2011 winners

Overall winner: Robin Pope Safaris & Sockmob Event/Unseen Tours

At a ceremony hosted at World Travel Market (WTM), ExCel, London, as part of World Responsible Tourism Day, the Awards were handed out by Justin Francis, Managing Director of responsibletravel.com, organisers and founders of the Awards, and Amanda Wills, Managing Director of Virgin Vacations, in their fifth year as headline sponsor of the Awards, with a special message from Sir Richard Branson.

Speaking about the Awards Justin Francis said:

"Right now it's tough times for business - industries the world over are facing difficult questions from a public who want to know if business can be a force for good. Tourism is no exception, and thankfully our winners are on hand with the answers. Where travelers ask for authenticity, our winners are there with genuine experiences. Where destinations ask 'what's in it for me', our winners share the benefits."

Amanda Wills , Managing Director, Virgin Vacations, headline sponsor of the Awards said:

"For the fifth year running, Virgin Vacations is honoured to be involved in celebrating the humbling and hugely inspiring winners of these awards. Everyone in the travel industry can and should learn from them and seek ways we can work together to make a meaningful and ongoing commitment to responsible travel. The example set by the winners shows that fairness in travel can be good for us, good for our customers and suppliers, and most of all good for the communities and destinations with which we work."

Read about the winners

All our Winners and Highly Commended organisations have been put through their paces in a rigorous judging process designed by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism and Professor Harold Goodwin.

Want to know why they won? Check out a new biannual publication dedicated to profiling and debating the latest innovations and technical developments in Responsible Tourism. Edited by Professor Harold Goodwin, chair of the Responsible Tourism Awards judging panel, Progress in Responsible Tourism also offers an in-depth analysis of this year’s nominations, the award winners, and why they were awarded.


Joint overall winners: Robin Pope Safaris & Sockmob Events/Unseen Tours

The Judges said:
"This year the Judges wanted to Award two joint overall winners to recognise both long term excellence, and bold innovative new ideas. Robin Pope Safaris' 20 year record of remarkable work with local communities in Zambia is a standard for tourism organisations to aspire to. At the same time, Sock Mob Events/Unseen Tours offers a glimpse of new perspectives for the future. The Judges feel the combination of proven and new, Africa and London, demonstrate the breadth of achievement in responsible tourism."

Best in responsible tourism writing

sponsored by Trinidad & Tobago Tourist Board

Winner: Tourism must tap into the water issue, by Catherine Mack
Originally appearing as part of her 'Ethical traveler' column in the Irish Times, Catherine Mack's thought-provoking piece impressed the judges for bringing attention to the issue of water consumption for travelers. Something of a rarity in travel journalism, the piece is praised for offering an honest view of an overlooked and yet considerable tourism issue, highlighting it clearly to the traveling mainstream.

Highly commended:
  • Sicily’s First Eco Village Blooms, by Gail Simmons.
  • Telling the stories of their land/World’s Oldest Tour Guides, by Nick Haslam.

Best destination Norway

sponsored by Oman Ministry of Tourism

Winner: Destination Røros
This former mining-town in Norway may have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, but it's been preserving traditions as a tourist destination for over 85 years. Attracting over one million visitors each year, the town of just 3700 inhabitants maintains its sense of place through a 'local knowledge' programme run for over 90 businesses, local food safaris and much more.

Highly commended:
  • Forest of Bowland, UK.

Best in a mountain environment

sponsored by Oman Ministry of Tourism

Winner: Himalayan Vacations (Pvt), Pakistan
The Judges were full of praise for this responsible tour operator committed to providing low volume, low impact trekking vacations in what is a highly controversial tourism destination. In the face of incredible odds Himalayan Vacations' 'Vacations for All' programme in the Kaghan and Astore Valleys provides tented accommodation that secures employment for local people, and the Khanpur water-based sports programme benefitting over 80 families with income.

Highly commended:
  • Mountain Lodges of Peru, Peru.
  • Whistler Blackcomb, Canada.

Best responsible cruise or ferry operator

sponsored by Oman Ministry of Tourism

Winner: DFDS Seaways, UK
DFDS Seaways is one of Europe's largest ferry companies, and has gone a long way towards marine conservation. Teaming up with ORCA to discover a wealth of whales, dolphins and wildlife on their routes, they now host an onboard 'wildlife center' offering fun activities for passengers, employ onboard wildlife officers, and work with the School of Whales on a range of mini wildlife-watching cruises.

Highly commended:
  • Ullswater Steamers, UK.

Best contribution to conserving cultural heritage

sponsored by Oman Ministry of Tourism

Winner: Agri Tourism Development Corporation, India
The Agri Tourism Development Corporation organise tourism experiences on working farms in India. By providing vacation experiences based on local agricultural traditions, this initiative is creating job opportunities for local farmers, allowing them to diversify their livelihoods whilst preserving their way of life. The judges were impressed by the replicability of the idea, and how this primarily domestic tourism experience was helping to bring Indian tourists back into rural communities.

Highly commended:
  • Nutti Sami Siida, Sweden.

Best volunteering organisation

sponsored by Oman Ministry of Tourism

Winner: Global Vision International (GVI), UK
Global Vision International impressed the judges with the scale of their impacts on the ground. Placing 3,500 volunteers each year in 60 countries, GVI teaches over 10,000 people each year in six continents. And for GVI the proof of their work is in the performance of their students - in Guatamala their students were in the top 5% nationally examined in 2011 - proving that well-placed skilled volunteers can have genuine impacts. Their charitable trust already estimates £400,000 will be raised for their partners this year alone.

Highly commended:
  • Tiny Island Volunteers, Maldives

Best tour operator for local experiences

sponsored by Travelife

Winner: - Sock Mob Events/Unseen Tours, UK
The Judges were excited by the promise of this relatively young tour operator to provide a model for responsible tourism in cities. Organised by the Sock Mob volunteer network, 'Unseen Tours' take a unique view of London by organising tours run by trained homeless guides, offering an unexplored view of the big city. Incorporating history with personal perspective, the tours give voice to those usually silent in tourism; create job opportunities, and an unforgettable experience.

Highly commended:
  • Wild Rose Escapes.

Best accommodation for the environment

sponsored by Tourism Authority of Thailand

Winner: Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant, UK
Originally an 18th century farmhouse, this net zero carbon neutral, three-star hotel impressed the judges with its range of initiatives and achievements in the last six years. To name just a few: a biomass boiler supplied by a sustainable forestry, and solar thermal panels providing all heating and hot water, charging points for electrical vehicles, and enough rainwater collection to supply water for 2 acres of land, including the two polytunnels used to grow their own food!

Highly commended:
  • Campi Ya Kanzi, Kenya
  • Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco

Best in a marine environment

sponsored by Tourism Fiji

Winner: Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development, Belize
The Judges were impressed by this organisation's campaign for locally owned tourism development in the face of planned cruise tourism in the Placencia Peninsula of Belize. After uniting the community to preserve the authenticity of the Peninsula, they have continued to promote collaboration between local tourism organisations and the village council to proactively develop sustainable tourism.

Highly commended:
  • Coral Cay Conservation, Cambodia.
  • Maple Leaf Adventures, Canada.

Best for poverty reduction

sponsored by Tourism KwaZulu Natal

Winner: Robin Pope Safaris, Zambia and Malawi
20 years of commitment to grass roots sustainable community development, like the successful Kawaza Village Tourism Project in Zambia, have distinguished Robin Pope Safaris as a pioneer in responsible tourism. Their contribution to local livelihoods in South Luangwa through education and business development has established an inspiring model that even now is being rolled out to Malawi, with the promise of similar laudable effect.

Highly commended:
  • Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan.

Best low carbon initiative

sponsored by Slovenian Tourist Board

Winner: Eurostar International Limited, UK
No stranger to the Awards, Eurostar impressed the judges this year by refusing to sit on their laurels, instead finding new ways to save energy and encourage their passengers to do the same. Since 2007 they have reduced their waste to landfill by 40%, and in 2009 started working with 'Worn Again' to upcycle old uniforms into new saleable products. 15% of each supplier tender is scored towards the company's environmental behavior, and the new phase of their 'Tread Lightly' campaign aims to reduce supporting business CO2 emissions by 25% by 2015. They have even launched the "Eurostar Ashden Award for Sustainable Travel" to encourage further innovation in sustainability.

Highly commended:
  • Intrepid Travel, UK

Best accommodation for local communities

sponsored by Kenya Tourist Board

Fauzi Azar Inn, Israel
This 200 year old Arab mansion-turned guest house is the vision of Maoz Inon. Set in the old town of Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, the opening of the Inn has helped to facilitate interaction between tourists and locals - part of Maoz' goal to transform a neglected area through tourism and promote communication across boundaries of race and religion in the Middle East. The Inn has designed, produced and distributed 50,000 maps of Nazareth to enable exploration of the old town, and organises a free tour experienced by 2,500 people per year.

Highly commended:
  • Semadep Safari Camp, Kenya.

Best for conservation of wildlife & habitats

sponsored by South Australian Tourism Commission

Winner: Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Malawi
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is a wildlife rescue, conservation and education center in the heart of Malawi's capital city. Fending off developers, the center has reclaimed and revived 90 hectares of urban wilderness to provide sanctuary for rescued, orphaned and injured wild animals, and promotes conservation to locals and tourists alike. It now takes over 20,000 visitors per year, showing its value as a center for both the people and wildlife of Malawi.

Highly commended:
  • Great Ocean Ecolodge, Australia.
  • Africat Okonjima, Namibia.
Written by Justin Francis
Photo credits: [Page banner: Robin Pope Safaris]