We announced the finalists in the 2019 World Responsible Tourism Awards two weeks ago, they will be presented with Gold or Silver Awards at WTM London on November 6th, and one of them will be the overall winner. It takes a good deal more to win a Responsible Tourism Award now than it did when we launched in 2004.
Responsible Tourism is always a journey, as is the journey to sustainability. Each year we see applications which show great promise but which are not amongst the finalists. The judges look for longevity and evidence of impact, and some applications cannot be shoehorned into the available categories. For this reason, we created the “ones to watch” category, businesses which we hope will apply again when they have been pursuing their initiative for longer, have more evidence to share of their impact or when there is a more appropriate category for them to enter.
Wildlife and Nature Conservation
This year we were looking for examples of tourism enterprises which have made a tangible difference to the conservation of nature which is locally significant.
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru has established a marine laboratory which clearly has strong conservation, research and education programmes. Banyan Tree plans to implement at least one resource reduction initiative per property each year, with a target of 5% annual reduction in energy, emissions, water and waste. The judges hope and expect to see future applications from Banyan Tree based on the achievement of these plans.
Huilo Huilo won a Gold Award in 2012 for conserving over 100,000 hectares of Patagonian temperate rainforest, turning the land from logging to conservation. Huilo Huilo is an excellent example of what can be achieved by rewilding land creating employment through sustainable tourism. However, where a Gold Award has been previously been awarded the judges need to be able clearly to see what has been achieved since. We hope that Huilo Huilo will apply again in the near future.
Ras Al Khor in Dubai has demonstrably attracted a large number of domestic day visitors and tourists and developed good interpretation material and visitor management system. We hope that Ras Al Khor will apply again for an award focussed on education and visitor management.
Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador, in the Metropolitan District of Quito, is an expedition lodge in the Andean Chocó home to at least 50 different species of mammals, 396 identified species of birds, thousands of reptiles and amphibians and an extensive flora. Mashpi Lodge is at the heart of the 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) Mashpi Reserve and the lodge plays a significant part in conserving the land and protecting it from logging. This year Mashpi Lodge was competing against entries able to evidence biodiversity gain, we expect Mashpi Lodge to do well in a year when the wildlife category has a different focus or when it has time-series data.
Reducing Plastic Waste
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has taken the remarkable step of removing all single-use plastic water bottles from across their ocean fleet. This is choice editing on a large scale. Guests are encouraged to bring along their own refillable water and hot drinks bottles to use onboard; reusable bottles are available in their onboard shops. The removal of plastic water bottles across the fleet is expected to prevent the use of more than 464,000 1.5 litre bottles and 263,416 bottles in the next 12 months. This is a remarkable initiative, and a worthy award winner next year. As solid as the plan is, it is a plan and plans are not enough to win a Responsible Tourism Award.
Water to Go supplies reusable recyclable water bottles with replaceable, recyclable nano-technology filters that will eliminate up to 99.9999% of microbiological contaminants from any non-saltwater source. The materials used are reusable, recyclable, certified for repeat use with food and beverages and also BPA free. We hope to see Water to Go apply for an award in a water category in the near future.
Coping with Success
The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau has developed a Sustainable Tourism Plan based on four pillars: environment, resident quality of life, quality of the economy and the visitor experience. The judges look forward to seeing data on the impact of the application of this comprehensive plan in the future.
In 2019 Urban Adventures has developed an impressive and wide-ranging tool for impact reporting. It has published impact reports for 2017 and 2018 on its social impact on communities. The 2019 plan is broader and more ambitious, and the judges look forward to seeing a further application when the results of its application are available.
The Ministry of Environment Dominican Republic has developed a roadmap for carbon reduction. It is one of the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production plans. The roadmap contains a baseline report and a plan for low carbon and resource-efficient accommodation. The judges look forward to a report on progress in carbon reduction in an application in a year or two.
Benefiting Local Communities
Baraka Consulting, funded by development banks and agencies, has developed a beekeeping experience, basket weaving classes, cooking classes and home-cooked meals, biking and hiking routes, camping and bed and breakfast in Umm Qais in Jordan benefiting 130 people. The judges would hope to see details of the livelihood impacts of this initiative in another application soon.
Inle Canoe Lady in Myanmar provides an additional livelihood for village women who work in cheroot workshops, 65 local women benefit. The judges would like to know how much difference the part-time canoe work makes to their total earnings in an application in the future.
As usual, the Benefiting Local Communities Category attracted the most applications, and there were some excellent applications which did not adequately fit the category to warrant inclusion. Next year there will be a broad Social Responsibility category, and we hope that they will apply for an award in 2020. There were three this year that the judges felt did not fall within the Benefiting Local People category as framed this year, we hope that they will apply again next year when there will be a broad social responsibility category.
- Explore has worked with the GIZ to form a partnership to train local guides, drivers and hotel suppliers.in Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia and Georgia to manage risk and health and safety. The programme is to be extended to Morocco and Turkey. The programme benefits adventure travellers and opens market access for emerging businesses seeking to sell into established source markets abroad.
- Since 2016 Hilton has been assisting refugees in Austria, Germany, Italy and Barcelona, and they have employed some. In September 2018 they joined the Tent Partnership for Refugees and committed to building on existing efforts to impact 16,000 refugees by 2030 by providing hospitality skills training, in-kind donations and volunteer hours to refugee organisations, and offering employment opportunities.
- Mejdi Tours aspire to be the leading socially conscious travel company in the world. They have developed a form of tourism which the judges believe to be unique. All the tours which they offer introduce travellers to both narratives in post-conflict tours, most often with two tour leaders one from each side of the divide.
There is a now a family of Responsible Tourism Awards with sister Awards in Africa, India and Latin America. The WTM Africa Awards to be presented in April will be announced at WTM London and in Responsible Tourism News on October 31st
The 4th India Responsible Tourism Awards are open for applications until September 30th; the categories are Homestay, Hotel, Tour Operator, Communication, Wildlife, Social Impact and RT Pathfinder. The 1st WTM Latin America Responsible Tourism Awards will be presented in April; the awards close on 15th December, the categories are Poverty Reduction & Inclusion, Wildlife Conservation, Cultural Heritage Attraction and Destination for Responsible Tourism.