The 7th Annual Skål International Ecotourism Awards were presented by the president of Skål International, Phillip Sims and vice president, Media and Public Relations, Hulya Aslantas in the presence of the Minister of Communication and Transportation of the Republic of China, Dr. C.K. Mao and Taipei City Mayor Mr. Lung Ping Haw, during the Opening Ceremony of the 69th Skål World Congress held in Taipei, Taiwan on October 13, 2008 at the TICC (Taipei International Convention Center).
Skål, founded as an international association in 1934 is the largest organization of travel and tourism professionals in the world, embracing all sectors of the travel and tourism industry in five continents, 90 countries and at over 500 locations, with 20,000 members from hoteliers to travel agents, airlines, tourism media and tourism academies, etc.
Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, the president of Skål International, Phillip Sims said, “Sustainable Tourism cannot be achieved if the traditional values that make up our national heritage are not preserved. We would gain nothing if tourism were developed at the expense of time-honored customs, which makes us what we are. We must all, therefore, safeguard the local customs of our own countries because these are what make us unique and are what tourists value most in their travels. It is often the prime reason people travel to a particular destination, so it has strong economic benefits.”
Referring to the reduction of carbon emissions, president Sims said, “Until recently, the most negative aspect of our industry was the very high cost of fuel which was constantly driving up transportation costs. While in the short term this has had a negative impact, in the long term it will have some positive benefits.”
The effect of the high cost of fuel has forced the aviation industry and all modes of transportation to look at improving fuel efficiency, which has the side effect of reducing carbon emissions.
The development of high-tech materials to reduce the weight of aircraft also improves fuel efficiency. If oil had stayed at $25 a barrel, there would have been no urgency whatsoever to develop these innovations. The positive effect will be that the ecology will benefit from this rapid advance in technology and hopefully the cost of travel will stabilize and our industry will benefit.
Phillip Sims defended the tourism industry when he stated, “It is interesting that the tourism industry, and air travel in particular, is considered to be one of the prime villains in the global warming scenario. Recent research, however, has shown that the I.T. industry, the computers that we all sit and use so passionately every day, globally produce a larger carbon footprint than aviation and is growing at more than double the rate of tourism. I sometimes find it ironic that those that would condemn air travel and tourism do so from their blog sites and with the use of their computers.”
He continued, “The tourism industry should not be ashamed of its role in the increasing concern about global warming because our industry and particularly the members of Skål, are taking positive steps to reduce the impact and are determined to ensure that our children and our grandchildren will enjoy our planet in a better condition than it is in today. It seems to me that there are very few other industries that show this same concern as we do.”
Skål International is aiming at quality in tourism and values sustainable development in tourism as the key to the industry’s future success and considers ecotourism but one area of the various components of sustainable development and responsible tourism.
To encourage the conservation of the environment and help to promote the development of responsible and sustainable tourism, Skål International initiated an awards program in 2002, during “The Year of Ecotourism and the Mountains” as declared by United Nations.
While the purpose of these awards was to highlight best practices in ecotourism around the world, they were also created with the aim of acquainting the world with this new concept that puts emphasis on the importance of the interaction of the physical, cultural and social environment, the traveler’s responsibility and the need for active community participation for ecotourism.
In their seventh year, the awards have received continued support worldwide, and this year 53 entries were received from 24 countries – nine from Asia, 18 from the Americas, 15 from Europe, seven from Africa and five from Oceania.
The Awards show the sensitivity and awareness of Skål International towards the protection of the environment in conjunction with sustainable tourism. Ecotourism, together with other alternative forms of tourism strengthens the local economies and contributes to sustainable development.
The applications were evaluated by three independent judges and the scores, given by each separately, are added up to find the winners. The primary criteria for the evaluation is based on points such as, contribution to the conservation of nature and cultural heritage, community involvement, educational features, business viability and innovation.
Skål International is grateful for the meticulous work conducted by the three judges:
– Eugenio Yunis, from UNWTO,
– Natasha Pulitzer from Synergia sas, Italy
– Jack Sofier, Swedish Education and Consulting, Portugal
Iznik Foundation (www.iznik.com.tr
The main sponsors, Evian (www.evian.com
Johnson Diversey (www.johnsondiversey.com
The winners in the different categories were announced as follows:
In the category of Tour Operators and Travel Agents:
NORTHERN SOUL WILDERNESS ADVENTURES, CANADA
In the category of Urban Accommodation:
THE PEFKOS BEACH HOTEL, SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AND THE ENVIRONMENT, GREECE
In the category of Rural Accommodation:
BUILDING LIVELIHOOD & ECO TAJ, INDIA
In the category of Transportation:
NATURAL HISTORY BY SEA KAYAK, THAILAND
In the category of General Countryside:
LESVOS PETRIFIED FOREST GEOPARK, GREECE
In the category of City and Villages:
THE ORANGE FLAG PROGRAM: A QUALITY LABEL FOR SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AND ENVIRONMENT, ITALY
In the category of Educational Programs – Media:
EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS OF THE GEOPARK NATURTEJO MESETA MERIDIONAL – UNESCO EUROPEAN AND GLOBAL GEOPARK, PORTUGAL
In the category of Global Corporate Establishment:
GLOBAL TOURISM BUSINESS, KENYA
Detailed information about the winners can be found on the Skål International website or by clicking the following direct link: http://www.skal.org/html/ecotourism/eco.asp?idioma=I