Peoples Choice Award


One of the main aims of the Responsible Tourism Awards is to inspire tourists by what is possible to achieve through responsible tourism. As our travelers' views and experiences are extremely important to us, this category is voted for entirely by the public, choosing their most inspiring category winner.

In 2015 voting took place via National Geographic Traveler (UK) magazine and almost 6,000 votes were received from the general public, asked to pick a favourite from last year’s winners. This year’s winner had 1,536 votes in total.

2015 winner

winner: World Animal Protection

Winner: World Animal Protection
As well as changing its name from the World Society for the Protection of Animals to World Animal Protection, this eminent UK based charity has also upgraded its remit of late. Having spent the last 50 years campaigning and, in many cases, winning, to protect both wild and domestic animals worldwide from mass culling, the horrors of so called entertainment such as bear baiting, or the damage caused to marine life from discarded fishing gear, it is now hitting the tourism industry directly. Through its Compassionate Travel campaign it is reaching out to international bodies to put a stop to the unnecessary use of wild animals in tourism.

The irony of using wild animals in tourism is that most people who pay to see them on vacation are, actually, animal lovers. Although most of them don't understand what the animals have been put through in order to 'perform', others simply turn a blind eye. World Animal Protection realises that protests and boycotts, lobbying and lecturing are not the only ways to create change in this area. Although they do an excellent job at this level too, having successfully moved the United Nations to include animal welfare in resolutions for the first time in 2013, a victory that will lead to policy change worldwide. In tourism, however, they are working to re-educate tour operators that buy trips to ride elephants, cheer on bullfights and swim with dolphins, as well as also communicating directly with consumers through campaigns and petitions. And these guys are well qualified to teach and outreach, having been successful in bringing the now, thankfully, passé bear dancing to an end in India, Turkey and Greece.

With plans to go global in the near future, World Animal Protection has focused its work in Australia and The Netherlands to date collaborating with, in particular, leading responsible tourism company Intrepid Travel as a leading partner. Together they have made a good team to present the case for tourism that is free from animal cruelty. Consequently, fifteen Dutch operators, including TUI Netherlands, have stopped elephant rides and visits to elephant shows on all their trips.

If you are traveling abroad this year, and want to know more about the animal welfare in places you love to visit, take time out to read World Animal Protection's highly informative and free to download Animal Friendly Vacation guide on their website, follow their campaigns on social media and spread the word about not eating wild animals in restaurants, not having your photograph taken with drugged wild animals, and never petting something that is meant to be in the wild. These are just starters on the large menu of ways in which you can help this now award-winning organisation to keep winning over the people who can really create change, and to show that we can all be compassionate in travel.

2014 winners

Winner: Nam Nern Night Safari

Because our travelers' views and experiences are fundamental to how we work at we have included a People's Choice Award. For this category, a panel of judges selected five previous recent winners that represented a wide diversity of responsible tourism. The public was then asked to select their favourite. And the winner is... Nam Nern Night Safari. You can also see all our other finalists videos.
Winner: Nam Nern Night Safari
Winner in the 2013 category, Best for Responsible Wildlife Experiences, Nam Nern Night Safari is located in north-eastern Laos (in the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area), a wildlife haven of tiger, gaur, Sambar deer, gibbons and otters. But, in the main, Nam Nern has their eye on the tiger, given that it has the largest known breeding population of tigers in Indochina.

Nam Nern Safaris mixes cultural experiences, inviting visitors to enjoy a Lao picnic dinner and Khmu ethnic folk tales told by village guides, before setting off on a river night safari to spot wildlife and staying overnight in bungalows all built with local materials. Nam Nern involves tourists in conserving wildlife by asking them to keep a record of the animals that they see. Each animal is allocated a value, according to its endangered status: the more animals tourists see, the more money villagers get, which contributes to the process of eradicating poaching, which was an invaluable source of income for many people in the past. It's a simple model, and it works. Average sightings per boat have doubled from two to four in four years of operation and 90% of the tour revenue goes back to the communities. In addition, the project gives work to 38 individuals from 38 families.

A contract was signed with each village regarding the distribution of ecotourism benefits and was signed by every family in fourteen villages. Between 2010 and 2013, there have been 370 visitors and the revenues have been shared by over a thousand families. The village development fund generated $2,860 in 2013, roughly $200 per village. It has been used by villages to improve their well-being through small projects. Which is a win-win for everyone, and everything, and makes Nan Nern a winner for two years in a row also.

2014 Finalists

  • Chepu Adventures Ecolodge
  • Snowcarbon
  • TUI Nederland
  • People and places
  • ReefCI
  • Village Ways
  • The Great Projects
  • Mara Naboisho

2013 winners

Winner: Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, Chile

Winner: Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, Chile
For this category, a panel of judges selected five previous recent winners that represented the diversity of Responsible Tourism. The public was then asked to select their favourite.

Judges' comments: "Huilo Huilo addresses all three pillars of sustainability. It works to conserve the forest and endangered species; it has worked with local people to ensure that those who used to make their living from logging and timber are now able to live off tourism and this biological reserve has been a catalyst to creating opportunities for local people to create their own businesses, fostering local cultural and artistic heritage. Huilo Huilo won the Best for Conservation of Wildlife and Habitats category in 2012. Huilo Huilo received a total of 2,187 votes".
  • Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, Chile
Runners up for this category:
  • Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant, UK
  • Reality Tours & Travel, India
  • 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking, Nepal
  • Whale Watch Kaikoura, New Zealand
Written by Justin Francis
Photo credits: [Page banner: World Animal Protection]