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Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2012


MEET THE WINNERS... Travel like a local

A REASON FOR BEING Welcome to RT:Awards, our newspaper packed full of stories about the organisations who’ve won and been highly commended in the 9th annual Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards. On Awards day every year I wake up knowing that I’m about to meet some truly remarkable people who are global leaders in Responsible Tourism. I’ve often wondered about what separates them from the rest. Increasingly, I think it’s because they’ve carefully considered one very simple question, which is ‘why does my organisation exist?’ All of them have found a bigger answer to this question than just profits and satisfied customers. In different ways they’ve seen the potential of their business or organisation to create better places to live in and better places to visit – which we call Responsible Tourism. It might be natural to assume that businesses like this are somehow less financially successful than purely commercial organisations. In fact, the opposite is true. In his seminal business book Good to Great Jim Collins

analysed why some businesses break through from being simply good to truly great, when other comparable businesses do not. Over time they found that while a focus on products, customers and profits is extremely important, organisations that only focus on these things are not as commercially successful as those that have a wider purpose – something to make them more useful and valuable to society, customers, staff and shareholders. Our winners have different reasons for operating responsibly. For some it’s simply that they care deeply about local people and places and want to help. For others it’s about striving to be truly great and commercially successful businesses. Both outcomes are possible. This year we’ve looked at the contributions 1000s of nominated organisations make to the places in which they operate - to the people, cultures and environments on which tourism depends. The judges looked for evidence of real and measurable achievements in Responsible Tourism.

tracted over 10,000 nominations from members of the public, leading to 201 unique organisations Awarded from 51 countries around the world. We have a six stage judging process – nominations from the public, long-listing, questionnaires, short-listing, judging and references - that runs each year from April until October. It wouldn’t be possible without the support of the judges, Chaired by Professor Harold Goodwin; the students and alumni from ICRETH at Leeds Metropolitan University; our media partners at the Metro and Geographical; our friends at the World Travel Market on World Responsible Tourism Day, and, of course, Virgin Holidays and the category sponsors. Thank you everyone! Read more about the Awards at Justin Francis Managing Director w w w.r e s p o n si ble t r a v el.c o m Awards founders and organisers

Over the years the Awards have grown into quite an undertaking. Since 2004 they have at-

FROM VIRGIN HOLIDAYS In our sixth year of association with the Responsible Tourism Awards, Virgin Holidays is more committed than ever to celebrating the values and spirit of the people and businesses being recognised at today’s ceremony, and we’ve once again been inspired by the willingness of all of the entrants to face up to the challenge of putting sustainability – and responsibility – at the heart of their business. Over the last six years, we’ve watched these Awards grow as the issue of responsible travel has itself taken on ever greater importance in the mainstream tourism sector. Like many others, the scale, scope and size of the challenge has had a galvanising effect on our business, focusing our minds and stimulating our creativity. Whether that has meant a $3 million investment to establish the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean – which opened last year and has already seen 24 jobs created and more than 60 aspiring entrepreneurs accessing guidance services, mentoring and finance to grow their businesses – or a commitment to create 100 apprenticeships

for 16-24 year olds here in the UK, we’ve led from the front and shown what can be achieved when the risk has been worth taking. We’ve taken responsibility for using our leading role in this industry to do more than not do harm, but to be a force for good. Thankfully the days of moral off-setting, when corporate consciences were soothed with an annual charity payout, are over. We’ve seen today yet another fantastic spectrum of ideas that should both inspire and challenge us to think what we can all do, in our own way, to continue to make good on our responsibility to make travel fairer and more sustainable.

Everyone recognised in today’s awards deserves our admiration for taking the initiative and doing something to respond to that challenge. On behalf of Virgin Holidays I want to congratulate them all on another very successful year, and thank them for their inspiring example of how it can be done. Amanda Wills Managing Director Virgin Holidays Awards headline sponsors


REALITY TOURS & TRAVEL Reality Tours and Travel offer tours of Mumbai’s Dharavi slum, along with the city and its surrounding villages. Founded in 2005 by Directors Krishna Pujari and Chris Way, the company was primarily set up to show the positive side of Dharavi, and to break down the negative stereotypes visitors have about its people and residents. One of Asia’s largest, the Dharavi slum is 20 times more densely populated than the rest of Mumbai and is home to over a million people from all over India. Life there is hard — the lack of basic sanitation causes severe public health problems and its low-lying position makes it vulnerable to flooding. Adina Goerke, Reality’s Marketing Manager said, “The common stereotype, often reinforced by media and popular culture, of idle, passive and criminal slum dwellers is firmly established. Many people underestimate the poor conditions slum dwellers have to live in.” In recent years slum tourism has become increasingly popular, and increasingly controversial. Reality’s tours aim to offer an educational look at the strengths, opportunities, challenges and issues of life in the Dharavi community. Adina said, “Initially I was sceptical myself about the idea of bringing tourists into Dharavi, but it’s great if people have a negative approach at first and then change their minds once they have visited.” Covering both manufacturing and residential areas, their tours highlight the resourcefulness of Dharavi’s industries, which collectively have

an annual turnover of approximately US$665 million, and the sense of community. To ensure the tours are conducted in a respectful way the company operates a no camera policy, and guests are coached beforehand on how to behave, such as not staring into people’s homes. Adina said of the experience, “Many people say it’s totally different to what they expected. They had thought it would be dangerous and were afraid before the tour began, but they saw people working hard and getting on with their lives. They often comment on how impressed they are that people who come from that situation are happy and looking forward.” The idea for Reality Tours and Travel came to Co-Founder Chris Way while he was on a sightseeing tour of Rio’s favelas. Struck by the voyeuristic nature of what he was doing, he began to wonder if there was a way that a slum tour could be used instead to raise social awareness and to benefit the community. Initially the company focussed on raising awareness of the social issues affecting the Dharavi area though its tours, but in 2007 the company funded the establishment of a community centre to teach English and IT classes, and in 2009 founded the NGO Reality Gives (originally named Reality Cares), to which it donates 80% of its post-tax profits. Along with donations from guests and supporters, the money provided by the company is used to fund a variety of educational initiatives in the Dharavi area including English language support for local schools, and a popular youth empowerment programme.

Among the success stories the company is able to lay claim to is that of Kaveri, who participated in their Youth Empowerment Program in 2011. A resident of Dharavi all her life, she had been a school drop-out. Although she had been unable to afford the course deposit of Rs500, which is charged to ensure attendance and reimbursed upon successful completion of the programme, Krishna, Reality’s co-Founder paid her deposit as he believed in her enthusiasm. In May of this year Kaveri joined Youth Career Initiative’s Hotel Management Programme and is now training at the Four Seasons in Mumbai. In addition to their mainstream educational programmes, Reality Gives also runs children’s cricket and football programmes, and works with Mumbai NGO UnLtd India to deliver RUR (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) training on reducing waste and the importance of recycling. In the future the company would like to expand their community-based initiatives. Adina said, “We are asking the people of Dharavi what they want. Also, we don’t want to reinvent the wheel and neither do we think we have the best resources to start the most powerful projects. Therefore we work with other organisations that have experience.” In Adina’s words, Reality Tours and Travels exists to bring awareness to, and mobilize resources for, social issues facing the Dharavi slum community. Far from the exploitative model of gawking tourists staring at how the less fortunate live, their tours promote understanding, and more importantly, give something back.


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he Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), with headquarters in Barbados and offices in New York and London, is the Caribbean’s tourism development agency comprising membership of over 30 governments and a myriad of private sector entities.


lose to the marvels of Angkor Wat in the bustling town of Siem Riep in Cambodia is the Soria Moria Boutique Hotel. Providing midrange accommodation for the tourists who flock to the historic temple complex nearby, Soria Moria is much more than a pleasant base to explore the area. Boasting an admirable training programme and employee share ownership scheme, the hotel has become an example of how a tourism business can support the economic regeneration of a community. Education and training are at the heart of Soria Moria’s operations. All staff at the hotel are local, and the hotel’s Employee Elevator Program aims to support staff development by providing paid trainee positions for disadvantaged youths, and then supporting their education and professional development right up to managerial positions. Co-founder Kristin Holdø Hansen feels that not only individual employees,

but also the business benefits from supporting staff development. Kristin said: “It creates a great atmosphere where employees are motivated and proud. When you walk in to the hotel you can feel it.” General Manager Sam Sokha worked at Kristen’s first business in Cambodia, the Earthwalkers Guesthouse, as a Dishwasher and the only English she knew was how to introduce herself. Since then, with the support of Soria Moria’s Higher Eductiona Program, Sokha has completed a Degree in Tourism Management and is studying for her Masters in Business Administration. Kristin knew from the outset of her Tourism and Hospitality studies that she wanted to start a business that helped the community in its local area and she now considers stories of personal development like Sam Sokha’s to be her greatest achievement.

Concerned about what would happen to the people who have become reliant upon them for their livelihoods if they returned to their native Norway, Kristen and her partner, Ken Oishi, have begun the process of transferring ownership of the hotel to its employees. To date they have transferred 51%, with the level of share ownership decided by seniority. They believe that sharing ownership gives employees an independent income and accountability. The remaining 49% are to be transferred within the next two years. Since the Soria Moria Boutique Hotel opened in 2007 it has garnered a number of responsible tourism accolades and worldwide media attention, but praise is not Kristin’s motivation. The guiding principle for both Kristin and Ken is that tourism businesses should benefit the destination and local people. Kristin said: “We feel that you are part of the local community, so you should contribute.”

The CTO’s vision is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination by 2017, and its purpose is Leading Sustainable Tourism - One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean. The organisation provides specialised support and technical assistance to members in the areas of sustainable tourism development, marketing, communications, advocacy, human resource development, research and information technology. The CTO has been staging its Annual Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, otherwise known as the Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC) since 1997. This Conference is part of the information dissemination and regional awareness component of CTO’s Strat-egy for Sustainable Tourism. The next conference will be held in Trinidad and Tobago, 15-18 April 2013.



La Villa Bethany is a boutique homestay guesthouse in Landour, Mussoorie, India Mr Amarjeet Kudle, Owner and Chief Host Why did you decide to open La Villa Bethany? My wife and I have collectively spent almost 30 years working for the best hospitality chains in India. However, we always aspired to be social entrepreneurs and work towards helping the underprivileged to become self-reliant. On one of our holidays we came across a heritage property in an eco sensitive area which was in a dilapidated state. We approached the owners and struck a win-win agreement of leasing the property and restoring it back to its original glory. We believe that in an emerging country like India, social entrepreneurship forms the cornerstone for development. What started as an attempt to save a heritage property has today become an eco sensitive inn, not only generating a lot of local employment but also being looked upon by the locals as a treasure trove of local history. Why did you decide to use local suppliers and employ

local staff? We strongly believe that if India is to progress, the migration from the smaller towns to the bigger cities has to stop. This will happen only if the locals have sustainable employment in their own towns and villages. We also found some local youths from disadvantaged backgrounds who had a great attitude and great aptitude but nobody to guide them, so we decided to take them under our wings, train them and now they help us run this place. What about La Villa Bethany makes you the most proud? We started operations in May 2011 with a staff of seven local youths from very underprivileged backgrounds, some of whom grew up in foster homes because their families could not afford to bring them up. These are youths who have never even seen inside a deluxe hotel or restaurant and yet in such a short time, thanks to their effort and hard work, we have already been recognised by Trip Advisor with a Certificate of Excellence and are now a finalist in the Responsible Tourism Awards. It just goes to show how much talent is there waiting to be groomed.

BULUNGULA LODGE The Bulungula Lodge is a backpackers lodge on South Africa’s wild coast. Dave Martin, Co-owner and Founder Why did you decide to create a responsible tourism business? I was involved in community development projects prior to starting the Bulungula Lodge. My passions have always been independent travel and community development, and this project combined the two. You faced a lot of challenges when you first started the Lodge, such as learning the local language, Xhosa. Why did you put yourself through that? The need was great and I like a challenge. Why did you choose to build your business where you did? The location was beautiful and the community poor but very welcoming. Most projects like this fail due to community infighting over resources and benefits - the strong cohesiveness of this community proved to be a critical success factor. Why do you think responsible tourism is important? Responsible Tourism is

tourism with the bigger picture (environmentally and socially) in mind. We, as a species that consumes ever more on a finite planet, are faced with a fundamental challenge as to how long we can continue growing the way we are without destroying our environment and thus ourselves. At the moment, the vast majority of us just ignore the problem, put our heads down and continue doing what we have always done - even if it means we walk off an environmental cliff. There is a minority that at least tries to look around and find an alternative plan that is more sustainable. What are the rewards and challenges of running a responsible tourism business? The rewards are more interesting, intelligent guests and the feeling that one is part of the solution, rather than the problem. The challenge is that there is very little practical advice out there, as the technologies and practices are still seen as “alternative�. What about the Bulungula Lodge makes you most proud? The fact that Bulungula is increasingly being managed entirely by the local community.


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isit California is the official state tourism board for California and promotes the iconic Golden State travel experience worldwide. The U.K. is California’s top source of overseas visitors, and Visit California is committed to the market.


othing says luxury like the words ‘private island’, and Song Saa Private Island is certainly luxurious. With just 27 stunning villas set into the turquoise waters and lush vegetation of an island on the Koh Rong archipelago in Cambodia, the resort delivers on style, intimacy and picture perfect surroundings. Beauty isn’t only skin deep at Song Saa though, as its conservation efforts set it apart. The resort is pioneering biodiversity conservation as an integral part of their operations, and was instrumental in the foundation of Cambodia’s first marine reserve. Wayne Mccallum, the resort’s Director of Sustainability, said, “Before we came, people from outside the islands were using some very destructive fishing techniques in the area, such as blasting the corals with grenades. Now it’s amazing how the waters are teeming with life around Song Saa.”

Established, managed and enforced in close co-operation with the local community, the marine reserve’s notake zone has boosted fish stocks, as the regenerating corals act as nurseries. Wayne is passionate about the importance of integrating conservation with communities. He said, “If you want to achieve a sustainable natural environment you have got to take into account people’s livelihoods.” Now the resort plans to expand the marine reserve to ten times its current size, with the support of the local community. Not just concerned with marine conservation, the resort has built hornbill nestboxes, and founded the Sala Song Saa, a school that teaches, among other things, organic farming methods and marine management. Wayne said, “We started Sala Song Saa as a collaborative project, to listen to people and provide them with options for sustainable livelihoods so they don’t have to overfish and can provide for their families.”

The resort employs a team of five environmental management professionals who are tasked with not just conservation and community engagement, but also recognising and mitigating the impacts of tourism on the island. This commitment has not been without a cost. Wayne said of his team, “What makes us different from other similar set ups is that elsewhere they have conservation people who come from the hospitality side, whereas we are conservationists first. We have had to learn how to be hospitable.” From the outset of the resort’s development owners Rory and Melita Hunter were determined their development on Song Saa would not have a detrimental effect on the island’s natural beauty and local communities. Now the resort is recognised regionally for its conservation activities, and Wayne is proud to be part of the project. He said, “Seeing alternative practises work — it makes me feel good to be involved in what Song Saa is doing.”

As one of the most environmentally progressive states in the U.S.A., with 20 percent of its land protected by local, state and national parks and wildlife refuges, California is an exciting place to experience diverse and bountiful natural beauty. With more and more California tourism businesses implementing sustainability-minded practices – from spas to ski resorts, wineries and restaurants to hotels and attractions – visitors can enjoy the wholesome California lifestyle with minimal impact on the environment. The California tourism industry is dedicated to preserving the state’s stunning natural resources and incomparable quality of life for the enjoyment of generations to come. Visit California salutes the ecoingenuity, sustainable innovation and progressive practices of the properties nominated for the “Best Accommodation for the Environment” category.

BOHINJ PARK ECO HOTEL The Bohinj Park Eco Hotel is an eco resort and spa on the edge of the Triglav National park in Slovenia Anze Cokl, Executive Director Why did you decide to start Bohinj Park Eco Hotel? We wanted the hotel and all that we develop to be sustainable and add a little piece in the mosaic trying to leave nature as it is to the biggest possible extent so that future generations can enjoy it. Why are you committed to sustainability and green issues? I was raised that way by my parents. Starting off from the lowest social standards in my childhood, I got certain personal values from my parents, which, even now, after many years and family prosperity, are still reflected in our family’s business venues. What do you think is the hotel’s greatest achievement? Given the initial problems we had, with two really bad winters, which prolonged the otherwise record-speed construction (it was built from the ground up in 15 months!) and burnt much of our much needed start-up

capital, that in turn meant we struggled, especially on foreign markets as we had no funds for PR, marketing and sufficient sales staff - I think our greatest achievement is being among the best hotels in Slovenia and certainly the most recognisable “green” hotel. To sum up: becoming the most awarded hotel in south eastern Europe in under 3 years. What are you most proud of about the hotel? My staff. I know they (myself included) still have a long way to go to become as professional as I want them to be, but most of them are very willing to learn and progress, and most of all, they are there with their hearts. What does that mean? When a maid in the darkest corner of the hotel smiles at a guest and says a genuine hello, this by far outweighs all strict professionalism and “business-like” gestures. I find well-presented, honest people with a heart much, much better when it comes to interacting with guests. When they (myself included) master the top-end skills which are sometimes expected of them by the most demanding guests, I would say it would be hard to find a better match for the job.

MALIBA MOUNTAIN LODGE Maliba Mountain Lodge is a 5-star mountain retreat in the Royal Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho within the Ts’ehlanyane National Park. Chris McEvoy, Director Why did you start Maliba Mountain Lodge? This project was always about getting involved in a very poor but very beautiful community. We used 95% local labour on the construction project, after which we then kept on the best construction workers to work in the lodge and now 90% of the hotel’s employees, 40 in total, are from the local community. Why do you believe in working with the community? Even though it’s our lodge, it’s also the local community’s lodge, because they have been involved since the planning stages. We always wanted the lodge to be the centrepiece of social and ecological regeneration. The Maliba Development Trust, which is fully funded from lodge profits, has so far supported the maintenance of five schools in the area, with two more planned, and two community centres which are used for community support projects, such as business skills training, and adult English classes.

Why do you believe in Responsible Tourism? I’m confident that’s the way tourism will go in the future. The demand will be for much smaller businesses. People will want something a bit different, an experience. We would not have been able to build the Maliba Mountain Lodge on a larger scale because the pressure of larger groups would have been detrimental to the fragile environment and ecosystems where we are. There was an investment to make, but Maliba Mountain Lodge is now very profitable, and when it comes to regeneration a little bit of money - used wisely - can go a long way. How does the Lodge support conservation in the area? The Lodge was built on a rehabilitated site that was formerly a workers camp for the Katse Dam Water Project. We have also established one of the world’s highest botanical gardens to showcase the indigenous plants of this unique high altitude alpine area, and started a vulture restaurant, where carcasses are put out, to assist in the monitoring and conservation of the endangered Bearded Vulture.


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outh Africa’s most vibrant city is proud of its green credentials, its most recent accolade garnered being the 2012 Arbor Award - bestowed by the by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to mark National Arbor Day on 2 September 2012.


awadee Reizen have been providing small-group adventure tours to the Dutch and Flemish market since 1983. Though they offer trips to over 150 countries worldwide, their main destinations are Costa Rica, Indonesia and East Africa. Now part of the PEAK Adventure Travel Group, the tour operator has a specific focus on sustainable tourism issues. In recognition of the global impact of climate change both on the environment, and in turn on the travel industry, Sawadee have targeted their sustainability initiatives on reducing their carbon footprint and minimising waste. In conjunction with Breda University’s NHTV Centre for Sustainable Tourism & Transport, they have identified transport from the origin to the tour destination as accounting for the bulk of carbon emissions (81%), and aim to reduce this figure by 6% from 2010 levels, by 2014.

The tour operator’s main strategies for reducing carbon emissions are to concentrate on booking direct flights to destinations, and avoiding domestic flights where possible. Sawadee calculates it has saved up to 10% of its carbon emissions so far on some products. As a result of sharing their efforts to date in tracking carbon usage and setting measurable targets at the Dutch Tourism Expo 2012, they have undertaken a carbon labelling scheme with other tour operators in the Netherlands. To reduce waste, the company’s headline initiative is the introduction of the Dopper, a reusable Sawadee-branded water bottle. Customers are encouraged to use the Dopper instead of buying bottled water, and where tap water is unsafe to drink, encouraging tour leaders and local suppliers to help them find ways to refill the bottles. Cleverly marketed through a

monthly photography competition for the best travel photo including a Dopper on their Facebook site, the company estimates it has reduced the number of plastic water bottles used per year by 80,000. By highlighting issues such as waste reduction in its social media marketing, the company has actively engaged its customers in reducing the impact of their operations, and established itself as an environmentally conscious brand. Its responsible tourism policy further cements its position as both an instigator and benefactor of responsible tourism. Sawadee have not solved the problem of the worldwide travel industry’s carbon footprint. What it has done is taken steps to assess and mitigate the impact of its activities. For a company that sells adventure to its a guests — that is an adventure in itself.

Johannesburg’s 10 million trees keep the city green, shady and attractive. They also help to clean the air of carbon monoxide emissions from cars and trucks, industrial gases, and dust from mine dumps. Added to this are the 17 nature reserves and 12 river systems running throughout Joburg, making it ideal for outdoor sport and leisure activities throughout the year. Apart from boasting the world’s largest urban, man-made forest, it is significant that Johannesburg is also the only South African city that is part of the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group. Created in 2005, the Group is a network of large and engaged cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally.

ITC SONAR ITC Sonar is a five-star luxury hotel billed as a ‘business resort’ 30 minutes outside the centre of Kolkata, India Niranjan Khatri, General Manager of WelcomEnviron Initiatives What role have you played in the hotel’s development? I change the inefficient to the efficient. So for example at ITC Sonar we have introduced measures such as subduing the lighting in communal areas to save energy, and monitoring the energy usage daily. During the hotel’s construction we ensured that natural ventilation was optimised, installed heat pipes to reduce the air-conditioning load in the chillers with eco-friendly refrigerant, and fitted a solar powered boiler. Why were environmental impacts and carbon reduction strategies integrated into the design of the hotel? ITC Hotels have, for a long time, been concerned with sustainable development, and we believe that carbon reduction is a global issue. Following the findings of Nicholas Stern, in the Stern Review, we believe that global economies should spend 1% of their GDP annu-

ally on addressing climate change impacts. We have a collective responsibility to take action. All industries have become inefficient, so we all need to read the writing on the wall. Few organisations have realised the value of questioning their current practises and retro-fitting efficiency savings. As far back as 1990 ITC Hotels were harvesting their own water and taking their hotels off-grid. We are constantly looking for new ways to save energy and reduce waste. At the ITC Sonar we have introduced measures such as recycling the flowers used in the hotel so their petals can be used for dyes in the textile industry - sustainable development unleashes creativity. What are you most proud of about the ITC Sonar? Aside from the ITC Sonar being the first hotel in the world to be registered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for Carbon Emission Reductions, I love the wetland ecosystem surrounding the hotel. From the hotel you can see the lotus flowers and fish swimming lazily, and it’s very relaxing.

BEECHENHILL FARM Beechenhill Farm is an organic farm in Derbyshire, UK, with two B&B rooms, two self-catering cottages, and a restored hay barn for functions Co-owner, Sue Prince Why did you decide to run the farm as an environmentally friendly business? We decided to go organic because we felt out of control, with multinationals taking over. We thought going organic would be a good way to differentiate our milk. Once we learned about the organic philosophy it became a way of life. We felt that, at last, we had found a proper way to live on the planet. Why did you decide to reduce your carbon footprint? We decided three years ago to focus on our carbon footprint, so we got an energy agency involved, and they helped us to identify savings. It’s not a big income generator and it was difficult to finance, but it was so fundamental to who we are and what we do that we had to go after it.

How do you share your experience of carbon reduction with other businesses? We want to share because we want other people to have the same experiences. We have been doing Pilot Light Demonstration Days to encourage the use of renewable energy in the Peak District, where we are very honest and open about the challenges we have faced and the mistakes we have made. We want to share our mistakes so others don’t make them. What do you get from running the farm as a tourism business that is considerate of the environment? It offers tranquillity, fun and giggles to be part of what we do. Here on the farm people look out for each other and value the environment. It’s a lovely place to live. What does being shortlisted for a Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award mean to you? It’s a fantastic endorsement of the direction we decided to take. It is a little bit lonely sometimes putting in time and effort for something that colleagues do not often value.


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ibraltar’s vibrant historic city and its natural history are pivotal to its tourism product. The Upper Rock is home to many, some unique, species of plants and animals. The Rock’s resident Barbary Macaques are the only free roaming primates in Europe. The Bay of Gibraltar is home to three species of dolphin, and a rich diversity of underwater life and wrecks.

Susan Bain, Western Isles Manager, National Trust for Scotland How has St Kilda been developed as a destination? As the UK’s only mixed World Heritage Site, a rare designation where both the natural and cultural heritage have been recognised by UNESCO as of global importance, we have a great responsibility to ensure that the very qualities that make St Kilda special are maintained or enhanced for future generations. We work to international building conservation standards and are fortunate that we have a team of knowledgeable and skilled people to draw on to ensure that all the building repair and maintenance is carried out properly, our mantra of ‘as much as needed, as little as possible’ ensures that the significance of historic buildings is not compromised. We are also immensely proud of our volunteer programme that gives people the opportunity to work hands-on

in a World Heritage Site. We are very aware that not everyone is able to make the long journey to St Kilda and we have developed a comprehensive website where people can find out about the archaeology, history, seabirds and life today. We also use local companies wherever possible to deliver goods and services – this is really important in an area like the Western Isles What do you think is the greatest achievement of the team behind St Kilda so far? The last permanent community left St Kilda over 80 years ago bringing to an end thousands of years of human occupation. Today it is still possible for any visitor, real or virtual, to get a sense of life in this community as the cultural landscape is virtually intact. The buildings stand as a testimony within the landscape to this unique culture, and because of the commitment and hard work of staff and volunteers over

the years it is still possible to wander along the Street and into long abandoned houses and imagine a very different world. It is a difficult balance to maintain an abandoned cultural landscape and to ensure that you maintain that ‘spirit of place’ without over-restoring and thereby diminishing its cultural and social significance. I think we have achieved that balance on St Kilda. What are you most proud of about St Kilda as a destination? St Kilda is one of those destinations that can have a real emotional impact and I hope that we manage to ensure that it continues to do so. By concentrating on the conservation of both the cultural remains and the natural heritage of St Kilda we will always retain its sense of place and its authenticity. I’m really proud that we have been able to retain the intangible St Kilda atmosphere.

In 2011 Gorham’s Cave, believed to be the last known home of Neanderthal Man was short listed for inclusion on the list for UNESCO World Heritage Status. The Gibraltar Heritage Trust and the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society actively work together with he Government to protect Gibraltar’s heritage and wildlife.

LIVERPOOL Rob Burns, Urban Design Manager, Liverpool City Council What role have you played in the development of Liverpool as a destination? I have been involved in all the major projects that have helped to raise the profile of the city. The city centre is largely covered by the World Heritage Site designation, and the delivery of so many large projects in this area has been accomplished within this sensitive heritage context. The two strands of contemporary development and care for historic buildings and areas have led to a unique identity. Why has Liverpool been developed as an architectural heritage tourism destination? Liverpudlians have always been proud of the city’s heritage, and it has been seen as a resource to strengthen its distinctiveness. Invention and creativity have always been a key attribute of Liverpool- the city that first developed innovations such as skyscraper technology, the world’s first public parks and the first commercial wet dock. The unique character of the city evolved because of worldwide trade links — particularly with North America. The ‘Cunard

Yanks’, the merchant crewmen who worked on the Atlantic liners, brought new forms of music to Europe, gave it a peculiar Liverpool ‘twist’ and re-exported it in the form of The Beatles and their Liverpool peers. Alan Ginsberg called Liverpool the ‘centre of the cultural universe’. The city’s quality is about both people and place, each inspiring the other. Investment in heritage is also an investment in its people. What are you most proud of about Liverpool as a destination? Whilst Liverpool has always been a port of global significance, its story in the last few decades of the 20th century was one of urban blight and huge socio-economic problems. The last ten years have substantially reversed this spiral of decline and the image of the city is now much more positive. Whilst not immune to the economic difficulties experienced in other cities, there is still a tangible ‘buzz’ in the city, and investors are still looking to deliver projects on the basis that Liverpool is a dynamic and forward-thinking city. It is this change in its fortunes that I believe has been the greatest achievement in recent years.



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he 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.

Helen Wilcockson, Travel and Tourism Course Co-ordinator What role have you played in the development of the programme? I went on holiday to The Gambia in 1999 and thought it would be a great idea to take travel students on residential, and so we did in 2000. I then met Adama Bah and helped him set up the Gambia Tourism Concern and ASSET (Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism) websites. In 2004, I asked the principal at South Nottingham College if I could bring a Gambian student here on scholarship as a thanks for all the help Adama Bah had given us. Lamin Bojang came first for two years and we then brought other Gambians over and trained them in both tourism and teacher training. In January 2008 I went to Gambia and, sponsored by South Nottingham College, we rented a small building and opened the The Institute of Travel and Tourism

Gambia (ITTOG) with Tejan Nyang as Principal and Lamin as teacher. The strategy is to directly involve the students in charity work and through this deliver innovative education around responsible travel and tourism. How is the programme helping students? For the Gambian students it helps them gain employment in the tourism industry as the college has an excellent reputation. For the UK students it makes them appreciate the UK’s education system and inspires many to move onto higher education. For both students it helps them to make more positive choices, challenge injustices and deal with situations more effectively. They both gain an understanding of other people and accept and embrace differences, as well as helping each other. They also learn to be open minded and develop their own thoughts and perceptions.

What do you think is the greatest achievement of the team behind the programme so far? To open the ITTOG and help with education in the Gambia, and to educate our UK students through the global citizenship curriculum we created. What are you most proud of about the programme? Everybody’s commitment and trust in the programme and of course the education of the young people — our future. How does being shortlisted for a Responsible Tourism award feel? Amazing, it has not really sunk in yet. We are hoping this may inspire other colleges, schools and even universities both in the UK and overseas to join us at Camp Africa and to make this a global yearly event with young people sharing, caring and beginning to form friendships that are positively life changing.

The Ministry has adopted the Sustainable Tourism principles developed by the United National World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO 2003 onwards and including the Muscat Declaration on Built Environments for Sustainable Tourism 2005), and encourages Oman’s tourism businesses to adopt UNWTO and related (e.g. ISO and IFC) guidelines and standards, and contribute to the wellbeing of local communities through community, social and environmental programs. In planning and 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 to enhance the longterm sustainability of the tourism industry. In restoring and managing heritage forts and castles, and managing reserves and attractions, the Ministry gives priority to the needs of, and opportunities for, local communities. The Ministry is now formulating a Responsible Tourism Policy.

SIRAJ CENTRE The Siraj Centre is the travel department of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People George Rishmawi, Executive Director of the Siraj Centre and Co-Founder Why did you found the Siraj Centre? Most of the tourism in Palestine is mass pilgrimage tourism, people visiting to follow their religion. They come in buses to visit stones. Our aim was to create a new concept in Palestine, to meet the living stones — the people who live here. Siraj was founded to create bridges between the local community and international visitors by offering a unique experiential product. When people on our tours hike through rural villages they stay overnight with a family and share a meal with them. To understand the culture of a people, you have to spend a night with them. What about the Siraj Centre are you most proud of? We are proud that we are able to show the hospitality and the culture of local communities. What made us successful was the people themselves. They are very kind and hospitable people.

If you are passing a village and a woman is making bread, she will offer you a piece. People who travel with us are very satisfied because they really get a feel for Palestinian hospitality. How do you work with local communities? We promote a product, and to promote a product you need to train the local communities, who offer the food, guides and homestays. So we train them. They have already the hospitality, but we train them about hygiene, communication, and how to express their culture. How do your tours benefit local communities? Through the Siraj programs, locals have been given employment opportunities to improve their livelihoods. Once excluded, locals, especially women, are now being empowered through inclusion in the decision-making process for the particular program affecting their community. In the last year our training programs have empowered 65 women from 20 rural communities. As a result, women are being seen as very important in the economic development and empowerment of their communities.

UPTUYU ADVENTURES Uptuyu Adventures offer bespoke tours in and around the Kimberly National Park in Australia Jo Camilleri, Co-owner How does Uptuyu work with different indigenous cultures?

to decide which of the values he was going to uphold. Tourism was a perfect vehicle for being able to legitimately practise his culture in his business, rather than having to make a choice. What about Uptuyu are you proud of?

Neville is an aboriginal person, but he is culturally committed to tell a story from the standpoint of his own traditional tribal group. If he travels into other tribal areas it’s not really appropriate for him to be telling their stories, he needs someone from that area. He says then he is a glorified taxi driver when he is delivering people to the other traditional owners across the area.

When Neville formed Uptuyu ten years it was based out of Broome, but in the first year of business Neville’s elders asked him to return to his traditional lands and take over custodianship of a property that had a lot of cultural significance. We are now 200km from Broome and having a very remote business, which has nonetheless stayed viable for 10 years, is our biggest achievement.

Why did Neville start a tourism business with a cultural focus?

What does Uptuyu mean?

It’s the other way around. Neville is a person who feels strongly in his culture, but working in the past for companies that operated differently he often felt caught between two different worlds. He knew that in the western business sense the expectation was to do certain things, but the cultural protocols he was raised to uphold conflicted, so he had

When Neville was working out the tour business he wanted he was driving for a company that had a fleet of tour buses with large groups coming through and he wanted to do something more personal. He was thinking of when he has friends and family come to visit and he says ‘what would you like to do’, they say ‘it’s up to you’. He wanted his tours to be like having an outing with friends where together you decide what you want to do.


Sponsored by



ioneers of responsible travel, Rainbow Tours’ beginnings were forged in the optimism and energy that followed the election of Nelson Mandela.


ncorporating 100,000 hectares of temperate rainforest, the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve is situated in the Valdivia Ecoregion in Chilean Patagonia. With accommodation ranging from luxury suites to rustic cabins, built largely with wood from the surrounding forest, the Reserve offers an array of outdoor activities, including year-round skiing on the nearby glacier, as well as visitor attractions and facilities, such as a spa and a variety of bars, cafés and restaurants. Huilo Huilo has successfully transformed the use of the Reserve from predominantly logging to mainly tourism. Owned by the Petermann-Reifschneider family, the Reserve’s development is a very personal story. Alexandra Petermann, Board Director explained, “My great uncle used to bring my father to this area as a child. When he saw the opportunity to be part of this place he took

it, and we asked ourselves, ‘How can we conserve this forest for future generations?’” Though the family business was logging, by 2000 the industry was in decline. Alexandra said, “We needed some economic activity to fund conservation.” When they approached contacts in land development to ask whether the land could be used for tourism, they were advised that the land around the central lake could be divided into lots, but the rest of the land was worthless for tourism. Alexandra said, “The surrounding forest would have slowly disappeared.” Against all advice, the family decided to develop Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, using tourism as a tool for conservation. Alexandra said, “Before, many people in Chile thought of the forest as dark and humid. I am proud that, based on the beauty of the place, we can bring people here.” Aside from changing attitudes, the

Reserve is actively engaged in the conservation of the critically endangered Heumel, a deer that is the national symbol of Chile. In 2005 the Reserve worked with the Chilean government to acquire a breeding pair of Heumel. Released into a fenced area of 70 hectares, the animals were fitted with GPS collars and dedicated rangers were employed to patrol the perimeter 24-hours a day. With the addition of a further female in 2007 the reserve now boasts 12 Heumel. The plan is to release the deer onto the wider reserve when a stable population is established. The successful transition of the economy of the local area around Huilo Huilo shows that tourism can provide an alternative to exploiting natural resources and encourage communities to value conservation. As Alexandra put it: “The Huilo Huilo development shows people that living in the forest is amazing.”

Their early vision was to ensure customers had an extraordinary holiday and, at the same time, their trip would contribute to the reconstruction of South Africa and the whole region. A ground breaking Madagascar programme soon followed, and driven by the belief that caring about the environment goes hand-in-hand with sustainable community development, Rainbow’s expertise now covers Southern and East Africa, the Indian Ocean and Latin America from Mexico to Antarctica. Des Walsh, Rainbow Tour’s General Manager, leads from the front with his passion for real, authentic travel that also makes a positive contribution to the communities and habitats our customers visit.

BEST FOR POVERTY REDUCTION REALITY TOURS & TRAVEL Reality Tours & Travel are the Award’s Overall Winners. Meet them on page 3


ourism KwaZulu-Natal is tasked by the Province to not only facilitate tourism programmes that meet the demands of the tourism visitor but also to grow tourism in a way that will bring economic benefits to all its stakeholders throughout the Province. We believe that companies such as the eventual winner of this year’s Responsible Tourism ‘Best for poverty reduction’ Award should be recognised as heroes and role models for the future of our industry because they are the ones that contribute most to the transformation process, and bring the benefits of tourism to the far flung communities and previously disadvantaged people on whom it can have the greatest positive and transformative impact.

JUDGES Harold Goodwin, Chair Professor in Responsible Tourism Managment in ICRETH at Leeds Metropolitan and Founder of the International Centre for Responsibe Tourism Justin Francis CEO, Graeme Gourlay Publisher, Circle Publishing Dr Rebecca Hawkins Considerate Hoteliers Association Debbie Hindle Managing Director, Four bgb Sue Hurdle Chief Executive, The Travel Foundation Fiona Jeffery Chairman, World Travel Market Ian Reynolds Chairman of Citybond Holdings PLC, Chairman of the Family Holiday Association Lisa Scott Travel Editor, the Metro Newspaper Jonathan Smith CEO, People Sized John de Vial Director of Travelife, ABTA Mark Watson, Executive Director, Tourism Concern Nikki White Head of Destinations and Sustainability, ABTA

JUDGING PROCESS Nominations — Rather than handpick our nominees, we rely on travellers and the industry to nominate those tourism ventures with exciting stories to share. This makes our Awards unique – we don’t pre-decide the winners, we let you tell us who should be in the running. Longlisting — Once we have taken nominations from the public, a team of expert researchers at the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT) process your nominations, conducting preliminary research into their responsible tourism policies and eligibility for the Awards. Questionnaires — Longlisted organisations are invited to complete a comprehensive questionnaire designed in conjunction with the ICRT and our judging panel of experts in the industry. References - References, both those provided by the nominees and from the judge’s extensive networks, are taken up. Judging Day — Our panel of judges meet to debate which organisations, individuals and destinations should be recognised for an Award. In a discussion chaired by Professor Harold Goodwin our experts from across the tourism industry use their considerable experience and knowledge in a round-table debate to choose the most innovative and inspirational nominees.


The Khaplu Palace & Residence is a restored Raja’s palace in the Baltistan region of Pakistan that has now been transformed into a luxury hotel Salman Beg, Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan Why was the Khaplu Palace restored?

Turning cultural heritage into assets, rather than being consumers of resources is the vision that led to the selection of the Khaplu Palace for restoration and re-use. The Khaplu Palace is the 4th such landmark building that has been restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture/ Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan in the rugged and magnificent Karakoram mountain range since 1991. The intention in all these restorations — the Baltit Fort (completed 1996), the Shigar Fort (2005), the Altit Fort (2010) and the Khaplu Palace (2011) has been bringing them back, not only to their glorious past, but to ensure they are brought back to life and become integral to local wellbeing as anchor-points for local and regional socio-economic development.

How does the hotel benefit the community? The restored Khaplu Palace allows for visitors, both domestic and international to visit Khaplu, thereby providing exposure. Rather than taking Khaplu to the world, it is bringing the world to Khaplu and there is attendant pride and confidence that comes with this. In addition, the provision of clean drinking water to the surrounding settlement is a clear benefit, along with the formation of local community bodies to help in governance, such as the Khaplu Town Management and Development Society, which has a fair representation of women. What do you think is the hotel’s greatest achievement? It is bringing back pride to local building styles that are truly harmonized with the local context and surroundings. The attitude of moving away from the traditional to the ‘modern’ is giving way once again to seeing the traditional building styles as being wise, and in fact as the best way forward in Khaplu, which is 8,000 feet high and subject to extreme weather conditions.

THE SANCTUARY AT OL LENTILLE The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is a small collection of private, full-service houses in Laikipia County, Kenya. Funded with an initial investment by Regensis Ltd, which is owned by private community-based conservation and tourism investors John and Gill Elias, the businesses was then donated to its community. Regensis Ltd continues to market and manage The Sanctuary, as well managing the conservation of the surrounding 20,000 acres of Conservancy. John Elias, Director Why did you start The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille?

Why do you focus your community development activities on education? We have funded the foundation of the area’s first secondary school and subsidise fees. We believe that education is the ladder out of poverty. Why do you think that working with the local community is important? It is important to work with communities for its intrinsic worth, but also because people who benefit from conservation become better and more ardent conservationists. What about The Sanctuary are you most proud of?

I was bitten by the Africa bug in my early 20’s. I always thought about wanting to do ‘something in Africa’, and more latterly of ‘giving back’.

I am proud of creating a virtuous circle: Conservation attracting tourism, which in turn brings community benefits, which enables conservation or community development, which benefits the planet, as well as bringing in a profit.

Why did you start a Responsible Tourism business?

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

The concept evolved during market research in 2005. I saw some wonderful lodges all over southern and East Africa in great conservation areas, but with little benefit going to communities.

Our greatest achievement is extending the Conservancy from its original 5,000 acres to its current 20,000 with increased wildlife, and doing this while not using fences, but just working with people to create an iron-clad community will to conserve.

THE JUDGES’ VERDICT Harold Goodwin, Professor of Responsible Tourism Management in ICRETH at Leeds Metropolitan University and Chair of the Judges of the Virgin Holiday Responsible Tourism Awards In 2012 the judges decided to make 32 Awards and on the judging day created a new category: Best Innovation.2 There has been interest from winners, journalists, those who have entered and been unsuccessful and others about the reason for the judges’ decisions. The judges can only award from amongst those who are nominated and who make the time and effort to complete our extensive paperwork. We know that this is an onerous task. Competition in many of the categories is stiff and often the differences between the winners and highly commended and the others who reached the final stage of the judging process are relatively small. Here I have sought, on behalf of the judges, to indicate what gave the edge, and the Award, to the winners and highly commended organisations and individuals.


Awarded to an airline, train, ferry or cruise operator, or other transport initiative with an innovative approach to managing environmental and cultural impacts.

Winners: Big Lemon Bus Company, UK and Green Tomato Cars, UK & Australia This year the judges decided to award two winners in this category, partly because there were a number of strong nominations and applications this year, but also to reflect the importance of taking responsibility for reducing carbon emissions in the provision of both public and personal transport.

Winner: The Big Lemon Bus Company3, UK

The Big Lemon Bus Company, founded in 2007, is a social enterprise4 which carries 380,000 passengers per year on its services. It runs public bus services, bus and coach hire, a festival coach service and a waste cooking oil collection service. All their vehicles run on biodiesel from locally sourced waste cooking oil, much of which they collect themselves in Brighton and Hove. The judges were impressed by the clarity and breadth of their core community service proposition, as expressed on their website: “We will use your oil to power our buses, saving CO2 emissions, reducing waste, providing local jobs, giving people affordable transport and contributing to a happier, healthier future for us all.” The services provided by the Big Lemon are funded almost entirely from their trading activity; profits are re-invested the businesses services for the benefit of the community. The judges were impressed by Big Lemon’s holistic approach to the sustainability of its business activities and its self-reliance. The headline proposition is running on waste cooking oil, but they are also thorough in their approach to composting, local sourcing, recycling and reuse, all their office furniture is pre-loved waste furniture.5 They run a book swap on the buses to encourage the re-use of books, it is planned to extend this to clothes. On the first Sunday of each month, travel on The Big Lemon is free, passengers are asked for donations to the Give Something Back fund, half of which goes to the staff social fund and half to a local community project voted for by passengers and friends.

Winner: Green Tomato Cars6, UK

Founded in 2006 Green Tomato Cars in London’s has grown to become the second largest private hire, pre-booked taxi, service in the capital.7 The growth demonstrates that there is demand for a green approach to private hire and taxi services in London and that both companies and individuals express their preference by purchasing this more sustainable service. The consumer proposition is clear: because Green Tomato Cars uses low emitting vehicles, customers can be confident that they are getting from A to B in the greenest way possible short of using public transport, cycling or walking. The judges were impressed by the leadership being exercised by Green Tomato Cars — this will continue in 2013 when they add 100 more Electric Vehicles and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles, both of which give off zero exhaust pipe emissions, to their fleet. With a fleet of 300 vehicles on the road Green Tomato Cars emit 238.4 g/mile less than an average black cab. Over the 18 months from January 2011 to June 2012 the Green Tomato cars travelled over 5 million miles saving an estimated 1,300 tonne of emissions. Green Tomato Cars has exerted leadership in the industry with new firms offering similar services over the last two years. Eight Green Tomato Cars use the Prius which emits no particulate matter or nitrous oxides, significantly contributing to improvements in air quality in London. Green Tomato Cars offset double the amount of CO2 they emit, they are currently supporting a project in Brazil which switches ceramics factories from using heavy fuel oil to renewable biomass and waste products.

Highly Commended: Grand Canyon Railway, USA8

When Xanterra Parks & Resorts acquired the Grand Canyon Railway in 2007, the logistics of operating a fleet of steam and diesel locomotives within the company’s sustainability guidelines presented major challenges. Each steam train round trip consumed 12,000 gallons of water, 1,200 of diesel and petroleum-based lubricants. In 2009, Grand Canyon Railway put the old steam engines 29 and 4960 back into service using 100-percent renewable waste vegetable oil collected from their restaurants at the Grand Canyon, and eliminating engine idling, a reduction in carbon emissions of 26,856 pounds per train trip has been achieved. Since 2008 Grand Canyon Railway has reduced diesel, water, and overall fossil-fuel consumption by 51%, 61%, and 34.6%. Water conservation strategies have included rainwater and snowmelt harvesting to avoid depleting the aquifer, and reusing treated waste water to generate steam. By implementing a Chemical Management Control Program, the railway has banned F-listed chlorinated solvents used for cleaning resulting in a 98% decrease of hazardous waste generation.

Highly Commended: New Forest Tour, UK9

The New Forest Tour is a network of four open top buses operating two circular routes in the New Forest National Park. The New Forest Tour operates between June and October and is instrumental in reducing congestion in the New Forest and stimulating economic growth, whilst providing a unique and memorable visitor experience for its customers. The New Forest Tour10 is funded through a combination of revenue from ticket sales and income from strategic marketing partnerships with tourism businesses in the New Forest National Park. Many initiatives taken to establish public transport in national parks fail. Between the years 2006 and 2011 the number of operating days has increased from 100 to 130 and the average number of passengers per day from 90 to 259. Roughly 50% of New Forest Tour customers arrive at the point at which they join the Tour by private car. If it is assumed that had they had not joined the New Forest Tour, they would have made a journey of equivalent length by private car, and assuming an average group size of two11 this amounts to a saving of ±147,000 miles.

BEST TOUR OPERATOR FOR PROMOTING RESPONSIBLE TOURISM Awarded to a tour operator with an innovative approach to educating and inspiring travellers about their responsible tourism policies and practices, issues in their destination, and what they can do to be a responsible traveller

Winner: Explore, UK12

Explore was the winner of the ‘Best Tour Operator’ category in the Virgin Responsible Tourism Awards in 2008 and Highly Commended in the Awards in 2005. The judges were impressed by the thoroughness of Explore’s approach to placing Responsible Tourism principles at the core of its business model. They employ local leaders and guides, and use small, local and family-run hotels, restaurants and facilities wherever possible. This benefits the local community economically at the same time as ensuring that their customers have a more authentic travel experience. Explore were able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the judges that they have campaigned against the road being built through the Serengeti, offset all international flights for customers and staff, briefed customers to avoid littering beaches and trails, and briefed agents not to anchor and customers not to stand on reefs whilst snorkelling. On their tours in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, they provide a 20 litre cask of potable water which is filled up regularly so that customers can re-fill their own water bottles without having to buy new plastic bottles of water. In November Explore began to operate again to Myanmar after a 16-year absence. They do not use junta-owned hotels, flights or other services and they minimise traveller contact with the government as much as possible. Explore were also able to demonstrate that they are engaging their travellers in their Responsible Tourism approach helping them to understand better what they do and how they can get involved. Their Responsible Tourism pages give information to customers about how they can make their trips more responsible both before and during their trip, as well as when they return home. They have successfully piloted ‘RT cards’ on their tours in India, given to customers at the beginning of their tour, the cards outline what they can do to help the local community and environment that they are visiting. They also engage with post-graduate tourism training and organise an Explore Goes Green Day to engage Explore staff, agents, suppliers and travellers all over the world.

Highly Commended: None

The judges looked closely at the other nominations and completed application forms in this category and reluctantly decided that no other operator had demonstrated in the application form that they had done enough to merit an award. Many of the applications reported initiatives directly connected with the preservation of their product, which, although laudable in themselves, are in their obvious business interests to support. The judges have looked for initiatives that “go the extra mile”, which we would not normally expect a company in their market or of their size or nature to do. The judges were not convinced that any of the other applicants had achievements significant enough to merit an award. Surprisingly, given the focus of the award this year on issues in their destination and what travellers can do to be a responsible traveller, the judges felt that few companies made the most of the communications section of their applications and some misinterpreted this as an opportunity to report the ways in which they had been congratulated on their achievements in Responsible Tourism by their clients and communities.


Awarded to a tourism organisation with an inspiring approach to protecting, conserving and promoting the cultural heritage and traditions of local people.

Winner: South Nottingham College13 in Partnership with the Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia14, UK and The Gambia

The Gambia is often seen as a traditional cheap winter sun destination six hours flying time from northern Europe, but it is a great deal more than that. The Gambia has sunshine, but it has little built cultural heritage, it has very good bird watching, but none of the traditional game parks — what it has in abundance is a rich living cultural heritage, friendly people who enjoy engaging with tourists. It is this opportunity for engagement with the cultures of The Gambia that accounts for the high level of repeat visits. The judges were impressed by the strength of the partnership between South Nottingham College and the Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia (ITTOG). Like all good partnerships it is based on mutual respect, shared values and reciprocity. The relationship has grown since 2000 into the partnership that is ITTOG. South Nottingham College provides courses at ITTOG and played a major role in securing its establishment, winning the endorsement of the Gambian Training Authority and developing the curriculum and staffing. The curriculum team’s strategy of directly involving students in the charity work 15 undertaken in Gambia and in this way delivering unique, aspirational and innovative education around responsible and sustainable travel and tourism, has contributed to the success. The judges were impressed by the way in which the partnership between South Nottingham College and ITTOG has delivered benefits for both organisations and their students. The partnership has helped to deliver better results for students in both Nottinghamshire and The Gambia. This is a unique, although replicable, programme using vocational education and training in Responsible Tourism to develop the aspirations of young people to do their bit in making the world a better place. It brings socio-economic and cultural benefits to The Gambia and to Nottingham, a city ranked 20th worst in England and Wales on the index for multiple deprivation.

Highly Commended: Siraj Centre, Palestine

The Siraj Center16 for Holy Land Studies is part of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People. It’s vision is to “enhance the image of Palestine as a safe destination for responsible experiential tourism, and not only as a pilgrimage destination, by increasing the number of conscientious visitors coming to Palestine…. our aspirations also involve impacting both local hosts and visitors through intercultural exchanges and life-enriching experiences at the grassroots level, as well as increasing economic benefits to people living in rural communities.”17 An accredited tourist and travel agency the Siraj Centre is part of the Palestinian Initiative for Responsible Tourism18 (PIRT). Believing that both tourists and hosts can be enriched by human encounters through tourism, PIRT seeks to transform current tourism patterns in the Holy Land by encouraging pilgrims and tourists to include Palestinian cities, towns and villages in their itineraries to meet the Palestinian people and learn about their culture in order to achieve a more equal distribution of tourism revenues. Founded in 1990 the Siraj Centre had 367 guests in 2011. Pioneers of tourism, they have developed walking and biking routes, volunteering, home stays, and exchanges between locals and visitors, contributing to re-branding Palestine as a destination for experiential travel and human connection. They work with 140+ communities.

Highly Commended: Uptuyu Adventures, Western Australia19

Founded in 2002 Uptuyu Adventures is about travelling with your mates, it is about sharing the Aboriginal heritage with travellers and tourists. They offer the opportunity to take the photo of a tree and to understand what it is about, what it means.20 Uptuyu Adventures is a small operator; it carried 100 guests in 2011, offering a “designer tour21 … the opportunity to have a true outback Kimberley experience with an authentic Aboriginal flavour.”22 In 2010 Uptuyu formed a joint venture partnership with Aboriginal community owned Oongkalkada Wilderness Camp which provides a venue for cultural training, and hosting services for meetings and events. Uptuyu events at Oongkalkada provides for cultural inclusion in a location that has traditionally been used for training, trading, healing and decision making for many thousands of years. The partnership has created a culturally approved revenue base for the Oongkalkada Community and enabled land title to be granted to the traditional custodians, the wilderness

camp and cultural training centre create opportunities for new micro industries to emerge out of the community and allow for more families to return to traditional country and practice their culture.


Awarded to a tourism destination, heritage site or attraction that protects and promotes built cultural heritage.

Winner: St Kilda,23 UK

The National Trust for Scotland owns and manages the St Kilda archipelago with the primary management objective of conserving the island’s outstanding heritage. St Kilda, the remotest part of the British Isles in is Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Originally inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list for its natural heritage in 1986 its cultural heritage was listed in 2005. The village was abandoned in 1930 by the remaining 36 islanders when life on St Kilda became unsustainable and the buildings rapidly fell into disrepair. Between 2008 and 2010 the National Trust for Scotland, who own the island, carried out a sympathetic restoration refurbishing the manse as a visitor centre providing staff accommodation, office space, a shop and public toilets. This is an excellent of using tourism to maintain the integrity of the natural and cultural heritage of a very special place, a place that needs to be managed to ensure that non-native species are not introduced and that climbing on the sea stacs does not disturb the nesting birds. The annual maintenance includes the re-tarring of roofs, lime washing of the manse and Factor’s House, maintaining open field drains and re-turfing cleit roofs. There are over 1,300 cleits (storehouses) and several kilometres of wall, maintained over the past 50 years by around 200,000 hours of labour contributed by people on working holidays. There are no tourism businesses based in St Kilda, but visitor number has grown from 1,978 in 2007 to 3,107 in 2011 and tourism to the islands makes a significant contribution to the economy of the Western Isles. The judges saw the National Trust for Scotland’s work in St Kilda as a good example of the contribution which tourism can make to the maintenance of built cultural heritage in remote areas.

Highly Commended: Liverpool,24 UK

Liverpool is by contrast a densely populated urban area with about 30 million visitors per year. The Management Plan for Liverpool’s World Heritage Site25 seeks to manage it as an exemplary demonstration of sustainable development and heritage-led regeneration, and to ensure sustainable access for all. Liverpool has the largest Heritage Open Days programme in the country outside London, with over 70 venues and organisations across the city involved in the 2012 programme which has been extended to a Heritage Open Month. Liverpool’s conservation estate extends beyond the World Heritage Site to 2,500 plus listed buildings, 36 conservation areas, 10 historic parks and gardens, amounting to 10% of Liverpool’s built environment. Liverpool City Council has put aside of £4.6 million of public funding to encourage owners of historic buildings to conserve them and bring them back into beneficial use. The Council has taken pro-active approach to dealing with Buildings at Risk resulting in a substantial decline in the number of buildings at risk from 13% of the listed buildings to 4%, this is below the national average. A survey in 2008 showed that Liverpool’s World Heritage Site status was an important or very important factor in the decision to come to Liverpool for 72% of the visitors. The visitor economy has played a significant role in maintaining Liverpool’s rich architectural heritage.


Awarded to an organisation or programme with a replicable and inspiring approach to reducing the carbon intensity of travel.

Winner: Sawadee Reizen,26 Netherlands

Sawadee Reizen is part of the PEAK Adventure Group, carrying 8,000 passengers per year on 150 trips worldwide. Sawadee has recognised that climate change is an urgent issue and that the tourism industry is both impacted by climate change and is a growing contributor to the problem. The judges were impressed by the clarity of Sawadee’s understanding of the issue, their acceptance that tourism contributes to the problem, and their willingness to begin to address the issue of their carbon pollution. Sawadee chose to work with NHTV’s27 Centre for Sustainable Tourism & Transport (CSTT), one of the world’s leading centres of expertise on tourism and climate change to identify Sawadee’s carbon footprint (CF). The bulk of Sawadee trip carbon emissions are produced by origin-destination transport (81%), followed by accommodation (11%) and local transport (8%). Using the financial year 2010 Sawadee has established a target of reducing its average CF per pax per day by 6% by the financial year 2014, and is using the independent experts at NHTV’s CSTT to undertake the auditing. Sawadee is moving from using indirect to direct flights, reduced the number of domestic flights used during trips, spending more days in destinations with lower carbon footprints, increased the length of trips and encouraged extensions to reduce carbon pollution per day, and using the train to reach hub airports rather than flying to them. Sawadee have identified that changing to direct “point-to-point” flights as the most effective way of reducing the carbon footprints of trips, reducing carbon emissions by an average of 10%. The judges were also pleased to see that Sawadee’s initiative has resulted in a shared project engaging with other Dutch tour operators to introduce a carbon-label across a number of brands.

Highly Commended: Beechenhill Farm,28 UK

Beechenhill Farm is an organic dairy farm in the Peak District National Park with two en-suite B&B rooms, two self-catering cottages; and a restored Hay Barn for weddings and courses. The farm also offers renewable technology demonstration days. They reduced their carbon footprint from 41 to 14.4 tonnes (by 64.8%) over the last three years whilst the business has continued to grow. This has been achieved by installing low energy lighting, solar photo–voltaic panels and a pellet biomass boiler. They collect guests from the local railway station, hire out electric bikes and have an electric car charging point. Their next projects are to install a small-scale bio-digester and scale up their educational efforts to run three Pilot Light Demonstration Days per year to encourage more renewable technology to be used in the Peak District. This is a small family business making a difference themselves and encouraging others to follow their lead.

Highly Commended: ITC Sonar,29 Kolkata, India

This is a large hotel, or Business Resort, in an urban area offering responsible luxury to over 400,000 tourists and day visitors each year. It was first hotel in the world to be registered by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for Carbon Emission Reductions. ITC Sonar has reduced its energy consumption through smart design, the use of low energy appliances, highly efficient ventilation and renewable energy within a management system that uses sub-metering and daily monitoring to drive carbon reduction. Over the last five years they have reduced carbon emissions by 5,368 tons of carbon dioxide, and their plan is to continue to reduce carbon emissions at 5% per annum.


Awarded to a hotel, lodge or other accommodation with a positive impact on the local supply chain and local people. Three very different properties demonstrate what can be achieved by businesses that take seriously their responsibilities to the communities in which they are located.

Winner: Soria Moria,30 Cambodia

Soria Moria Boutique Hotel, with 38 rooms, opened at Angkor Wat in 2007, it had more than 3,000 guests in 2011. Soria Moria was founded and established by Kristin Holdø Hansen, who still works at the hotel as the Educator and Sustainability Adviser and Ken Oishi the investor who made it possible. Soria Moria only employs local staff, their training programme is designed to develop their careers; all department heads are locals. All the staff have personal accident insurance and are members of the National Social Security Fund. The hotel also provides training places for disadvantaged young adults, 16 to 21 years of age, and the trainees are paid a per-hour salary based on a normal full-time salary for their respective positions. The Soria Moria Higher Education Programme currently supports nine students at Bachelors level and three at Masters level. The judges were impressed by the innovative Employee Ownership Scheme through which the local employees have become partners and majority owners of the business, with 51% of the shares. The share ownership is determined based on seniority and responsibilities in the hotel. Through their share ownership the employees are able to participate in decision-making, this mechanism effectively empowers locals through responsibility and ownership; and they share in any profits made. The ambition is to build a successful business model that can be replicated elsewhere. To maximise the social impacts the long-term objective is to transfer the remaining 49% of the business to the local employees. The Soria Moria has many staff biographies on the website – a refreshing acknowledgment of their importance to the business and the guest experience.31

Highly Commended: Bulungula Lodge,32 South Africa

Bulungula Lodge is on the Wild Coast of South Africa, with ten huts (five doubles and five small dormitories). The community of Nqileni village owns 40% of the lodge and is an integral part of daily life there. As they say on the website “No fences, no crime, no beggars, no hassles, just friendly smiles. Take a walk around the village at any time of the day or night and you’ll be invited into the mud huts for a drink and a chat.”33 The Lodge has helped a number of local community-owned businesses start up34 horse-riding, canoeing, fishing, guiding, baking, sewing, cooking, wood-carving and the iLanga Fire Restaurant which is reputed to have the best sweet and savoury pancakes in Africa. Two women from the village have been professionally trained as masseuses and offer luxurious full body and Indian head massages. The lodge has created permanent employment for 24 people and there are 13 community owned tourism businesses creating livelihoods for 30 people, all this in area which before the founding of the lodge offered no employment opportunities. There are other welfare and health impacts to. For example, 53% of households have lost at least one baby to diarrhoea in past, now that the lodge provides clean drinking water for the village, there have been no further baby deaths.

Highly Commended: La Villa Bethany,35 India

La Villa Bethany is located at Landour and at 7,000ft it offers striking views of the Garhwal Himalaya. An old colonial cottage with seven rooms offering boutique homestays, close to the tourism hub of Mussoorie. Founded in 2011 the Villa has had 300, mainly long stay, guests. The objective was to conserve the colonial heritage and to employ and train underprivileged local youths. La Villa Bethany trained and now employs eight young men and women, literate and illiterate, who now have the skills required in the hospitality industry. La Villa Bethany is committed to use only local resources and developing local talent through training. All the materials used for renovating and refurbishing the property were locally sourced, and wherever possible furnishings and guest supplies are procured from local co-operatives working with women who are widows, destitute or abandoned by families. La Villa Bethany supports three independent taxi service providers who are local, vegetables, fruits and dairy products are sourced locally and they encourage guests to venture into the Landour Bazaar and Suakholi, a nearby village, to buy local handicrafts.


Awarded to a hotel, lodge or accommodation run with a positive impact on the environment and biodiversity.

Winner: Song Saa Private Island,36 Cambodia

Located in the Koh Rong archipelago in Cambodia, Song Saa, was founded in 2006 and has 3,500 guests annually. Song Saa was identified by one of its referees as “one of the only examples of a company seeking to integrate biodiversity conservation, research and protection in to a business model in Cambodia, and the only example from the marine environment”37 Song Saa’s strapline is “luxury that treads lightly” and in pursuit of this ambition the resort operates to a detailed Sustainable Management Plan which details both the issues and the management response. The management approach is based on the avoidance, remedying and mitigation of adverse impacts and these are identified for marine and fresh water, land, biodiversity, waste management, energy and staff and guest interaction with the environment. The judges were impressed by their thorough and holistic approach to ensuring environmental sustainability through annual conservation plans implemented by a five-strong conservation and community team. Song Saa has created artificial reef structures to support the rehabilitation and growth of coral reef and a coral garden research programme, promoted hornbill conservation, and created a research and learning incubator for domestic and international graduate research students. The judges were particularly interested in a pioneering initiative to promote a blue carbon sequestration project using sea grass and mangroves. The Sala Song Saa, the Song Saa School, provides environmental and agricultural education on the environment and agriculture for local people living in the Prek Svay Basin and youth training on organic soil husbandry. Song Saa has also supported local families in developing small-scale irrigation systems, providing seeds and educational workshops on organic vegetable growing.

Highly Commended: Bohinj Park Eco Hotel,38 Slovenia

The Bohinj Park Hotel is a 5* property in the Triglav National Park. Opened in 2009 it has 20,000 guests per year. The hotel is thermally insulated and is heated with geothermal energy, also used to heat the water used in the hotel, as the geothermal water cools it is used for flushing sanitation. Waste hot water from showers and washbasins passes through heat exchangers where the energy is extracted and used for heating in winter and cooling in the summer. The hotel uses low energy light bulbs and floor heating and cooling-heating grids. In 2010 the Bohinj Park Eco Hotel initiated the “Green weekend in Bohinj” where all accommodations in the region joined together and offered 10% of their rooms as free accommodation to those guests and visitors who took part in cleaning rivers, grass, woods, pathways in the region. The local tourist organisation now manages the event.39

Highly Commended: Maliba Mountain Lodge,40 Lesotho

Founded in 2008 the lodge is located in the Ts’ehlanyane National Park. It is a 5* mountain retreat set in a pristine sub-alpine wilderness valley deep in the heart of Lesotho’s mountains. The lodge was built on a rehabilitated site, originally a base-clearing site for the Katse Dam Water Project. The lodge assists the national park with fence relocation and maintenance, all black water is used to generate biogas and a botanical alpine garden has been created. The Maliba Trust, with the help of KZN Wildlife, Endangered Wildlife Trust and the community, has started a vulture restaurant41 in the park, to assist in the protection, monitoring and conservation of vultures, particularly the Bearded Vulture, providing a valuable attraction for birders and photographers.


Awarded to 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.

Winner: 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking and Empowering Women of Nepal,42 Nepal

Established in 1998 and with 1,000 clients each year, 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking works with their sister organisation Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN) a local grassroots non-profit organization, focused on working through tourism in Nepal to gain, gender equality, the elimination of child labour, peace and responsible economic development. They are most active in remote areas of Western Nepal, focusing on community development through tourism. EWN is funded by 20% of the profits of 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking; the remainder is funded by funded by individual donors, and grants. One of their referees, an international consultant who knows them well, commented that the three sisters “were able to perfectly combine profit and non-profit objectives and have by that set a strong example to other profit oriented companies as well as to the NGO’s in Nepal.”43 The judges were impressed by their work to empower women and by their success in combining business and social goals. In the trekking season EWN and 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking employs approximately 200 people, mostly women, local to the area in which they live. To address child labour issues EWN provide a home and education for girl children who would otherwise be working and a safe place to live and grow so that they can confidently return to their remote villages and share their education and skills. They also address the issues of child labour within our small lodge management training courses and guide and porter training. The judges were particularly impressed by the success of their guide training programme for women. Most of the trainees have been lower caste Dalits, over 1,700 beneficiaries now work within 3 Sisters Trekking, EWN or other organisations throughout Nepal, having benefitted from the training and empowerment courses giving them the confidence to move on in life and fulfill their dreams.44 Figure 1: Female Trek Guide Training

collect £10,000 a year for the charity from clients on their Red Sea fleet. This was raised by levying 20 pence per air fill through their ‘Breathe Life into the Oceans’ campaign. In the first 12 months they raised more than the £10,000 target, raising £13,494 by August 2012. Their HAYAH Reef clean-up itineraries promoted as ‘Not for profit... for the Red Sea’ are subsidised, and each of the 156 places sold receives a subsidy of £300 from blue o two. They have run a re-usable water bottle campaign and provided private medical insurance for all staff.


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

Winner: Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve,51 Chile

We have seen a number of initiatives in Africa to return commercially exploited land to conservation. The judges were particularly pleased to receive information about Huilo, Huilo which since 2000 has conserved over 100,000 hectares of Patagonian temperate rainforest previously used for logging. The owners have fundamentally changed the way in which they, and the local community, secure a living form this large piece of Patagonian forest, moving from consumptive wood extraction to conservation and sustainable tourism. Now 80% of the local economy is thought to be reliant upon tourism and the land is protected by its Foundation status. 20% of the local economy is still dependent on forestry, but forestry is now only 10% of what it was in 2000. The judges were impressed by the scale of the transformation at Huilo Huilo, the contribution it has made to the conservation of the Huemul, an endangered deer that is the national symbol of Chile, and the development of lodges with tours and expeditions operated by local people. Huilo Huilo addresses all three pillars of sustainability. It works to conserve the forest and particular species including the seriously endangered Patagonian Huemul and the Darwin Frog; it has worked with local people to ensure that those who used to make their living from logging and timber are now able to earn a living from tourism52; Huilo, Huilo has been a catalyst for the creation of new enterprises creating opportunities for local people to create their own businesses53 and fostering local culture through music and poetry workshops, two local festivals and the Ethno-Mapuche Route. Huilo Huilo is one of the founders of “Así Conserva Chile”, an organization that involves the majority of the private protected areas and areas of indigenous people and which seeks to conserve these territories for the future generations.

Highly Commended: None

This year the judges were not able to find within the applications received a group or initiative which was sufficiently impressive in its achievement to be commendable having regard to those previously Highly Commended in this category.


Awarded to an organisation that acts to reduce poverty among communities.

Winner: Reality Tours and Travel,54 India

There has been a good deal of criticism in the last year or two about slum tourism and rightly so, particularly where it is little more than voyeuristic exploitation. Reality Tours demonstrates that it is possible to enable tourists to visit a slum in India in a more responsible way. Established in 2005, Reality Tours had 10,000 guests last year. They offer city and village tours in Mumbai and beyond, this award is for their educational Dharavi Slum Tours which are offered in order to raise social awareness and to break down the negative image many people have towards slums. Reality Tours highlight both the industrial and residential areas of Dharavi, one of Asia’s biggest slums, to show the strengths, opportunities, challenges and issues of this very unique community.

Highly Commended: Ecocamp Patagonia,45 Chile

Ecocamp Patagonia has been operating since 1999 and now hosts around 2,000 guests each season from September to April. It provides eco-friendly accommodation and guided tours in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. The camp was built on raised platforms to allow wild animals to pass through and flora to grow underneath the structures. Subtle solar powered lighting is used to illuminate the raised wooden walkways at night, and sightings of puma and other wildlife close to the camp at night attest to the success of this approach. The camp is constructed of domes made of galvanised iron, canvas and wood. In 2005 the camp was relocated within the park without leaving a trace. The Ecocamp uses only solar and hydro-electric power, it uses composting toilets which need to be heated to enable the micro-organisms to do their work, and all waste is recycled or composted. Over 80% of staff are from the neighbouring town Puerto Natales or the closest city Punta Arenas. Porters are employed as freelancers but they are paid above the national minimum wage and share in the tips with the guides. Their ambition is clearly stated: “EcoCamp takes care of its guests and the environment, recognising that both are essential to a successful Responsible Tourism outcome.”46


Awarded to an organisation related to a beach or other marine environment, such as turtle conservation or a marine eco-tourism trip.

Winner: Moonraker Dolphin Swims,47 Australia

Operating in Port Philip Bay, Moonraker Dolphin Swims, founded in 1990, offer the opportunity to swim with wild Bottlenose Dolphins and Australian Fur Seals. Port Philip Bay is a UNNESCO biosphere reserve, 90 minutes south of Melbourne, is one of Australia’s last remaining homes for this genetically unique family of dolphins. With just over 150 of these Bottlenose Dolphins worldwide their conservation is of primary importance. Moonraker use a purpose built minimum impact vessel to offer visitors the opportunity to swim with the dolphins and the Australian Fur Seals in a carefully managed way. Moonraker has worked with the Dolphin Research Institute to develop codes to govern the interaction between humans and dolphins and fur seals. They have assisted in lobbying for regulatory reform of recreational boat traffic for the benefit of the seals and dolphins and helped with raising awareness of the water catchments and water runoff into Port Phillip Bay and the risks that this creates for the marine habitat and these charismatic species. The judges recognised the work which Moonraker Dolphin Swims has done to educate the public, school children, local and visitors, about the importance of conserving both the habitat and the species and its significant contribution to fundraising to support the work of the Dolphin Research Institute; active engagement in the research and removal of rubbish including fishing lines from the sea; and the removal of the invasive and damaging Northern Pacific Sea Stars. The judges were particularly impressed by the contribution which field notes made by the crew and tour leaders make to the monitoring to the populations and their and health; and the strict operational rules which include having no more than ten guests in the water at any one time with the dolphins and that the boats only remain within 100m of the dolphins, for a maximum of one hour per cruise.

Highly Commended: blue o two,48 Egypt

Blue o two won ‘Best in a Marine Environment’ in 2007 and were highly commended in 2008, they tell us that this “gave us a real boast and the focus we needed to come up with new campaigns and initiatives.”49 We recognised blue o two for its pioneering work on responsible diving. In May 2011, they signed an agreement with the UK shark and marine conservation charity, Bite-Back50 pledging to

They donate 80% of post-tax profits to their sister NGO, Reality Gives55 (which provides educational programmes for residents of Dharavi and supports a number of micro-enterprise and community initiatives including sports, beekeeping, and youth empowerment programmes). Their purpose is to raise social awareness and break down the negative image many people have towards slums. Guided by residents, the tourists and have the opportunity to purchase honey and candles and visit enterprises and community centres. Through their community work funded by Reality Gives they have provided English classes to 142 young adults, trained 17 local women to become teachers, supported a kindergarten graduating 131 students, and provided English classes in a local school for a total of 250 students in the first year of the programme. The judges were particularly impressed by the way in which Krishna Pujari and Chris Wray have established a success local tour operation with strong social values and combined that with charities in India and the UK funded by profits from their tour operator and donations from their guests and their friends. They not only run their own Reality Gives’ Youth Empowerment Program, Muskaan Kindergarten, Curriculum Development, Project Front Foot Cricket Program, English Language Support Program and activities at the Ashayen Community Centre they also recognise that they can achieve more by working with others and mobilizing funding support for them. The judges were really impressed by this fully integrated approach to realising the social purpose of using tourism to raise awareness of the reality of slum life, good and bad, and to raise money from their business and their customers to assist the community in Dharavi to develop. They have developed a form of Responsible Tourism that deserves to be adapted and replicated elsewhere; for this reason, as well as their own substantial achievements, they were selected by the judges as the 2012 overall winners of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards.

Highly Commended: Khaplu Palace and Residence,56 Pakistan

In 2008 the judges selected the Shigar Fort restoration project as the winner in the conservation of cultural heritage category. The Khaplu Palace & Residence is the latest project to be completed by the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan, part of the Aga Khan Development Network. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture focuses on the physical, social, cultural and economic revitalisation of communities in the Muslim world fostering community-based cultural heritage development. They have successfully combined conservation, restoration and re-use for tourism; and the rehabilitation of cultural crafts and historical assets. They have used an entrepreneurial approach, building capacity and developing skills aimed to enhance cultural and natural tourism, improving living conditions and reviving local pride and sense of identity. The restoration work at Khaplu has taken five years, building on previous experiences at Baltit, Altit and Shigar, the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan has maximised the local economic impact and the judges were impressed by the detailed measurement and reporting of both the social and economic impacts of the restoration programme in the construction and operational phases. There is more detail than can be reported here but for example between 2006 and 2012 individuals from over 400 households in Khaplu were employed and trained in construction work and the hotel employs individuals from 35 households.

Highly Commended: The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille,57 Kenya

The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille, a joint venture between Regenesis Limited and the community’s Kijabe Trust, started operations in 2005 and now has 500 guests per year. This is a high-end boutique lodge described on their website as “one of the foremost community-based conservation tourism properties on the continent, so ‘having fun, doing good’ takes on new meaning too.”58 Supported by the African Wildlife Foundation the community has signed a 25 year agreement between themselves and Regenesis to manage its tourism business and its Conservancy. The judges were interested to see that at

Ol Lentille the community has not let a concession, on the contrary the community itself has designated and protects its conservation area and the community owns the fixed assets of the tourism business, as well as earning an income from it. A number of women’s groups have started economic projects including an organized bead making project, an egg project and the building of the craft manyatta. The Ol Lentille Trust is a registered English charity and Kenyan NGO that attracts donations, principally from guests, and uses these funds for improvements to habitat, water provision, education, and healthcare in its neighbouring communities. The Trust has been able to fund the development of the first secondary school in the area with four classrooms and 87 pupils. Construction of a 20-bed Community Health Centre with elephant-proof fencing and solar power is underway. 85% of the funds for the poverty reduction programmes come from guest donations.


Awarded to an organisation offering volunteering opportunities, such as the chance to work on conservation or social projects. In previous years the judges have focused on the ways in which volunteering organisations have handled the selection and placing or volunteers, the ways in which they ensure the safety of volunteers and communities and the nature of their relationships with the community where they place volunteers as well as the volunteer experience. This year the judges decided to focus on the impacts of the programmes, as it happens this year both of those recognised for the awards focus particularly on conservation.

Winner: Elephant Human Relations Aid,59 Namibia

Founded in 2001, Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA) is a Namibian registered association without gain governed by a board of five directors without ownership or profit. EHRA was established to respond to escalating conflict between communal farmers in the north west Namibian desert and desert dwelling elephants, mainly occasioned by scarce water resources, and it remains highly focussed. It engages in educational and research work into elephant human conflict and its mitigation; assists the conservancies with game counts, game guard training and financial planning; and practically engages in mitigating the conflict by through the construction of water installation protection walls, it seeks to elephant proof the people’s water supply. The judges were impressed by the scale of the impact of their work. EHRA reports that in the areas where the elephants first came into conflict with local people there are no longer reports of conflict on water issues and there is evidence that reproduction rates in the elephant herds are recovering. EHRA estimates that they have reduced conflict by around 90% in the two main elephant areas where elephants are resident, by using 850 volunteers to construct over 110 water point protection walls, securing the water and livelihoods of approximately 3,000 communal farmers in the desert.

Highly Commended: Biosphere Expeditions60 UK, Germany, France, USA and Germany

Biosphere Expeditions is a non-profit organisation which takes paying volunteers to work on wildlife conservation in ten destinations. The judges were impressed by the success of their short-term, one and two week, volunteering programmes, the development of their local and international scholarship programme61 now with 14 sponsored places which has created opportunities for local people to participate in the conservation work; and their work on the global marine database which they have developed based on data from their site monitoring in Malaysia, Musandam (Oman and UAE), Honduras and the Maldives. They have also successfully engaged volunteers to assist the development of their programme of conservation work from the UK.62


Awarded for an article or piece of writing making a unique and inspiring contribution to understanding issues in responsible tourism. Must have been published in the last two years.

Winner: At Home with the Himba by Emma Thomson,63 published in Wanderlust, February 2012

The judges particularly liked Emma Thomson’s account of her homestay with the Himba and the makeover she had as she was re-dressed as a Himba woman. It is colourful and engaging and without being preachy, explains why this more responsible form of tourism makes such a better tourist experience. “Until recently, interaction with tourists for the Himba – pastoralists from the arid Kunene region in northwest Namibia – was limited to an hour’s bartering over handmade jewellery. A meeting which makes both sides uncomfortable and offers little opportunity for learning. Even worse, some communities have been experiencing problems with unofficial tour guides turning up unannounced with groups and walking into homesteads and taking pictures without permission and without offering food gifts or purchasing jewellery. Reliant on the sale of jewellery to buy sacks of pap (porridge) in town, the community is hard pressed to send them away. However, a new initiative by Kunene Tours & Safaris hopes to change that. Their new four-day homestay programme aims to return power to the village. They decide when they want guests and when they don’t. It will provide not only a source of income, but also a means of preserving their way of life. Homestays revive pride in the traditional among younger generations that might otherwise been drawn to towns in search of work. For the visitor too, it’s much more rewarding.” On the day before she leaves she is ogled by some tourists “for a brief moment, I catch a glimpse of life on the other side of the fence.”

Highly Commended: Search of the Alternative Palestine by Gail Simmons,64 published on Al Jazeera English

Gail Simmons’ piece draws attention to the importance of bringing more tourists to Palestine to create awareness of its heritage and to bring economic benefit. Gail deftly raises the issues of tourists failing to engage with the local community, again without being preachy. “As we walk George, a Palestinian Christian, tells me about the problems they face in getting tourists to come and spend time – and money – in his country. “When tourists visiting Israel come to Bethlehem, the coaches stop at the shops on the Israeli side so they buy all their souvenirs, like our olive wood crafts, from there,” he says… The Masar Ibrahim is just one of the many new tourism initiatives that Palestinians are creating to provide employment in impoverished rural areas and, by encouraging tourists to interact with ordinary Palestinians, challenge assumptions about a region that receives much negative press in the mainstream media.”

Highly Commended: Salt of the Earth by Caroline Eden, published in Geographical November 2010

Caroline Eden’s piece about the Agarias, the poorly paid salt harvesters on the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, captures what is special about the place: its wildlife including the gudkhur, an Indian wild ass, the large numbers of charismatic birds, and the people. Caroline writes about the “ ‘Agarias’ – people who work in an agar (salt pan)”, the way the salt is harvested and raises awareness of their way of life.

“Salt production began in the Little Rann in 1872; now, more than a century later, little has changed in the way the salt is produced, and life remains cruel for the Agarias. They work for a pittance (a worker earns roughly 140 rupees – about £2 – per tonne of salt) with only mirages and the dazzling whiteness of the salt for company. There are no shops or markets, no running water. Living in makeshift huts and camps, with little shelter from the sun’s glare, they rely on a mobile ration shop for food and tankers for potable water. There isn’t enough of the latter to go around, however, which results in health problems. There were plans for a water pipeline, but they were blocked by the forest department, which feared that it could disturb the wildlife.” Tourism, growing since the region was given biosphere status, Gail writes, is “placing yet more pressure on the Agarias and their livelihood, and potentially, pressure on the wildlife itself.”


This year awarded by the judges because they were impressed by the innovative new approach nominated for an award on another category.

Winner: Nature Observatorio Amazing Treehouse,65 Costa Rica

This is a new initiative with only 200 visitors in its second year of operation. This is a significant new form of eco-light tourism developed by Peter Garcar. The tree house is suspended in the canopy of a Nispero tree 25m above the forest floor. The judges were impressed by the great care taken to ensure that when the tree house is removed there will be no trace of it and the success that the Nature Observatori has had in working with local Naso tribal tribe members as guides and the local purchasing purchase of traditional artefacts for the tree houses. By demonstrating that a living tree can be more valuable than a felled one, Nature Observatorio has been able to reforest three hectares of former pasture land, as well as adding two more hectares of primary rain forest to their private reserve from the funds generated by the initiative. Peter Garcar’s description of the tourist experience is impressive: “we don’t alter anything. That includes our trails to access the tree house, from which we remove just fallen leaves. We rely on the careful and watchful eye of our guides who read the terrain to open a natural path. It takes about 40 minutes to hike along a small stream and then up to a ridge while surrounded by the beauty of untouched nature. As a snack, we bring along some dried fruit wrapped into banana leaf to avoid packaging or have locally grown fresh fruits to eat. We then arrive at the base of the tree where our Nature Observatorio tree house is suspended, having provided a totally organic experience, no stairs, no walkways, no foundations. The only visible sign of “human” integration into the habitat is the thin line hanging from the tree. All of our climbing equipment (ropes, harnesses, helmets, carabineers, gloves, etc.) we carry in and out each time, along with any other equipment or necessity that a guest might need for their stay.” “No branches have been cut, nor has a single screw or nail been used in this tree. The structure itself is not only zero impact on the tree, it collects rain water which is used for the shower and sink using 100% biodegradable soap and shampoo, allowing us to redistribute the collected water safely back to the tree, ensuring it gets the proper amount of water. The toilet is a composting toilet and a solar panel generates the energy for the lights and elevator. Recycled motorcycle tires are used as bumpers where the structure is touching the tree and a recycled fiberglass tub is used as our water tank. The rainwater collection gutters along the structure are made from bamboo, as well as the hand-rails for safety. All wood that has been used to build the structure is wood from fallen trees. The structure is as lightweight as possible, taking care, through the design, to distribute the weight along eight different nylon straps which allows zero impact on the bark of the tree.” The judges were particularly interested in the innovative fractional ownership initiative that could potentially protect through purchase a significant amount of forest. In exchange for one week a year in a tree house for up to four people, over 5 years Nature Observatorio can secure the conservation of 500 square metres of forest. The judges hope that the plans to open in a second location will find fertile ground and spread. _______ If you are reading this and thinking that you know of other, or better, potential winners of the Awards please nominate them next year, only those who are nominated and do the paper work, can be winners. There will be a similar report on the Awards in the November 2013 edition of Progress in Responsible Tourism. Links Published on license and with the permission of Goodfellow Publishers Ltd. The online Progress in Responsible Tourism journal and Harold Goodwin’s latest book Taking Responsibility for Tourism are both available from with a special discount of 15% using the code responsible12. Footnotes:

1. They were previously sponsored by First Choice Holidays 2. See Category 14: Best Innovation, below 3. 4. It is a registered CIC, a community interest company. The business is owned by members of the community, many of which are staff at The Big Lemon 5. To download a copy of their sustainability policy: The Big Lemon Sustainability Policy December 2011.pdf 6., 7. Since November 2010 it has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Veolia Transdev Group, the world’s largest sustainable transport company. 8.; 9.; 10.The service is operated by bus operators Bluestar and Wilts & Dorset, and is delivered in partnership with the New Forest National Park Authority. 11. An assumption supported by previous research 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. “your experience and chosen route of travel is Uptuyu” 22. 23. 24. , 25. 26. 27. Breda University of Applied Sciences (NHTV) 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. For details of the incubator see 35. 36. 37. Confidential reference from the country programme officer of an international conservation NGO. 38. 39.

40. 41. A vulture restaurant is an open place where dead carcasses of domestic and/ or wild mammals are placed with the intention of providing a food source for vultures 42. 43. Confidential reference from an independent, and very experienced, consultant who has audited the organisations twice in 2010 and 2012. He concluded “they are definitely one of the most impressive examples of responsible tourism I have seen… “ 44. The judges were aware of the criticism of 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking which can be found on the web. We have subsequently carefully checked the specific complaints and are satisfied that 3 Sisters have an acceptable and credible response to the allegations and that this is not sufficient reason to reverse the decision of the judges made on the judging day. 45. 46. Quoted from their response to our questionnaire for the Awards. 47. 48. 49. Supporting statement 50. 51. &ógica-Huilo-Huilo/184338561624584 52. 90% of Huilo Huilo’s employees are locals. 53. For example, beekeeping, chocolate confectionary, embroidery, wood carving and rustic furniture 54.,, 55. Reality Gives India is a registered NGO with the number 1704, under the Mumbai Societies Registration Act, 1860. In the UK 56. & 57., 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65.


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Torie Mackinnon, Director Where does your interest in zoology and the environment come from? I grew up on the coast of Sorrento, Victoria, a picturesque coastal village where our tours depart from. As a child I spent every moment I had on the beach, in a boat or in the water watching the amazing marine life that lived around our tiny seaside village. As I grew so did the distance I travelled, later visiting the seals, dolphins and the occasional Whale that would migrate past or enter into Port Phillip Bay. No matter where I’ve travelled I have always had a fascination with marine animals and the underwater environment. Why do you place so much importance on the welfare of the animals in the way that you operate? These dolphins are special, they are

a species who do not migrate and they remain within our coastal waters, so special that in 2011 researchers discovered that these dolphins are genetically unique, naming them Burranan Dolphins meaning “large fish” in Aboriginal. With just over 150 of these dolphins worldwide I would only operate in the way I do. I have always been fascinated that they are so trusting and gracious in their curiosity in humans. We provide them with nothing in return, only the entertainment of swimming with us humans. To see a wild animal swim up and around people, it is just amazing and hopefully providing our guests with an educational, sustainable experience may one day create an ownership for people to want to protect. They are so special I don’t know how people can gain any form of understanding from visiting them in an aquarium or swimming with dolphins who are trained to swim with people.

Why do you think conserving Dolphins and Fur Seals important? They are the stars of our tour. Very few places in the world offer people the chance to experience a wild natural experience where the seals and dolphins do not conform to our expectations or visitations, they are as they are. Our dolphins need protection, laws and regulations to ensure they have a future. Being residents they can’t leave if it gets too polluted, too busy or there is not enough fish; this is their home and we are very fortunate to have them on our doorstep. What about Moonraker are you most proud of? My team, they are the most creative, caring and inspirational people in the world, well I think so! Without them I could not deliver the service I do, they get the big picture and embrace the ups and downs. They make our business what it is today.

iji, ‘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 eco-systems, 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.

BLUE O TWO blue o two is a luxury scuba diving holiday provider, offering worldwide scuba diving travel, resorts and liveaboard holidays Jason Strickland, Director Why did you start blue o two? We started blue o two because of our love of diving, the marine environment, travel and the different cultural experiences that travel provides. By starting blue o two we were able to share this passion with others and present customers with the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic experiences that scuba diving holidays have to offer. Why do you place so much emphasis on staff welfare and conservation? I think that it’s important for a business to have longevity and so it’s imperative that we take care of the environment we work in. We also need to invest in our staff as they are a valuable asset to the company and key to the success of the business. Why not a normal business concerned only with profit? I don’t see a business as just wealth creation, I see it as a project. It is the success of the project that

is so rewarding and it would not be as satisfying if the project was based purely on profit. There are times when things could have been done just for profit but I feel that running a business should be about balance, and decisions should not always reflect achievement of more profit. It’s about having challenges and the satisfaction is gained from achievement. What about blue o two are you most proud of? The provision of an enjoyable, sustainable and rewarding holiday experience for our customers whilst still offering exceptional value for money. Mel Roach, Marketing Manager What about blue o two are you most proud of? I have watched blue o two grow from launching their first Red Sea vessel, M/Y blue Fin from a single table stand at the dive shows, build M/Y blue Horizon from scratch, to now run an award-winning fleet of four vessels. Summarising the blue o two achievements that I am most proud of; we offer the best operation and the best vessels at the same time as helping to conserve the environment in which we work.



here are some important differences between responsible and sustainable tourism. To understand them we need to go back to some of the lessons learnt from their forerunner, ecotourism. The much quoted ‘leave only footprints, take only photographs’ mantra of nature based ecotourism had three major flaws. Firstly, local communities felt strongly that tourists visiting their homes and environments should leave behind more than footprints. Tourism must benefit local communities as well as reduce environmental impacts. Secondly, the ecotourism concept was easily green-washed because so little emphasis was put on measurable and demonstrable results. Finally, all types of tourism not just nature based - could and should be more responsible. Responsible Tourism emerged as a powerful response to the discrediting of ecotourism, and in the wider context of the sustainable development movement. Responsible Tourism is about ‘creating better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit’. In that order; unlike early

ecotourism it places people at its heart.


We’ve seen past winners of the Responsible Tourism Awards come from all sectors of tourism – niche, mainstream, cultural and nature based. That all forms of tourism (not just nature tourism) should and could become more responsible is essential if we are to create the change we need. Responsible Tourism differs from sustainable tourism in several important ways. Despite important benefits to communities and conservation globally, Responsible Tourism, especially when it involves flying and associated CO2 emissions, does not and cannot claim to be truly sustainable. Sustainable tourism approaches tend to involve attempts to tackle long lists of social, economic and environmental impacts, Responsible Tourism does not. Responsible Tourism recognises that (apart from global warming,which is a global issue) the impacts of tourism are very different in different places, and that some impacts are always more important than others. For example, in Sub Saharan Africa water conservation is a big issue, in Wales it’s not. Switzerland does not

need to concern itself with poverty reduction as a priority, Peru does. The issues are different everywhere, and the solutions must be too. Furthermore, the 80/20 rule is true in tourism too – and it’s always far better to focus on a few big and locally relevant issues than global criteria. Most importantly, Responsible Tourism is about everyone involved in tourism, including the tourist, accepting and taking responsibility for their impacts and doing something about it. It’s not enough to perform lots of actions if there is no measurable result. It’s not enough to have good intentions and make a little progress, as many sustainable tourism certification schemes reward, if the progress does not and can never match the scale of the problems. Responsible Tourism is a local movement, being developed by different people in different ways around the world based on different local issues. It embraces all type of tourism, and is focussed on results, not actions. That’s why it’s working and flourishing. Harold Goodwin & Justin Francis


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orway is a country rich on natural beauty. Through history Norwegians have developed a strong relationship to nature and activities in nature. This gives a sincere engagement in protecting and developing our tourism in such a way that it protects and develops our local communities, food, culture, history and daily life.


Sisters Adventure Trekking, based in Pokhara, Nepal, runs small group tours run by women, for women. For the traveller, they offer a fresh perspective. As their website puts it, “We concentrate on exploring the mountains and enjoying all they have to offer rather than ‘conquering’ them.” For their guides they offer skilled employment in the impoverished west of Nepal. While the trekking and tourism industries in Nepal are male-dominated, 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking are carving out a space for women in the relative quiet of the Annapurna region of the Himalayas, far from the crowding and pollution of Everest. By training and employing female guides and porters the company is changing attitudes to women in Nepal — and changing lives. Lucky Chhetri, co-founder along with her sisters Dicky and Nicky, first saw an opportunity for women in trekking when she hiked to Annapurna base

camp during winter. She said, “It was difficult, but I thought, ‘Nepalese women can do this. They lead hard lives in the mountains’.” Aside from the women earning a salary, which by itself can pull a whole family out of poverty, employment also means self-realisation and self-respect. Lucky said, “I am proud when I see that our business has been a platform for women to know who they are, and what they can achieve.” Many of the women employed by 3 Sisters take the opportunity to study during the trekking off-seasons. In a country where, according to UNESCO, just 2% of female school leavers go on to higher education and more than half of adult females are illiterate, this is potentially transformative. Along with their sister organisation, the NGO Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN), the sisters have also founded a home for disadvantaged girls.

With so many families living in extreme poverty in Nepal, child labour in the tourism industry is a widespread problem as desperate families send their children to work for hotels and restaurants for a pittance. A survey by EWN found over 300 children working in their local area alone. Lucky said, “It was tough to talk about child labour, no-one wanted to know. But it was something that we felt in our hearts.” Now 15 girls between the ages of 5 and 17 live full-time at their home in Pokhara, with the permission of their parents. All the girls are in education and each year a few girls stay on to be trained as high-altitude trekking guides. Running now for 18 years, 3 Sisters Adventure trekking have established themselves as a growing niche in the Nepalese tourism industry. Their story should be an inspiration to all companies in gender empowerment.

A responsible tourism development is therefore vital to our tourism industry – and gives the best opportunities for the coming generations. We strongly support authentic experiences provided by people who are genuine hosts and represent a real “taste” of Norway. We are continuously improving our sustainable practice to maximize positive and minimize the negative impacts of tourism. Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards celebrates and showcase good examples, and gives a better understanding on how sustainable tourism can be operated. Norway take pride in having one of the awarded destinations in 2011 and look forward to see the new ones for 2012.

ECOCAMP PATAGONIA EcoCamp Patagonia provides sustainable accomodation in geodesic domes in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia Yerko Ivelic, Founder, Owner & Director Why did you start EcoCamp? Together with Javier López and Nani Astorga I’d been running Cascada Expediciones, an eco friendly Chilean tour operator, for about 10 years. In the mid 1990’s we’d expanded to offer tours in Torres del Paine National Park and we were searching for a way to make the most of the park and provide sturdy accommodation (wind speeds reach 180 km per hour!), which wouldn’t involve building damaging infrastructure. We’d seen how the then current solutions to accommodation - hotels, cabins, campsites and refuges - had all been designed without any real concern for their surrounding environment and were relying on huge, loud and contaminating generators, large excavations, badly designed septic tanks and inefficient energy sources, to name a few undesirables! Javier returned from a trip to Africa, enthused by the safari tents used over there. We knew these tents

wouldn’t last ten seconds in the Patagonian wind, but we kept thinking about how we could adapt the idea. One day we came across a book of old photography, including photos of the ancient inhabitants of Torres del Paine, the Kaweskar, putting up semi-spherical tents insulated with guanaco skins. Soon after, we coincidentally came across a book about Richard Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic domes. The dome idea suddenly clicked and we knew it would work - EcoCamp Patagonia was going ahead! What about EcoCamp are you most proud of? I’m proud when I see guests really enjoying themselves at EcoCamp, soaking up the experience of chatting away with their guide in the Community Dome after dinner and then braving the fierce wind outside to make it back to their snug bedroom dome. I see the proof of EcoCamp’s success in its guests’ reactions. We haven’t just built a sustainable hotel which is preserving the Park’s terrain and protecting flora and fauna, we’ve also built an unforgettable experience for all who stay. Seeing EcoCamp replicated in Chile and other countries over the last twelve years acts as further proof that the EcoCamp dome concept sells.



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amaica’s sustainable efforts have been ongoing for many years. Of particular note is the Tourism Product Development Company, which rolls out environmental awareness programmes in schools and communities across the island.

Peter Garcar, Owner Why did you decide to build the Treehouse? I have travelled a lot and seen the destruction of the environment and especially forests all around the world and I wanted to do something about it. I love to spend all my free time in nature, rock climbing and hiking, but I am also a structural engineer specialising in steel structures. So I put together my love of nature, my passion for climbing and my profession of structural engineering. Here on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica you can buy plots of forest and I saw that as an opportunity to protect part of the forest. As I walked through the forest I was thought, ‘how can people enjoy it?’ I concluded that we can learn from nature, enjoy it and protect it at the same time. It’s been a long journey since then because I worked on different designs for two years. The whole pro-

cess took about five years from the time that I purchased the land because I knew how to design and build it, but I didn’t know that much about the trees. I found that knowledge from indigenous Naso Teriba tribes who live in this area. You say the Treehouse is a guest of the tree, how is that? Because of the way the structure is built on nylon straps, it’s built without anything penetrating the tree, the tree is not harmed; there are no screws, no bolts, no nothing. After 5 to 7 years the structure will be removed, repainted and put on another tree. How does the Treehouse benefit the environment? Although we invite people to enjoy this beautiful tropical rainforest canopy, the Treehouse is also for studying an environment that is very much unknown. The people involved become educated about something they have direct connection

with. The Treehouse also generates income, which we use to purchase the surrounding forest, or damaged land that can be reforested. On this project we only have one Treehouse, so we started with seven hectares, but this one Treehouse has generated enough income that we were able to purchase an additional five hectares and put it under protection. If this formula can be repeated all around the world, deforestation would be reversed. Not only the flora and fauna would be protected, but the people living in the forests, like the Naso Teriba. What are your plans for the future? The idea is to build Nature Observatorio Treehouses on every continent. Because this project has been entirely financed by me this taking a little longer than I would like. We already have some locations picked and maybe with the help of a big organisation we could grow faster.

Jamaica was the first country to receive the Green Globe certification of hotels, while Sandals and Beaches Resorts were awarded the coveted Green Globe Award for environmental stewardship. Many of Jamaica’s resorts have fully developed environmental practices in place, including Breezes Grand Negril, Half Moon and Hotel Mockingbird Hill. Eco-based tours and attractions on the island include Green Castle Estate, Mystic Mountains and Reliable Adventures Jamaica. Environmental initiatives have been spearheaded by Dolphin Head Trust and Royal Palm Preserve, while Jake’s Resort only serves sustainable, fresh, local produce in its restaurants. Sustainable and responsible tourism remains at the heart of Jamaica’s tourism product.

Photo by Emma Thomson


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Photo by Emma Thomson

Photo by Emma Thomson


At Home with the Himba was published by Wanderlust, February 2012

longer so that both cultures could learn more about each other.

Why do you travel?

Did you expect to feel as though tourists were invasive when you went to stay with the Himba?

There’s a wonderful quote by Blaise Pascal, ‘Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.’ It may sound cliche, but I find the act of exploring foreign lands sets all your senses on alert, and that feeling of heightened awareness, continual newness and immersive learning is highly addictive. Why the Himba? Despite their obvious beauty, thanks to the women’s ochre-covered skin and braids, they’re also one of the few African communities as yet little changed by ‘development’. With threats to their land rights and uncontrolled visitations from tour groups, I wanted to see how these pastoralists had taken matters into their own hands by arranging a deal with a local tour operator whereby they dictated when they received guests, and ensure that they stay

Given the history of tour guides turning up unannounced and not offering compensation for tourists taking photos etc, I was, I’ll admit, a little apprehensive that they’d be wary of me and despite the new arrangement there might be some members of the village that hadn’t welcomed the decision. When you’re meeting people whose culture is entirely foreign from yours there’s a tendency to feel a little invasive and shy, but I was warmly welcomed. Has the experience changed your attitude towards travel? It’s reassured me that not all tribal peoples and their cultural traditions are under threat. Without question they face ongoing challenges, but they’re finding ways to adapt without sacrificing their heritage. If we, as travellers, can help them

preserve their way of life in a way and manner they choose, then that’s very encouraging. Can you tell me about a time when you have seen tourism helping a community or destination? When I worked at Bradt Travel Guides I was involved in the commission and production of the first travel guide to Sierra Leone. I was incredibly proud of the title because it heavily influenced travellers’ return to the West African country which was trying to rebuild itself following the end of the Civil War in 2002. I visited the country myself and used the opportunity to take part in, an initiative set up by Kate Humble that encourages travellers to take items requested by schools and charities in their luggage and drop them off before starting their travels. Via the website, I got in touch with a local school for orphans and took clothes, books, inflatable footballs etc. It’s a great way for travellers to give back to a community.


o mark the new government and their strong commitment to the focus on sustainable tourism, Trinidad & Tobago is excited to be sponsoring the ‘Best in responsible tourism writing’ category at the annual Responsible Tourism Awards 2012, for the second time. With the government dedicated to driving its initiatives to promote the best tourism experience, the decision to sponsor the Responsible Tourism Awards was a natural step for the twin-destination. Many visitors are attracted to the marine life and rich and colourful water reefs of Trinidad & Tobago. From May-September, sandy palmfringed beaches of Trinidad & Tobago are the backdrop to leatherback turtles nesting at night in an awe inspiring spectacle, showing the nature at its best. Trinidad & Tobago pride themselves on being eco-friendly and are home to the oldest protected rainforest (since 1776), in the Western Hemisphere. Along with this, Trinidad & Tobago is the ideal destination for avid bird watchers, with some of the most diverse bird species to be found in one location. In 2010, Trinidad & Tobago introduced the Green Globe programme, which supports tourism providers in establishing standards and gaining international certification around environmentally sustainable operating practices.

IN SEARCH OF AN ALTERNATIVE PALESTINE, BY GAIL SIMMONS In Search of An Alternative Palestine was published on Why do you travel? I have always been restless, which may be to do with my father’s job when we were young. He was in the army, and we moved every couple of years. I’ve always disliked routine, and travel is the perfect antidote to routine!

Also, it’s a way of helping the people and places that you encounter, by boosting the local economy and helping people value their cultural heritage. There’s no experience in travel quite as memorable as a homestay with an ordinary family - it beats a stay in a luxury chain hotel hands down! Why did you want to write about Palestine?

Why did you decide you wanted to become a travel journalist?

It’s a area of the world that people know very little about.

It stems from my love of travel - and from my enjoyment of writing, and creative activity. So the two things I like most are combined in travel writing.

Many people are put off by the negative view the region receives in the media, when in fact it’s a safe place to travel, with warm, hospitable and cultured people and some amazing places: East Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho to name just a few.

You write a lot about Responsible Tourism, why does the subject interest you? I am interested in people, and really getting ‘under the skin’ of places. Travelling ‘responsibly’ is the best way I have found of doing this. With much of mass travel, you only get to meet your fellow travellers, and don’t really get to know a place properly. You don’t really interact with it, or the local people.

There are many exciting eco-tourism enterprises going on there at present, such as the creation of hiking routes, homestays (including with Bedouin) and voluntourism projects. As a travel journalist with an interest in responsible travel, it’s a source of many great stories.

SALT OF THE EARTH, BY CAROLINE EDEN Salt of the Earth was published in Geographical, November 2010.

You write a lot about responsible tourism, why does the subject interest you?

Why do you travel?

I think responsible tourism can have a great impact on local people who are in need of jobs, extra income and investment. Also once a government sees tourism increasing in an area they are more likely to invest and develop.

I’ve been travelling to Asia on and off for 15 years now, nowadays I travel for work but I always have some leisure time too. I find even if you’ve been to a country more than once there’s always more to learn and explore. I like to find hidden or emerging stories in less-known destinations. Why did you decide you wanted to become a travel journalist? I wanted to combine writing with travel - it seemed like a natural match for me, I also wanted the challenge of getting published and establishing a reputation. On another level, some countries I’ve travelled to like Tajikistan and Bangladesh, I’ve felt that money coming in from travellers could really help to change lives locally with jobs and income. As a writer you have a powerful platform to promote, via the press, the individuals and companies who are changing the lives of locals who are involved with the travel industry in developing countries.

Why Gujarat? Gujarat is best known for it’s ‘tribes’ and textiles - but I discovered there was another interesting aspect to the state - it’s conflict between the salt companies and the endangered wild ass - I was keen to explore this more. It’s a beautiful State and I’m sure it’ll be the next ‘big thing’ in India. At the moment there are a couple of great locally-run resorts where you can eat traditional food and stay in ‘bungas’ (thatched huts). Has the experience changed your attitude towards travel? I have always travelled responsibly where possible - carefully distributing my tourist dollars, staying in places that treat their staff fairly, exploring the projects and causes that hotels or resorts assist with and checking their green credentials.


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ith a long track record in supporting sustainable tourism, both in its ferry operation and more broadly on the Isle of Wight, Wightlink is delighted to back the Responsible Tourism Awards. Wightlink is currently working towards achieving a Gold Award in the UK Green Business Scheme after securing the Silver Award.


ased in Brighton and Hove in the UK, The Big Lemon Bus Company’s distinctive bright yellow buses have become a familiar sight on the city’s streets. The first bus service in the UK to be fueled entirely by used cooking oil, the company runs services between the city centre and the out of town university campus, as well as offering private hire and music festival coach transport. Owner Tom Druitt was primarily motivated to start The Big Lemon Bus Company in 2007 by concern over the issue of climate change. He said, “It was clear to me that if we are to do anything about climate change we have to change the way we get around. The Big Lemon is an attempt to find a way to make public transport affordable, sustainable and most importantly, enjoyable.” Working on the calculation that transport is responsible for over a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gasemissions, Tom believes that finding

alternative, more sustainable, methods of transport is a key part of the solution. The company estimates it has saved, when compared with diesel usage, approximately 670 tonnes of CO2 emissions since the start of 2009, as well as recycling 318 tonnes of waste oil in the same period. In addition to collecting and re-using waste oil, the company has also started to produce its own UK-grown, GM-free, rapeseed oil, which it supplies to restaurants and collects for use as biodiesel once used. Their intention is to close the supply chain in an attempt to trace the entire carbon cycle from field to emissions, which to Tom’s knowledge is something that has never been done before. While the Big Lemon is concerned with reducing carbon emissions and waste, at the heart of the company’s operations is engaging with the community.

Tom wanted to ensure that from the outset it would be clear the business had been created for the community’s benefit. He said, “The best way to make changes is to empower people to make the changes themselves and we believe that by enabling the local community to make decisions over how their bus service is run ultimately leads to a better service.” Registered as a Community Interest Company, which means its surpluses are principally reinvested in the business or community, as opposed to being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners, The Big Lemon is a sustainable social enterprise almost entirely funded by its trading activity. Showing steady growth in the number of passengers it transports every year, the company demonstrates that providing transport services based on the concept of sustainability can be an ongoing success.

This involved environmental audits of its terminal sites and the development of a detailed action plan to engage customer and staff on green issues. Eco maps of its terminals have been completed and a programme is currently being pursued to improve energy and waste management. Most recently Wightlink has backed the GREENback card by providing Isle of Wight card holders with 10% off foot passenger travel on its three ferry routes. Purchases help the Eco Island Partnership’s goal to make the Island more environmentally friendly. Initiatives have included the installation of solar panels and airsource heat pumps to Island social housing while future plans include the installation of renewable energy ‘smart meters’.


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ith a long track record in supporting sustainable tourism, both in its ferry operation and more broadly on the Isle of Wight, Wightlink is delighted to back the Responsible Tourism Awards. Wightlink is currently working towards achieving a Gold Award in the UK Green Business Scheme after securing the Silver Award.


ust six years after their launch in 2006, Green Tomato Cars have grown to become London’s second largest private hire company. Offering a greener alternative to the black cab, the company is proving that there is a demand for environmentally friendly transport options. The majority of Green Tomato’s fleet of over 300 cars are hybrid Toyota Prius, but due to customer demand for executive vehicles and people carriers, in 2011 the company bought 30 larger vehicles that are run on biodiesel sourced entirely from waste cooking oil. Green Tomato Car’s Co-Founders, Hamish Phillips and Tom Pakenham, did not initially consider starting a taxi firm, their starting point was to establish a green business. Hamish said, “We wanted to show that environmentally friendly companies are viable. One of the problems of the green sector was the perception of high cost and bad product.”

The pair hit upon the idea of a private hire firm because it was high-visibility. Hamish said, “We thought it would be a good way of bringing the environment into the mainstream.” The company’s founding principles of reliability and customer service come from their determination that Green Tomato Cars would be a standard-bearer for green businesses. Hamish said, “We thought, ‘if we do this badly, we are doing the green sector a disservice.’” To set it apart from standard private hire firms the company includes an emissions statement on every invoice, and provides a free wi-fi service in all its vehicles. Hamish said, “Its all about the small touches with a bit of personality that hopefully bring a smile to the faces of our customers.” Passionate about the environment, Hamish admits that a private hire

firm can never claim to be completely environmentally friendly. He said, “I wish that the public transport networks were good enough that we weren’t needed, but they aren’t, so Green Tomato Cars is going to be around for a while.” Currently operating in both London and Sydney, the company plans to open in two further cities worldwide in the near future. In the meantime the Green Tomato business model has been an inspiration to the sector. With its carefully considered green credentials and emphasis on the customer experience, Green Tomato Cars is setting the standard for environmentally-friendly private transport. The growing trend among traditional private hire firms to buy low-emissions vehicles and adopt green practises is proof that their goal of bringing green business into the mainstream has been a success.

This involved environmental audits of its terminal sites and the development of a detailed action plan to engage customer and staff on green issues. Eco maps of its terminals have been completed and a programme is currently being pursued to improve energy and waste management. Most recently Wightlink has backed the GREENback card by providing Isle of Wight card holders with 10% off foot passenger travel on its three ferry routes. Purchases help the Eco Island Partnership’s goal to make the Island more environmentally friendly. Initiatives have included the installation of solar panels and air-source heat pumps to Island social housing while future plans include the installation of renewable energy ‘smart meters’.

GRAND CANYON RAILWAY Grand Canyon Railway, owned and operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, has been operating daily rail services from Williams, AZ to Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim on a fully restored vintage train since 1989. Morgan O’Connor, Director of Sustainability Why did Xanterra decide to make the Grand Canyon Railway into a more environmentally friendly? Xanterra has been operating in national parks for many years. We have our roots in sustainability and it is central to what we do for us to protect this beautiful environment. Our focus in terms of sustainability is on addressing issues such as landfill reduction, the use of fossil fuels and air pollution. We originally thought the train was unsustainable both environmentally, and it terms of cost, because the amount of fossil fuel and water it used, so we took it out of service in 2007. There was a backlash, as folks like to see the train out there, so we brought it back in 2009. It was a team effort to look at what we could do to make the train service more

sustainable.— It’s great that we were able to garner support of the employees and senior management. What are you most proud of about what the Railway? I am really proud that we were able to come in here and turn the place around. The train is a 100-year old steam engine that and once ran on coal, now it has been modified to run on waste cooking oil, we source all the water from collected monsoon rainwater and snow melt, and even the lubricant oil we use on the exterior of the train is now biodegradable. How does the Grand Canyon Railway work with the community? We reach out to the surrounding community and region on many levels. One example of this is the annual Williams Clean & Beautiful clean-up days. We collect unwanted electronics, paint waste and paper from the surrounding region. The electronic waste is reused and recycled in the US, the paint waste is reused, mixed into three colour choices and made available to the public free of charge, and the paper waste is reused by a local paper mill for the manufacturing of paper towels and napkins.

THE NEW FOREST TOUR The New Forest Tour is a network of four open top buses operating two circular routes in the New Forest National Park. The New Forest Tour is owned by Bluestar and Wilts & Dorset and operates between June and October and is instrumental in reducing congestion in the New Forest and stimulating economic growth, whilst providing a unique and memorable visitor experience for its customers. Chris Gregory, Transport and Tourism Officer What makes Tour different from other similar services? The Tour is so much more than a bus service. We market it as an experience. Many of our customers would not normally travel on a bus, so we emphasise the tour aspect of the experience. How do you ensure the Tour is an experience? We train our drivers thoroughly on the New Forest area, which pays off as customers often tell us how good the drivers are. One of our drivers, Neil Woodward, is up for UK Bus Driver of the Year this year. Aside from reducing traffic, how does the Tour benefit

the local area? The Tour is actually a network of open-top bus experiences and we offer discount vouchers for local attractions and businesses. Passengers are encouraged to get on and off to visit attractions. Around 80% of our customers use the opportunity to get off the bus and visit attractions, restaurants and shops, and we estimate it brings in around £500,000 to the region per year. What are you most proud of about the Tour? I am really proud that The New Forest no longer requires public sector funding to support its activities. The route is entirely funded by ticket sales and income from strategic partnerships with other tourism businesses in the New Forest National Park. That’s something that similar services within other national parks have failed to do. It’s a great feeling to have created a public service route that is commercially viable. We have grown fantastically in the last few years, which shows that it has been properly run and well marketed.


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LOVENIA GREEN Within the range of advanced tourist services around the world, sustainable forms of tourism are becoming an increasingly powerful trend and represent one of the biggest opportunities for its further development.


pecialising in small group adventure travel tours, Explore is a UK-based tour operator offering tours and tailor-made trips to over 140 countries around the world worldwide.

Director, feels that the values of Responsible Tourism, namely a commitment to social, economic and environmental sustainability, have both developed along with, and moulded, the direction the company has taken.

Their 500 itineraries range from trekking to Everest base camp to cycling the backroads of Burgundy; from exploring the ancient sites of Central America to tracking silver-back gorillas in the Ugandan Highlands.

John believes that Responsible Tourism is not just an ethical, but also commercial, decision. He said, “We believe that by operating responsibly our customers will get the best experience. If you look after the destination and treat it responsibly, then your groups will be welcomed back and they will get a better experience. It’s a virtuous circle.”

Founded in 1981 by a group of pioneering tour leaders who ran trips across Asia, Africa and the Americas in the 60s and 70s, the company aims to keep the spirit of adventure at the heart of all their tours. Whether operating on the Silk Road or in the Wild West, their principles remain the same — small groups, low impact, and above all, respect. John Telfer, their Product and Operations

For Explore, Responsible Tourism means not just identifying and mitigating the impact of tourism on a destination, but standing back and looking at their entire business holistically. They ensure their guides are properly trained, paid a fair wage, and recognised for their contribution through their Tour Leader Award scheme.

At the destinations they visit they strive to use locally-owned hotels, restaurants and suppliers; and include homestays and local families in their itineraries wherever possible.They also encourage their guests to eat and shop in a variety of establishments to spread wealth fairly. In the UK too, the company has implemented inventive initiatives such as a bra recycling scheme and the installation of waterless urinals at their Head office in Farnborough. The principles of Responsible Tourism are not an add-on for Explore, but integral to what they do. John said, “I don’t believe in hitting people over the head with the message. Being evangelical about Responsible Tourism is not the way to go. The proof of the pudding is in the travel experience.”

At the same time they represent the essential orientation for further development, since only this kind of tourism, which is based on the economic success of tourism business and is at the same time kind and constructive towards the natural, cultural and social environment, can also survive in the future. At the Slovenian Tourist Board we are convinced that sustainable or green tourism is a developmental opportunity for Slovenia. It is a response from all stakeholders in tourism to the changes in the environment, aimed at ensuring the long-term competitiveness of Slovenian tourism and increasing the quality of life of Slovenia’s inhabitants.


Sponsored by



s Thailand welcomes more visitor arrivals each year, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in partnership with a number of other government and private organisations is continually striving to do more to preserve Thailand’s local culture, natural environment and heritage.

Rachel Harris, Director Why did you start EHRA? Poached almost to extinction during the civil war in Namibia in the 1970s, elephants started coming back into the north west of Namibia. They started going to places where they remembered there was water, but the people there no longer had a clue about how to live with the elephants. The government was under pressure from frightened communities to get rid of them, as they were breaking water points. My partner, Johannes, spearheaded a campaign to stop the elephants being destroyed, which was successful. He then started to research the elephants’ movement patterns and think about a solution to the problem. By the time I moved over to Namibia we had our first volunteering group working on reinforcing water points. How has your elephants?




In the areas where the elephants first moved into there are now no conflict reports on water issues and you can see and hear the change in attitude of the people towards the elephants. The breeding of elephants is a good sign of how stressed they are. In some of the herds there’s a huge gap between the oldest and the younger generation. This year it’s been lovely because they are literally popping them out, and they are actually surviving. You used to get the odd birth but then they would die after a week or two. What are the benefits of what you do for the communities? We work on two river systems in the main, the Huab river system has five operating lodges and many people in that area are getting some kind of benefit from the elephants. Under the conservancy model in Namibia, lodges have to pay back into the

conservancy in which they are based. In the Ugab area there isn’t any tourism, but hopefully in time there will be tourism development and they will start to see the benefit of having the elephants around, but for now it’s very difficult. Anything you can do to create a better understanding, or physically take away the problem, makes a difference. What aspect of EHRA are you most proud of? Aside from the elephant conservation side, where I know we have made a big difference, I am most proud of the volunteers that come. Without us pushing anything down people’s throats, they tell us they have had these amazing experiences. They are helping us to do work that we believe in, but at the same time they are not just slogging their hearts out, they are actually getting something back.

In addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation and the creation of economic opportunities for local communities throughout Thailand. Tourism Authority of Thailand is proud to be part of the Responsible Tourism Awards 2012. At the World Travel Market exhibition at Excel in November of last year, TAT launched our own 4th UK Green awards in association with These awards are intended to highlight, and further promote Thailand’s dedication to the conservation of its country’s precious natural and cultural resources and support sustainable tourism development in tandem with the growing concern we all have for our planet. The awards recognise and celebrate TAT’s partners in the travel and tourism industry who have made an outstanding contribution to growing Thailand as a sustainable destination.

BIOSPHERE EXPEDITIONS Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director Why did you found Biosphere Expeditions? To provide conservationists in the field with the two things they need most: money and manpower. Why do you incorporate Responsible Tourism into your activities, as opposed to just providing volunteering experiences for profit alone? We’re not interested in profit. In fact, we are a not-for-profit conservation organisation who works hard not to be lumped in with profit-driven businesses. We are a leader in the field of volunteering, providing genuinely useful help and financing for underfunded and important wildlife conservation projects. Profit does not feature on our list of priorities. What do you think volunteering can offer at its best, for both communities/destinations and the volunteers themselves? Volunteering needs to help, not hinder. Local communities and NGOs must decide what they need in the first place and we are there to assess whether we can genuinely fulfill that need with our volunteers. If we can, then everyone benefits. The local

community, local wildlife and the volunteers. That’s the only way it can, and should, work. Anything else is just pulling the wool over people’s eyes and unfortunately there is a lot of that around as profit-driven businesses are trying to jump on the gravy train of voluntourism. Have a look at our Top Ten Tips: ( on how to avoid the gravy train rides. What are you most proud of about Biosphere Expeditions? Our impressive list of achvievements, which includes protected area creation and management, species protection, education, capacitybuilding and lots of other successes in wildlife conservation, large and small, all over the world. What do you consider to be Biosphere’s’ greatest achievement? I would say the fact that we do make a genuine difference with our volunteers all over the world; empowering them and the local communities we work with and benefitting wildlife at the same time. This I think is the key to a sustainable future for us all; people, wildlife, wilderness and the planet.

MORE ABOUT THE AWARDS Justin Francis, Managing Director, responsibletravel. com For the past nine years has organised these Awards. Our primary activity is to sell authentic and responsible holidays to tourists, but there were a couple of things that inspired us to create an Award scheme. Firstly, to give a big boost and plenty of promotional support to organisations who excel in Responsible Tourism. Above all else the Awards are about them and it’s their day. Some past winners have kindly said they returned to their homes with even more energy and enthusiasm, and determined to use their Award to scale up the positive change locally. The second driving force is to surprise and inspire tourists and the tourism industry by what it is possible to achieve in Responsible Tourism. The Awards are part of a far wider movement for Responsible Tourism that we are proud to be a part of. Celebrating the best of the best is an important part of creating change. One of the key things that make our Awards different is that they are nominat-

ed by members of the public. This means we cast our net far and wide and sift through thousands of potential winners. It’s a big job, and we’ve been fortunate to have the support of our Award partners. The World Travel Market, International Centre for Responsible Tourism and Geographical, Magazine of The Royal Geographical Society, have been with us since the start. The Metro, with their six million readers, are with us for the third year. Please read what they think of the Awards below. We’ve also been fortunate to have the support of a great many sponsors over the years, a big thank to all of them, especially our headline sponsor for the past three years, Virgin Holidays. Finally, next year will be our tenth anniversary. We will be expanding and reach and profile of the Awards very significantly. If you think you could help with that please contact me at

Read more about the Awards at


World Travel Market Fiona Jeffery, Chairman, World Travel Market Fiona Jeffery is Chairman of World Travel Market, the premier event for the global travel industry, hosting the Responsible Tourism Awards. Fiona said the Awards, now in their ninth year, are a momentous day for the global travel and tourism industry.

the world has to offer. But these are just words and I realise how difficult is the challenge that is before us. That’s why we all need to help and support one another in the fight to change global mindset and why WTM World Responsible Tourism Day, of which the Responsible Tourism Awards plays a crucial part, are supremely important.” “The Awards are crucial in bringing a message of hope, a beacon of enterprise, ethical focus and genuine caring. But above all, showing us just what can be achieved, demonstrating new ways and ideas that help to guide the industry to a better future.”

tinuing growth in the Awards shows how important and relevant these issues have become - it is impossible to discuss travel and tourism without taking this into consideration.”

International Centre for Responsible Tourism

“Responsible Tourism is slowly climbing to the top of the travel and tourism agenda but we still have a long way to go. The plain fact is that unless we ALL take responsibility for our actions - that’s the industry, developers, travel companies, operators, governments, tourist organisations and consumers - we will gradually erode and may be even destroy what we have.” “The world is not ours to keep, it’s just on loan to us; it’s the heritage of future generations who also have a right to enjoy everything

sponsible Tourism Awards in 2010, helping to bring the Awards to a new audience of responsible travellers. With a readership of 3.6 million daily readers the Metro produces the world’s leading free newspaper, as well as a content-rich website and interactive apps for mobile devices. Lisa Scott, the Metro’s Travel Editor, is a part of the Responsible Tourism Awards judging panel.

The judging panel is chaired by Professor Harold Goodwin, ICRETH, Leeds Metropolitan University. Harold has chaired the judges since the inception of the Awards. Geographical Magazine Graeme Gourlay, Publisher, Geographical

The Metro Lisa Scott, Travel Editor, Metro The Metro became media partner of

official the Re-

“Geographical sees the Awards as a cornerstone of its coverage of travel and tourism. Our readers take a critical and intelligent interest in the issues surrounding modern tourism and we feel the awards reflect their core values. The very exciting and con-

The idea for the Responsible Tourism Awards emerged from discussions amongst the students on the Masters course when it was at Greenwich. Associates and staff of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism each year undertake the onerous work of sifting through the nominations to determine the shorter lists

of nominees, a process supervised by Harold Goodwin as Chair of the panel of judges. Harold is passionate about the Awards. “The most impressive thing about the Virgin Holiday Responsible Tourism Awards is seeing what so many businesses are doing to use tourism “to make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” We see what businesses are actually doing. The companies that we recognise in the Awards are those who are able to document the difference they are making to people’s lives and their cultural and natural environments. Responsible Tourism business and destinations offer travel experiences which are better for local people and their places. The Awards go beyond certification – we get to see what companies and destinations are actually doing. It is much harder each year to win an Award and the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards have contributed to sharing and encouraging better practices in Responsible Tourism. The ICRT is proud to be associated with the Awards.”



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Explore, Best tour operator. 2008.

The B lu reduc e Yonder, tion. 2006. Best pove rty

Guerba, Best in a mountain environment. 2005.

Whale W atch Ka ik a marin e enviro oura, Best in nment. 2009. ,

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Coral Cay, Best in a marine environment 2010.

Words: Alex Oxborough Design: Lisa Joanes Printed by Newspaper Club Images: Reprinted with the permission of the respective copyright holders

Responsible Tourism Awards 2012  

Official newspaper of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2012, founded and organised by

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