By Gustavo Pinto
M.A. in Responsible Tourism – Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Advisor in Responsible Tourism for WTM Latin America
Director of Inverted America Journeys
Since its first edition in 2013, WTM Latin America has had a Responsible Tourism Programme, as do the other events in the portfolio that take place in London, Cape Town and Dubai. A team made up of specialists, tour operators, consultants and the members of associations from all over the continent provide valuable information on how to address some of the emerging issues facing the travel and tourism industry in Latin America.
The WTM Latin America Responsible Tourism Awards were launched during the 2019 edition. They will become part of the WTM portfolio’s prestigious family of Responsible Tourism Awards, which were launched in 2004 in the United Kingdom and are now also featured in Africa and India.
The categories for the first awards presentation, which will be held in 2020, address issues that are urgent to the travel and tourism industry in Latin America. They are:
Best initiative for reducing poverty and achieving inclusion
This is one of the old categories in the WTM World Responsible Tourism Awards that are held in London. We are proud to present it in the first year of the awards for Latin America because of how important this particular subject is on our continent. The award focuses on initiatives that understand tourism to be a strategy for changing the local reality, using memorable travel experiences to achieve a measurable reduction in poverty in a local community, including marginalized communities, by creating inclusive ways of providing tourism and economic benefits that are shared with the local population.
Best contribution to conserving wildlife
Tourism can be an efficient strategy for promoting wildlife conservation to local communities, governments, companies that take advantage of natural resources and, of course, travellers. The objective of this category is to recognise initiatives that include wildlife observation experiences, ecological trails, accommodation amenities, and others that act as a way of conserving local wildlife and its habitats.
Best initiative for conserving cultural heritage
Latin America is a continent on which countless destinations have their own cultural heritage as their main attraction. From fully-preserved entire locations to ancestral traditions and ceremonies, we have a lot to protect and tourism can be a key agent in this task. This award seeks successful examples of a cultural, historical or natural resource that is being protected and is central to the traveller’s experience.
Best destination for responsible tourism
Responsible tourism means making destinations better places for people to live in and visit – in that order. It is part of the responsibility of destinations to make tourism work in order to change the local reality, thus ensuring that each visit is enjoyable for the traveller and that each traveller becomes an agent for creating qualified local jobs and ensuring cultural and natural conservation and the long-term sustainability of the travel industry and of tourism. The “Best Destination” category is for those places that use tourism to promote sustainable local development.
To find out more about the awards or to register for them, click here.
I’d vote for Finca Rosa Blanca in Santa Barbara de Herédia, Costa Rica. The owners took a denuded site and planted hundreds of trees. They built a beautiful hotel from salvaged and local materials. They grow much of their own food, organically. They compost everything. Solar panels produce energy and they recycle their gray water. They have a non-chlorine pool. They sponsor employee competitions to see which employees can have the lowest electric bills and give monetary incentives to the winning employees. They give back to the local community and are particularly active sponsors of programs in the schools. They even make their own coffee, which grows organic, shade-grown fair-trade coffee and provides habitat for birds and animals. As if all this were not enough, they fill their beautifully designed hotel with folk art and run a gift shop that sells sustainably made local art and crafts. I have visited this hotel several times and each time I come away in awe of what the owners have done.