A safari camp, a five star hotel and nature reserve, a European capital city, and three different rural tourism projects have been announced as the winners of the 2017 WTM Responsible Tourism Awards. For over a decade the World Responsible Tourism Awards have been presented at World Travel Market in London each November. However, this year marks the first time that they have also been organised by WTM, who take over from responsibletravel.com.
For the first time, each winner is being recognised as a ‘Leader in Demonstrating Responsible Tourism Impact’, to mark the fact that 2017 is the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. For the first time, therefore, the awards have focussed not just on which companies, organisations and destinations are running the most inspiring projects, but on which could show the measurable impact of their work. The six winners are as follows:
Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana won the Best for Carbon Reduction category. The lodge has a youth development programme that has trained nearly 200 young people; a profit share scheme for staff; and a women’s empowerment programme that means now 65% of all staff are female – they even have an all-female team of professionally qualified guides.
The Best for Accommodation category was won by Grootbos, a luxury hotel set in its own private nature reserve in South Africa. Grootbos is now in the fourth year of measuring, collecting and collating sustainability data, while reducing their use of mains power by 10% in the last reporting year, and installing a solar installation that powers Grootbos Garden Lodge and the Grootbos Foundation.
The Best Community Initiative award went to Sapa O’Chau, a female ethnic minority-owned enterprise in Vietnam employing 50 staff, two thirds of whom are female and 90% of whom come from an ethnic minority. Their vision is to provide all local young people with a high school education, all members of the community with an opportunity to obtain a sustainable career, and to engage with others to create meaningful social change.
The city of Ljubljana won the Best Communication award. In 2016 the Slovenian capital city adopted a Sustainable Urban Strategy, which enables hotels and restaurants to source locally through its Green Supply Chains online portal, while the DMO is working to encourage the use of public transport and to spread tourists beyond the city. At a time when many European cities are facing backlashes against tourism from angry residents, a 2016 survey in Ljubljana showed that 92% of residents believe tourism has a positive effect on the city.
South Africa’s Transfrontier Parks Destinations (TFPD) was chosen by the judges as the Best Tour Operator. Founded in 2004 to support economically poor rural communities through commercialising community-owned lodges, it now works with 50 villages and has created 147 permanent jobs in rural areas, which in turn support around 955 dependents. TFPD also works to help its member lodges develop a supply chain network of independent micro-enterprises and ensure their viability by providing regular business for them. This has generated R6.4M (£350,000) for such microenterprises since 2004.
Indian tour operator Village Ways won the Best for Poverty Reduction award for its work developing a network of walking trails and community owned guest houses though rural India. The company has created 19 village owned-and-run guest-houses, securing employment from 261 families in those villages.
The complete list of 12 finalists is: Chobe Game Lodge, Crystal Creek Meadows, Grootbos, Green Tourism Business Scheme, Kumarakom, Ol Pejeta, Marine Dynamics, Sapa, Slovenia, Transfrontier Parks Destinations, TUI Cruises and Village Ways.