2015 Winners

Overall winner: LooLa Adventure Resort

In choosing the overall winner, the judges look for examples which are surprising and inspiring. And this year, they all went loola for LooLa. An Indonesian island idyll, LooLa Adventure Resort is more switched on to sustainability, ecotourism and social responsibility than many of the top brand businesses claiming to be green leaders on these islands. Leaders who are not only committed to employing local staff, but supporting them to become entrepreneurs in their own right.
LooLa Adventure Resort also jointly won our Best for beach category. Read more about them on our Beach page.

The World Responsible Tourism Awards ceremony was hosted at World Travel Market on World Responsible Tourism Day, 4 November 2015. The Awards were presented by Justin Francis, Managing Director of Responsible Travel who organise and founded the Awards, now in their 12th year.
Read more of our winners' stories below and on their category page, and read the judges comments in our report at the bottom of the page.

Best for Poverty Reduction

Sponsored by Tobago House of Assembly.
Gold award: Agri Tourism Development Company Pvt Ltd
Pandurang Taware is a man who understands the fundamentals of agritourism. Emanating from a small farming community in the Indian state of Maharashtra, this business not only invites guests to their own farm and agritourism business, but also shares its knowledge and understanding of rural tourism with 750 farmers around the state. Because, in India, and responsible tourism, we believe that sharing is caring.
Silver award: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
A highly prestigious, 5 * nature reserve and eco resort in the Gansbaai region of South Africa right down on the southern tip. It may seem wonderfully remote to visitors, but it is tied in with the local communities in ways that guests often won't even know about. Because, as their stunning video tells you, "We are but a single thread in this complex web, bound together inextricably to conserve and protect diversity, to seek solutions that support humanity, to live in harmony with nature."

Silver award: OneSeed Expeditions
In some ways, this innovative travel company should be called TenSeeds, given that it plants 10% of its revenue (not profits) into micro finance schemes locally. Which is pretty rare in the tourism industry, it has to be said. It's the first thing you read about when you visit their website, because it's what they believe in, first and foremost. That and giving you a superb holiday, whether you are hiking to the top of Kilimanjaro, trekking in Patagonia or ice hiking in Chile.

Silver award: Uakari Floating Lodge
A floating lodge in the flooded forests of the Amazon. The biggest protected flooded forest in the world in fact, under the care of the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve. It's hard to imagine many things cooler than that. Cool and eco-chic aren't usually two words associated with government departments either, but Uakari is actually a research centre set up by the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. A Ministry that also ministers to communities that live there. Which is rare in our books. So, all in all, Uakari is too cool for school.

Read more about these winners on the Poverty reduction page.

Best Animal Welfare Initiative

Supported by Born Free Foundation.
Gold award: Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH)
We have all seen the images - rich tourists posing for photographs after shooting a lion or other more endangered species. Shared worldwide on social media, most of us look on in disbelief that such practices, known as canned hunting, are still allowed to happen. Canned hunting refers specifically to the hunting of animals which have been enclosed in a confined, privately owned area. Albeit often a very large area so that they don't feel enclosed. Legal in South Africa, it attracts hunters from all over the world, who are prepared to pay vast amounts of money to shoot lions, send home their body parts and have them stuffed, for prowess. This South African based charity, however, engages with tour operators, airlines and governments to make sure that this 'can' becomes a 'can't' forever.
Gold award: Hetta Huskies
Mushing, dog sledding or husky journeys into snowy wilderness. Whatever you call them, few can resist the imagery of these blue eyed beauties, galloping through the snow, caring for and careering their cargo from one beauteous, blanketed landscape to another. This tourism adventure is growing rapidly in popularity. However, like so many tourism practices that involve animals there are good and bad ways of doing it. And because huskies are seen as indestructible, hardy, able to cope with any conditions, welfare issues are often overlooked. Hetta Huskies, however, based in Finnish Lapland, leads the way in mushing magnificence.
Silver award: Lotus Travel
Responsible tourism really becomes a 'movement' when small tour operators like Lotus Travel start to take on the world of animal protection. Running trips to Vietnam, India, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bhutan, many of which have serious animal welfare issues when it comes to tourism, Lotus decided to start a movement of ethical change. No more eastern promises from people on the ground regarding animal protection anymore. But real change.

Silver award: The Donkey Sanctuary
The late Dr Svendsen, who founded the pioneering Donkey Sanctuary in 1969, had one motto for the charity's work: "In everything we do, donkeys will always come first, second and third". This should have also included "and everywhere we go", although at the time, Dr Svendsen may not have predicted the charity's future international prowess. And why the tourism connection? Because donkeys are used as human taxis in many tourist destinations, and often they are maltreated in the extreme.

Read more about these winners on the Animal welfare page.

Best innovation for carbon reduction

Sponsored by Visit Gozo.
Gold award: TUI UK and Ireland
TUI UK & Ireland operates in 180 destinations worldwide and employs around 77,000 people. As well as having an impressive commitment to sustainability, this award focuses on the innovative work they have undertaken to reduce carbon emissions within their retail outlets and offices for all of their brands, which include Thomson and First Choice, with a total of over 600 shops. Blue skies thinking from a company that likes to promise blue skies to all its travellers.
Silver award: Airport Authority, Hong Kong
In an area as complex as carbon reduction, data monitoring is crucial to showing real results. And the Airport Authority, Hong Kong proves that it has top airport control when it comes to watching exactly what is coming and going. Which is vital, given that they were pioneers in setting a 25% carbon reduction pledge by 2015, something many airports can watch and learn from when it comes to cutting carbon across the board.

Silver award: North Sailing
Whale watching is a bucket list tick box for many people, but this company, that has been running whale watching trips for the last 20 years from the town of Húsavík in North Iceland, shows not only that is it so much more than a 'tick box' experience, but that it can be done in a responsible and carbon free way. Which not only saves the whales, but saves the planet.

Read more about these winners on the Innovation for carbon reduction page.

Best for beach tourism

Sponsored by Jersey Tourism.
Gold award: Loola Adventure Resort
This Indonesian island idyll is far from going 'loola'. It is more switched on to sustainability, ecotourism and social responsibility than many of the top brand businesses claiming to be green leaders. Leaders who are not only committed to employing local staff, but supporting them to become entrepreneurs in their own right. And yet it hides its achievements under a tropical bushel. Not for long though, as it is recognised internationally for its capacity to have responsible adventures by the beach, while educating the next generation at the same time.
Gold award: Soneva Fushi, Maldives
When nearly seventy people from the tiny island communities around Soneva Fushi's Kunfunadhoo island resort are taught to swim, it has a perfect ripple effect. Because teaching local people to swim is just a tiny part of Soneva Fushi's, in the Maldives, vision. Helping people, be they hosts or guests, understand the value of their natural heritage, rather than fearing it, is a fundamental part of Soneva's raison d'etre.
Silver award: & Beyond
To infinity &Beyond would be a good strapline for this safari company which, as well as offering luxury safari holidays in many African countries, is now stretching across the globe to take guests to see the wildlife wonders of South Asia and South America. And with such a pioneering spirit when it comes to safaris and wildlife conservation, and in particular with regards to their work along the coast of Zanzibar, it's no wonder there's a 'buzz' about them.

Silver award: Turtle Bay Beach Club
It is still rare to see the words 'all inclusive' and 'responsible' on the same page, because the two concepts are not usually happy bedfellows. Guests can lie in their beds at night at this North Kenyan resort with a clean conscience however, that they are supporting a business that practises what it preaches. To be responsible. The turtles that thrive on their Watamu coastline are pretty happy in their beds too.

Read more about these winners on the Beach tourism page.

Best hotel for local sourcing

Sponsored by Colorado Tourism Office.
Gold award: Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge
This eco Kasbah was built from scratch in 2009 in the Argan Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO site to protect the endemic argan tree. But this Kasbah was built with a view to protecting and proud-sharing the Berber heritage, that of the owner, Hassan Aboutayeb. Pride, protection and pristine beauty oozes from every hand crafted corner of this 11 bedroom Kasbah, just twenty minutes from Agadir in the High Atlas Mountains.
Silver award: Matava, Fiji
Matava Eco Resort on Fiji describes itself as 'Fiji Untouched'. In fact, in the case of local communities, Matava actually touches the lives of many people on Fiji. Because this prestigious resort, with its already impressively light environmental footprint, sources everything locally. And if they can't, they grow it on their own organic farm. With the exception of things like PADI diving administration, and flights, if they can't get it in Fiji, it just doesn't feature. So if it's Moet you are after, best keep moving. If it's Fijian quality you enjoy, Matava is a marvel.

Silver award: Shangri-La's Villingili Resort & Spa
When a five star luxury resort opened on the Maldives' Addu Atoll, it proved quite a challenge for farmers and fishermen on this island. But Shangri- La's expertise in sustainability led to a five star strategy to solve the issues as best they could. Best being a nine fold increase in what they buy locally between 2013-2015, and a lot of local people returning home to work there.

Read more about these winners on the Hotel for local sourcing page.

Best cultural heritage attraction

Sponsored by Wightlink.
Gold award: Loop Head Peninsula Heritage Trail
Many of Ireland's rugged landscapes which jut out into the wilds of the Atlantic are already well trodden on the tourist trail, such as The Dingle Peninsula or the Cliffs of Moher. But for years few people knew about one of its most stunning peninsulas: Loop Head in County Clare. However, that all changed after local community-led Loop Head Tourism Network created the Loop Head Heritage Trail in 2014. Making this a fine example of local people taking ownership of their heritage and, in so doing, setting a new, shiny emerald onto Ireland's tourism map.
Silver award: Bushmans Kloof
When an Australian archaeologist is flown all the way from Wollongong in New South Wales to a remote reserve in the Cederberg region of South Africa's Western Cape, you know something exciting is happening. In fact it feels like a veritable Indiana Jones movie. The real star of this set, however, is a magnificent collection of 130 documented rock art sites created by the San Bushmen, one of mankind's earliest societies, with paintings that are up to 10, 000 years old being revealed to visitors coming to this wilderness luxury resort of Bushmans Kloof.

Silver award: Cnoc Suain
Cnoc Suain is an Irish homestead high up in the hills overlooking Connemara's coastline, converted to a place where you can immerse yourself totally in Ireland's cultural heritage. When the owners of this cultural haven, Dearbhail Standún and Charlie Troy, took over the site in 1995, they discovered ruins of cottages hidden under the overgrown lands, and slowly went about rebuilding them. In addition, being professional musician and botanist/geologist respectively, they filled them with music sessions, a nature lover's library, Irish language sessions and plenty of local fare.

Read more about these winners on the Cultural heritage attraction page.

Best for engaging people & culture

Sponsored by Audley Travel.
Gold award: Urban Adventures
City tourism often focuses on architecture or 'attractions'. But this holiday company has put the word 'civil' back into city holidays. Because, going back to the Latin meaning of the word, we must never forget that cities are all about their citizens. And connecting tourists with citizens is what Urban Adventures is all about, with a wide variety of tours on offer - from joining Istanbul families for a Ramadam iftar feast as they break the long day's fast in the park, to cycling along the banks of Kerala's backwaters, stopping in homes for lunch and refreshments.
Silver award: Connemara Wild Escapes
This adventure company based in Letterfrack, Connemara, Ireland, has rousing quotes on each activity page. One from John Muir, hero of the national park system and environmental philosopher stands out: "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity". This company not only shares the wild mountainous magnificence of Connemara with visitors, it opens up the homes, heritage and hearts of people who live there too.

Silver award: Felin Talgarth Mill
The proof of the success of this fine restoration of a 200 year old flour mill is not in the pudding, but in the proving. Because the first thing you smell when you come in here is the delicious scent of bread. And five years ago, before the community revived this fine example of artisanal architecture, Talgarth, in the Brecon Beacons region of Wales, was barren and bereft. Now it is baking up a storm. A superb story of heritage saving the day.

Read more about these winners on the Engaging people & culture page.

Best accommodation for disability access

Sponsored by Enable Holidays.
Gold award: Endeavour Safaris
It is rare to see a conventional tourism business get its head around what disability access really means, but when a safari company does it, you really have to take your khaki hat off. And most importantly, Endeavour Safaris understands inclusivity in tourism. Because they are not just about providing safari camps for people with disabilities. They are just about providing nop notch safari camps. For everyone.
Gold award: Scandic Hotels
Not only are Scandic Hotels about location, location, location, but they are also about information, information, information. The bugbear of most people with access issues, especially in mainstream tourism, is that there is NO information to help them on websites. Nordic Hotel chain Scandic Hotels has proved that this is actually a no brainer, leading the way in mass tourism becoming accessible tourism.
Silver award: RuralSuite Hotel Apartamentos****
These guys, in the Navarre region of Northern Spain fully understands and embraces the fact that people with disabilities want to travel just as much as other people, whether it is for work or play. They understand that, just like everyone, people with disabilities want an adventure, to stay in beautiful accommodations, discover new places and cultures. Because tourism has to be inclusive, and RuralSuite Hotel Apartamentos realised that in order for them to be inclusive, they had to do more than the basic, legal requirements. But they made that look easy. Maybe because Navarre's tourism is all about natural experiences anyway. And at RuralSuite Hotel Apartamentos catering for all needs certainly comes naturally.

Read more about these winners on the Accommodation for disability access page.

Best destination for responsible tourism

Sponsored by Visit Norway.
Gold award: Gansbaai
The Gansbaai is like an oyster that the local fishermen have opened only to discover a pearl inside - but that they then go on to share with all the world. Because Gansbaai, a town in the Overberg region, Western Cape, South Africa has transformed itself from fishing village to one of South Africa's most exciting, and community led adventure hubs, a process that has been led by the Gansbaai Tourism Association. The Gansbaai Tourism Association is one of South Africa's most proactive and passionate clusters of tourism businesses, from fishermen to fynbos conservationists. Because at Responsible Travel we know that responsible destinations don't just happen. People make them happen.
Silver award: Aruba
Sometimes it is hard to distinguish one Caribbean island from another, especially when it comes to photos of palm fringed beaches, rum cocktails and turquoise waters. However, some stand out in terms of their work to create a responsible tourism ethos throughout their island, and Aruba, one of the Dutch Antilles off the coast of Venezuela, is starting to glisten in that respect.

Silver award: Cyprus
Cyprus, with 2.4 million visitors every year, is tourism central. So it is reassuring when an island so devoted to hosting that many people every year, commits to taking serious steps towards being sustainable. The main step being that all hotels at 3* level and above, A class hotel apartments and tourist villages not only have to attain quality ratings from the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, but sustainability ratings too. And these are not just about changing lightbulbs either. Cyprus, as an ancient island with UNESCO world heritage sites with history dating back eons, knows that if you are going to do something, you are in it for the long term.

Read more about these winners on the Destination page.

Best for wildlife conservation

Sponsored by Florida Keys & Key West Tourism Development Council.
Gold award: Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education
The Ambondrolava mangrove complex in SW Madagascar is not only one of the country's most stunning habitats, home to many endemic bird species, but also home to five mangrove communities. Communities that have depended on the mangroves for wood, fish and other animals for centuries. But as populations rise, the mangroves start to disappear, and so this charity works closely with these communities to help sustain an eco-equilibrium for everyone.
Silver award: Coral Cay Conservation
You don't just go on a diving holiday with Coral Cay Conservation, you go on a marine expedition, taking part in vital research and marine exploration which contributes to the conservation of some of the most beautiful reefs in the world. Working mainly in the Philippines, Cambodia and, more recently in Montserrat, Coral Cay has been diving to make a difference since 1986.

Silver award: North Island Seychelles
Abandoned in the 1970's invasive species took over North Island in the Seychelles. Now a private island, the current resort restored it to luxurious standards, creating not only five star places to stay for their guests, but also five star habitats for the endemic residents, which they reintroduced to the island slowly but surely. Because creating a stunning resort is one thing, but rehabilitating an ecosystem is another grand design. But one which they have achieved on North Island.

Silver award: Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge
Tigers don't always shine brightly, sadly. In fact, there are only 3000 tigers left in the wild. Worldwide. Their demise is often related to the destruction of habitat, but Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge located in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, at the entry point of the Tadoba National Park, in the Maharashtra state of central India, is extremely proactive in changing this.

Read more about these winners on the Wildlife conservation page.

Best sea or river cruise

Gold award: Ullswater Steamers
When you want to get your head around sustainability or ethical practices, it is sometimes best to talk to people who have been around for a long time. Because they often have a greater understanding of a need to protect the environment. It was natural to be natural just a few decades ago. And Ullswater Steamers is one of those oldies, a business that dates as far back as 1859, the current owners taking it over in the early 1950's leading cruises on board traditional, heritage vessels in the Lake District's Ullswater Valley.

Read more about this winner on the Sea or river cruise page.

Best responsible tourism blog

Sponsored by Fair Trade Tourism.
Gold award: Uncornered Market
Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott, the husband and wife team who founded this blog in 2007 aim, through their travel writing, to create a 'chain of stewardship' around the world, with their stories and experiences helping to inform readers about ways in which to travel responsibly, and with respect. And with 70,000 unique visitors per month to their site, which contains a wide array of mindful musing, we say indeed... respect.
Silver award: Travel for Wildlife
Enthusiasm for and expertise in wildlife jumps off the pages of this new and exciting travel blog as quickly as a cheetah pounces upon its prey. The prey here is people who travel to see wildlife, of course, although this is such a beautiful travel blog in its own right, traditional travel bloggers should look out. And traditional travellers definitely look it out.

Read more about these winners on the Responsible tourism blog page.

People's choice in responsible tourism

Sponsored by Catalan Tourist Board, and in association with National Geographic Traveller (UK) Magazine.
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.

Read more about this winner on the People's choice page.
Written by Justin Francis
Photo credits: [Page banner: LooLa Adventure]