The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) announced the 12 finalists for the 2009 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. Under WTTC’s stewardship since 2003, the prestigious awards recognize best practices in sustainable tourism in four different categories – destination stewardship, conservation, community benefit and global tourism business. A record number of entries were received this year from over 40 countries and six continents.
The 12 finalists were selected by an international team of independent judges in each of the four award categories for having successfully demonstrated sustainable tourism practices, including the protection of natural and cultural heritage, social and economic benefits to local people, and environmentally-friendly operations.
The 2009 Finalists are:
DESTINATION STEWARDSHIP AWARD
Grupo PUNTACANA, Dominican Republic
This group of companies, comprising the Puntacana Resort & Club, the Punta Cana International Airport, and the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, has been instrumental in building a network of tourism infrastructure in an impoverished region of the Dominican Republic. Grupo PUNTACANA not only offers employment opportunities for the local population, but also provides health and education services, transport infrastructure, and fundamental conservation activities. Grupo PUNTACANA demonstrates a leading example of private sector destination stewardship at the local level.
Heritage Watch, Cambodia
This NGO strives to protect Cambodian cultural heritage and reduce looting and damage to the country’s antiquities by engaging businesses and visitors alike in a Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign. Despite operating in a challenging environment and in a country not known for making sustainable tourism a priority, Heritage Watch has forged important public-private sector partnerships to certify over 200 small tourism businesses – an indicator that the campaign has been embraced and is successful in enhancing local culture, environmental issues, and Cambodia’s heritage in a more sustainable way.
South West Tourism, UK
As a regional tourism board comprising five counties in the south west of England, South West Tourism (SWT) has the mandate of promoting the natural and cultural heritage of this region as a sustainable tourism destination. SWT has developed a role-model tourism vision ‘Tourism 2015’ with a unique networking approach engaging industry, destination partners, visitors, and decision-makers with tailor-made communication and other initiatives as part of its destination stewardship efforts.
Ionian Eco Villagers, Greece
This small tour operator and its not-for-profit organization partner, Earth, Sea & Sky, has been the leading actor in the conservation of the threatened sea turtle nesting beaches on Zakynthos Island in Greece, where 80 percent of the Mediterranean region’s Loggerhead Sea Turtles come to lay their eggs each year. The group has not only successfully lobbied the Greek government but also the European Union to enforce a ban on tourism development on the turtle-nesting beaches. At the same time, Ionian Eco Villagers provides a unique holiday experience through conservation, eco-friendly activities, education, and immersion in local culture.
Lane Cove River Tourist Park, Australia
The uniqueness of this conservation project lies in the business model of Lane Cove River Tourist Park (LCRTP) – the only national tourist park worldwide within close proximity of a major urban area. This park, situated at the outskirts of Sydney, has managed to combine camping holidays with nature conservation and has successfully reintroduced endangered flora and fauna into the area. LCRTP has developed their own set of best practices for urban area tourist parks, called GreenPark, which has been adopted by other parks in Australia.
NatureAir, Costa Rica
This domestic airline takes on a bold approach to conservation by committing itself to complete carbon neutral operations through engaging customers in a non-voluntary carbon off-set scheme. To ensure NatureAir’s calculation of the volume of emissions is relevant to each flight, the company calculates the total for all flights flown in the previous twelve months. The emission amount is calculated by a detailed greenhouse-gas, life-cycle assessment. Furthermore, NatueAir has helped developed Costa Rica’s only alternative fueling station, Aerotica. Through this program NatureAir is able to fuel their company vehicles and equipment using 100 percent bio-diesel (a mix of vegetable oils and recycled cooking oils). Furthermore, NatureAir’s efforts are frequently audited by independent third parties, demonstrating integrity and accountability. This conservation business approach is a role-model for small airlines globally.
COMMUNITY BENEFIT AWARD
Community Action Treks, Nepal
Community Action Treks, a UK tour operator organizing trekking tours in the remote areas of Nepal, works with its not-for-profit organization partner, Community Action Nepal (CAN/CAT), to safe-guard cultural heritage and the well-being of local communities, including trekking porters. CAN/CAT has established health services, eduction centers, high-altitude porter camps, and the funding of teachers and nurses. To ensure the ongoing funding of these projects, CAN/CAT has established a financial system whereby all profits are distributed to the communities it works with.
Ol Donyo Wuas, Kenya
This eco-lodge operates just outside of Chyulu National Park in southern Kenya on communal land belonging to the Maasai people. It has successfully engaged the local communities bordering their lodge to become involved in the tourism infrastructure and have established a comprehensive financial structure that allows for a meaningful contribution of tourism-generated resources to the local community bordering the park. The local community has, as a result, become intrinsic to Ol Donyo Wuas’s tourism operations and their partner, Maasailand Preservation Trust.
Zakoura Foundation for Micro Credits, Morocco
Zakoura Foundation for Micro Credit is a Moroccan-based, not-for-profit organization. Its main mission is to fight poverty and develop civic spirit through financial and non-financial programs that specifically target vulnerable populations from both rural and urban areas who do not have access to conventional financial services. In 2003, Zakoura launched its Rural Tourism program. The main goal is to give opportunity to people to diversify and to increase their incomes by creating or developing tourist activity in rural areas.
GLOBAL TOURISM BUSINESS AWARD
GAP Adventures, Canada & Global
This Canadian based adventure tour operator is a leader in the field of sustainable management, applying a holistic approach to their entire operations. Responsible tourism is at the heart of GAP Adventures – they are committed to using local suppliers, labor, and produce on their tours, while also adhering to strict green guidelines for themselves, as well as their partners. GAP Adventures was founded in 1990, offering over 1000 small group, low-impact adventures to over 85,000 passengers a year.
Marriott International Inc, USA & Global
Marriott International, Inc. is a worldwide hospitality company founded in 1927 and headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Over the last year and a half, Marriott International has worked alongside Conservation International, a global conservation organization, to improve practices within their hotel buildings, as well as develop a large-scale rainforest conservation project in the Amazon to protect biodiversity and mitigate climate change. Marriott’s holistic approach to sustainable management includes strict supply-chain management, obtaining LEED certification for their offices and properties, and a solid waste and recycling program.
Metropolitan Touring, Ecuador
Metropolitan Touring is a fully-Ecuadorian company founded in 1953, with its headquarters in Quito, Ecuador. Operational support offices are found in Guayaquil, Riobamba, Cuenca, Galápagos Islands, Lima, Cuzco, Puno, and Arequipa. Metropolitan Touring’s contributions to sustainability can be seen in three corporate fields: international certifications (for ships and hotels in the Galápagos Islands, including the Smart Voyager certification); environmental policy, including environmental education and training, solid-waste recycling programs and costal clean-up programs; and Fundación Galápagos-Ecuador, a not-for profit conservation and community environmental organization.
Costas Christ, chairman of judges said, “Many challenges still remain, from broad reductions of CO2 emissions by the travel and tourism industry, to addressing poverty alleviation, to preserving cultural and natural heritage in both existing and emerging tourism destinations. But there is no question that what we are witnessing today may be the most significant transformation in the history of modern travel – a global recognition of the importance of sustainable tourism. The 2009 Tourism for Tomorrow Award finalists represent this transformation in action.”
For more information, visit www.tourismfortomorrow.com.