How to engage local communities? The 2017 NatGeo World Legacy Awards winners share their tips

engage local communities

As part of our recent interview series with the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017 winners and finalists, we asked them:

How do you engage with the local community to ensure they have a positive opinion of your business working in the area they live?

This post gathers the key lessons learned from the winners: Cayuga Collection from Costa Rica, Slovenia Tourist Board, The North Island Seychelles, The City of Santa Fe and The Lodge at Chaa Creek.

Cayuga Collection Hans PfisterHans Pfister, Cayuga Collection: We are very active in the local schools through an NGO that we fund for environmental education projects. Through them we teach, but we also equip the classrooms or get involved in complete infrastructure projects. When the community sees this kind of commitment, they have a positive opinion. And as mentioned above. We are the local community. Our staff lives there and is part of it. We have certain programs and events to further push this like the Lapa Rios Lapathaon, a 10K race that raises funds for community projects (i.e. medical equipment for the local clinic, etc).

Chaa Creek Mick and Lucy FlemmingLucy Flemming, Chaa Creek: Being the area’s largest employer, our relations with the local community are very positive, on both personal and practical levels. We provide income and training, and over the years have always been there for the local communities with educational, sports and other sponsorships, and provide assistance in times of natural disasters such as hurricanes, and incritical life events such as helping with medical care, funerals and other expenses. Local people have come to see these efforts as being part and parcel to the role that Chaa Creek and true eco-tourism plays in society.

Santa Fe Randy RandallRandy Randall, Tourism Santa Fe: The City of Santa Fe has longstanding traditions of preserving, protecting and producing its natural assets and culture. This ethos is at the heart of who and what Santa Fe is, including what and how we share the city with citizens. Sustainability is a way of life in the city and surrounding region. Our elected officials, nonprofits, businesses and citizens are part of the planning and progress that Santa Fe has been able to achieve. This effort a continuous process of monitoring impacts and actively introducing preventative and if necessary corrective measures to create and sustain the authentic and genuine resources of a destination.

The City of Santa Fe and our tourism partners are passionately involved in this every day. We are caretakers of “The City Different,” a committedly progressive community, and we want to use the most efficient and effective means to make a Santa Fe visit and lifestyle as positive as possible for everyone involved, locally, nationally and globally.

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Slovenia Tourism Board Maja PakMaja Pak, Slovenian Tourist Board: We have been promoting sustainable tourism for many years. EIght years ago, we reached a consensus to promote a green future among key stakeholders. In 2012, we signed the declaration for green partnership with all the stakeholders to protect our natural and cultural heritage, to ensure a better quality of life for our citizens and to offer a unique experience for tourists. Green tourism was established as the basic concept for development.

We interconnected national policies, local communities and the business sector, so as to recognize all the resources, available to develop sustainable destinations. And we supported the process with two key pillars – proper education and communication.

Within our model of sustainable development we communicate a lot about the benefits of green tourism, we support the destinations with training to enter the scheme; and we encourage destinations to create sustainable products. And, what is very important is that we promote them, we give them extra exposure. They can be a part of a great story.

North Island Bruce SimpsonBruce Simpson, North Island: We have engaged informally through the company values, how we operate our business and the work that we do daily in driving our conservation initiatives through our staff and guests. We have also engaged formally in the past through hosting young Seychellois children on the island and teaching them about conservation and our specific rehabilitation projects on the Island.


To see how other winning organisations have been engaging local communities, check our interviews with NatGeo World Legacy Awards winners and finalists.

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