2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards

2016 Winners


Overall Joint winners: Lemon Tree Hotel and Tren Ecuador

There are two overall winners in the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards: Lemon Tree Hotel and Tren Ecuador. We want to leave a mark as to where Responsible Tourism is at present, to highlight organisations that really are taking tourism in a new and highly responsible direction for the future. The judges found it very difficult to separate the two overall winners, as both have had significant impacts at scale in their respective areas and have the potential to inspire real change - as such they are awarded jointly:

Tren Ecuador, Ecuador
Ecuador is a country that just makes us happy in the world of responsible tourism. First, because it has a Ministry of Happiness and Wellbeing in its government, second because it has more protected, biodiverse magnificence tucked into one small country than anywhere else we can think of and third, it has a luxury train journey that is as much about drinking in the culture of the communities along the railway line as it is about the champagne on board. You can take that wonderful journey between Guayaquil to Quito, but if you are hungry or want to tuck up for the night you have to get off the train and tuck into local fare or sleep at a local hotel. This happiness thing is working in Ecuador, because they have just created the ultimate in Fair Train tourism.

Read more about why they won on the Poverty Reduction and Inclusion page.

Lemon Tree Hotels, India
India really does know how to do luxury hotels. You only need to have dipped into regal Rajasthan or the glimmering Golden Triangle to see that quality of service and facilities is something that Indian hotel chains pride themselves on. At Lemon Tree Hotels, they are adding to this quality by taking a refreshing approach to employment principles and practices that has introduced a whole new fragrance of fairness throughout the company.

Read more about why they won on the Accommodation for Responsible Employment page.

Best innovation by a tour operator


Sponsored by Belize Tourism Board
Gold award: Elevate Destinations, USA
Is it a social enterprise? Is it philanthropy? Is it a luxury break? No, it's super tourism, although not with super powers. Just super common sense. In short, take a tailor made trip with Elevate Destinations, and one that is responsible at that, and for every trip bought, Elevate educates. In other words, every time you take a vacation with this company, Elevate gives money towards a fund that provides school trips to a group of local children who wouldn't normally get to see or appreciate their country's natural or cultural gems. The ones that we so often take for granted. It's simple, it's educational, it's fun and, like so many of the world's best ideas, this 'Buy a Trip, Give a Trip' idea is genius.
Silver award: Viaggi Solidali, Italy
Unlike most travel companies singing about their innovations, Viaggi Solidali's cool concept is all about the country of departure, rather than the glorious destinations that they represent. Because in their home country of Italy, they are offering a series of guided city tours led by local people. The difference being, these are local people who have arrived here as immigrants. With migration becoming more and more of a heated topic around the world, this company has turned a negative into a positive, tapped into their large network of responsible tourists and showed how they could travel responsibly at home too.

Read more about these winners on the innovation by a tour operator page.

Best contribution to wildlife conservation


Sponsored by Florida Keys and Key West Tourist Development Council
Gold award: Sam Veasna Centre (SVC), Cambodia One of the most highly respected wildlife watching tour operators in Cambodia, bird lovers flock to SVC to be taken on ornithological odysseys of a lifetime. Many of these are birders who may be au fait with every exquisite detail of an endemic and yet not know anything about the colourful and extraordinary journey of this company. Because so often, wildlife conservation coups are the work of one individual and Sam Veasna was certainly one of those.
Silver award: Misool Eco Resort, Indonesia
In just over 10 years, two people made a marine miracle happen. After scuba diving around southern Raja Ampat, Indonesia in 2005 and being stunned by its reef rich beauty, Marit and Andrew Miners were also devastated by the evidence of the shark finning industry on a nearby beach. And so, unlike others who might just swim away and shrug it off as someone else's problem, they decided to stay and turn the tide. This resulted in a world renowned ecotourism and diving resort on this same beach on Batbitim Island, overlooking 91,000 hectares of protected No-Take Zone (NTZ), where fishing and collection of marine organisms is not permitted and which they helped create. These guys certainly don't let the sea grass grow under their feet.

Silver award: East African Safari and Touring Company (EASTCO), Tanzania
At first glance it seems as if every private safari company in Africa is wholly committed to wildlife conservation. Some are, but of course many aren't. However, with the simple fact that the East African Safari and Touring Company, located on lands that buffer Tanzania's Tarangire National Park, has the fastest growing population of elephants in Africa, you have to take your hat off to them. And the Tanzanian government has done just that, formally designating their land as the Randilen Wildlife Management Area. Read more.

Silver award: Burj Al Arab Aquarium, United Arab Emirates
Possibly the world's most photographed and iconic hotel, the famously luxurious Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai has hidden depths in terms of responsible tourism. Indeed, large, multinational hotel chains aren't usually top of the wildlife loving list these days, with a few rare exceptions. Jumeirah's funding of the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (DTRP) as part of its aquarium is an exquisite exception too, having rescued, nurtured and released over a thousand sea turtles since it was founded in 2004.

Read more about these winners on the wildlife conservation page.

Best responsible tourism campaign


Sponsored by Exodus Travels
Gold award: Friends International - ChildSafe, Cambodia
This campaign is not only hard hitting, but also holistic. Because it has to be. It deals with the exploitation of children in tourism, be it through the creation of false orphanages, forced begging, unethical employment and, at worst, sex tourism. All are unthinkable but sadly they are a reality. ChildSafe has, however, from their base in Cambodia, taken on the Southeast Asian countries in a whirlwind of activity to put a stop to child exploitation. And no one escapes taking responsibility on this one as far as ChildSafe is concerned. Everyone, from corporate leaders to backpackers, can take a step to protect a child in danger and ChildCare shows us how.
Silver award: World Cetacean Alliance
For the non naturalists among us, cetaceans are the magnificent mammals of the marine world - the dolphins, whales and porpoises that we all love. The word comes from the Greek, ketos, meaning 'big fish' and when it comes to protecting these beauties, the World Cetacean Alliance really is the big fish out there. From lobbying both governments and the tourism industry, to being full on activists, the World Cetacean Alliance has achieved and continues to achieve the ultimate sea change.

Read more about these winners on the responsible tourism campaign page.

Best for poverty reduction and inclusion


Sponsored by Tobago House of Assembly
Gold award: Tren Ecuador, Ecuador
Ecuador is a country that just makes us happy in the world of responsible tourism. First, because it has a Ministry of Happiness and Wellbeing in its government, second because it has more protected, biodiverse magnificence tucked into one small country than anywhere else we can think of and third, it has a luxury train journey that is as much about drinking in the culture of the communities along the railway line as it is about the champagne on board. You can take that wonderful journey between Guayaquil to Quito, but if you are hungry or want to tuck up for the night you have to get off the train and tuck into local fare or sleep at a local hotel. This happiness thing is working in Ecuador, because they have just created the ultimate in Fair Train tourism.
Silver award: Sapa O'Chau, Vietnam
As tourism grows rapidly in Vietnam, there is a section of society here that is being left out of this new economy, and that is the country's ethnic minorities. Few know that better than the founder of the tourism company Sapa O'Chau, Shu Tan, a former handicraft street vendor and tourist guide. She is from the Black Hmon ethnic minority and her company, providing guided treks in the Sapa region of Northern Vietnam, is owned and managed by people from ethnic minorities. This isn't typical of tourism in the area, where many local people aren't even able go to school. So, Shu's first step was to make that happen.

Silver award: !Xaus Lodge, South Africa
An oasis in the Kalahari Desert, this small lodge is located inside Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa's Northern Cape. The original idea back in 2002 was for it to be shared, as part of a land claim settlement, between the Mier and ‡Khomani San communities giving them access to their ancestral lands. However, historical conflict between these two groups meant that managing a lodge together was never going to be an easy ride. The good news is, however, that time heals. And tourism does too.

Read more about these winners on the poverty reduction page.

Best accommodation for responsible employment


Sponsored by Belize Tourism Board
Gold award: Lemon Tree Hotels, India
India really does know how to do luxury hotels. You only need to have dipped into regal Rajasthan or the glimmering Golden Triangle to see that quality of service and facilities is something that Indian hotel chains pride themselves on. At Lemon Tree Hotels, they are adding to this quality by taking a refreshing approach to employment principles and practices that has introduced a whole new fragrance of fairness throughout the company.
Silver award: Bushmans Kloof, South Africa
Luxury is often unfairly equated with a 'them and us' attitude but Bushmans Kloof, the only five star luxury hotel in the remote foothills of the Cederberg Mountains, has proven that this does not have to be the way. Part of the family-owned Red Carnation Hotel Collection, they have also created a family of employees on site by not only employing over 55 percent from local communities but also by housing people for free in their own Bushmans Kloof village.

Read more about these winners on the accommodation for responsible employment page.
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