cent) of any self-catering letting agency. ‘In low season this means some people get holidays at cost price – such as a whole cottage for £50 a week.’ Greg is scornful of what he calls the ‘greed’ of many owners of selfcatering properties. ‘People try to join our agency every day, and one reason they get turned down is that the owners are too greedy. Our high occupancy rates help to minimise second-home syndrome, and communities benefit.’ One property Greg did take on

belongs to comedian and presenter Griff Rhys Jones, who asked Greg to renovate his cottage Trehilyn Uchaf, near the Strumble Head peninsula in Pembrokeshire. It became the subject of a BBC4 TV series A Pembrokeshire Farm, and is let through Under the Thatch whenever Rhys Jones is away. Ideally, Greg would like his restored properties (around 12 so far) to become full-time homes. But the costs invariably run to more than the buildings are worth. Wendy, for example, cost £70,000 to restore – nearly three times the projected cost. Fortunately for Greg, his ‘proper job’ as an architectural historian – he was an adviser on the BBC TV series Restoration – and a lecturer at the University of Wales, has meant he has not had to rely on Under the Thatch for an income. ‘It may sound odd for a tourism company to say so, but the fundamental reason for our business isn’t to sell holidays – it’s to raise funds for building conservation.’ However, the higher costs of even derelict properties means Greg is now looking abroad for his next restoration – a log-built house near Tarnow in Poland. what the judges said While many holiday property booms have been at the expense of local communities, Under the Thatch have ensured no permanent homes have changed use and no one forced out of the community. All their rental properties in Wales were once derelict cottages or neglected outbuildings. Flexible year-round pricing means local staff are employed even through quiet times – boosting and sustaining the local economy.

42 | r:travel

CulturalHeritage.indd 3

29/10/2010 11:34

Leaders in comfort and performance




IN PÁRAMO’S TREK & TRAVEL RANGE 1. PROTECTION – against sun (SPF 50+), against insects, against the elements 2. SECURE & HIDDEN POCKETING – peace of mind whilst on your adventures

Discover the Real Australia

3. DESIGNED TO TRAVEL – easy wear, easy care, rapid drying 4. A CHOICE OF FABRIC WEIGHTS – to suit you and your activity 5. LIGHTWEIGHT AND COMFORTABLE – a pleasure to wear 6. KEEP YOUR COOL – Parameta® A wicking fabrics use every last drop of perspiration to cool you down.

Kangaroo Valley & Booderee National Park

Australian award winning Indigenous experience at Booderee, Australian award winning eco friendly accommodation at Crystal Creek Meadows. Inspiring responsible tailor made holidays – 2 hours south of Sydney.

So pack less, travel light and stay protected from the sun with Páramo’s Trek & Travel range of clothing. We’ve everything you need for hot weather travel – from silk weight shirts to high performance cargos in male and female designs.


043_Ads_2010.indd 1 KVDiscover_ad_90x122.indd 1

24/10/10 4:30 PM 29/10/2010 11:10



Putting travel on the right track 44 | r:travel

LowCarbon.indd 1

29/10/2010 12:00

Highly commended last year, and a winner for his ‘personal contribution’ in 2006, the Man in Seat 61 is changing the way we travel, empowering people to take the train rather than the plane. And as the new 2010 highly commended nominee shows – see overpage – his passion is catching…

Mark Smith on a train from Rangoon to Mandalay


he ill wind that blew a lot of volcanic ash in the direction of air travellers in April did a lot of good for rail travel guru Mark Smith. As thousands of travellers stranded in Europe searched for alternative ways to get home, the number of hits on his pioneering rail travel website more than doubled, hitting a peak of 1.4 million in that month – an all-time record. It was the latest spike in a continuing surge of popularity for Mark’s website, which last year clocked up 9.8 million visitors, resulting in 20,000 online ticket sales. But when the ash cloud rose, the Man in Seat61 was not actually at his post in his Buckinghamshire study. ‘I was in Istria at the time on a press trip and we were due to return the day after the cloud grounded flights,’ he recalls. ‘In a classic case of the tortoise and the hare, I was booked to come back by train and did so spot on time, enjoying some lovely scenery on the Zagreb to Vienna train, while my fellow journalists were taken to the airport and were still there a week later. ‘But loads of people used the site and happily it held up and didn’t crash.’ However Mark adds that the ash cloud didn’t always show off the rail companies at their best. While the east Europeans pulled out all the stops, adding extra trains and then extra carriages and sleeping cars on top, elsewhere, a lot of cheaper fares disappeared. ‘For example, the £30 rail/sail London to Dublin tickets were switched off, which was a bit naughty as they forced people to buy full-fare tickets. ‘Funnily enough, though, I’ve seen a

significant increase in rail/sail tickets to Dublin since the ash cloud. It’s almost as if the route has been rediscovered…’ One thing the ash cloud has proved is that, started purely as a hobby nine years ago, with one DIY page telling you how to get to key European destinations by rail, has taken on a life of its own. It has expanded over the years to include a page for nearly every country

‘I don’t think the travelling public realise just how quick it can be to zing around Western Europe’ in the world, ‘though it’s still a bit weak on the Congo, the Central African Republic and South America,’ adds Mark, who now spends most of his time sifting through the increasing feedback he gets, as travellers add their own stories, and spot changes – all of which have to be checked. He also has more time to travel himself, and topped up the US page this summer with details of an Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary. Seat61 – named after Mark’s favourite first class seat on Eurostar – has enabled a growing number of people to change the way they travel, swapping planes for trains and so cutting their carbon emissions by up to 90 per cent. Seat61 explains how to travel without flying from the UK to any country in Europe and in many countries worldwide. It explains routes, train times, connections, how best to buy your tickets and what the trains and journeys will be like. It also fills in gaps covered by ferries and buses. ‘Air travel is the fastest contributor to Continued on page 46

r:travel | 45

LowCarbon.indd 2

29/10/2010 12:00

best for low carbon transport and technology

Continued from page 45

global warming, but if we want people to cut down on their flying, we need to offer them a safe, comfortable and affordable alternative,’ says Mark. ‘That’s where seat61 comes in. ‘I don’t think the travelling public realise just how quick it can be to zing around Western Europe. But in a world where you are bombarded with adverts for air travel, motorway buses and package holidays, civilised, romantic, exciting overland travel by train is still possible – across Europe and beyond. With the easy eloquence of a talking timetable, Mark cites new high speed routes in Europe as evidence of rail travel’s capacity to improve: ‘Paris to Amsterdam, which used to take all day, is now just 3hr 18min; Paris to Geneva will be cut to three hours in December; and a new high-speed line to Figueres just over the border into Spain, also in December, will take just 5hr 5mins, which means you could leave London at 10.25am and be in Figueres at 8.45 in the evening. His one major gripe these days is that cooperation between rail companies is getting worse, not better, making it more of a maze than it needs to be.

‘Before 1995, I could go to Victoria and buy a ticket to anywhere and every train company could issue a ticket for every other company. Now, however, we live in a fragmented, liberalised, open-access world where all the train prices are controlled like air fares in a reservation system and you need to go to a different website to book different routes. Internet access and cheap advance fares mean that if you know where to look it’s easy to get a good deal, which helps to keep me in business I suppose, but is nevertheless still frustrating!’ ‘With seat61 I am helping people to become travellers rather than tourists. There’s more to travel than just the destination. It’s called the journey.’ what the judges said No stranger to the Awards, has proved invaluable in the last year not only to those who knew they want to travel by train or ferry but also to those who didn’t. Strikes, airlines collapsing and volcanic ash forced many travellers to turn to turn to Mark Smith’s remarkable site with up-to-the-minute information for travellers. The site has grown from 6.5million to almost 10 million users and been instrumental in the growth of rail travel bookings.

Station to station • Seat61’s most popular European

• Beyond Europe, the top five are

on the Glacier Express; and Chicago to San Francisco on the California Zephyr – ‘I did it again this summer and it is simply wonderful, and so cheap. You can get a reclining seat for £130.’

Thailand, Malaysia, China, India and Vietnam.

• An updated version of Mark’s book

• Mark’s favourite rail journeys

based on the site, The Man in Seat 61, was published in April

destination pages are Italy, then Holland, France, Spain and Germany

include London to Fort William on the overnight Caledonian Sleeper – ‘you lift the blind the next morning and see deer bounding away across the beautiful highland scenery ’ – Zermatt to St Moritz

sponsored by

The Quito Visitors’ Bureau, Ecuador The Quito Visitors’ Bureau develops and promotes tourism in the capital of Ecuador. We are responsible for working with local tourism businesses in the city as well as promoting Quito on the international stage. As such we are in a unique position of both developing and encouraging sustainable strategies, and making the travel industry and end-consumers aware of them. As one of the Municipality of Quito’s many organisations, we are proud to present the work the authorities have carried out over the past decade. Quito has invested more than any other Latin American capital in safeguarding cultural heritage, investing half a billion dollars since 2001. The regeneration of the historic centre – Quito was the first city to be named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978 – has created investment in tourism infrastructure, as well as media interest. The development of tourism here is set on a sustainable course. The city has also worked hard to improve its public spaces and parks. It now boasts one of the highest per-capita ratios of open space to inhabitant on the continent, and has planted tens of thousands of native trees. The Bureau promotes these areas, and places like the Botanical Gardens, as well as opportunities for sports in the city – such as the weekly ‘Cycle Sundays’ when 20 miles of roads across the capital are closed to traffic with some 30,000 people participating. The Andes region around Quito is highly biodiverse; we promote responsible tourism to these rural areas, and work with small businesses to improve their services while minimising their impact. We signed an agreement with Rainforest Alliance in 2008 to work together to promote best practices.

• There is also a possible TV series – Mark filmed a pilot with actor Ken Cranham (watch a taster on his website) and is hoping to turn it into a series.

46 | r:travel

LowCarbon2.indd 3

29/10/2010 13:31

best for low carbon transport and technology

Continued from page 45

global warming, but if we want people to cut down on their flying, we need to offer them a safe, comfortable and affordable alternative,’ says Mark. ‘That’s where seat61 comes in. ‘I don’t think the travelling public realise just how quick it can be to zing around Western Europe. But in a world where you are bombarded with adverts for air travel, motorway buses and package holidays, civilised, romantic, exciting overland travel by train is still possible – across Europe and beyond. With the easy eloquence of a talking timetable, Mark cites new high speed routes in Europe as evidence of rail travel’s capacity to improve: ‘Paris to Amsterdam, which used to take all day, is now just 3hr 18min; Paris to Geneva will be cut to three hours in December; and a new high-speed line to Figueres just over the border into Spain, also in December, will take just 5hr 5mins, which means you could leave London at 10.25am and be in Figueres at 8.45 in the evening. His one major gripe these days is that cooperation between rail companies is getting worse, not better, making it more of a maze than it needs to be.

‘Before 1995, I could go to Victoria and buy a ticket to anywhere and every train company could issue a ticket for every other company. Now, however, we live in a fragmented, liberalised, open-access world where all the train prices are controlled like air fares in a reservation system and you need to go to a different website to book different routes. Internet access and cheap advance fares mean that if you know where to look it’s easy to get a good deal, which helps to keep me in business I suppose, but is nevertheless still frustrating!’ ‘With seat61 I am helping people to become travellers rather than tourists. There’s more to travel than just the destination. It’s called the journey.’ what the judges said No stranger to the Awards, has proved invaluable in the last year not only to those who knew they want to travel by train or ferry but also to those who didn’t. Strikes, airlines collapsing and volcanic ash forced many travellers to turn to turn to Mark Smith’s remarkable site with up-to-the-minute information for travellers. The site has grown from 6.5million to 10 million users and been instrumental in the growth of rail travel bookings.

Station to station • Seat61’s most popular European

• Beyond Europe, the top five are

on the Glacier Express; and Chicago to San Francisco on the California Zephyr – ‘I did it again this summer and it is simply wonderful, and so cheap. You can get a reclining seat for £130.’

Thailand, Malaysia, China, India and Vietnam.

• An updated version of Mark’s book

• Mark’s favourite rail journeys

based on the site, The Man in Seat 61, was published in April

destination pages are Italy, then Holland, France, Spain and Germany

include London to Fort William on the overnight Caledonian Sleeper – ‘you lift the blind the next morning and see deer bounding away across the beautiful highland scenery ’ – Zermatt to St Moritz

sponsored by

The Quito Visitors’ Bureau, Ecuador The Quito Visitors’ Bureau develops and promotes tourism in the capital of Ecuador. We are responsible for working with local tourism businesses in the city as well as promoting Quito on the international stage. As such we are in a unique position of both developing and encouraging sustainable strategies, and making the travel industry and end-consumers aware of them. As one of the Municipality of Quito’s many organisations, we are proud to present the work the authorities have carried out over the past decade. Quito has invested more than any other Latin American capital in safeguarding cultural heritage, investing half a billion dollars since 2001. The regeneration of the historic centre – Quito was the first city to be named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978 – has created investment in tourism infrastructure, as well as media interest. The development of tourism here is set on a sustainable course. The city has also worked hard to improve its public spaces and parks. It now boasts one of the highest per-capita ratios of open space to inhabitant on the continent, and has planted tens of thousands of native trees. The Bureau promotes these areas, and places like the Botanical Gardens, as well as opportunities for sports in the city – such as the weekly ‘Cycle Sundays’ when 20 miles of roads across the capital are closed to traffic with some 30,000 people participating. The Andes region around Quito is highly biodiverse; we promote responsible tourism to these rural areas, and work with small businesses to improve their services while minimising their impact. We signed an agreement with Rainforest Alliance in 2008 to work together to promote best practices.

• There is also a possible TV series – Mark filmed a pilot with actor Ken Cranham (watch a taster on his website) and is hoping to turn it into a series.

46 | r:travel

LowCarbon2.indd 3

29/10/2010 12:35


Snow, snow, click click snow

Daniel Elkan/snowcarbon

A train between Zermatt and Andermatt

THE ONLY WAY skiing and green are linked in most minds is on a nursery slope. Yet while many resorts are doing their bit to make skiing more sustainable, one factor alone is responsible for an average 73 per cent of a ski resort’s carbon footprint. The culprit is the plane: more than 90 per cent of skiers still fly to the slopes. Yet there is another way – rail – which is where snowcarbon comes in. This UK-based website, launched just over a year ago by two freelance journalists, Daniel Elkan and Mark Hodson, has one mission – to get skiers off the plane and onto the train. At a stroke, you will reduce your carbon emissions by 90 per cent. With more than a million journeys taken each year from the UK to European ski resorts, changing the way we go can make a big difference. Snowcarbon began life as a newspaper travel feature. Daniel, 37, an environmentalist and former Friends of the Earth volunteer, has always loved rail travel. So when his

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID While barely a year old, snowcarbon. com is already making an impact on the way we travel. Aimed at skiers looking to avoid air travel it covers 30 resorts reachable by rail on a site that is easy to use and written by travel journalists. The judges felt they wanted to recognise its success in making train travel more mainstream and engaging tourist boards in low carbon travel.

first trips to the slopes (Andorra and Italy), resulted in long-winded, carbon-intensive plane journeys, he decided to explore going by train. ‘I found it was really hard to get information,’ he says. ‘No-one had any idea. So I got a map of Europe, and an Interail timetable and started plotting routes. Few journeys are ideal, but I found it was possible to get all over Europe by train. I wrote it up as a travel feature, one which I seemed to be doing a couple of times each year. It was clear that skiers were interested, but there was nowhere to go to get this information.’ Convinced that a website was feasible, Daniel spent March to July 2009 travelling to ski resorts in France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Andorra – by train, of course – trying to persuade resort directors to cooperate in his snowcarbon site. Out of 50 visited, 30 agreed to participate, providing the cash injection that enabled snowcarbon to launch that autumn. Having seen the site up and

running, more are now keen to join. Snowcarbon makes it easy – showing the best routes, how to book, how to change easily in Paris, train facilities and connections from stations to resorts. In the first year more than 22,000 skiers visited the site, resulting in nearly £30,000 of direct rail bookings. For 2010, snowcarbon is offering nearly 4,000 fixed-price rail-inclusive packages through a pool of tour operators, making the process even easier. Of course, say critics, cheap flights will always win over the cash-strapped traveller. And people will always say, ‘Oh it’s only a 90-minute flight…’ But add in costs for baggage, skis and lengthy transfers, not to mention airport parking, and that £15 bargain can quickly rise to nearer £150. Insanely early departures from home, tedious check-ins, delays and long coach transfers, mean that 90-minute flight usually ends up wiping out the first day of your holiday. Train fares are more expensive, (lead-in fares start from around £120 for an overnight train) but the benefits are more than environmental. ‘The train is more relaxing,’ says Daniel. ‘You leave at a resonable time of day. Check-ins are brief, transfers shorter or nonexistent. Seeing the scenery change, the journey becomes part of the holiday. And with an overnight train, you can be on the slopes the next morning, while airborne skiers are still en route. ‘The ski industry has been “business as usual” for too long without seeing ways to take significant environmental steps. You have to stick your head above the parapet first and ask the “what if?” questions. That is when real change happens.’

r:travel | 47

LowCarbon.indd 4

29/10/2010 12:09





Britain’s best-selling scuba magazine October 2010 • £4.20

MAY 2010 £4.20



Healthiest reefs in the Caribbean


CRASH COURSE What happens when you bump into a Bryde’s whale?







Exploring Croatia’s amphora wrecks


king you tank last r longer








Cover_ideas MAY10 2.indd 1

7/4/10 11:44:15


Britain’s best-selling scuba magazine September 2010 • £4.20




CLASSIC CAYMANS Charles Hood dives the best sites




NEW_COVER OCT10.indd 1



Britain’s best-selling scuba magazine November 2010 • £4.20
















COVER new SEP10.indd 1

02/08/2010 18:48












COVER_NOV10.indd 1







Wrecks and reefs of the north











05/10/2010 15:53

USE ME_Cover_AUG10 ideas.indd 1






FgiftRE E


A compact six-watt dive light with twin O-ring seal, safety switch and a comfortable wrist lanyard, this torch is rated to a depth of 100m and will burn bright for three hours, so you won’t miss out on any action.

worth £20*


OR VISIT WWW.DIVESUBS.CO.UK/P012 OR COMPLETE THE FORM AND SEND TO: DIVE, FREEPOST (SCE 12967), THATCHAM, BERKSHIRE RG19 4BR *UK subscribers pay £35 per year or £8.75 per quarter (saving 30% off the cover price). Free torch offer and quarterly subscription offer apply UK Direct Debit orders only. In order to qualify for a free torch you must live within the UK and A) subscribe by annual direct debit or B) be an existing subscriber or BSAC member taking out a gift subscription. Overseas rates: Europe - £48 per year (saving 30% off the European rate); rest of world - £58 (saving 25% off the international rate). Payments must be made in UK pounds sterling, Offer ends 01/03/2011

Subs_DEC10_RT.indd 2

29/10/2010 16:11



taking a responsible approach to sustainable development through tourism

The Sultanate of Oman is a country of amazing diversity. From heritage forts and castles, towering mountain ranges flanked by vast golden desert sands and palm oases, this is a place of rich cultural heritage and unique natural assets

r:travel | 49

Oman.indd 1

29/10/2010 14:36


man is a place to experience nature. Walk along the coast and spot whales, turtles and a vast array of birdlife, or sail on a dhow from Musandam and view the high cliffs of deep gorges, and the play of hump-backed dolphins, alternatively swim in clear warm water among coral and fish. The heritage forts and castles are among the most treasured in the world. As sentinels to past times, it is easy to imagine the bustle and noises of life in and around these magnificent structures. Prehistoric megaliths and tombs predate the forts and castles and reflect an even older heritage. These structures have World Heritage status. It is its diversity of landscapes, wildlife and heritage that makes Oman such an incredible destination. Visitors talk about it as a rich and authentic experience, one that people learn from and want to return to. To protect its precious natural and historical assets, the country has made a strong commitment to responsible tourism. As Oman’s Environmental Statement sets out: ‘The Ministry of Tourism is committed to safeguarding and enhancing cultural, natural and heritage values and ensuring that all forms of tourism are conducted in a sustainable way.’ Responsible Tourism Conference As part of Oman’s long-term strategy to make responsible tourism a key component of tourism development and to highlight the country’s commitment to responsible tourism, the Ministry of Tourism hosted the 4th Responsible Tourism in Destinations Conference in Muscat (10-12 October 2010). This three-day conference brought together tourism professionals and academics from around the globe to share best practice and developments in responsible tourism. The conference

attracted 380 participants from 34 countries, with the conference theme being the ‘Living landscapes in Oman’. The conference was highly successful with a key output being a Statement (refer that calls on all stakeholders in the tourism industry to take responsibility for ensuring sustainable development though tourism. Looking Forward The Sultanate of Oman will soon launch its own sustainable tourism policy. The policy maintains a firm commitment to take a responsible approach from a number of perspectives: government, private sector agencies, local communities as well as responsible tourists. As Salem Al Mamari, Director General of Tourism Promotion, points out: ‘Oman was the first country in the region to have a Ministry of the Environment.’ He adds:

‘From the beginning when we started developing the tourism sector we have taken into consideration the responsible development of the whole sector.’ Al Mamari and his team are implementing an international marketing strategy that positions Oman as a globally competitive niche destination. From day one Oman has taken a different path to most destinations by marketing to high-yield and responsible sectors using heritage, cultural, natural and adventure themes. This focus was, in part, a response to infrastructure delivery projections to ensure that accommodation capacity balanced visitor numbers, but it also appeals to business sectors that see destination quality as a decisionmaking prerequisite. The Ministry’s focus on Oman’s intact heritage, culture, adventure and natural values using ‘Beauty has an

50 | r:travel

Oman.indd 2

29/10/2010 14:36


‘Oman’s rich cultural and religious heritage is one of the primary draws for visitors from around the globe and this is something the Ministry of Tourism is keen to preserve’ address’ as a call to action emphasises Oman’s difference while appealing to business, leisure, adventure and special interest travellers seeking an authentic destination experience. As Al Mamari says: ‘From the beginning we have positioned Oman as a high-end destination because we believe visitors can help us to maintain Oman as it is.’ By attracting high-end travellers the Ministry hopes to get the message out to a wider audience, as they return home and tell their family and friends about the country and its commitment to sustainable development. Heritage and Culture Oman’s rich cultural and religious heritage is one of the primary draws for visitors from around the globe and this is something the Ministry of Tourism is keen to preserve. ‘A nation without history will not have a future’ says Al Mamari. ‘This is what we are about.

This is what makes Oman different from other destinations.’ There are villages which are more than 3,000 years old spread around the country, he explains. ‘Those villages were owned by people, not the government, so we have taken them from the families and restored them, converted them into a destination and trained the people who owned them, giving it to them to be run by them. This not only ensures that the village is preserved but also that those living there benefit most.’ In preserving its cultural assets, the country is taking a light-handed approach. Mohammed Al Zadjali, Director General Tourism Development at the Ministry, who specialises in the preservation of forts and other historic sites, explains: ‘We are preserving sites without touching their historical values. We are simply adding basic services to turn them into tourist attractions such as museums.’

Natural Assets The other key concern for Oman is protecting and preserving its natural assets. The country is seeking to balance its infrastructure needs with maintaining its tourism product. ‘We look for alternatives in the infrastructure, if possible, rather than affecting the tourism product,’ explains Al Zadjali. This attitude to the conservation and protection of Oman’s abundant natural resources through sustainable development and the preservation of biodiversity is key to Oman’s current tourism policy. This approach has been sharpened under the leadership of Oman’s Minister for Tourism, Dr Rajha Abdul Ameer Ali who says: ‘Biodiversity is fundamental to the quality of our daily life, and therefore to our livelihoods, businesses and industry at large. As an industry we Continued on page 52

r:travel | 51

Oman.indd 3

29/10/2010 14:36


communities.’ Companies in the tourism sector are monitored and have to have a minimum number of Omani people working at every level including within management, ensuring that those who benefit most from Oman’s tourism development are the Omani people themselves.

Continued from page 51

must work responsibly to ensure that the genetic diversity of our plants and animals is not jeopardised, species are not threatened or endangered, and our unique ecosystems and habitats remain intact.’ Al Zadjali cites the example of The Wave development in Muscat where much has been done to ensure that the natural assets of the area are protected: ‘We have preserved the beaches along the coast,’ he explains. ‘Most have not been touched’. But it is not just when new development takes place that the country’s natural assets are being looked after. ‘We are protecting natural areas around the country by Royal Decree,’ says Al Zadjali. Numerous natural areas have been identified as significant and a system of protected areas has been introduced to ensure these beautiful and diverse areas will be enjoyed for generations to come. Local People Oman’s people are an integral part not only of the country’s history, but also its tourism future. The government may set the policy but it is the local people who must implement it. As Al Mamari says: ‘At the end of the day, the people who do the business on the ground are the local communities. If those communities are not educated in the

right manner the whole effort is wasted.’ Education is therefore the key and Oman is pouring its efforts into getting the responsible tourism message across to its people. ‘We have started orientation programs in our schools, in our communities, to educate people about tourism and how we deal with tourism,’ says Al Mamari. ‘We have the tourism colleges plus three universities across the country which have departments of tourism,’ adds Al Zadjali. ‘They are expected to generate more educated local people in the field of tourism which we need for our upcoming projects.’ And it is not just those in education who will benefit. ‘We have been thinking of how to involve local people right from the beginning,’ says Al Zadjali, ‘discussing the project with them, how it’s going to help them both in the present and in the future, to get better opportunities such as jobs and economic stability.’ The Omanisation program that seeks to replace foreign nationals with Omani personnel, ensuring that local people have jobs, is an important part of developing tourism in the country. As the Ministry of Tourism’s Environmental Statement sets out: ‘In restoring and managing heritage forts and castles, as well as managing reserves and attractions, the Ministry gives priority to the needs of, and opportunities for, local

Implementation Oman is currently finalising its own sustainable tourism policy which is expected to be ready by the end of this year. But this will not simply be a guide to better practice, it will be enforced. ‘If people go against the guidelines they will be held responsible,’ says Al Mamari. ‘Our policy will set out guidelines for government, private sectors, tour operators and organisations. Each one will then have its own policy, but this will be based on the policy designed by the Ministry. It’s like a bible for them.’ Changing Perceptions So what does Oman ultimately hope to achieve? ‘It’s not about bringing money in,’ says Al Mamari. ‘It’s about introducing ourselves to outsiders. We know that some people may have negative perceptions of Oman and we want to change those perceptions. We want to educate people about our civilisation, our history, our culture and our values.’ Time and time again, the warm hospitality of the Omani people is mentioned as a key draw, and if the country can combine this welcoming attitude with a responsible approach to maintaining its wealth of natural and historic attractions, then it is sure to be successful – as well as attracting visitors for generations to come. ■ Contact: Oman Ministry of Tourism UK & Ireland Market Representative Office Tel: 0208 877 4524 Email:

52 | r:travel

Oman.indd 4

29/10/2010 14:36


big Scuba


National Hall, Olympia, London

19-20 February 2011

for the

DIVER who wants more... Dive Scuba show ad_RT10.indd 1

in association with

29/10/2010 16:09

best for poverty reduction

winner Nihiwatu, Indonesia what the judges said More than 20,000 people living in 400 villages on the Indonesian island of Sumba benefit from Nihiwatu being their neighbour. 500 guests raising US$400,000 annually at this remote 14-room resort support the Sumba Foundation in its remarkable work. Malaria has been reduced by 85 per cent with at least 53 lives saved, five clinics looking after 18,000 people have been opened, and specialists have been brought onto the island to perform 263 life changing eye and 168 cleft palate surgeries. 14 primary schools are supported and the foundation has been able to bring clean water to the Sumbanese community as well as start a malnutrition project – with 327 children having benefitted so far.

Nihiwatu is the Overall Winner of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2010. For the full feature about this inspiring resort, please turn to page 6

sponsored by


It is a great honour for PromPeru to sponsor the Responsible Tourism Award for Best for Poverty Reduction. Peru’s tourism industry helps to combat poverty as it is continuously aiding the improvement of the quality of life of the Peruvians by generating

sustainable development and income throughout the country. The popularity of rural, community and ecotourism has risen over the years due to the demand of visitors wanting to connect with the local people. Eighty per cent of tourists participating in community tourism have done so only in southern Peru on the popular main tourist circuit. Therefore, PromPeru is working with partners on the development of diverse community activities in all regions of Peru. September 2009 saw a ceremony where President of the Republic, Alan GarcĂ­a Perez signed the new General Tourism Law in a ceremony at Pachacamac, an important archaeological site 25 miles from Lima, in the

presence of the head of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Martin Perez. The Peruvian government has passed this new General Tourism Law declaring the national interest of tourism to aid the development of the country. This law enforces that not only visitors but primarily Peruvian citizens benefit from tourism and tourism will directly influence the economic growth and stability of the country.

54 | r:travel

PovertyReduction.indd 1

29/10/2010 14:21

HIGHLY COMMENDED Kaliandra Foundation, Indonesia

STUDENTS AND STAFF from a UK university acted as guinea pigs to help a community social enterprise develop a homestay tourism programme to boost local living standards and help conserve sensitive forest land in East Java. Besides helping with building work – a children’s playground and a toilet block – and English teaching, the volunteers from Leeds Metropolitan University helped villagers in Tambaksari to train guides and explained to host families about the ‘needs’ of Western tourists (loo paper!). Janet Cochrane, senior research fellow at Leeds Met, helped design the Mount Arjuna Tourism Area programme and described the partnership with Yayasan Kaliandra Sejati (the Kaliandra Foundation), as ‘a nice collaboration’, adding: ‘It’s had a really positive impact on the village. We helped them test out the village trails and other cultural activities, and Kaliandra has built on our input to the extent that Tambaksari now has “tourism village” status, which means they can access government funding.’ Janet has been taking volunteers from Leeds to the Mt Arjuna area since 2007 and in that time more than 70 have taken part. ‘In many cases the volunteers had never travelled to developing countries, so it’s been a good eye-opener for them and in a much more meaningful way than just travelling through. ‘But the staff at Kaliandra have been absolutely brilliant. They’ve really taken things forward; they are so motivated and so dedicated to seeing life improve for the villagers.’

As well as developing the community-based tourism, Kaliandra has introduced development projects including organic farming, improving education, medical services, a cottage industry in traditional batik craft products, the promotion of traditional dance and musical instruments, along with the Parenting Forest programme, which involves the reforestation of 90 hectares of land on the slopes of Mt Arjuna – planting 25,000 seedlings. Around 500 farmers will nurture the young trees for five years until they can grow independently. Kaliandra employs more than 100 people, most from the villages of Dayurejo, Jatiarjo, Cowek and Tonggowa. Sapto Siswoyo (‘Sis’), assistant manager of Kaliandra’s community development programme, says: ‘We manage part of our site as a certificated organic market garden, using the fruit and vegetables we grow in our restaurants and  selling them in the cities. We also work with people

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Kaliandra is a social enterprise that has given disadvantaged communities in East Java an income from tourism and connected them with local government and conservation initiatives. They combine their Mount Arjuna Tourism Area project with a homestay programme that links the preservation of local culture with conservation of 90 hectares of biodiversity. Kaliandra has created associations to unite communities and help them get support from the government.

Agus Sugiarto

Trail blazers

from the villages around us to grow organic produce (also certificated) and market the produce for them. We have a vacuum-drier which produces delicious snacks from locally-grown fruit such as banana, jackfruit and pineapple: doing it this way means that local farmers can get a consistent price for the food they grow. ‘Disadvantaged people in rural areas have found it difficult to get jobs, so by working with Kaliandra they can get more income. ‘Our priority now is to expand the homestay programme, help local people improve sanitation and water services and add another 100 hectares to our Parenting Forest project.’

r:travel | 55

PovertyReduction.indd 2

29/10/2010 14:20

best responsible cruise operator

winner Orion Expedition Cruises, Australia

Exploring the parts others can’t reach Responsible rules the waves on an enlightened expedition cruise around the waters of Australia – and, overpage, on a cerebral river voyage into the jungles of Borneo


ruising and responsible tourism remain uneasy bedfellows, with the seagoing industry still dominated by floating leviathans that rule the waves, and disgorge up to 2,500 passengers ashore on rampant excursions. But a comparative newcomer to the industry, Orion Expedition Cruises (OEC), is showing that there is a way cruisers can have their cake and eat it in luxury, yet leave a lighter imprint on the environment and communities they visit. Set up in 2004 by Australian

businesswomen Sarina Bratton, OEC can reach the parts other cruise lines can’t by thinking small, not big. With 25 years of experience in the industry, Sarina is no newcomer to cruising, but it was while visiting a remote stretch of Western Australia’s Kimberley coastline on a friend’s yacht, that she came up with the concept for a new style of cruising, realising that to showcase one of the most pristine wilderness areas on the planet would take something special. The result is the Orion, a purposebuilt expedition vessel that takes 100 passengers in total luxury to the seas

less travelled – to the top end of Australia; the Arnhem Land coastline to Cairns, the Kimberley coast down to Broome, Papua New Guinea and Melanesia, and south to explore the Australian and New Zealand sub-antarctic islands on the way to Antarctica. Aboard, 75 crew minister to their needs, while everything about the vessel itself is operated to EarthCheck bronze level benchmarking – Orion being the only cruise ship to hold this accreditation (a second vessel, Orion II, comes into service in April 2011). Expeditions are built around community partnerships – mostly with communities without tourism experience. OEC never goes where they’re not wanted, approaching village

56 | r:travel

BestCruise.indd 1

29/10/2010 11:48

or tribal heads to start a dialogue about the benefits and opportunities of shared experience. Guests are informed about the places they visit while the communities receive tangible benefits in income and practical support from OEC. One example is Watam, a remote village of just 300 people on the Sepik river in Papua New Guinea. Here money has little value, so OEC contributes products and services such as mosquito nets, malaria medication and school materials, as well as the use of the ship’s doctor, while Orion is in Watam. This is enlightened cruising, and Sarina Bratton’s vision and values have been instilled in the company from top to bottom. ‘Too many problems are Continued on page 58

r:travel | 57

BestCruise.indd 2

29/10/2010 11:48


Continued from page 57

caused through corporate greed,’ says Sarina. ‘We try hard to be sensitive to human and environmental needs through our corporate philosophy.  ‘Our guests become ambassadors who take messages of environmental responsibilty beyond our corporate boundaries to widen community awareness.’ ‘It took me three years to find the right ship,’ she says, ‘but it takes more than the right ship to tread lightly. For us it involves having a philosophy throughout the company that embraces responsible attitudes towards the way we manage our operation – whether that is in the office managing paper waste or at sea with our waste management systems.   ‘We continually review on-ship and on-shore practices and have developed business relationships with selected ecologically sound suppliers wherever possible. Results to date mean we use less plastic packaging and containers, generate less waste paper and use more recyclable materials. ‘Because there is little or no infrastructure to support operations in most of the remote destinations Orion visits, we must be self-sufficient and have the technical capability and management practices that lead to world’s best practice.’ Sarina has no doubt that the large cruise ships will continue to dominate the global mass-market. ‘But many of our guests have never stepped foot on a large vessel. They are not “cruisers”, they are highly intelligent, well-travelled individuals, curious about the world.’ And she is a passionate, eloquent advocate for her brand of cruising. ‘Our future lies in attracting small numbers of inquisitive, invariably well educated guests, to explore different destinations in many instances still untouched by tourism. Where we visit there are no plastic trinkets specially manufactured to please the visiting

tourists, rather we provide genuine cultural experiences. ‘Large ships boast everything from climbing walls to wide-screen cinemas. Our rock climbing is done ashore, climbing to the top of cliffs to take in a  breathtaking panorama – no wide screen necessary. Our version of an adventure club is whale-watching or photographing salt water crocodiles on mangrove flats. Instead of a massive onboard shopping mall, we provide intimate opportunities to purchase artworks directly from the artist. ‘Our water rides involve running the horizontal waterfalls in the Kimberley in a Zodiac, and our real life History Channel is a visit to the Antarctic explorer’s huts of Scott, Shackleton and Mawson. ‘There is a place for both scales of cruising. Our style is gaining more attention of late as it is more meaningful. I do not believe this is a passing trend.’

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Orion Expedition Cruises is the only cruise firm with Earthcheck certification, and shows a real commitment to the communities it visits. By acknowledging that authenticity can only be realised for their guests by working in partnership with communities, they conduct community research ahead of establishing new ports of call – helping protect cultural heritage and environment while offering real benefits to the places they visit. They have influenced suppliers to make positive changes such as moving from plastic containers to cardboard and aluminum bottles over plastic. Cruise is a growth area and this small operator is one to watch.


Oman Ministry of Tourism   For full details on Oman Ministry of Tourism please go to page 38

58 | r:travel

BestCruise.indd 3

29/10/2010 11:48

HIGHLY COMMENDED Kalimantan Tour Destinations, Indonesia

Voyage of the thinkboat

TWO DETERMINED WOMEN and a beautiful boat have combined to form a pioneering new ecotourism venture in the heart of Borneo’s jungle. NGO worker Lorna Dowson-Collins and hotelier Gaye Thavisin were living and working in this untapped part of Borneo, when they found they shared a dream of running jungle cruises on a boat hotel and fostering livelihoods for the river communities, who had seen their future threatened by deforestation and logging. Kalimantan was teeming with the potential of its people and their fascinating culture, with beautiful forests of diverse flora and fauna, including the iconic orang-utan, and her rivers providing access to these wonderful treasures. ‘We realised that ecotourism could be opened up in Central Kalimantan by simply having a comfortable way of bringing people to experience the forest and her people,’ says Lorna. Their idea took two hard years to come to fruition as they worked to fund it, build up the community relationships and find the expertise needed to design and convert a

traditional Kalimantan river barge known as a Rangkan into the beautiful boat she is today. Remodelled by a French marine architect, the building works were overseen by a British boat builder, hired to organise and improve the capacity of a local Dayak boatbuilding team. The result is the Rahai’i Pangun, a breathtakingly elegant boat with five double cabins, an inside sitting area and a upper viewing deck. Launched in 2008, Kalimantan Tour Destinations (KTD) hosts around 450 guests a year, and the high-powered nature of some of them has earned this striking vessel the nickname ‘thinkboat’. Through their close ties with government and NGOs, as well as village communities, they’ve hosted the Norwegian Mission on Climate Change, a group of Australian MPs studying deforestation and Prince Henrik of Denmark with a WWF delegation. The Dutch government held talks with the local government about illegal logging, and philanthropist George Soros also came to learn about deforestation.

KTD now advises the Indonesian government on the need to promote ecotourism in Central Kalimantan, and not mass tourism. ‘We are the flagship or “thinkboat” for environmental and community issues,’ says Lorna. KTD works with the villagers to help them manage their own tourist businesses, for example as guides, renting canoes, fishing trips, collecting traditional medicines in the jungle, developing handicrafts and provides them with a tourist trade. It has also helped revive the local Sangars, the traditional village music and dance group. ‘One other impact of our gentle brand of ecotourism is the joy of the exchange between the different cultures,’ adds Lorna. ‘Life in villages can be quiet, but now when guests come there is something else happening. I remember Indu Lia, the village midwife, asking one of our American guests: “What brings you here?” The guest answered: “Adventure”. Indu Lia said, “Yes, I too long for adventure and learning new things”. Shortly afterwards she won a prize as best midwife in Palangkaraya, and went to Jakarta. When she came back, she told me she had had her adventure, but saw that so much had been lost in big cities, that they go out to eat every night and don’t eat in. She concluded life was good in the village.’ WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Kalimantan’s main achievement is their use of the river for sustainable tourism. In just two years they have made river tourism count - pioneering the concept of ecotourism in their part of Kalimantan and carrying 450 passengers in their first year of cruising. Their work has succeeded in persuading the Governor of Central Kalimantan to add the development of ecotourism to his five-year plan for the area.

r:travel | 59

BestCruise.indd 4

29/10/2010 11:49

best in a mountain environment

winner Ecosphere, India

Mountain highs

Responsible tourism – and a bit more besides – is allowing many mountain communities not only to survive, but to flourish, as the remarkable ventures recognised over the next six pages show

The Spiti philosophy

• To bring effective change you have to change the way people think. • As the Zen master says, ‘Your cup is full. How can I put anything in it till you empty it out first?’ • Effective change is change effected.

Enjoying an alternative and greener mode of travel in Spiti – a yak safari

60 | r:travel

BestMountain.indd 1

29/10/2010 13:47


piti lies in the mountainous north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, where the Tibetan plateau extends into India. It is one of the most obscure, most stark and yet most spectacular regions in the Indian Himalayas. Its difficult terrain and high altitude – 17,000ft – make it hard to reach and few travellers even know of its existence. It’s a cold desert region, with an

arid landscape, scarce vegation and a six-month winter, during which temperatures dip to -30°C. It also has magnificent night skies, breathtaking mountain views and fascinating folklore, being known as the ‘valley of monasteries’. Some of the oldest Buddhist monasteries and temples dating back over 1,000 years along with unique aspects of Tibetan Buddhist culture are preserved and have flourished in the Spiti valley.

But life here is hard and has been dependent on a form of subsistence agriculture, with a steady source of income hard to come by. Shifts in practices and needs have skewed the traditional equation between local demand and local supply. Spiti has become dependent on external sources for most of its needs, and on cash from menial labour on government infrastructure Continued on page 62

r:travel | 61

BestMountain.indd 2

29/10/2010 13:47


Continued from page 61

programmes to pay for them. Ecosphere was set up in 2002 as a social enterprise, and is now jointly owned by members of the local community and a few people from outside, including co-founder Ishita Khanna, a 31-year-old Indian businesswoman, who has become something of a hero in her own country for her work here. Ecosphere’s objective is to help Spiti find alternative and sustainable livelihoods. Responsible tourism is one such alternative. Ecosphere has developed a range of trips that provide an authentic insight into the region, while ensuring that the community benefits, along with the natural and cultural environment. These include 35 homestays, yak safaris and wildlife expeditions tracking the snow leopard and Himalayan wolf. Around 500 travellers a year visit though Ecosphere (with another 1,000 coming independently), and Ecosphere has helped 350 families to enhance their income directly from tourism, while another 650 have benefitted indirectly. Yet in keeping with its aim to avoid a

Local dance moves

‘Magnificent night skies, breathtaking mountain views and fascinating folklore’ reliance on even this new source of income, Ecosphere has had its most notable achievement in the production of the ‘Wonder Berry’, Seabuckthorn, a plant which grows wild in the Spiti region, and which is the world’s richest known source of vitamin C and also has large contents of vitamins K, A and E, along with 24 mineral compounds,

How a hero emerged... ECOSPHERE COFOUNDER Ishita Khanna was born and raised in Dehradun, in Uttarakhand. The younger of two sisters, her parents brought the girls up to be independent and outgoing. Her mother encouraged them to discover the outdoors by taking them on treks and excursions. Ishita says: ‘From a young age I was passionate about the environment and trekking. My various treks in the Himalayas brought a great reverence for the mountains and nature and the harmonious yet delicate balance that exists between the two. My interest in the mountains, their environment and the

conservation of both led me to undertake the work that I do now. ‘In a rapidly emerging market-driven consumerist society wreaked with issues of climate change, I feel it imperative to reflect on one’s own actions and their impacts, especially on the environment. The travel industry has a huge impact on the environment and is perhaps one of the largest emitters of carbon. I would urge all those in the industry and travellers to take the responsibility to reduce their impacts on the environment for a greener and more sustainable future. The Earth is like our Mother who nurtures us – let us respect and care for her like we would our mother.’

18 amino acids, proteins, many bioactive substances and omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 oils. Ecosphere has worked with the local communities to harness the plant and earn a living from it, by developing various products including jam and teas which all sell under the brand name Tsering. More than 500 women are now receiving an income from harvesting the berries. But Ecosphere’s work hasn’t stopped here. Its green crusade to reduce the carbon footprint of the valley has set it on a path to use renewable energy sources to reduce dependency on fuel-wood and fossil fuels. It’s developed greenhouses to help the community grow green vegetables, and introduced solar cookers and solar lighting. Altogether it has set up more than 200 energy efficient houses. ‘We currently have our hands fairly full with the hope of making the Earth a home in which we live responsibly and not merely the ground for our homes,’ says Ishita.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Ecosphere is a self-reliant social enterprise where the economic benefits to mountain communities are both clearly demonstrated and transformative. Ecosphere have moved from being donor funded to self-supporting, and 55 out of the 66 villages in the Spiti Valley have seen their incomes rise by up to 50% through Ecosphere’s trekking and homestay initiatives. Their carbon reduction programme is also comprehensive, citing a reduction of 520 tons of C\O2 per year.


Oman Ministry of Tourism For full details on Oman Ministry of Tourism please go to page 38

62 | r:travel

BestMountain.indd 3

29/10/2010 13:43

highly commended Kasbah du Toubkal (Discover Ltd), Morocco

Rocking the Kasbah

A plaque on the door of the Kasbah du Toubkal in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco proclaims that ‘dreams are only the plans of the reasonable’. Mike McHugo is a reasonable man. So is his brother Chris. So is Omar Maurice ‘Hajj Maurice’ who now runs the Kasbah with his wife and members of the local Berber community. Between them they are testament to the power of friendship to achieve extraordinary goals. The Kasbah, which styles itself as a Berber hospitality centre rather than a hotel, is acknowledged as the premier mountain retreat in Morocco and is totally committed to improving the lives of the local Imlil community. Just 40 miles from Marrakech, it’s the flagship venture of Discover Ltd, the company set up by Mike and Chris McHugo in 1986, which also runs geography field trips to France and Morocco. But the story begins in the 1970s. Mike McHugo came to the High

Atlas as a young man who had opted out of a conventional life, and instead drove a Land Rover around on adventure holidays for 12 years. He struck up a friendship with local mountain guide Omar Ait Barmed (nicknamed Omar Maurice after a stint in France as a ski instructor, and now known affectionally as Hajj Maurice, having been on the pilgrimage to Mecca). In 1978 McHugo founded Hobo Travel, which became Discover Ltd in 1986 when his brother Chris came in as chairman. In 1989 the brothers, while staying with Hajj Maurice in a small Berber village noticed a crumbling ruin of an old kasbah at the foot of the highest peak in North Africa, the 4,167-metre high Mount Toubkal. ‘It was Chris who suggested we buy it,’ says Mike. ‘He had read that direct foreign investment in Morocco was being encouraged.’ It took six years to complete the project using local labourers and traditonal building techniques and materials, but, says Mike, could not have been contemplated without the trust and friendship of Hajj Maurice, who has helped them gain acceptance for their vision among the community. From the start the McHugos have been determined to ensure that the benefits of tourism reach local people. Staff are recruited locally, mule transport is distributed around the more than 100 local muleteers, meat

and vegetables are bought locally as are most services. A five per cent surcharge on all Kasbah services is channelled to the village association to fund rubbish collections, an ambulance service and other community projects, including a village hammam—the region’s first community steam bath—and the building of a school for 80 children in an outlying valley. Their latest community venture is Education For All which aims to provide the opportunity of a college education for girls from rural Moroccan communities. Since 2007 it’s opened two boarding houses and a third is planned. EFA has also inspired tremendous fundraising support among UK schools who visit the Kasbah on field trips. Fifty students from Bristol Grammar School have raised more than £20,000 for EFA over four years. ‘In rural areas, up to 83 per cent of women are illiterate. An educated girl ends up educating her family. We may not be able to change the world but we can make a difference to a few lives and indirectly many more.’ • Mike is now organising the fifth annual cycle-fest in Morocco to raise funds for EFA. It takes place from 26 March- 2 April next year. For details and to take part, contact what the judges said While Kasbah du Toubkal has won pretty much every tourism award going - including ours – in the past, the judges wanted to recognise it for its work with Berber women. Their two girls’ boarding houses, partly funded by a five per cent tourist levy, now mean that up to 72 girls can attend school, and the first woman is now on the pay roll at the kasbah. Both are big steps forward for Berber women.

r:travel | 63

BestMountain.indd 4

29/10/2010 14:07

best in a mountain environment

highly commended Shakti Himalaya, India

The hills are alive

Serenity, tranquility, intimacy… as an antidote to the tumult of India’s cities, you’d be hard pressed to find a more suitable location than the foothills of the Himalayas, where Indian company Shakti Himalaya has been running walking tours since 2004. In the past five years just 760 tourists have trodden the paths less travelled in the remote regions of Kumaon, Sikkim and Ladakh, gazing at the inspiring mountain scenery and interacting with the local communities with a gentle intimacy that has ensured both guest and host relish the experience. In 2007, the Village Walks

what the judges said The main development since they were highly commended in 2008 is the growth in local economic benefits – Shakti now employs 42 people and estimates that in Ladakh more than 85 per cent of revenue remains in the mountains. Their response to the floods in August was beyond the call of duty when they kept kitchens open and supported local people.

were supplemented by the opening of Shakti’s luxury lodge 360° Leti, perched on an outcrop where India meets Nepal and Tibet, and consistently voted one of the world’s top 100 places to stay. The low-volume high-value tourism reflects Shakti’s vision of bringing significant economic benefits to the regions in which it operates, without over-commercialising these unspoilt areas. Shakti is the sole upmarket provider of this tourism in the regions. Between 45 and 85 per cent of all revenue remains in the mountains. Village houses are rented, but the company provides all the investment

to improve the fabric. The company employs 42 full- and part-time staff locally, and uses local suppliers where possible for goods and services. This policy ranges from just below 50 per cent in the Kumaon, due to to its sheer remoteness, to 90 per cent in Ladakh. Environmentally, Shakti has done much to reduce the impact of its operations. Power is supplied through a mix of solar energy, hydro- and wood-based. Food waste is turned into animal fodder, while non-food waste is collected and processed locally. A no-litter policy is supported by guests, staff and villagers. Water harvesting is one way Shakti is approaching the challenge of maintaining water supplies. From this year, Shakti is combining its various responsible tourism initiatives into a new programme called Assets for Life which will ensure that all the work delivers long-term benefits for both communities and employees. ‘Our operation is a small one and we recognise our leadership limits,’ says tour executive Anchal Ghabru. ‘But we have proved the viability of highvalue, low-volume responsible tourism in the mountains. In the Eastern Himalayas, where some of our staff come from, there is little employment and many would have remained unemployed or had to migrate for work.’ Guests clearly appreciate the efforts, which have seen Shakti highly commended in these awards twice before, in 2007 and 2008. Says one: ‘The Village Walk takes you back to the lost world – one which can easily pass you by when spending so long in luxury hotels. The simple interaction with the wonderful local people, locally produced refreshing food and a sense that you are one of the very few to experience this make for a mouthwatering adventure.’

64 | r:travel

BestMountain.indd 5

29/10/2010 15:24

best in a mountain environment

highly commended Shakti Himalaya, India

The hills are alive

Serenity, tranquility, intimacy… as an antidote to the tumult of India’s cities, you’d be hard pressed to find a more suitable location than the foothills of the Himalayas, where Indian company Shakti Himalaya has been running walking tours since 2004. In the past five years just 760 tourists have trodden the paths less travelled in the remote regions of Kumaon, Sikkim and Ladakh, gazing at the inspiring mountain scenery and interacting with the local communities with a gentle intimacy that has ensured both guest and host relish the experience. In 2007, the Village Walks

what the judges said The main development since they were highly commended in 2007 is the growth in local economic benefits – Shakti now employs 42 people and estimates that in Ladakh over 85 per cent of revenue remains in the mountains. Their response to the floods in August was beyond the call of duty when they kept kitchens open and helped local people.

were supplemented by the opening of Shakti’s luxury lodge 360° Leti, perched on an outcrop where India meets Nepal and Tibet, and consistently voted one of the world’s top 100 places to stay. The low-volume high-value tourism reflects Shakti’s vision of bringing significant economic benefits to the regions in which it operates, without over-commercialising these unspoilt areas. Shakti is the sole upmarket provider of this tourism in the regions. Between 45 and 85 per cent of all revenue remains in the mountains. Village houses are rented, but the company provides all the investment

to improve the fabric. The company employs 42 full- and part-time staff locally, and uses local suppliers where possible for goods and services. This policy ranges from just below 50 per cent in the Kumaon, due to to its sheer remoteness, to 90 per cent in Ladakh. Environmentally, Shakti has done much to reduce the impact of its operations. Power is supplied through a mix of solar energy, hydro- and wood-based. Food waste is turned into animal fodder, while non-food waste is collected processed locally. A no-litter policy is supported by guests, staff and villagers. Water harvesting is one way Shakti is approaching the challenge of maintaining water supplies. From this year, Shakti is combining its various responsible tourism initiatives into a new programme called Assets for Life which will ensure that all the work delivers long-term benefits for both communities and employees. ‘Our operation is a small one and we recognise our leadership limits,’ says Anchal. ‘But we have proved the viability of high-value, low-volume responsible tourism in the mountains.’ ‘In the Eastern Himalayas, where some of our staff come from, there is little employment and many would have remained unemployed or had to migrate for work.’ Guests clearly appreciate the efforts, which have seen Shakti highly commended in these awards twice before, in 2007 and 2008. Says one: ‘The Village Walk takes you back to the lost world – one which can easily pass you by when spending so long in luxury hotels. The simple interaction with the wonderful local people, locally produced refreshing food and a sense that you are one of the very few to experience this make for a mouthwatering adventure.’

64 | r:travel

BestMountain.indd 5

29/10/2010 13:43

HIGHLY COMMENDED Corrençon de Vercors, France

Didier Cavat

Par for Vercors

‘WE’RE ALL IN THIS together’ has become one of the political clichés of the day, but one small village in France really means it. Everyone, all 375 inhabitants of Corrençon, on the edge of the Vercors Regional Natural Park in south east France, is involved in the business of using tourism to keep the village alive and flourishing, whether by renting out accommodation, working in the local ski company or tending the 18-hole golf course. There are also two farms which produce a famous local blue cheese, Bleu du Vercors Sassenage, and have introduced a local heritage breed of cow, the Villarde. Even the village children play alongside those of visitors. Corrençon is definitely not a museum attraction. It is an authentic,

living, breathing village and as close to nature as you can get without being in the wild. A mountain resort, it welcomes around 50,000 visitors a year – hikers, climbers and golfers in summer and snowsports enthusiasts in winter. But without tourism, Corrençon would surely be a ghost town, its people gravitating towards its bigger neighbour, Villard de Lans. Corrençon’s tourist office, set up in 1964 by the then mayor, does much to organise and promote tourism in the village. The peace and serenity are maintained with a 30km/h maximum speed zone on every road, extensive pedestrian routes and six electric cars which can be rented by visitors. During winter snowy roads are not gritted to preserve the environment

and force vehicles to drive slowly. ‘That was a bit of a risk,’ admits Tom Wallis, president of the tourist office. ‘A clear road is easier for tourists, but we presented it as a natural, very mountain way, and it’s worked for ten years.’ In 2006 Corrençon built a ‘maison d’enfants’ childcare centre, which welcomes not only village children from three months to 12 years old, but also children of visitors, enabling young guests and young hosts to mingle happily. People feel like they belong to one big happy family,’ says Tom. ‘Some of them came with their parents when they were young and are back now with their children.’ The familyfriendly policy has been recognised by the ministry of tourism which has awarded Corrençon the Famille Plus Montagne hallmark. Adds Tom: ‘For many years now we have done our best to welcome those who look for an authentic break close to nature. We do what we do because we believe in it, because we do it for ourselves first. This is not just a marketing approach: we love our nature, we understand it is our potential and we must protect it. Our tourism comes from our people to save our mountain for the future.’ WHAT THE JUDGES SAID The Village of Corrençon in France has protected its alpine setting and community by coming together to make change and minimising the impacts of traditionally high-impact winter activities. The 375 villagers have worked together to reduce car use in the village and introduced electric cars to protect the character of the place. They have diversified winter sports options by facilitating low impact alternatives including winter wildlife discovery walks and snowshoe nature walks, and emphasised local ownership over outside investment.

r:travel | 65

BestMountain.indd 6

29/10/2010 13:43


WINNER Blue Ventures, UK, Madagascar, Malaysia, Belize

Danielle Peck/Blue Ventures

Blue is the colour

Blue Ventures has been highly commended in the Responsible Tourism Awards in five of the past six years. As the bridesmaid finally becomes the bride, we look back at the achievements that have won it international recognition


lasdair Harris first arrived in Madagascar in 2001 on a university-funded diving expedition to examine the state of the Grand Recife, a vast barrier reef on the island’s south west coast. He found the reef in crisis, damaged

by decades of pollution and run-off from slash-and-burn deforestation. That and commercial overfishing was drastically reducing the island’s marine life, and in turn threatening the livelihoods of the Vezo community – the ‘sea people’ who had fished the waters for generations.

He decided to use expedition volunteers and ecotourism to finance research into the reef and use the information gleaned to empower the community to manage this precious resource. So Blue Ventures was born, in 2003, centred on the community of Andavadoaka, and what began as a relatively simple reef assessment project has, over the past seven years, found work for more than 800 volunteers and grown into an incredibly intricate web of operations in which

66 | r:travel

BestVolunteer.indd 1

29/10/2010 14:08

every aspect is inextricably linked. ‘When you are working with remote and impoverished communities that have an acute resources problem you constantly come up against things you can influence and can help with,’ offers BV’s managing director Richard Nimmo, who was himself a volunteer on the company’s fourth expedition in 2004. The reef assessment led to the establishment of the Velondriake, a network of Marine Protected Areas that have been developed with local

Continued on page 68


Swaziland Tourism Authority

partners and 50 villages. ‘The idea has been to help the fishing communities interact sustainably with their environment,’ says Alasdair. ‘But we needed them to realise that it was in their interest to protect the source of their livelihoods.’ Through education, the company created a new approach, empowering the communities to manage the marine resources from the bottom up. Alongside the fisheries management, Blue Ventures’ work now encompasses ecotourism, education (in 2009-10 volunteers and supporters sponsored 132 children to attend lessons through a school scholarship programme), sustainable aquaculture, family planning, shark and turtle conservation, alternative livelihoods and year-round training and capacity building. It has also found time to expand operations into new territories. In 2009 it began work in Malaysia, and 2010 saw the launch of a new project in Belize. In Madagascar, it’s found innovative ways of responding to local problems. For example, to reduce deforestation caused by the coastal communities’ appetite for fuel wood and charcoal for traditional fires that were also causing respiratory problems, Blue Ventures established a carbon offset scheme to pay for the making and distribution of new solar stoves, setting up regional workshops to manufacture them. More than 300 stoves have been distributed within Andavadoaka and surrounding villages in the past three years. More than 3,ooo acres of Velondriake are seasonal octopus reserves. The reserves are closed to fishing for a few months a year, giving the molluscs time to multiply. In one day last summer, locals caught more than ten tons of octopus, earning more than double what they made in an entire month in previous years. Sea-cucumber farming now provides a valuable and safe alternative to the

THE SWAZILAND TOURISM AUTHORITY is this year proud to be part of the Reponsible Tourism Awards. We are even prouder to sponsor the volunteer tourism category because as a small community, Swaziland has benefitted a great deal from such noble endeavours. While volunteer tourism is a small aspect of global tourism, it is a fast growing segment of the travel industry, especially in Africa, where a significant percentage of volunteer tourists are headed. We truly believe that tourism continues to play a large part in the development of our communities and also in job creation and it is in this regard that we declare our stand to our public through sponsorship of this category. We also encourage people and organisations to travel responsibly and always find a way to give something back to society.

r:travel | 67

BestVolunteer.indd 2

29/10/2010 14:14


Until 2008, revenue from volunteers was 90 per cent of the company’s income. Since then it has successfully obtained grants from government and other bodies, which will come close to matching the volunteer-funded income. ‘It’s taken us seven years to get to this point, but we wouldn’t have reached it at all if we had not been able to show what we’ve achieved thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, who range from 18- 20-year-olds, who come for a gap experience, to people in their 60s,’ says Richard. ‘Now we are able to expand on what we do and volunteers will continue to play a huge part.’

Continued from page 67

ecologically damaging and dangerous wild harvest caused by the growing demand from Asian markets. A successful round of fundraising has seen Blue Ventures scale up the project from 40 family farms now to a target of 225 by 2012. By that time, it is estimated that a total of 3,375 people will no longer be fishing for sea cucumbers but

‘One of the next ventures in Madagascar will be the building of a beachfront ecolodge for staff and volunteers to stay in’

The volunteer experience ‘I CAME TO VOLUNTEER with Blue Ventures by accident after some other gap year plans fell through, and spent ten weeks in Madagascar. Our main work was to collect data at dive sites on benthic and fish life. SCUBA training and marine science training was provided for everyone, and I completed my Divemaster course while there. Though immediate results are not apparent, every little helps. We were expected to input the data we had collected for it to be analysed, and to organise scientific papers that might be relevant to the field scientists for


farming them instead. And possibly one of the company’s most remarkable achievements is in enabling Malagasy women to take control of their own lives. A family planning programme offers advice and contraceptives in communities where such resources were scarce and women had families of up to 17 children. ‘It’s certainly unusual for a group such as ours to introduce family planning,’ admits Richard. ‘But that was what the community wanted.’ One of the next ventures in

Madagascar will be the building of a beachfront ecolodge for staff and volunteers to stay in, on land donated by the Andavadoaka community. This, like the other projects, will be managed by the village.

background research, so we could see some of the progress that had been made; eg, the difference in fish size and coral health in marine protected areas and other unprotected sites. I also helped at the weekly family planning clinic, and it was amazing to see how receptive the villagers, and others from the area, were to the idea of contraception. This is an important part of the marine conservation as overpopulation has led to extreme overfishing.’ Anna Westland, 19, UK ‘I WAS A TEACHER for 18 years, interspersed with periods in the construction trades. I retired completely a few years ago, and now spend part of my time working as a volunteer with Blue

Blue Ventures is an example of how social initiatives can contribute to local livelihood diversification, and support community resilience in the face of upheaval. In 2009 their project in Madagascar was threatened by the political crisis and many organisations chose to pull out of the country. Testament to their principles, Blue Ventures stayed committed to the project, with head office staff in London taking a 25 per cent pay cut to ensure the maintenance of the jobs in Madagascar.

Ventures and other marine survey groups. I have participated in six-week ‘expeditions’ in Madagascar and Malaysia and Belize. At each site I felt that I, and the programme as a whole, was gathering scientifically valuable and valid data and communicating it to valid users. At each site the programme engaged volunteers in working with members of the local community or community groups to develop alternative income sources, and in working in local schools to teach English, environmental or other science. We also participated with local groups to support their efforts in public health and family planning, energy conservation, music and dance, and/or the celebration of locally important events.’ Roger Vaughan, 66, US

68 | r:travel

BestVolunteer.indd 3

29/10/2010 14:08

highly commended Biosphere Expeditions, UK

An extra pair of eyes and legs The happy holidays of thousands of volunteers began with a ‘eureka’ moment more than ten years ago. In 1999, former German special forces soldier Matthias Hammer was studying at university in the UK, and had helped organise a couple of conservation expeditions. He got talking to students who wanted to get involved in field work and to field scientists who were always short of manpower. When someone suggested ‘why don’t you take people on expedition with you’, the idea for Biosphere Expeditions was born. It took a year to set up as a nonprofit organisation in the UK and another year to recruit the first expedition team. The first trip ran in 2001 to Poland, studied wolves in the Carpathian mountains and was instrumental in establishing a wolf-hunting ban there. Demand was high and many expeditioners, once bitten by the bug, came back for more, so the expedition portfolio increased. The ‘citizen science’ formula, of using voluntourists on a one- or two-week break to gather data has remained constant ever since, boosted by corporate sponsors who have provided cash and equipment and enabled Biosphere to set up scholarship programmes giving local students the chance to participate in expeditions in their countries. And the formula works. In the past two years Biosphere’s work, most of which is in the area of human/animal conflict, has contributed towards the setting up of jaguar management

programmes in Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest and protection protocols for the Cayos Cochinos marine protected area in Honduras. ‘It is,’ as Biosphere’s strategy director Kathy Gill explains, ‘a win-win situation. Biosphere exists to inspire and action conservation. A lot of people who are not trained scientists want to do something positive in the world. The concept is designed so that lay people can be trained in a day or two in data gathering. They become, in effect, an extra pair of eyes or legs, enabling the scientists to cover more ground and see more things. As long as you don’t ask too much of them, such as distinguishing complicated species, they can be phenomenally useful.’ Biosphere takes around 500 volunteers a year, using a maximum of 12 on any expedition at any one time. About 40 per cent are British, 40 per cent German-speaking and the rest are

mainly from the US or Australia. The core age range is 30 to 75. While keen to encourage good voluntourism, Kathy does sound a note of caution. ‘The industry needs to regulate itself well, because there are broker organisations that will advertise anything and take a cut, with no quality control over whether people have a good time or contribute anything useful. ‘People who are prepared to do this work are a massive conservation resource. If they are given authentic work and have a good time doing it, they’ll come back. If they have a bad experience they may not.’

The volunteer experience ‘I have incredible memories of being on an expedition, and I have learned so much about the environment, wildlife, and societies in remote locations. Being involved has opened my eyes to the importance of the work carried out in the field, and I want to do my bit for conserving our planet’s wildlife.’ Katie Bunting, UK

what the judges said Biosphere has continued to show strength in combining strong tourism experiences with solid scientific research. Their commitment to transparency sends a clear message about the value of volunteering, where 66 per cent of a volunteer’s money goes directly to the project – a fact that is publicised, along with detailed reports, on their website.

r:travel | 69

BestVolunteer.indd 4

29/10/2010 14:15



Pioneering the big society

A GENERATION BEFORE DAVID CAMERON started talking the talk about ‘the big society’, a British volunteer organisation was walking the walk – and is still doing so today with as much vigour as when it began more than 50 years ago. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) was launched in 1959, by the now defunct Council for Nature, primarily to develop a volunteering force to help manage the country’s new national parks and nature reserves and find engaging ways to keep young people occupied and out of the cities. Back then, it was known as the Conservation Corps. Its first residential volunteering holiday was in 1960, when a group camped in Norfolk where they tidied up a nature reserve reed bed. Even as late as the 1980s it was still primarily aimed at young people, but during the 1990s the focus broadened out from purely environmental to include cultural, education and urban programmes, and the volunteers got older – they now range from 18-80 – and more diverse. In 1999 BTCV

launched its Environments for All campaign, pioneering the inclusion of black, minority ethnic people and marginalised groups such as asylum seekers and volunteers from deprived areas. It also launched the Green Gym campaign, which turned conservation

The volunteer experience ‘IT IS LOVELY TO BE A VOLUNTEER and feel appreciated for contributing to other’s lives. Without an experience like this, many people, especially if they are poor, do not want to volunteer. They think “why should they ask me to do something for nothing when we have no money?” Like me, they need an experience to find out what they can gain. It is not true that all unemployed people want to do nothing. We have really bad press. I want to contribute. Here I have found something that is not a job but I am contributing.’ Volunteer with the Glasgow Gardening Course Group

into a health opportunity (and enabled BTCV to tap into project funding from health and local authorities). In the past two years, BTCV has enabled 266,884 volunteers to achieve 466,569 days of practical environmental improvement work in 6,941 different communities. Most are in UK, but around 20 per cent volunteer overseas. ‘It’s an extraordinary achievement made up of thousands of achievements by the individuals and groups BTCV has worked with,’ says international head Anita Prosser. All BTCV’s projects are developed in partnership with local communities and organisations and the aim is to stimulate local activity to the point where BTCV can step aside and let the local groups take the projects forward themselves. With its BTCV Conservation Holidays – ranging from weekends to two months – the organisation pioneered volunteer tourism. Destinations are mostly in Europe, including Iceland, but also feature Japan, Cameroon and America. ‘Our work breaks down barriers, particularly in reaching out to groups who weren’t traditionally involved in volunteering,’ says Anita. ‘We empower people to help others and help themselves.’

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Founded in 1959, BTCV was ahead of the curve. The heritage and scale of their tourism activities and what they have achieved impressed the judges. No other organisation comes close to mobilising volunteers in such numbers and their target to actively support 1.5 million people in environmental action in the period from 2009-2013 demonstrates their ambition.

70 | r:travel

BestVolunteer.indd 5

29/10/2010 14:09

highly commended The Great Orangutan Project, UK, Malaysia, Indonesia

Back from the brink Twelve months ago Afzaal Mauthoor should have been a happy man. Way Out Experiences, the volunteer conservation company he co-founded with Guillaume Feldman had just been highly commended in the Conservation of Wildlife and Habitats category of the Responsible Tourism Awards, and their heads were full of exciting plans for the future. The company, set up in 2003, had been successfully bringing together volunteers to support a series of partners participating in the Great

Orangutan Project, a holistic approach to bringing this endangered great ape back from the brink of extinction. But then the recession hit and suddenly it was Way Out Experiences that was on the verge of extinction. Reeling from the loss of £100,000 worth of sales, the company nearly went under last December. But the pair took drastic action, splitting their company in two. Guillaume left to head a new conservation charity called Red Endangered Animal Connection Trust

The volunteer experience ‘You get a broad education on a volunteering trip, starting in a zoo, then at a rehabilitation centre in Borneo, before staying with a community in the jungle. It was an incredible experience and volunteers can have an amazing input. Also, looking after animals isn’t seen as a good job in Indonesia and Malaysia, so the enthusiasm of volunteers can help raise morale and confidence among the locals.

‘Seeing orangutans in the semi-wild was a real turning point, too. It made you realise that these clever animals belong in the wild. And going into the jungle was like stepping into a David Attenborough film. You got to meet and work with the community, exploring unmarked rainforest, not tourist-trodden routes. It’s just their back garden, but what a back garden!’ Nicola Carke, 25, from Reading

(REACT). Afzaal streamlined Way Out Experiences as a responsible volunteer tourism company, trading as the Great Orangutan Project. He reduced costs by putting the entire company online using sophisticated cloud technology. Now the company is on the up again. This year has seen 400 volunteers go out to the five project sites in Malaysia and Indonesia, with 40 per cent of the purchase price of each programme going directly to orangutan welfare. A two-week volunteer experience costs from £995 to £1,280, for what Afzaal describes as ‘a backstage pass’ to the world of volunteering. ‘We take you behind the scenes with the people who have given up a big chunk of their life to really make a difference.’ Volunteers stay in homestays, locally-owned hotels or centre lodges, and get involved in animal husbandry, enrichment, infrastructure building, rehabilitation and release of animals, habitat restoration and interraction with the local community. So sucessful has the new model been, that this autumn the company is extending the volunteer formula through a series of Great Projects – including turtles in Malaysia, dolphins in Peru and gorillas in Uganda. ‘Last year was the worst of my life,’ adds Afzaal. ‘Now we’re into exciting times again.’ what the judges said Tough times can often lead to integrity being the first value to take a cut. Not so with Great Orangutan Project – who, despite their jungle school being on the brink of failure, have continued to provide wildlife experiences without allowing volunteers physical contact with the orangutans. The now ABTA-listed organisation demonstrates good practice in volunteering with increasing commitments to accountability and transparency.

r:travel | 71

BestVolunteer.indd 6

29/10/2010 14:09


WINNER Zealandia: the Karori Sanctuary Experience, New Zealand

Welcome aboard the living ark


he vision: a pristine ecosystem restored to the way it was the day before humans arrived – complete with rare wildlife and even its own dinosaur. It sounds like a real-life Jurassic Park, yet this remarkable dream is taking shape not on a remote jungle island, but on the doorstep of a city. Zealandia: the Karori Sanctuary Experience markets itself as the most accessible ‘mainland conservation island’ in New Zealand, and its compelling vision is drawing around 70,000 visitors a year to its 550-acre oasis just ten minutes from the centre of Wellington. Zealandia takes a holistic approach to conservation. Rather than targeting individual species or habitats, its aim is to restore a whole ecosystem to the state of one which existed in New Zealand around 1,000 years ago, before man arrived here. Incredibly, this remarkable project was the brainchild of one man, bird enthusiast Jim Lynch, who, back in

1990, had a dream of ‘bringing the birds back to Wellington’. It took five years for the plan to be realised, and in that time Jim had to convince a lot of people that he wasn’t crazy.  ‘I must have addressed 40 or 50 groups during this time – selling the idea of conservation in the city,’ says Jim. ‘I knew that we wouldn’t “bring the birds back to Wellington” unless we did something out of the ordinary. The city was in a biologically poor state with even tui in danger of local extinction and very little happening on the ground other than small-scale local planting schemes.’ In the face of much scepticism Jim slowly refined his plan, finding the perfect location on the site of a local reservoir. And assembling support from conservation NGOs and the city and regional council, he set up the Karori Sanctuary Trust which now runs Zealandia. What’s been created here is an ark, a mainland conservation island. But instead of being surrounded by water, this island is surrounded by a

© Zealandia

A groundbreaking sanctuary in New Zealand is widely considered to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the conservation and recovery of native wildlife, reversing a 700-year decline

groundbreaking, custom-built, 8.6kmlong predator-proof fence. Developed over three years, it was tested on more than 200 individual animals, some of which proved far more cunning than the makers imagined. Thirteen exotic browsing and predatory mammals (such as rats, cats, stoats, weasels, ferrets, rabbits and deer) have been permanently removed

72 | r:travel

Wildlife-Habitats.indd 1

29/10/2010 14:26

sponsored by

South Australian Tourism Commission

The first tuatara to hatch in the wild on mainland New Zealand in more than 200 years

in the biggest multi-species eradication ever undertaken. In their place, 16 native species endangered or even completely extinct in the wild on the mainland have been introduced. These include the little spotted kiwi, hihi, Maud Island frog and even New Zealand’s most famous ‘living fossil’ the tuatara! Over 200 of these prehistoric-looking reptiles now call

Zealandia home, prompting locals to nickname the sanctuary Jurassic Park. More than 265,000 native trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses have also been planted, and an ongoing ‘war on weeds’ is being waged on 100 invasive exotic plant species. ‘We did make one mistake with the fence,’ admits Alan Dicks, senior Continued on page 74

The South Australian Tourism Commission is the official tourism organisation for the state of South Australia. We actively promote tourism to our destination, encouraging environmentally responsible tourism experiences. South Australia is a premier wildlife destination, where you can see wildlife in the wild. Kangaroo Island, the Eyre Peninsula and the Flinders Ranges are some of the key areas that have an abundance of wildlife unique to Australia. We are also home to real outback and ocean experiences, which means South Australia can offer the quintessential Aussie holiday experience. The protection of South Australia’s flora and fauna is a key focus of the state government with strategies such as the ‘No Species Loss’ Nature Conservation Strategy, which began in 2007. Central to this is the concept of biodiversity and maintaining South Australia’s land, freshwater and marine ecosystems, through community ownership & stewardship, ecological knowledge for decision makers and public. The South Australian Tourism Commission will continue to support and promote responsible tourism practices which conserve the natural attractions, which mean that South Australia can continue to offer such unique and amazing experiences. Come and see for yourself!

r:travel | 73

Wildlife-Habitats.indd 2

29/10/2010 14:26


© Zealandia

Continued from page 73

A Zealandia educator meets a giant weta (one of the world’s heaviest insects)

marketing and communications coordinator. ‘If a pencil can fit through it, so can a baby m   ouse –  and mice  recolonised after six months. However, nowhere has successfully excluded mice due to their “portability” – owls, kingfishers, falcons and even kaka parrots will carry them over the fence and drop them. And female mice are pretty much always pregnant! ‘Then there’s an eternal debate over birds. We’ve had an interesting case recently, with a native falcon called the karearea taking up residence in our sanctuary. These birds are ruthless predators and they won’t distinguish between common-as-muck blackbirds and brink-of-extinction hihi. They are NZ’s top native predator. The thing is,

HIGHLY COMMENDED Steppes Discovery, UK

Steppes in the right direction WILDLIFE TOURISM has an increasingly vital part to play in the conservation of animals and habitats in the face of threats such as mining and deforestation. That’s the message from Steppes Discovery, the wildlife specialist arm of long-time responsible travel pioneers Steppes Travel, whose founder Julian Matthews has long seen tourism as a tool for conservation and wildlife preservation. Each year Steppes Discovery works in a wide variety of destinations, partnering with a range of NGOs and conservation agencies to raise funds for their work. In this respect, money talks, and the company has raised around £1 million since it launched in 1997. ‘Our goal has always been to provide

our clients with a privileged insight into wildlife conservation, while promoting and supporting programmes worldwide,’ says Jarrod Kyte, head of Steppes Discovery. ‘Mining and deforestation are the biggest threats to habitat conservation. Wildlife tourism can provide a very effective alternative to these activities. ‘In the case of Botswana, for example, people have called for a boycott of tourism to the country [in protest at the government’s treatment of the Bushmen tribe who were forced off their tribal lands in the Kalahari]. But that would be disastrous: if you boycotted Botswana it would just rely 100 per cent on mining which would see the complete devastation of natural habitats.

‘At the end of the day it’s all about money. Worldwide, we are putting money into the pockets of local research projects and communities and bigger NGOs who can channel that money into effective habitat and wildlife preservation. One prime example is the Orangutan Foundation – we are paying more than £550 per person, a significant amount of money. This is not just tokenism.’ One of Steppes Discovery’s most appreciated but unsung projects is its funding of the Charles Darwin Research Station’s Herbarium Department, which the company has supported to the tune of £20,000 since 2004. The herbarium has often found funding difficult for its unglamorous work, however it is an essential research tool for Galapagos conservation as it plays a key role in identifying new species, invasive species and the indicator species used for assessing the health of the island habitats. Ensuring the involvement of local

74 | r:travel

Wildlife-Habitats.indd 3

29/10/2010 14:26

karearea themselves are highly endangered (in fact, they’re rarer than kiwi!) They hadn’t nested in Wellington city since the 70s. So do they stay or do they go?  Our position is that they are

‘These birds are ruthless predators and they won’t distinguish between common-as-muck blackbirds and brink-of-extinction hihi’ part of a healthy recovering ecosystem, which is what we are trying to achieve.  ‘Non-native bird species are generally not discouraged either. Tuatara and native eels will eat them (mallard ducklings are a particular favourite). Basically, a healthy native forest is far

more suitable to native birds. So the more our forest recovers, the less  non-natives we will see.’  This year has seen the opening of an indoor educational experience which uses state-of-the-art multimedia displays to tell the story of the evolution of New Zealand’s unique ecosystems, their dramatic degradation and the conservation movement that developed in response. And Zealandia’s vision doesn’t stop here. It aims to be around for 500 years, relishing the challenge of engaging at least the next 25 generations. So how do they plan to achieve this?  ‘By keeping the momentum going, says Alan Dicks. ‘Education is critical. Absolutely everything we do has an element of getting people to

understand and appreciate the real need for conservation and eco-restoration. We are constantly reminding people that conservation isn’t a destination, it is a constant need.’ what the judges said With a 500-year vision, Zealandia immediately stood out as an ambitious conservation initiative which engages with tourism to secure local support. But when you’re trying to return an area to a time before humans, it is this vision that is required! This unique project is already a safe haven for some of New Zealand’s most endangered native species. The ecological restoration of this urban wildlife sanctuary is well underway and through the removal of invasive species has enabled the successful reintroduction of species.

communities is also vital for the success of Steppes’ wildlife tourism. In the Central African Republic, the company employs the local Ba’aka tribesmen as trackers, helping them to preserve their cultural heritage. In the Galapagos, it’s funding six local young men to promote conservation on the island of Floreana. Wherever possible it uses locally owned accommodation (including Huaorani Lodge in Ecuador, see page 84), and tries to offer alternative ways and places to view wildlife that ease the pressure on high volume mainstream areas. ‘Wildlife tourism is changing,’ says Jarrod. ‘When it started, the wildlife was more of a bolt-on. But there is a strong demand now for authentic experiencies, not just ticking off species, but learning all about wildlife and conservation issues.’ what the judges said Steppes has continued to adapt to wildlife tourism issues worldwide. Unhappy with the Norwegian government’s recommendations on whale watching they withdrew one of their most popular wildlife viewing trips – Orcas in Norway. Their tour guides are often experts in wildlife conservation and they are leaders in their campaigning for tiger conservation through Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT).

r:travel | 75

Wildlife-Habitats.indd 4

29/10/2010 14:26


WINNER Matava, Fiji

A model of symbiosis

Matava - Fiji’s Premier Eco Adventure Resort

Dive magazine editor Simon Rogerson, finds that the relationship this flagship Fijian resort has with its community is mirrored among the creatures of the reefs and waves

76 | r:travel

BestMarine.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:39

Highly commended last year, and a winner for his ‘personal contribution’ in 2006, the man in Seat 61 is changing the way we travel, empowering people to take the train rather than the plane. And as the 2010 highly commended nominee shows, overpage, his passion is catching


or wildlife lovers, a healthy coral reef is paradise indeed. The environment is so rich, it envelops you; fish stream around you as you swim, while the creatures of the reef can be seen right below you, sheltering in the coral. It is simply one of the most direct and fulfilling ways to experience nature. A while ago, three friends from England and the US decided to create a resort that would complement the diving experience on Fiji’s Great Astrolabe Reef, a living mosaic that protects the southern coast of Kadavu island in southern Fiji. Matava resort is hidden away on a remote corner of this remote island – situated in pristine rainforest, it can only be accessed from the sea. Matava is a welcoming, informal kind of place, comprising nine separate bungalows, a central bar/dining area and a well-equipped scuba facility, Mad Fish Dive Centre. The staff all come from local villages; the sincerity of their welcome reflects the fact that they are representing not just their employer, but their island. During your stay at Matava, the staff become a sort of extended family. This may sound like the sort of corny platitude you read in brochures, but at Matava, it’s actually true. Equally, there is a greater sense of camaraderie between the guests, who eat together on a communal table and get to know each other quickly. I was scuba diving with Joe, a seasoned Fijian dive professional who introduced me to the resident manta rays. The rays visit one of the local reefs to have parasites pecked from their skin by small fish called cleaner wrasse. The largest of the ray family, the mantas are elegant but timid; poorly disciplined divers could easily scare them away, but Joe showed us how to approach them slowly without invading their space during the cleaning process. In many ways, Matava mirrors Continued on page 78

r:travel | 77

BestMarine.indd 2

29/10/2010 15:39



Matava - Fiji’s Premier Eco Adventure Resort

Tourism Fiji

Continued from page 77

the symbiotic equation of the manta-cleaner wrasse relationship. Instead of trying to introduce a sanitised hotel to a nature-rich island, Matava complements the surrounding environment, at the same time working to protect the environment it celebrates. The resort has signed contracts with local villages to establish three marine reserves along the Great Astrolabe, using the traditional Fijian qoliqoli system to manage the protected areas. The idea is to have specific ‘nursery’ areas to generate renewal of both fish and coral populations. The money paid by Matava to the communities participating in the reserves initiative has resulted in a sharp increase in pupil numbers as a direct consequence of the investment. Matava uses natural sources to minimise its carbon footprint. Electricity for lighting, hot water and power supplies is generated from solar panels; guests can easily recharge camera batteries and laptops, but power-greedy hairdryers are not allowed. This means the resort can function without a main generator, so

the only noise you will hear at night is the distant rumble of surf on the outer reefs of the Astrolabe. In 17 years of visiting scuba resorts all over the world, I have never seen one that is as complementary to the surrounding environment as Matava. But all this would be for nothing without the genuine warmth of the staff and the locals you meet in the surrounding forest. Ultimately, paradise is more than palm trees and white sand – when you stay at a place like Matava, you realise that all the luxury in the world is without value unless there is a mutually beneficial relationship between the resort and its wider setting. WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Matava is a beacon for responsible tourism and an example to other dive sites. They maintain a strong commitment to both the conservation of the marine environment and the development of the local Fijian community. All staff and dive guides are from local villages, they have signed an agreement with local villages designating three established marine reserves as 100 per cent no-take zones, across large geographic areas, and even succeeded in getting marine conservation on to the Fijian National Curriculum.

FIJI, ‘THE SOFT CORAL Capital of the World’, is made up of 333 islands surrounded by reefs and diverse underwater terrain. It is rated as one of the world’s top ten dive destinations and is a South Pacific marine paradise famous for its white sand, palm-fringed beaches, azure lagoons and exceptional reefs. World famous marine biologist Jean-Michel Cousteau says of Fiji: ‘The unparalleled range of quality dive sites and sheer diversity of life of the reefs is overwhelming.’ Tourism Fiji is dedicated to promoting and protecting this special, and in parts very fragile, marine environment and has long supported and actively encouraged sustainable tourism. Fiji Tourism’s UK and Ireland representative, Jane West emphasises the importance of this work: ‘As a tourist board it is vital to educate all visitors to be both socially and environmentally responsible for the benefit of, most importantly, the Fijian people and future tourists to their wonderful country.’ To help project the ecosystems, Tourism Fiji works with partners to conserve Fiji’s marine biodiversity by encouraging guests not to remove items, especially coral, from the reefs and requesting they do not purchase souvenir products made from coral or endangered plants or animals.

78 | r:travel

BestMarine.indd 3

29/10/2010 15:39

HIGHLY COMMENDED Coral Cay Conservation, UK

A MARINE CONSERVATION ORGANISATION that began life as a ‘happy accident’ is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. In that time Coral Cay Conservation has led the way in raising awareness of the growing threat to the world’s coral reefs – ‘the rainforests of the seas’. It’s pioneered what its founder, marine biologist Pete Raines MBE, calls ‘citizen science’ – combining the efforts of volunteers, field staff and local project partners to preserve fragile coral reef and coastal tropical forest environments through the creation of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Over the years it has launched conservation projects in Belize – where they were instrumental in getting the Belize Barrier Reef designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Cambodia, Fiji, Tobago and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Tens of thousands of volunteers have been involved, working alongside scientists and helping to educate local communities. In spring this year Coral Cay rallied support among current and former volunteers, supporters and online and diving communities to secure more than 275,000 votes for the creation of the Chagos Protected Area in the Indian Ocean – the world’s largest MPA. Always, at the heart of its mission has been the principle that you have to work with, not against the local communities whose livelihoods depend upon the reefs and forests, to find sustainable solutions which

ensure the survival of the ecosystems while empowering the local community. For Raines, the enduring nature of their achievements is a source of enormous satisfaction. ‘We only commit to projects which we can see through to the end, which is basically when, politely but firmly, the communities kick Coral Cay out, saying “thank you, but we’ll take it from here”. When Coral Cay began, coral reefs were on nobody’s agenda. ‘There was no perception that they were under any serious threat,’ says Raines. ‘That was in 1985, when I got together with a small group of like-minded scuba divers who were concerned that these wonderful rainforests of the seas could at some point go the way of the rainforests on land. So, over a good many drinks in a pub in Cambridge, we came up with the concept of Coral Cay. ‘We spent a year putting together our first project in Belize. It was meant to be a one-off to find out whether the concept of using citizen scientists to do coral reef research was viable, as most of the team were not marine biologists. ‘That was a success, and led to a follow-up and the whole thing just took off from there. It wasn’t strategically planned, it was a happy accident.’ In fact Raines stresses that Coral Cay only ever goes where it’s invited. ‘We don’t stick pins in a map and say we’d like to go there. People come to us. I must get four or five requests a week and 99.9 per cent of the time we

Michael Pitt

Fighting to save the ‘rainforests of the seas’

say no, either because expectations are too high or we don’t feel there is the necessary level of community involvement.’ Pessimism abounds about the fate of coral reefs. ‘The issues facing them are pretty scary,’ admits Raines. ‘It’s estimated that if nothing changes and things don’t improve, then by the year 2065 something like 90 per cent of all the world’s coral reefs will have gone.’ But the message from Raines and Coral Cay is less gloomy. ‘One of the greatest threats is ocean acidification. But the reality is that marine parks and reserves, if they are run at the local level, are actually very effective in providing reef ecosystems with the breathing space they need to adapt to climate change. ‘They are adapting quite rapidly and are a little less fussy and more robust than people assumed. But the marine reserves and fantastic communities who are working so hard in them are the last hope for coral reefs.’ WHAT THE JUDGES SAID With 25 years of experience Coral Cay Conservation blends volunteering, science and marine conservation. Highly Commended last year in the volunteering category the judges were equally impressed this year with the quality and range of their marine conservation and survey work

r:travel | 79

BestMarine.indd 4

29/10/2010 16:00

Best tour operator for local economies

winner Desafio Adventure Company, Costa Rica

A town called Adventure

80 | r:travel

TourOperator2.indd 1

29/10/2010 14:51

In what was a new category this year, one firm stood head and shoulders above the other nominees – a tribute to the hard work of its founder and the wife he picked up along the way!


uresh and Christine Krishnan have been working in the outdoors most of their adult lives – and it was their shared love of adventure that brought them together in 2001. Christine was leading a GAP Adventurers group through Central America; arriving at La Fortuna, Costa Rica at the base of the Arenal volcano, the group went rafting with Desafio, an adventure pursuits company run by Indian-born Californian Suresh. Christine loved the experience so much she married the company! Working together, the couple have built up the company started by Suresh in 1992, and today it is a sustainable, thriving business with strong roots in the local economy and also a second office in Monteverde. In the past two years they have doubled the number of employees, from 30 to 62, and paid off their outstanding bank loans. Coming off the back of a six-year stint in the US army, Suresh – nicknamed the ‘Gangsta Kayaker’ – began Desafio as a one-man show, when adventure tourism was in its infancy in Costa Rica. He pioneered rafting in the Arenal area, doing first descents of many local rivers and rapids. Besides whitewater rafting, Desafio now runs canyoneering, horse and mountain bike riding, birdwatching, kayaking, volunteering and conservation programmes. Suresh and Christine are proud of the strong ties they have with the La Fortuna community, but, as Christine notes, growing the business has been

hard at times – they even had to literally build their own bridges for two of the tours, which has in turn opened up access for locals, too. ‘There were times when Desafio struggled to get community support and acceptance. It’s been a challenge to encourage the local population to allow their children to work in adventure activities, given that so many were raised on farms and had many responsibilities at home. Plus, they had a certain fear of adventure activities and had never been introduced to tourism. ‘Suresh was really the first one to see the potential for adventure tourism. In many regards, it was seen as both a threat and a distraction. After Desafío started with rafting and horseback riding tours, other businesses chose to promote nature tours and saw adventure tours as a threat. Desafío did not see nature and adventure as mutually exclusive and has since developed both aspects.’ Continues Suresh: ‘However, feelings have changed dramatically in the past five years. The local economy gets much more money from rafting than any other tourism activity and the community is now starting to embrace the adventure culture of their town. ‘Tourism in Costa Rica has grown and as a result our company has grown with it. Our business model is to create strong business alliances with our vendors – we look for ways to give back to the people who give us business. For example, if a hotel concierge sends us people to go on a tour, we try hard to put people in that hotel. ‘It is interesting that with the recent downturn in the economy and tourism in general, the local community now

looks toward Desafío for leadership. Many other businesses in town and especially hotels are facing severe crises and are on the verge of losing their businesses due to heavy bank loans. We are sharing with them the lessons we have learnt.’ Desafio is now building an Olympic training facility for Costa Rican kayakers, and will work with local schools to use the facility to introduce the sport into their curriculum. ‘Kids who raft and kayak have a greater appreciation of their natural environment – especially rivers,’ says Christine. Adds Suresh: It is overwhelmingly satisfying to know that after 18 years of building my company I don’t have to be in the office everyday to make decisions. I can enjoy more family time with our new baby Marley, which in the end gives me the most pleasure and satisfaction.’ WHAT THE JUDGES SAID This Costa Rican adventure tourism operator is awarded for an investment in local people that goes beyond the benefits to their tourism business. An income of £1.2 million annually from 15,000 passengers allows Desafio to support their staff in their own local entrepreneurial initiatives – helping their guides to buy photographic equipment, drivers to buy vehicles,, and even supporting the office manager in developing her own website. They show that the benefits of local tourism can have lasting effects on local livelihoods.


Oman Ministry of Tourism For full details on Oman Ministry of Tourism please go to page 38

r:travel | 81

TourOperator2.indd 2

29/10/2010 14:51

Best accommodation for local communities

winner Hotel Punta Islita, Costa Rica

Where sustainability is an art form Bringing real economic benefits to the local communities isn’t just a by-product of this visionary Costa Rican hotel – it was the guiding principle right from the word go


cluster of 56 luxurious rooms, suites and villas surround an open-air restaurant beside a pool with wet bar, a state-ofthe-art gym and serene spa, all nestling in a natural green bowl overlooking a small sandy bay on Costa Rica’s open-ocean Pacific coastline. But beautiful as the setting is, the most remarkable thing about Hotel Punta Islita is how sweeping the change has been in this remote location in the south of the Guanacaste peninsula. Hotel Punta Islita opened in 1994 in

an economically depressed area formerly over-exploited by decades of unsustainable cattle ranching and slash and burn wood extraction. The surrounding tropical dry forest had been stripped, access to education was limited, and professional opportunities for the 1,300 or so inhabitants of the nine small beachfront communities were nonexistent. Today this same area is a model of what sustainable tourism can bring to impoverished communities; a thriving region characterised by a healthy natural environment and a dynamic

collective of travel professionals and community micro-entrepreneurs. What’s been achieved here is a testimony to the holistic vision of Costa Rican architect Ronald Zurcher who, right from the start, was adamant that the community would be fully involved in the hotel project. Local people were employed first on the construction, then for maintenance and gardening. Little by little they got training and today 85 per cent of the staff is local. Moreover, a lot have grown into good management positions, including general manager Alonso Bermúdez, who worked his way up from desk clerk. Almost 50 cents of every dollar that guests spend here stays in the local communities as salaries, contributions, taxes, social benefits, and purchases. The hotel supports free education, professional training, scholarships and student loans, and English as a Second Language classes. Other initiatives include an employee credit union and the Islita Day Care Centre. This locally-orientated policy has jumpstarted an entrepreneurial cycle that has resulted in more than 20 local micro-businesses including transport

Serene luxury poolside at Punta Islita

82 | r:travel

AccommLCom-Personal.indd 1

29/10/2010 11:57

services, restaurants, a seafood processing plant, a motorbike repair shop, and a growing chain of providers of goods and services. But probably the most striking manifestation of the empowerment efforts of Hotel Punta Islita is the $125,000 Islita Open-Air Contemporary Art Museum. It showcases works that are the result of collaboration between visiting established artists and emerging local talent. Bright murals and intriguing sculptures grace the walls and open spaces, and the museum now includes artist workshops, a thriving gift shop, an al fresco cafe and a community media centre. In the past two years more than 60 per cent of the hotel’s guests have visited the Art Museum – about 4,200 visitors – with direct sales putting $100,000 into the pockets of the artists and businesses. Maria Barquero, Punta Islita’s outreach manager says the process has been a journey of self-discovery for the local community. ‘At first local people were a bit suspicious about the hotel. Gradually, as they saw their involvement grow, a true bond developed and they saw the hotel as a friend and ally. ‘But it has been the art museum that has really helped the community

connect with the incoming travellers. It has instilled in local people a sense of self-pride and self-expression. It’s not a Disneyfied, dressed-up version of local culture. They are just going about their lives.’ Maria adds that the past six years have also seen a discernible change in the outlook of visitors who are more aware of the issues of sustainability, authenticity and responsible tourism. ‘We noticed it first in our European customers [the UK is Punta Islita’s second biggest market] but it’s now palpable in our main US market.’ The local environment has certainly benefitted from the hotel’s presence. Its eco-credentials earned it an Ecological Blue Flag from the Costa Rican environment ministry since 1996. Around 10,000 trees have been planted in reforestation programmes, and many bird and animal populations have rebounded. A sea turtle protection programme on nearby Camaronal Beach has brought mass arrivals of up to 2,500 turtles annually since 2007. A new sustainability committee set up between hotel management, staff and local entrepreneurs aims to make the region the first carbon-neutral area in the country. ‘The community here has grown up with the hotel,’ says Maria. ‘Punta Islita has been a catalyst for a collective sense of possibility, hope and entrepreneurial enthusiasm. And the community has risen to the occasion.’ what the judges said Hotel Punta Islita is culturally embedded in the local community and fully Costa Rican owned. Sixty per cent of hotel guests visit their Contemporary Art Museum, bringing in £100k to local artists. Some 52 per cent of the money that the hotel generates stays in the local community, helps to combat urban migration, and has nurtured a steady growth of micro-enterprises including seafood processing plants, restaurants and cafes, retail stores, furniture workshops, and tour operators.

sponsored by

Kenya Tourist Board

The Kenya Tourist Board has a commitment to responsible tourism and environmental and cultural preservation projects have grown extensively over the past decade, spurred by a desire to maintain Africa’s rich artistic and ecological treasures. From helping with community aid in remote villages and learning about animal conservation, to viewing and helping preserve ancient African rock art – there are now more options than ever for holidaymakers to explore and get involved. Eco-friendly travel options are an integral part of Kenya’s tourism industry with many resorts encouraging tourists to take an interest in supporting remote villages, learning about conservation, and viewing animals in their natural surroundings. With ‘safari’ coming from the Swahili for ‘journey’, Kenya prides itself on offering an unparalleled travel experience for everyone. World famous for its breathtaking landscapes, Kenya’s diverse range of wildlife species and natural habitats are a wonder to behold. From the depths of a coral reef to snow-capped mountains, from lush rainforests to vast trackless expanse of desert, from extinct volcanoes to geothermal springs and from rolling savannahs to freshwater lakes, Kenya’s contrasts hold the promise of real adventure.

r:travel | 83

AccommLCom-Personal.indd 2

29/10/2010 11:58

Best accommodation for local communities

highly commended Huaorani Ecolodge, Ecuador

Fighting back with tourism what the judges said Huarorani Ecolodge in Ecuador is primarily owned and operated by the Huarorani, with 49 per cent of the adult working population involved in it. This rainforest community project has been instrumental in defending the forest against loggers, exploration for oil and slash and burn, and the judges were impressed that the lodge is now working on securing a new 55,000 hectare reserve.

Until the late 1950s, the Huaorani, a traditionally proud, defiant tribe, lived an untroubled, private life, as nomadic hunters and gatherers in the Amazonian rainforest of Ecuador. But their home territory lay atop one of Ecuador’s largest oil deposits, and when the world found them they were soon on the receiving end of a cultural assault from missionaries, oil companies and other outsiders such as road-builders and loggers. Faced with the destruction of their surroundings and the disappearance of their way of life, the Huaorani have chosen to resist. By inviting small numbers of people to share their world for short periods, they intend to keep their culture alive. They have

opted for sustainable tourism. Their project is Huaorani Ecolodge, located within the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, which is recognised as one of the most biodiverse places on earth. The lodge is owned and operated by the Huaorani and co-managed with a socially principled tour operator Tropic Journeys in Nature, whose support and partnership model has been fundamental to the project’s success. Aside from the income from the lodge and the sale of handicrafts, the most important outcome has been that the Huaorani communities now have greater control over the pace and level of any integration into broader Ecuadorian society. The latest project being undertaken by the community is to establish a

55,000-hectare forest reserve linked to the lodge. This will allow the majority of the Huaorani territory to be protected against the incursion of loggers and migrants looking for land. Jascivan Carvalho, the lodge manager and the only non-Huaorani employee, warns, however, that the threat to Huaorani culture hasn’t gone away. ‘Oil and illegal logging are still real problems, but now with the ecotourism operation the Huaorani have a good reason to have those threats on their radar and keep them away.’ He predicts that the Huaorani culture will survive – albeit in a modified form, something he says is ‘inevitable’. He explains: ‘The problem is when our hungry society comes onto the scene, our culture is so powerful and careless with the cultural richness of others that it imposes its own ways, its own development, its economic models, all complete with borders, rules and regulations. ‘So, indigenous groups that knew nothing about boundaries suddenly need to understand that this is where their territory ends and this is where the oilfields start. And clans that used to move according to the availability of forest resources now are stuck on one site. The future is complex and we humans are by nature complicated. But I believe that the lodge is an inspiration to the Huaorani. When we started building traditional style cabins for the lodge, many were doubtful of the idea. A few months later every family began building traditional houses of their own. ‘And young guys that I used to see going away to work for the oil companies now stay close by, on their land, becoming guides, working on their lodge and feeling proud of being Huaorani… that’s the real reward of all this.’

84 | r:travel

AccommLCom-Personal.indd 3

29/10/2010 11:58

HIGHLY COMMENDED Cuyaqui Wayi de Vicos tourism committee, Peru

John and Lisa Merrill

Pride of the Vicos

A PERUVIAN COMMUNITY that was once enslaved and which turned to tourism to regain control over its economic and cultural destiny is now running a successful homestay venture which has put pride back into the hearts of its people. Vicos, a Quechua-speaking community of about 2,000 in the highlands of north-central Peru has had a chequered history. For years its people were serfs in the Vicos Hacienda, an estate run for the benefit of rich landowners. During the 1950s it became the subject of an applied anthropology project run by Cornell University in America, which was aimed at liberating the people from their hacienda past. Through a series of conflicts, the people learnt not to trust outsiders, and it’s only really in the past ten years that the community has found, in tourism, a way to help itself recover from the pain of its past. The leading light in this process has been the Cuyaqui Wayi tourism committee, formed in 1999 by Pablo

Tadeo, with seven other members. Inspired by what they saw as a lot of money being earned in tourism elsewhere, the Vicosinos initially wanted to build a hotel. At the time they were working on agriculture projects with a local NGO called Urpichallay, which introduced them to another NGO, The Mountain Institute, which had experience in setting up sustainable tourism projects. They discussed several options and decided to build ten small guesthouses, one in each sector of the community. And so Cuyaqui Wayi (‘Beautiful House’ in Quechua) was started and received its first tourists in May 2002. Since then many visitors have come to Vicos to experience being part of an Andean rural family. After working with a handful of other groups, Cuyaqui Wayi tourism now has a firm association with a new agency Respons, which has helped to improve their services. But most of all, the community trusts Respons. While the families who run the homestays receive the tourism income

themselves (with a percentage going into a community development fund that provides education materials for local schools), the committee also contracts the services of musicians, artisans and for transport and buys food from local farmers. In this way the whole community shares in the economic benefits. A spin-off has seen an increase in pride in Vicosino culture and in the local environment. Nearly all community members wear traditional clothes again at special occasions, and reforestation projects have seen 10,000 trees planted. ‘We are proud of the role that our committee has played,’ says Pablo Tadeo. ‘Once, other community members questioned the project but over the past few years all have now accepted tourism activities because they have seen that these happen in harmony with the culture and environment and benefit the community. During the hacienda period when our people were enslaved and abused our only way to feel happy was to maintain our cultural identity. Now we have opened a bit more to the world this identity is our big pride. ‘In the beginning, there was some jealousy. Once, someone even threw stones through a lodge window. But, over time, they have learned that our visitors are not dangerous outsiders; they bring wealth, joy and development.’ WHAT THE JUDGES SAID The community members of Cuyaqui Wayi Vicos in Peru have embraced their own cultural identity as a tool for establishing a positive relationship with the outside world through tourism. Following a period of isolation and exploitation by outsiders, they have rediscovered their own cultural practices and established a homestay programme owned and operated by eight local families that allows them to communicate cultural traditions to travellers on their own terms.

r:travel | 85

AccommLCom-Personal.indd 4

29/10/2010 11:58

Best accommodation for local communities / best personal contribution

highly commended (accommodation) Jungle Bay Resort and Spa, Dominica winner (BEST PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION) Sam Raphael, Dominica

Resort brings hope to the Caribbean

The story of Jungle Bay – highly commended in the local communities accommodation category – is inseparable from the story of its founder, Sam Raphael – winner of the best personal contribution – for it’s the fulfilment of his boyhood dream


ungle Bay, a top end eco-resort set on the south east of the lush Caribbean island of Dominica, began life in the imagination of a young boy on a camping trip. Back in 1972, when 11-year-old Sam Raphael was on a fifth grade field trip to Cinnamon Bay Campground in St. John, US Virgin Islands, the environmental awareness of this class trip had such an impact on Sam that he adopted the concept of conservation and environmental preservation as his life’s philosophy.

However, the roots of his beliefs go back even further. Born in Dominica, he was brought up in a community that had a strong sense of self-help and self-development. His family emigrated to St Croix when he was young and brought with them the immigrant work ethic. His home was in a rural part of the island and Sam developed a passion for ‘doing things outdoors’ and a love of natural surroundings. ‘I grew up, too, in changing times for the Caribbean, which was moving from colonies to independence. There was an

emergence of self-identity and a strong passion for social revolution. All these things were at my core and ultimately have been reflected in Jungle Bay, the project of my passion and my fantasy. ‘As a boy I used to love drawing things and would doodle ideas. After that trip I always wanted to do a campground – well, Jungle Bay is not a campground, but the idea for creating something has been in my head all through my adolescence and young adult life.’ Sam forged a successful career as a property developer but was haunted by a radio programme about the environmental degradation and social exploitation of traditional tourism. ‘I remember being struck by the host’s observation that none of the hotels in the Virgin Islands and hardly any in the Caribbean were owned by the majority Caribbean people.’ He determined to work towards developing a hotel that would show future generations that Caribbean people could successfully own and operate tourism facilities and in a way that promotes their culture and empowers their communities. His first attempt, a low-impact lodge and ocean fish farm on St Croix, was wiped out before it opened by a hurricane, and in 1996 Sam returned to Dominica around the time when the island economy came to a shuddering halt with the loss of the banana trade. Asked to ‘help his country’ by the Dominican government, Sam acquired

86 | r:travel

AccommLCom-Personal.indd 5

29/10/2010 11:58

a 55-acre site which was considered wasteland and four years later started building his dream resort, which finally opened in 2005. It was built over five years by large numbers of displaced former banana farmers using reclaimed timber and volcanic stone. Because tourism was new to their part of Dominica, Sam and his wife Glenda, a former social worker and native Dominican, set up their own NGO, the South East Tourism Development Committee, to help the community take advantage of the economic opportunities offered. The philosophy of Jungle Bay is maximum community involvement with minimal environmental disturbance. 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 trails. Apart from direct employment at the resort, Jungle Bay has ignited the creation of about 40 micro-businesses, many of which have grown and now also service other resorts on the island. Jungle Bay also supports many community projects, notably the House of Hope, a home for disabled orphans, and a literacy drive called Open Books Open Minds, which encourages guests to leave a book or cash donation, which has led to the renovation and re-stocking of three school libraries. A community development fund has also been set up with staff allocating ten per cent of their tips – a sum matched by Sam – to support various local projects, voted on by all 63 staff at quarterly meetings. Guests and staff alike have responded to the feel-good factor generated by the community schemes. And it’s catching on. ‘Other hotels are adapting our ideas. It’s spread; we are the catalyst that has got a lot of these things going,’ says Sam. And although he and Glenda still have a property on St Croix which they visit from time to time, his roots are now firmly back in Dominica. ‘This is

Sam Raphael: ‘Our ideas are spreading’

home. I was born here and have come full circle.’ There is, however, one big trip away from home Sam is planning to make. ‘I turn 50 in January,’ he says, ‘and my wife and I plan to hike up Kilimanjaro.’ WHAT THE JUDGES SAID (JUNGLE BAY) Sam Raphael and his wife set up their Jungle Bay resort in Dominica with the aim of revitalising a community struggling after the demise of the banana industry. So successful have they been that the community now benefits from schooling, a disability project and hands-on mentoring and entrepreneurial support from Sam himself.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID (SAM) Sam Raphael’s vision was to use tourism to revitalize a community facing poverty after the demise of the banana industry. In an area devoid of tourism, his Jungle Bay resort in Dominica was constructed, opened and is now almost entirely operated by the local community. The trickle-down effect of his efforts are felt far and wide, from the farmers who supply the resort with produce to the disabled children cared for at his “House of Hope”, and the youth supported by Sam’s initiative to mentor and promote young entrepreneurs. The philosophy that underpins Jungle Bay is wholly down to his passion and commitment.

Bring back the heritage AFTER THE SUCCESS of Jungle Bay Sam Raphael finds himself in demand to share the lessons of his experience around the island and throughout the Caribbean. And he has some strong views on what the region must do to ensure a thriving future for its tourism. ‘We in the Caribbean need to develop more sustainable practices. If we don’t do that, our trade will be lost because the old Caribbean product is dated and stale,’ he warns. ‘Travellers don’t want to just come and lie out in the sun any more – a growing number want something more, something cultural, something interesting. ‘The Caribbean must transform by going back into the communities and bringing the heritage and culture back into the product. People want that. They don’t want to go to a place and not know whether they’re in Mexico or the Bahamas or Thailand. They want to see some of the culture of where they are.’ He adds that island hotels also face a growing threat from cruise ships. ‘If you take a cruise you can get to five islands for around $400. So why go and stay on one for five days for $900. To compete, the hotel sector has to reinvent itself. I get calls from all up the island chain. People are recognising that the Caribbean must change.’


Oman Ministry of Tourism For full details on Oman Ministry of Tourism please go to page 38

r:travel | 87

AccommLCom-Personal.indd 6

29/10/2010 11:58

best personal contribution

highly commended Jo Baddeley, UK

Why responsibility has to be fun A recycled fashion show…a ten-second shower challenge…and a Keep Kavos Clean campaign – just three of the ways in which customers of Thomas Cook are engaging with the responsible tourism agenda without even realising it. It’s a vaguely depressing fact for many mainstream tour operators that they have to look after the responsible agenda because the bulk of their customers don’t give it a second thought. ‘For the customers, just having a great holiday is the overriding priority. Sustainability issues are way down their list – if they are on it at all,’ says Jo Baddeley, sustainable destinations manager for Thomas Cook UK and Ireland. ‘They come over and happily leave the air-con on all day, look for

English bars and won’t try the local food. We even had to bring someone over to one Turkish resort to teach the local chefs to “cook English”.’ For now, she says, if tour operators like hers want to engage with the majority of their customers on sustainability, it has to be ‘fun’ – something that carries a subliminal message. And that subliminal message starts with the tour reps, encouraging them to find creative ways to raise awareness. ‘It can be hard even getting the message across to the reps,’ she says. ‘They are so busy and have so many targets for sales, customer service, handling complaints etc, that if we tried to do things on a serious level it wouldn’t work. We need to make it something they enjoy doing.’

Jo, third from the left at a Gala dinner in Gambia

what the judges said The judges recognised Jo as a real evangelist for responsible travel. Her dynamism proves Thomas Cook is fortunate to have such a capable Sustainable Destinations Manager. Once a rep herself, she packs a powerful punch in the frontline training of reps and represents the foot soldiers of responsible tourism. With her enthusiasm and transparency, Jo is a real advocate for change and is already making a real difference to mainstream tourism’s efforts in responsible travel.

With more than 1,000 overseas employees, that’s a lot of creative motivation, but for Jo, who has been in her role for just over two years, it is working. ‘Once engaged, the employees have learned more about the environments and local communities in which they work, and I am amazed at how they become actively involved in important projects. These range from Travel Foundation-partnered projects to individual initiatives relevant to particular resorts.’ In the Dominican Republic World Environment Day was used to launch two new shopping excursions which now form part of the firm’s events programme, bringing employment to about 25 people and ensuring customers’ cash flows into the pockets of local producers. Jo’s role also includes working with suppliers to bring sustainability issues to the fore, such as reducing plastic waste. One of the most successful schemes has been the Thomas Cook Bag for Life – something customers did relate to, ‘probably because supermarkets do them and people recognise them from Asda or Sainsburys’. One area where consumers will readily engage is animal welfare – Thomas Cook is involved with the Brooke animal hospital to raise awareness of the welfare of donkeys and horses in Egypt, for example. And the kids are alright, too – the firm has launched a sustainability activity book in its children’s clubs, with a mascot, Hatch the Turtle. Children, unsurprisingly, are more receptive than their parents to the responsible message. So perhaps the future is brighter. ‘It can be frustrating but should be easier with future generations,’ adds Jo. ‘And at least it will keep me in a job for a long time.’

88 | r:travel

AccommLCom-Personal.indd 7

29/10/2010 15:41


Monica Guy

Raining champion

Scott visits Dumazulu Cultural Village, KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

IF YOU ARE AN ‘able-bodied’ person reading this, ask yourself: ‘How easy would it be to go on holiday if I were disabled?’ Consider everything, from getting up, to getting out the door, from getting on a plane or train, to getting to a hotel, to getting in the pool, to getting on the beach, and getting around the local sights. There’s a way of thinking that might help you to understand this. It’s called the Spoon Theory. We don’t have room to explain it here. Google it, when you’re next online. A study in 2002, repeated in 2005, showed that Americans with disabilities were spending $13.6 billion annually on travel. So why then, so often, is it so hard and so uncomfortable for people with disabilities to travel? For Scott Rains, the answer is ‘it shouldn’t be’. To counter it, he has created the concept of Inclusive Tourism, which is about putting into practice the principles and goals of

Universal Design, which are opportunities and products that are usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations. On his website Rolling Rains he monitors the spread of such ideas, ‘the bushfire’. His vision is a fully inclusive sustainable society, one where travel and social participation are not inhibited by disability or limited by age. ‘Inclusive Tourism assures that the industry’s physical infrastructure and business values are appropriate and sustainable throughout the normal human lifecycle of all people – including changes in their functions and abilities,’ says Scott. ‘It is not about heroic overcoming of obstacles. Disability culture is about interdependence. We overcome more obstacles getting out the front door every morning than a non-disabled person would ever imagine. ‘The significant obstacles are socially created. The solutions to obstacles are also social. Befriending the vulnerability involved in being human is what social sustainability means to the disability community.’ Scott has not been a head-above-theparapet kind of champion, preferring to work ‘below the radar’, with travel writers, tour operators, hotel chains, airlines and disabled persons’ organisations around the world. Among various consultancy work, he has been invited by the tourism ministry of India to advise on Inclusive Tourism, and was invited by three provinces of South Africa to review the inclusiveness of their tourism prior to the World Cup. He’s attended conferences, edited academic studies and led the World Bank’s Southern

Africa Regional Seminar on Disability. Throughout, he’s nurtured and mentored a growing network of like-minded souls. He doesn’t admit to a Eureka! moment when his advocacy began, saying: ‘It is a responsibility laid upon every person with a disability as soon as they decide to move beyond whatever is their home geography. It is a choice to be fully human. ‘One of the things that motivates me is a commitment to the disability community of future generations. I was unable to fulfill my undergraduate scholarship in Linguistics at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil because the facility was not accessible and its institutional culture was not inclusive. Inclusive Tourism is one way I make certain that new scholars in every part of the world are free to study and enjoy full citizenship. Mobility International USA (MIUSA) is the world’s leader in the area of training on student exchange involving students with disabilities. They have created a new generation of academics and professionals with disabilities who will never let this occur again. ‘Inclusive Tourism needs to continue until a generation asks, “Why do we say inclusive? Isn’t it just bad business practice to design environments, products, and policies that exclude certain types of people?”’ WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Scott Rains’ pioneering work has centred on tackling the concept of ‘inclusivity’ in tourism. He has campaigned, at high level, to ensure that access to tourism experiences remains a key focus in the growing responsible tourism movement, and he has done so in an industry still growing in its awareness of social inclusiveness.

r:travel | 89

AccommLCom-Personal.indd 8

29/10/2010 11:59

Best accommodation for the environment

winner Hotel Mocking Bird Hill, Jamaica

Mocking bird is on song

A holistic approach to the environment allows one Jamaican hotel’s guests to enjoy ‘guiltless indulgence’

90 | r:travel

BestAccommEnviron.indd 1

29/10/2010 14:49

River walk with local guide at Reich Falls


hen you check in at the Hotel Mocking Bird Hill you won’t do so at a reception desk. Like as not, the formalities will happen at the pool, in your room maybe or while having a welcome drink and enjoying the panoramic view from the bar. They do such things differently at this ten-room, eco-chic hideaway in six

and a half acres of beautiful, bird-filled gardens near Port Antonio in the north-east corner of Jamaica. In fact, they do a lot of things differently. Opened in 1993, this remarkable environmental venture was the loving brainchild of two women, Shireen Aga and Barbara Walters, who had been friends since 1976. Barbara, a Jamaican artist, and Shireen, who grew up in India before

studying environmentally-friendly tourism in Germany, were determined to prove that a small business can be sustainable and successful. The dream came with a few challenges. Recalls Shireen: ‘First, we had to win acceptance as “the two mad women on the hill”. Just converting what was formerly a private home was a nightmare as the workmen were not inclined to believe that as women we would have a clue. The fact that we came in as “outsiders” has been a bit of a challenge, too, particularly in this part of the island that is not exposed to as much tourism and is not as multicultural as other places.’ Talking about the philosophy that has guided her and Barbara over the past 17 years, Shireen says: ‘Our slogan is guiltless indulgence. We don’t provide luxury at any cost but focus on sustainable luxury. ‘We started out to live our dream – not just run a business and make money. We wanted to operate a business where our decisions would be guided by our values and ethics. ‘We also wanted to operate a hotel where we have the opportunity to build relationships with our guests. As managers, we act more as friends and front desk, concierge and personal assistant all rolled into one. You are forced to be more creative, to give visitors a special experience. It is this personalised approach and attention to detail that defines “luxury” to our guests. ‘We believe that focusing on profits as the sole purpose of business leaves our souls empty. By taking a holistic approach we give a soul to our business. In this way a small business can compete with larger, more powerful, players because more and more people now identify with these values.’   The environmental values have underscored everything here. From the start solar panels provided hot water and they installed an anaerobic waste water treatment plant and energy Continued on page 92

r:travel | 91

BestAccommEnviron.indd 2

29/10/2010 14:49

Best accommodation for the environment

Continued from page 91

efficient lighting. Over the years more photovoltaic cells have been installed and renewable sources account for 70 per cent of energy needs. Rainwater is harvested and backwash from the pool collected to clean outdoor areas. Food is mostly sourced locally – or made at the hotel – and packaging is kept to a minimum. ‘Meatless Mondays’ further reduces carbon emissions. As much as possible is re-used or recycled. Paper is shredded and given to a local handmade paper-making project and the hotel then ‘buys back’ the artisan stationery for guests to use. It is the host of small details too numerous to mention and the connectivity between them that combine to such great effect. Mocking Bird Hill was one of the first four hotels worldwide to be certified by Green Globe as an environmentally and socially friendly property. It was the second property worldwide to be Green Globe certified for the second time and is now the first hotel in Jamaica to have a carbon offsetting programme which looks not only at the carbon emissions generated by their guests’ travel to Jamaica, but also pays for the hotel’s own carbon emissions while simultaneously working to reduce them. ‘There are still so many misconceptions that to be eco must mean to sacrifice a comfortable experience,’ adds Shireen. ‘On the other hand, it is discouraging to see how so many are jumping on the bandwagon because eco is now the buzz word, and claiming to be responsible by the mere fact of their “design”, or just building low key with local materials and a local

Below: Barbara Walters and Shireen Aga. Right: evening at their hotel

architect while they do not practice or implement the basics of water, waste or energy management. The greenwashing that goes on is a slap in the face of all committed parties. ‘We have operated with limited resources, and we have not been able to boast of significant, multi-million dollar achievements or donate vast sums to community projects even though we would love to do so – if we had it. But we have never lost track of our goals and have worked at improving things in incremental steps. ‘We are just launching our new consultancy service, GAIA, to help small and mid-sized hotels, especially in the Caribbean, change to more sustainable practices – so we believe we have an exciting journey ahead of us and a long way to go.’

what the judges said Proof that indulgence doesn’t have to be at the expense of the environment, Mocking Bird Hill is a small, locally-owned luxury hotel that drives innovation, ensures that good practices are identified and monitored and add value to the local community. The judges were impressed by the scale and depth of their ability to measure impacts – including energy consumption, economic impact for local partners, and recording biodiversity. They list the short distance from their local suppliers down to the last kilometre – impressive in Jamaica where the reliance is typically on imports. They have driven innovation – conducting in-house recycling in an area without the infrastructure for it, and encouraging their suppliers to improve environmental performance.

sponsored by

Tourism Western Australia

Tourism Western Australia is dedicated to developing, promoting and protecting Western Australia’s extraordinary tourism experiences. We have some of the most stunning and diverse natural attractions in the world, including Ningaloo Reef, the world’s largest fringing reef, and the lush forests of the southwest – Australia’s only biodiversity hotspot. Shark Bay on Australia’s Coral Coast, is ranked alongside the Galápagos as one of the few places on Earth to satidfy all four of the natural criteria for World Heritage listing. Eco-friendly accommodation is crucial to ensure visitors can experience these wonders in a responsible way. Tourism Western Australia has launched a NatureBank programme in partnership with the Department of Environment and Conservation to encourage innovative sustainable accommodation. The programme identifies land within protected wilderness areas which can be released for low impact, eco-friendly accommodation. We strongly believe tourism plays an important part in protecting our unspoilt, landscapes and returning the social and economic benefits back into local communities. This is why Tourism Western Australia is proud to sponsor the Best Accommodation for the Environment category in these awards.

92 | r:travel

BestAccommEnviron.indd 3

29/10/2010 15:01

highly commended Bedruthan Steps Hotel & Spa, UK

Green runs in the family

Having a green experience may not be the number one reason why most guests choose to stay at the Bedruthan Steps Hotel in Cornwall – the spectacular views of the north Cornish coast, the fabulous local food and sumptuous spa probably top the list – but, increasingly, it’s a reason they come back. For 50 years Bedruthan has been keen on green. The original owners Peter and Mary Whittington took the view that they lived in a beautiful part of the country and should enhance that beauty not damage it. And their three daughters, Debbie, Emma and Rebecca, who now run the hotel, have carried on that ethos and developed it into an art form. But what works so well here is that the dozens of sustainable ecoinitiatives – way too many to list here – are not rammed down guests’ throats, but form the quiet backdrop to their holiday experience. That’s not to say you won’t notice the difference, from the complimentary pool towel in the bedroom that’s replaced the

more wasteful free for all usage from the spa area, to the ‘Did You Know?’ green facts peppered through the room information pack, to the recycling bins, and to the rock pool and food foraging expeditions and nature rambles. There is a green exhibition of what the hotel does on the mezzanine – but you don’t have to read it. What Bedruthan does is make being green and sustainable easy, so that many guests leave vowing to put their own houses in order, while making the experience a reason to return. Suzie Newham is Bedruthan’s sustainability manager , but she is quick to point out that the entire staff – even down to agency temps – are part of the green team. ‘Ownership’ of the ethos is vital if it’s to flourish, and not simply become a chore to be endured. ‘We want our guests to have a quality experience, ‘ she says. ‘One that sits within our ethos, but which won’t make them come away feeling that they’ve been lectured. It’s a

holiday with a conscience, unconsciously.’ Bedruthan’s initiatives have reduced its carbon footprint by nearly ten per cent in 2009 – a huge saving for an place that’s already doing way more than its bit for the environment. It’s amazing the difference a fridge heat recapture system makes, or a state-of-the art dishwasher, or even a robot lawnmower. In the past year it has also launched a charitable community fund to support new and existing environmental and social projects within its community, St Mawgan-inPydar. Fund raising events, staff donations and guest gifting has so far raised around £6,000. They organise regular beach cleans and also share their learning curve with suppliers – and the wider business community, through organisations such as CoaST (Cornwall Sustainable Tourism project) and schools and colleges. They are also linked with campaigning groups such as the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, co2balance and Surfers Against Sewage. The community fund is a natural extension of reducing our environmental impact, ‘ says Suzie. ‘We celebrate our 50th birthday this year, and we’ve been setting a pattern most of that time.’ what the judges said Bedruthan Steps, a 101-room, year-round, retro-engineered hotel, remains an impressive achievement with strong community ties. They have driven innovation and change by example, hosting other hoteliers and inviting guests to test and try out their sustainable initiatives. They have never stopped innovating; establishing sister hotel Scarlet as a sustainable build from scratch – the culmination of their now-considerable expertise and their consistent response to industry change and consumer feedback.

r:travel | 93

BestAccommEnviron.indd 4

29/10/2010 14:49

Bring on the responsible rebels What’s the state of responsible tourism – and what difference do the Responsible Tourism Awards make? Harold Goodwin, director of the International Centre of Responsible Tourism and chair of the Awards judges, believes the future will be safe in the hands of increasingly critical consumers We’ve made great progress over the past ten years A few years ago people were embarrassed to put their heads above the parapet because journalists and NGOs were forever having a crack at anybody who said they were doing anything of value. But there’s such a critical mass now that people don’t have to worry about that. What they do need to worry about now is having a credible story to tell. I think that indicates that if you have a sustained campaign over a long period of time – the awards idea was first floated back in 2001 – things will change.

It’s not just an eco-niche anymore Responsible tourism is growing rapidly and becoming more mainstream – mainly through the efforts of the large operators, although the public who nominate are not seeing that yet. But we have moved a long way from the tiny ecotourism niche. Responsible tourism is about all forms of tourism being more responsible – it’s about large tour operators, hotels and cruise lines being managed more responsibly. Increasingly, it’s the bigger operators

who are better at that, and, in fact, it’s some of the little eco-operators that need to catch up. They think it’s enough to talk about the things they are doing, but it’s not just about the nice words – they need to be able to substantiate it

Consumers: stand up and be counted The challenge now is to maintain the integrity of the responsible tourism concept. For that we need critical consumers: rebellious locals and rebellious tourists who will challenge the way tourism is and demand better. And consumers are becoming enlightened enough to do this – there

is a lot more engagement from the industry in educating the consumer. And that’s a one-way street. Once the tourist is educated, they’re not going backwards. People do notice more: at the breakfast table at the B&B they notice the local marmalade; they want to know the provenance of the eggs and bacon. That’s not only happening in tourism, of course, it’s part of a much broader consumer movement in the UK. But if greater consumer awareness is going to come, it will come through the messages they get from their tour operators, what we see elsewhere in the media from other consumer sectors and what comes through the activities of academics and NGOs writing and campaigning along the way.

It probably isn’t going to come through the mainstream media With one or two notable exceptions, travel journalists are not shaping views. The travel book writers have a big role to play and are already playing it to a certain extent. Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are doing a lot to educate tourists about how to have a better time. The pity of it is that we don’t really see that in the travel pages, where the culture of travel writing needs to become more critical.

The Responsible Tourism Awards will continue to be a catalyst for change If they aren’t, there’s no point in doing

The judging process It was another good year – numbers were up this year and it is a painstaking process to go through the nominations and to select the long-list who are sent the questionnaires to fill in. This process draws on the expertise of our staff, associates, alumni and current students at the International Centre for Responsible Tourism as they weigh up the nominations and undertake some web and literature research to determine who will be sent questionnaires. It is also an onerous process for those filling in the questionnaires, we ask quite detailed questions and increasingly expect to see the detail to support the claims made. We also take up references, both those suggested by the nominees and those we approach independently.

94 | r:travel

MeetTheJudges.indd 1

29/10/2010 14:54

view from the judges’ bench

them. But they showcase good examples and give people something to emulate. This year we received more than 1,700 nominations for almost 600 organisations, individuals and destinations.

nominees in the best tour operator for local economies were disappointing – there were not so many nominees – obviously we can only award from among those nominated. This was a new category this year and we had a good winner but no one worthy of

being highly commended. There is still very little happening in cruising – the large cruise lines are not addressing the agenda sufficiently for the public to notice. And African winners are thin on the ground; there is not much new being nominated.

It’s tougher to win one The awards are getting tougher to win although in some categories there are very few good entries. We had tweaked the categories this year and will probably do so again for next year. The

This year we received more than 1,700 nominations for almost 600 organisations, individuals and destinations

Meet the judges Justin Francis is Managing Director of online travel directory which he co-founded in 2001.

Final word Tourism is like fire. You can use it to cook your meal or it can burn your house down. It’s all about how you control it.

Harold Goodwin, Chair of Judges Harold is Professor of Responsible Tourism Management at Leeds Metropolitan University and Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism – a postgraduate research and training centre where Harold runs an MSc in Responsible Tourism Management.

Ian Reynolds was the Chief Executive of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) from 1994 until September 2005, following a 25-year career with IBM. He is currently a director of NTP Limited, which provides training throughout the travel industry.

Dr Matt Walpole is Head of Ecosystem Assessment at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP-WCMC).

Fiona Jeffery is Chairman of World Travel Market. Staged annually in London under one roof, World Travel Market is a business-to-business exhibition for the whole global travel trade industry to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business.

Tricia Barnett is the Director of Tourism Concern, the UK-based charity that campaigns for ethical and fairly-traded tourism. Tricia says ‘Tourism Concern is not against travel and tourism – it’s just about how to do it so that local people benefit too.’

Lisa Scott is Travel Editor of the Metro Newspaper now read by more than 3.5million people each weekday. She took on the role last October and is keen to remind her readers that responsible travel is now a sexy, viable holiday option.

Nikki White joined ABTA as Head of Destinations and Sustainability in October last year. Nikki has gained an impressive grasp of travel and tourism strategy over her years as Head of Strategy and Development at travel and leisure marketing experts Fox Kalomaski.

Sue Hurdle is the Chief Executive of The Travel Foundation, the government & industry-backed sustainable tourism charity that helps the UK travel industry to take effective action on sustainable tourism.

Graeme Gourlay is the publisher of Geographical magazine and runs Circle Publishing which also produces DIVE magazine, Snow, Water and Environment and Christian Aid News. He launched Circle ten years ago after a successful career as a national newspaper journalist.

John de Vial is Director of ABTA - The Travel Association, Travelife and The Travel Foundation, with 30 years experience, principally in the mainstream, UK outbound market, with a particular interest in sustainability.

Debbie Hindle is the Managing Director and a founder of bgb communications and has worked on sustainable travel issues for organisations ranging from tourist boards to NGOs. She is also a Member of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s Crisis Action Team.

Dr Rebecca Hawkins has worked in the field of sustainable tourism for more than 15 years . She is Research and Consultancy Fellow to the Department of Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism Management at Oxford Brookes University; Visiting Professor to the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University.

r:travel | 95

MeetTheJudges.indd 2

29/10/2010 14:55


Kalimantan Tours

le Relax onrnaeyjung river jou

Tel: +62 811 52 0648 | |

JOURNEYING Christian holidays Celtic spirituality Relaxed walking Beautiful and often remote places Small groups UK & Ireland Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge, Quito-Ecuador Phone: (593-2) 223 2313 / 290 1536


Where rolling wheatfields meet pristine fynbos at the foot of the Elandskloof mountains BA RT H O L O ME US K L I P • H ER M O N • W EST ERN C AP E • SO U T H AF RI C A

Telephone: +27(0)82 322 1758 or +27(0)82 529 8539 Fax: +27(0)86 604 4321 i n f o @ b a r t h o l o m e u s k l i p . c o m • w w w. b a r t h o l o m e u s k l i p . c o m

Classified.indd 1

29/10/2010 16:44

Geographical w w w. g e o g r a p h i c a l . c o . u k

Subscribe &

SAVE 35% Plus

We’ll send you a 2011 Earth from the Air calendar, worth £12.99, FREE!*

FREE Earth from the Air calend ar

The official magazine of the Royal Geographical Society takes its readers on a global adventure with each issue

UK: £35 per year or £8.75 per quarter Europe: £48 per year Rest of world: £58 per year

To claim your special discount and FREE 2011 calendar, visit or call 01635 588 496 and quote RT012

*You will only be eligible to receive a calendar if you live within the UK and (a) subscribe by Direct Debit or (b) are an existing subscriber to Geographical taking out a gift subscription for a friend

Geo_RTravel.indd 1

29/10/2010 12:13

the trip that changed my life

Stranded on the central line Author and travel broadcaster Simon Reeve has visited more than 100 countries and gone around the world three times with the BBC to make his programmes Equator, Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer. But it was one chance encounter in a refugee camp that made him think differently about the freedom to travel that so many of us take for granted

Simon with Fathima in the refugee camp


y first trip for the BBC took me along the equator from Gabon in central west Africa, travelling east towards Kenya and the Indian Ocean. The purpose was to look beyond the tourist brochures and get a sense of the political and social context and realities of the countries we visited. And right from the start the trip was an eye-opener. Gabon, for example, which is seen as a new, original destination, was very beautiful on the surface but you quickly

saw the problems beneath. And there were many incidents along the way that taught me about life in Africa and the developing world and reminded me how lucky I was compared to almost everybody I was meeting. But nowhere was this more evident than towards the end of the trip when I travelled to a refugee camp on the Kenya-Somalia border. Stuck out in the middle of a desert, it was a scattering of small camps very close together, packed with refugees from the Somali civil war and the ongoing conflict. These were people who’d fled on foot

from places like Mogadishu – which is still probably one of the most dangerous places in the world – and had walked across the desert until they got stuck at the border, because the Kenyan government didn’t want them travelling further into the country. Most of them had been there for more than a decade. And it was there that I met this young 23-year-old woman called Fathima, who had been in the camp almost her entire life, having arrived with her family when she was very young. The camp was all she knew. It was very well run, by international aid agencies and the refugees themselves, but it was basically an open prison because nobody could leave. Fathima was well educated and spoke good English and had a very international outlook. She knew about politics, history and life in the big wide world, but had no means of exploring it for herself. It hit me like a train that she was stuck there while I, thanks to an accident of birth, was able to flit into her camp and out again, because I have this magic British passport that gives me the right and ability to travel the planet. I suddenly realised the responsibility of travel, that it isn’t just a right, but a privilege, and that we as travellers have a responsibility not just to soak up a bit of sun, but to learn about the places we visit and ensure we spend our money wisely and put it into the hands of people who need it. I think of Fathima every time I reach for my passport. She’s become a kind of mental talisman. I heard about a year later that the camp had been washed out in flash floods and I couldn’t find out what had happened to her. It makes me realise that our problems are extremely small in comparison with other people on the planet.’ ■ Simon is currently planning a new journey for the BBC. Details soon on his website

98 | r:travel

TripThatChanged.indd 1

29/10/2010 15:22 0208 327 0155 Non Profit Volunteering Worldwide from ONLY £200

Make dreams come true

If you’re looking for a unique travel experience abroad, look no further! VPO´s programs are the perfect way to meet new people and make a difference abroad and remember we are 100% non profit, your money goes to our projects and not in our pockets.

Cambodia • Bolivia • Tanzania • Uganda • Nepal • India • South Africa

Join us now visit • Registered charity no 1113413

voluntary.indd 1

28/10/2010 18:04

Virgin.indd 1

28/10/2010 15:28

r:travel, Responsible Tourism Awards magazine