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Best Tour Operator
Gold: No Footprints, Mumbai
The concept that drives no footprints is simple but the impact is significant. While in rural areas visitors can relatively easily connect with indigenous communities and their culture, this is much more difficult in cities. No Footprints enables visitors to connect with the communities which have made the city what it is over generations, to meet with them, and to hear their stories. No Footprints offer opportunities to meet with Parsees, Bohris, the East Indians and the queer community. The judges were particularly impressed by their Queer Day Out tour, the community curates and leads the tour ensuring its authenticity. When homosexuality was decriminalised in September 2018, No Footprints created a unique experience. “… a full day of flirting with various aspects that frame queer lives of persons in the city. Travellers gain insight into the Queer culture of the city. Its legacies, politics, dirt, the gossip, pleasure culture, oppression faced by the communities, the lingo, the fashion, the conflicts and more!” No Footprints is archiving oral history and creating employment for five walk leader, two artists and five drag artists. Their food tour has been placed in the top 20 best food tours in the world in the UKs Guardian and they achieve very high scores on TripAdvisor.
Silver: BuDa Folklore Uttara Kannada region, Karnataka.
Backed by over 40 years of field research, BuDa’s folklore tours explore folk living and its relevance in the modern world. It strives to highlight the fading aspects of symbiotic living between man and nature, leading conscientious culture travellers on eco-tours to highlight the turbulent transition that many native tribes and indigenous communities witness as they struggle to keep pace with modernity. BuDa Folklore currently works with five tribes along the seashore (Halakki), rivers (Gammokkalu and Gondasnd) and in the forests (Kare Okkalu and Siddis). BuDa Folklore organises the playing of kabaddi between the villagers and urbanites getting down in the dirt and mud together after the monsoon. Their urban travellers are exposed to villagers at a basic human level while villagers see the urbans at paly in a way they can relate to This greeting, meeting and playing together of the urbans and the indigenous groups is now a tradition that brings much richness to the monsoon Mungaru Festival. The tours are facilitated by traditional quilters, basket weavers, boatmen, storytellers, nature trailers, fishermen, drummers, dancers, epic singers, mat weavers, and traditional toolmakers.
One to watch: Holidays in Rural India, UK
Holidays in Rural India offers carefully curated trips to less-visited parts of India. We believe in slow-paced travel, focussing on a few well-chosen destinations. The company focuses on opening the mid of the tourist and benefitting the local community and/or the wildlife creating tourism that “shows we have more in common than divides us.” The company uses guides as local as possible: “ A guest is going to have an infinitely better experience and a villager feel infinitely more comfortable if the visitors are being shown a place that the guide knows like the back of his or her hand.” The company was only registered in 2015 and it has admirable and unusual business principles of not asking for freebies and paying promptly. The judges recognised its ethics and progress to date nd look forward to seeing it again in a year or two.
One to watch: Not On Map, New Delhi
Registered as a new company in 2018, the Founder, Kumar Anubhav, has a worthy aspiration. Through “Not On Map” he seeks “to empower the culturally rich hidden communities by monetizing untapped and endangered cultural values and practices” of those communities to create a cross-cultural exchange, employment and cultural preservation. The additional income generated offers the communities a share in the travel economy and “psychological confidence.” Kumar reports that this has helped many unskilled migrants return to their village and find livelihoods there. Active in 70 villages across Himanchal, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Rajasthan, J&K, Nagaland and Assam. This is a new and ambitious company, the judges look forward to reviewing its progress in a few years when it is established
Best for Wildlife Conservation Project
Gold: Sanctuary Nature Foundation
This award goes to four project leaders in the Sanctuary Nature Foundation’s Mud on Boots Project. The Sanctuary Nature Foundation is an Indian nonprofit foundation founded in 2015 building on the work of Sanctuary Asia, a wildlife magazine launched in 1981 and which has developed a network of conservationists, naturalists, scientists, writers and photographers. It runs projects in environmental policy, advocacy, science, on-ground support, wildlife habitat management.
Silver: The Corbett Foundation
The judges recognised the success of the Foundation’s comprehensive landscape-level conservation project with the involvement of local communities. This holistic approach to tiger conservation in Bandhavgarh Sanjay Dubri Corridor (BSDC) in Madhya Pradesh has delivered for wildlife and local communities. Over 18 months 83 hectares of degraded forest land has been restored with removal of invasive weeds and plantation of over 41,900 saplings of local tree species. 1257 energy-efficient stoves provided in 17 villages to reduce the firewood usage by around 40% when compared with traditional chulah used in rural households. 22 solar-powered pumps were installed and waterholes created in corridor forests for the benefit of wild animals. 779 open wells in 21 villages were fenced to prevent animals from falling into them. 117 unemployed youths (male and female) were provided vocational training in sewing-tailoring, bamboo handicraft-making and basic hospitality and placements were found for them. 324 frontline forest department staff were trained and equipped to the same standard as in tiger reserves. 122 medical and first-aid kits to these chowkies located deep inside forests and where access to primary healthcare is often very difficult. A Tribal Museum will open shortly to promote tribal art, culture and tourism. 7 resident tigers and 15 resident leopards have been identified in the corridor study area.
One to watch: Devalsari Paryavaran Sanrakshan awam Tekniki Vikas Samiti; Uttarakhand
The Devalsari Environment Protection and Technology Development Society was set up to promote conservation and livelihoods through ecotourism and beekeeping in Uttarakhand. In 2014 the Society began to engage the local community at Chiana Khud where five local Van Panchayats meet to protect the forest and plant new trees. The local communities are now burning LPG, the tree cover is restored, the water catchment is restored and the biodiversity has returned. The area has become a “hotspot for butterfly watchers” and it has been recognised as a growth area for birdwatchers. The judges recognised their success with this project and the traditional wall beehive project for which it has trained over 4,500 farmers across Uttarakhand. The Society, run entirely by volunteers, has attracted over 1,500 visitors. The judges are concerned that insufficient management is in place to protect the Chiana Khud Tilti Park and would welcome another application when steps have been taken to avoid potential degradation by tourism.
Gold: Shivya Nath
The judges recognised the success of the “I Love Spiti” campaign originating in 2017 when a life-size art installation with 300+ discarded plastic bottles collected from the valley was constructed – as a “selfie point” where travellers pledge to say no to plastic bottled water. In 2018 Shivya got Got LifeStraw to sponsor four public water refill points in Spiti, in exchange for coverage on the shooting star blog and other social networks.
Silver: Anshul Kumar Akhoury
The judges recognised the value of Anshul’s work with Waste Warriors which commenced in 2015, Anshul has used social media to raise awareness and campaign on waste management, climate change and human-animal conflict.
One to watch: Dominika Hagarová Travel around Darjeeling
Only recently self-published on Amazon as an e-book the judges recognised that this was one to watch. Written for off-the-beaten-track travellers the book has yet to prove its circulation. Dominika is active on Facebook and has presented at the Slovak trade festival “Cestou Neceston.” Her work is interesting in that it is addressed to bother hosts and guests in the remote areas that she enjoys travelling in.
Gold: Jibi Pulu
Jibi Pulu runs Mishmi Hill Camp an eco-tour agency in the Roing region. Jibbi is passionate about educating people on the adverse effects of dams on the Dibang river.
“When I met Jibi a couple of years ago, he was someone who was working with his community where hunting has been the way of life for centuries. At the risk of being ostracised by staunch traditionalists, he steadily educated and helped them embrace conservation using the tool of eco-tourism. Despite the generic association of the Mishmis with hunting, it is one tribe that has never touched the cat family for according to folklore, the tiger is their revered elder brother.” “Jibi has convinced his community to collectively pool thirty thousand square meters of unadulterated rainforest to form the Elopa community forest and preserve it as a mark of respect to their ancestors. And it is remarkable, in more ways than one.” link
Gold: Takam Nabum
Takam Nabum leads the conservation efforts as the chairman of the Ghora-Aabhe Society which works around Pakke Tiger Reserve and leads the Nyishi community to be its guardians. Under the Society’s stewardship, led byTakam Nabum, the Nyishi community has taken the first concrete steps towards establishing and effectively enforcing fines and hunting regulations in the Reserve Forests adjoining Pakke. link
Silver: Paras Loomba
An electrical engineer by profession, Paras merges technology and tourism to create local entrepreneurial models for remote areas advocating sustainable tourism solutions. Three years ago, he came up with the idea of Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE), which is a group that brings solar-powered light to some of the remotest villages of Ladakh, promoting ‘impact’ tourism. GHE has influenced more than 2,000 lives with almost no carbon footprint. With a degree in electrical engineering, Paras designed solar-powered LED TVs for the villages, and GHE has successfully set up micro solar grids in eight remote villages. link
Gold: Glenburn Tea Estate & Boutique Hotel, Darjeeling
A luxurious boutique hotel with only eight suites offering walking and a tea experience modelled on vineyard experience offered in France. In 2002 The Burra Bungalow was restored revealing and retaining the style of a colonial planters' bungalow. Sixty members of the local community are employed as chefs, drivers, guides, gardeners, bearers and housekeeping ladies who have delivered an extremely high level of service over this period. They have refrained from employing any "trained" hospitality staff from out of our tea estate or our region. They support three government primary schools, and a scholarship programme that has 50 estate children enrolled in private schools in the region. Their Glenburn Kalakendra is a Music and Dance Academy that supports the local culture of the Nepali community that lives in this region and their Annual Workers Festival is an initiative that celebrates the talents of our community and its achievements through the year. Waste is separated and recycled items are sold or re-used. Single-use plastic is minimal and discouraged. Waste metal and glass is taken off the property and sold and they are looking for a machine that will help us convert glass to sand for local building projects. The bin liners are attached to the bin, and re-used by transferring the rubbish and not the plastic bag to the larger refuse collection point. In the rooms, bin liners are not used. Room bins are washed and sanitised before the next guest arrives.
Silver: Neeleshwar Hermitage, Kerala
Natural laterite stone and recycled wood was used to construct eighteen cottages, with thatched roofs and the maximum use of natural ventilation and light in the local vernacular style. Local masons, thatchers and other craftsmen were employed for the construction and decoration of the cottages. The property harvests water and greywater is used to water the plants and lawns on the property. Locally produced cotton or recyclable paper ios used instead of plastics. Guests drink filtered water from jugs rather than using plastic bottled water. They employ over 90% local workers to boost the local economy, they used local craftsmen for wood and granite carving, as well as a small local architect’s practice. 90% of the managerial staff on-site are also local. They have ensured full insurance for all their workers, including day labourers and they have provided a lighted pathway through their property to ensure easy access for locals to the beach and sea.
Best for Social Impact
Gold: Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative
The judges were very impressed by this initiative of the Aga Khan Trust Culture (AKTC) in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, a compact, self-contained urban settlement home to 18,000 people. It daily receives thousands of visitors to the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the revered 13th century Sufi saint after whom the area is named. The area has many heritage sites, ten of them of national importance and the area is rich in cultural traditions: Quwwali music, poetry, food and rituals that have defined both the Hindustani culture and Sufism. This public-private initiative led by the AKTC with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Central Public Works Department demonstrates admirably how the urban renewal of a historic city can improve the quality of life for residents and meet tourism objectives. Local men and women have been trained as heritage guides. Eleven local women have been assisted to open a restaurant selling traditional Nizamuddin dishes. A group of one hundred local women are making and selling handicrafts. All thisagainst a background of improved streets, landscaped neighbourhood parks, improved health and education services and much cleaner Nizamuddin Basti with its network of pay and use waste collection at the household level and two community-managed public toilets that are used by approximately 800 residents every day and 10,000 pilgrims a day during pilgrimage days.
Silver: Himalayan Farmstays
Ice Stupas store the winter water in the form of an artificial glacier and this water becomes available for the village in Spring to be used in agriculture. The main benefit derived from Ice Stupa tourism is the improvement in water availability to villages in Spring. Thirteen villages made an Ice Stupa for the first time in 2019, with an average of 2-3 million litres water made available from each Ice Stupa. Himalayan Farmstays has been providing grants to upgrade home facilities & washrooms and conducting training to upskill the hosts in hospitality & cooking. Himalayan Farmstays are now active in five villages and working with 40 farm stays and planning a circuit to create multi0day itineraries creating employment opportunities for local guides & trek leaders in Ladakh.
Gold: Koh Hee, Andaman Islands
Saw John Aung Thong a second-generation Karen settler from Bruma, decided to turn the home his father built into a homestay to sustain its maintenance and to create awareness about the cultural heritage and traditional lifestyle of the Karen community. This is a genuine homestay with the family living on the ground floor and the guest rooms on the upper floor. The homestay is managed by the family and they connect the guests to local bird-watching and nature guides.
As Saw John Aung Thong explains “I have decorated my homestay with handicraft products of wood, bamboo and cane made in the traditional Karen style. I also use heirlooms I have inherited from my parents such as a clay pot to store drinking water the traditional way, wooden pestle and mortars, and also built and use a traditional firewood stove also, for aesthetic purposes and practicality. I have also used many posters of flora and fauna found in the Andaman islands to share wildlife and environmental awareness.”
Silver: Tanhau Homestay
Located close to Corbett National Park in the Kumaon region Sunando Sen built his family home there to live close to nature & wildlife with a light carbon footprint and help in the preservation of the rich biodiversity of the Corbett landscape. The family later realised that they could benefit the local community by employing and involving them in it and by opening the eyes of more people to the magic of nature, hopefully making them pro-conservation & sustainable travel. They have created four full-time posts and a livelihood for Bharat who grows vegetables organically, raises free-range chicken for eggs and meat and has two cows for Tanhau’s dairy product needs. Tanhau helped Bharat with the initial capital to get this going, and now he has a good steady income.
One to watch: Eshab Homestay, West Sikkim
The main objective of Eshab Homestay is to make people aware of the Sikkimese lifestyle which was fading away by attracting tourists and showing them their rich culture to conserve and preserve it. The main focus hs been on saving the tribal lifestyle, the bees, birds, trees and plants which their ancestors used for herbal medicine.
One to watch: Eco Harrymans Homestay, Ramnagar, Nainital
A family-owned and operated homestay with a communal kitchen for hoists and guests. They actively engage their guests with an Experiential Learning Program (ELP) for schools and colleges, annual events like Spring Bird Festival, Titli Utsav (Butterfly Festival), in collaboration with Titli Trust and a small museum which includes a board of pugmarks of animals to spark interest and a number of birdhouses which are decorative and serve as homes for the birds visiting our campus.
The judges recognised the success and replicability of the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative. It demonstrates the value of partnership working and the potential of tourism to make better places for people to live in.
The Judges’ Award for outstanding achievement in Responsible Tourism went to Rupesh Kumar. This prestigious Award is rarely presented.
Rupesh Kumar participated in the 2008 Kerala International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations. He was appointed to lead the Kerala Responsible Tourism Mission organising the first experiments in four villages working closely with the panchayats, the industry and the Kerala state government, Over the 12 years, Ruepsh has led the RT MIssion, working with successive administrations to build the strong Responsible Tourism programme of initiatives now being rolled out across Kerala. The programme has focussed on local priorities: ensuring that local communities benefit from tourism and that waste and pollution are effectively managed and reduced.
Rupesh Kumar has pioneered many innovative approaches to ensuring that communities benefit from tourism and that they are not exploited by it. The range of those initiatives can be found here Rupesh and his team's work on local economic development through tourism is internationally exemplary, PEPPER is available online. The census of RT impacts in Kumarakom is the first of its kind and demonstrates both the scale of the impacts there and the RT Mission's commitment to transparency.
Bobbin J & Goodwin H (2018) The Local Impacts of Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom