2014 Winners

Overall joint winners: Campo and Parque dos Sonhos and South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance

The judges wanted to recognise two very different category winners. The Sanctuary Alliance for demonstrating that animal attractions can liberate previously captive wildlife and, without petting or exploitation, be commercially successful. Parque dos Sonhos for demonstrating that truly inclusive tourism can enhance the adventure activity experiences for everyone and enable families and friends to share the experience. Both winners demonstrate that it is possible to address the rights agenda, to swim against the tide, and be commercially successful.

The World Responsible Tourism Awards ceremony was hosted at World Travel Market on World Responsible Tourism Day. The Awards were presented by Justin Francis, Managing Director of responsibletravel.com, organiser and founder of the Awards, and Her Excellency Maitha Al Mahrouqi; Undersecretary of Oman Ministry of Tourism, headline sponsor of the Awards.
Read more of our winners' stories on their category page, and read the judges comments in our report at the bottom of the page.

Best animal welfare initiative

Supported by Born Free Foundation.
Gold award: 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.
Gold award: South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA)
Animal sanctuaries should do what they say on the tin; be a sanctuary for animals that have been injured or harmed. A place to help and heal. It doesn't occur to most tourists to question that a sanctuary could have any other mission but, sadly, some are more about making money out of tourists than making a better life for animals. Which is why an alliance has been created in South Africa. The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) is like the super model of how sanctuaries should practise conservation and how they should present themselves on the world tourism stage.
Read more about both of our winners on the animal welfare page.

Best aviation programme for carbon reduction

Sponsored by Visit Gozo.
Gold award: Thomson Airways
Thomson Airways is the UK's third largest airline with 57 planes to its name. It also flies under the flag of one of the largest travel companies in the world, TUI Travel Plc Group, which launched a Sustainable Holidays Plan in 2012. This was a three year vision covering all areas of the business, just one of which was flying. The Plan gave Thomson permission for take-off on a journey to become Europe's most fuel efficient airline.
Read more about our winners on the carbon reduction page.

Best for beach tourism

Sponsored by Jersey.
Gold award: Chole Mjini Conservation & Development Co. Ltd
Who can't love the fact that Chole Mjini Island is part of an archipelago called Mafia? And yet this is a place where the more well-known mafia couldn't possibly exist, with no roads, no cars, no electricity, no computers, no mobile phones. No buildings to hide in either, just seven tree houses that are open to the elements, where luxury is about having time and space to enjoy the sheer natural beauty of this island idyll, just south of Zanzibar.
Silver award: Casa de las Olas
The secret of Casa de las Olas is out. Which isn't easy, because these guys like to keep their Caribbean dream lodges as secret as possible, not listing them on Google Maps, or giving directions on their website. Privacy is key here, but so is responsible tourism, with a commitment to sustainable building and living that is exemplary. Oh by the way, it's near Tulum Beach in Mexico. But that's as much as you're getting.

Read more about our winners on the beach tourism page.

Best city hotel

Sponsored by Los Cabos Tourism Board.
Gold award: Hotel Verde
Airport hotels aren't usually considered sexy, soulful or indeed sustainable, which is one of the reasons why Hotel Verde, just 400 metres from Cape Town International Airport in South Africa, stands out. With 145 rooms, this 4-star hotel combines eco chic with eco switched on, both in terms of its hospitality and sustainability.
Silver award: ITC Grand Chola
You know that ITC Grand Chola in Chennai, India, is serious about its sustainable practices when the main thing it boasts about is the fact that zero waste water goes into the sewers. They use their own sewage retreatment plant, which brings the water back to an almost potable state, but is then recycled into the building for horticulture, cooling towers and toilet flushing. As part of the ITC Hotel chain, one of the largest in India, the company as a whole promotes its responsible luxury above everything else. It isn't tucked away on the back page of its website, like many multinational hotel chains, but is there for all to see. And yet, we like the fact that Grand Chola chooses to shout about its sewage system first, rather than its wind farm that provides the entire hotel's electricity, or the solar panels that power 25% of hot water or the mandatory environmental training for staff. Oh, and then there's the tiny detail of it being the largest LEED Platinum Luxury hotel in the world. With water issues being crucial to India, they rightfully shout about that first and foremost. Because being sustainable is often about getting down and dirty, being open and honest, and Grand Chola is a leader in that respect.
Silver award: Jurys Inn, Brighton
Fitting into Brighton and Hove's aim to be the 'green capital' of the UK, Jurys Inn has taken exceptional steps towards being a highly responsible hotel. It is also proof that going the extra mile to make a difference to the environment, local community and culture is almost always down to the individuals working in an organisation. And with a full time sustainability manager on site at all times at Jurys Inn Brighton, you can see what a difference this makes. Nicola Cunningham is not only responsible for maintaining its high status as a Gold rated hotel in the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS), with environmental strengths like having a remote access air conditioning system that can be controlled by reception when the bedrooms are not in use, impressive recycling of food waste, and the promotion of sustainable travel, but also its community commitment.

Read more about our winners on the city hotel page.

Best cultural heritage attraction

Sponsored by Wightlink.
Silver award: Festivals of Puebla
Tourist heading to Puebla in east central Mexico will hear about the region locked in time, a time of strict Catholicism and colonialism. However, you have to search a bit deeper on the tourism websites to dig back to the pre-Hispanic heritage in this region, or just check out on of the seven Puebla festivals, which highlight to national and international tourists the unique cultural heritage of this state from way before the Conquistadors arrived.

Read more about our winner on the cultural heritage page.

Best destination

Sponsored by Visit Norway.
Gold award: V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
It must be hard for Cape Town residents to imagine the V&A Waterfront not being there now, having put the city's run down harbour area back on the map. Big time. Since opening in 1990, it spreads over 326 acres of this historic area in Table Bay with leisure, entertainment and shopping outlets to play in. Yet all the time keeping a view back out on the water, reflecting the marine heritage attached to it.
Read more about our winner on the destination page.

Best for engaging people & culture

Sponsored by New York State Division of Tourism.
Gold award: Kutch Adventures, India
When you see a sponsor like the New York State Division of Tourism proudly hand over an award to a tiny Gujarati business like Kutch Adventures, it makes you realise what responsible tourism is about. We are all responsible for making this a better industry. Kutch Adventures was created out of a drive to revive the desert landscape of Gujarat, India, after its destruction in the 2001 earthquake, one of India's worst natural disasters. The community-focused business was founded by a local resident, Kuldip Gadhvi five years ago leading tours and hosting homestays for tourists.
Silver award: Footsteps Eco Lodge, Gambia
You know that when you see an eco freshwater pool at an accommodation, they are the real thing, immersing themselves as best they can in environmentally responsible practices. Chlorine is so much easier, and yet nothing feels like a freshwater pool. It feels pure, natural and soothing. Which are all good metaphors for Footsteps Eco Lodge, really, a place that quietly gets on with the good work it believes in. Simply because it comes naturally to them.

Read more about both our winners on the people and culture page.

People's Choice for responsible tourism

Sponsored by Slovenia Tourist Board.
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.
Read more about our winner on the peoples choice page.

Best for people with disabilities

Sponsored by Enable Holidays.
Gold award: Campo and Parque dos Sonhos
From coffee plantation to fully accessible outdoor activity centre in the luscious hinterlands of Sao Paulo. You can't get more fairly traded coffee than that. Because although Campo and Parque dos Sonhos hotel and adventure park started life in 1997 as a coffee plantation and organic farm, it is now a model of accessible tourism for the whole of Brazil, and beyond.
Gold award: Cavan Town & Environs
Cavan town is the heart of County Cavan, Ireland, a region packed with lakes and luscious countryside. Cavan town is also a celebrated town with many fine buildings and historic sites attracting 100,000 visitors a year. Since it undertook an Access Audit in 2007, Cavan has also made major efforts to become a fully accessible town.
Silver award: NATIVE Charming Hotels and Accessible Tourism
Based in Madrid, this alliance of hotels promotes total accessibility at all of its hotels, focussing on excellent communication methods so that people of all disabilities can inform themselves about hotel facilities. This starts with its website, www.nativehotels.org, which is in six languages, and has two systems of accessibility, the well-known W3C-WAI (level AA) system and the new Inclusite system.

Read more about our winners on the people with disabilities page.

Best for poverty reduction

Sponsored by Tobago House of Assembly.
Gold award: Adventure Alternative
Gavin Bate, the founder of Adventure Alternative, is a man who climbs mountains. And moves them too, by knowing clearly what he wants to achieve in tourism. Which is to take tourists into extraordinary, rural mountain landscapes in developing countries and, in doing so, pull the local people who host them out of poverty and into wealth creation.
Silver award: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Wildlife conservation isn't always synonymous with poverty reduction in tourism, at least not in tourists' eyes, whose focus is more on the preservation of wildlife than lifestyles. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is already famous for its fine wildlife conservation work, but the achievements with regards to poverty are also worthy of note. Originally a cattle ranch, it was turned into a wildlife area, and then a conservancy, which means that funds raised from tourism are reinvested directly back into conservation and development projects.
Silver award: Mdumbi Backpackers
Mdumbi Backpackers in South Africa's Eastern Cape is a small accommodation with 36 beds, which has been thriving since it opened eleven years ago. Committed to the creation of and integration with small local businesses such as laundries and bakeries, Mdumbi Backpackers puts people and poverty alleviation before profits. Consequently, the owners are on the same pay scale as their staff, five of whom have 30% of the shares, and all shareholders agreed to give 10% of the profits to a community body. Also, as tourism leaders in the area, they work closely with the community as a whole to highlight how important tourism can be to their region, to create a pride of place, and facilitate the creation of other community run tourism projects. Mdumbi is exemplary as a form of tourism that is outward looking and forward thinking, generous in its community support and always playing a pedagogical role when it comes to helping others make their mark in tourism. Just as they have.

Read more about all three of our winners on the poverty reduction page.

Best short film for responsible tourism

Sponsored by Fair Trade Tourism.
Gold award: Travel Oregon - "John Day River Territory"
This film is all about people power in tourism. Not only the people who made this beautiful series of films, entitled Communities Powered by Travel , but also all the people who feature in this one in particular, about the John Day River Territory, in Eastern Oregon, USA. The third in the series, it conveys stories of from a region which has suffered youth emigration due to lack of employment, and efforts made by a strong network of individuals along the John Day River corridor to remedy this through tourism.

Silver award: GLP Films - "Basecamp Foundation - Pioneering Sustainable Tourism in Kenya's Masai Mara"
GLP Film about Basecamp Foundation - Pioneering Sustainable Tourism in Kenya's Masai Mara captures the work of a school where Maasai tribespeople learn the skills of guiding and tourism generally. This school is unique in Kenya, and the film is an uplifting account of how the Maasai, both men and women, are becoming empowered through education. They are now embracing the benefits of nature tourism, with the Basecamp encouraging them to develop their own destinations and, in doing so, they are gaining a sense of pride when they realise that their skills are valuable and, indeed, unique.
Silver award: World Wildlife Fund - "The Guardians"
The World Wildlife Fund's film, The Guardians, captures the transformative effect of tourism on wildlife, wild places and the people who hold their future in their hands. Filmed in Namibia, it shows the journey that local people and government have made, by recognising that the human wildlife conflict can be resolved. The film focuses on the story of Namibian livestock farmer, Jantjie Rhyn, who came to appreciate the value of his country's wildlife when responsible tourism started to take hold.

Watch all three winners' videos and read more about them on our short film page .

Best for wildlife conservation

Sponsored by Discover Dominica.

Gold award: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

Echidna Walkabout puts wildlife conservation at the heart of all their wildlife tours. Which sounds like the norm but when income raised from tours is ploughed back into serious conservation research, this takes tourism onto another level. Such is the work of Echidna, which was founded by Janine Duffy and Roger Smith in 1993 in Melbourne, Australia.
Silver award: Chambal Safari Hotels Pvt Ltd
Chambal Safari Hotels in Uttar Pradesh, is located on 36 acres of woodland and heritage farmland that has been owned by the same family since 1472. Now in the hands of birding enthusiast and conservationist Ram Pratap Singh, it has been transformed from its previous life as hosts of a bi-annual cattle fair and festival, to an eco lodge. Now part of the National Chambal Sanctuary, the lodge has not only put this wildlife retreat on the tourism map, but also been instrumental in saving and protecting their important habitats over the last fifteen years ago. At that time, the Sanctuary was under tremendous pressure to be exploited for sand mining purposes. Chambal Safari Hotels led a sustained campaign to stop this, educating villagers about not only the risks to wildlife and habitats, but also to local water levels if mining was to take place. The focus of Chambal has always, therefore, been to reassure the community that their inextricable link to their landscapes and resident wildlife is fundamental to their wellbeing and livelihoods.
Silver award: On Track Safaris
On Track Safaris lead small safaris to South Africa, Zambia and Uganda, although the work that really stands out for us is on leopards. This company has always had a mission to put conservation at the core of all its safaris. As well as offering all the usual elements of a safari, they invite and attract guests who want to play a role in the conservation of wildlife, not just capture them on camera for posterity. Consequently, they support non-profit conservation organisations, such as the INGWE Leopard Research program, which they created themselves to gather data on leopard behaviour and numbers. This was in response to the fact that although leopards are in significant decline, there was little data available to monitor this. In addition, leopards are still being trophy hunted, or shot because of conflict with livestock owners. On Track works on intense education programs with all of these parties, a task that requires much patience and understanding of the varying social and economic issues, in order to highlight the importance - ecological, ethical and economic - of keeping their leopard populations healthy.

Read more about all three of our winners on the wildlife conservation page.
Written by Justin Francis
Photo credits: [Page banner: South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance]