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Latin America RT Awards 2022

Increasing Diversity in Tourism

Gold: Il Viaggio Travel
Accessible Costa Rica
Il Viaggio Travel is a small family ground operator based in Costa Rica that decided to specialize in accessible travel eight years ago. 60% of the company's employees have a disability. The design of experiences takes into consideration all types of disability including autism packages, adapted adventures such as river and canopy tours and therapies like surfing and equine therapy. The judges say "Il Viaggio Travel goes beyond romantic on the wish of making a change and brings inclusion to the core of the company", "they are very committed to inclusion and their business model can be an inspiration for the industry" and "they make sure people with or without disabilities will have the same experience of travel". Judges mention that their work with the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo - ICT on educating and including accessibility as a fundamental public policy for the country can expand inclusion to other organisations in the country and make Costa Rica a reference in accessibility.

Silver: Diaspora.Black
Diaspora.Black is a social impact business with technology solutions for the sale of Afrocentric tourism, Afro culture, itineraries, training and online experiences. The start-up now reaches 18 countries and 145 cities, with only 03 years of commercial operation and is undertaken by a group of young black people with a history of activism and leadership, who combined their political background and professional skills to create a black organization. Judges say "in a country like Brazil where at least 50% of people are black it is fundamental that a company such as Diaspora.Black acts for diversity and inclusion within the industry". The strong impact model and replicability also caught judges' attention, especially for solving a problem (lack of social representativeness in travel and tourism) through technology.

One to Watch: Accor 
Accor LGBTQ+ Committee in Brazil
The Accor Brazil hub has implemented an LGBTQ+ Committee to promote a more inclusive and welcoming environment for customers and employees. As a main project, the Committee has designed a recruitment process for transgender candidates, with successful signings for the company. Judges mention "it is an important project especially in a country where transgender people are endangered and death rates are the highest on Earth". They also mention the project is easily replied to within the industry and are now excited to comprehend how Accor Brasil will expand hiring and training for transgender people to take more management positions in the company.

Decarbonising Travel & Tourism

Gold: Mecenas da Vida
Cool Tourism - Climate Guardians
The Associação Mecenas da Vida is an NGO based in Itacaré, Bahia, that aims to promote environmental conservation and local socioeconomic development. As tourism is the main economic activity in Itacaré the NGO has decided to include this industry as the key strategy to reach its objectives. By offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions from tourism, "Cool Tourism" creates opportunities for tourism enterprises, tourists, local residents and family farmers to take the lead in solving complex local and global social and environmental problems, such as climate emergencies, extreme poverty, destruction of forests, biodiversity and environmental assets. Judges say "it is a smart idea to connect the tourism industry with the local agriculture services in an area with challenging poverty issues". "The connection between diverse economic activities makes this project an example of local circular economy and is easily replicable in other destinations". Judges also expect to see how "Cool Tourism" will raise awareness among travellers in their daily lives in the future and expand to other regions.

Gold: Iberostar
Wave of Change: Carbon Neutrality by 2030
With more than 100 four and five star hotels in 16 countries, including many in Latin America in countries such as Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and Brazil, Iberostar has outlined a roadmap for becoming waste-free by 2025 and carbon neutral by 2030. The company's main strategy for Latin America is called "natural blue carbon offset programme", which includes mangrove restoration projects, identified as a key solution to tackle climate change, having reforested 2,000 mangroves in the Dominican Republic in 2020 - is that one of the many strategies Iberostar develop on environmental sustainability throughout the hotel chain. Judges are impressed by the number of projects and results collected so far. "Being a multi-country hotel chain we believe Iberostar has taken responsibility that corresponds to the size of the company". Judges also mention the adaptation of sustainability projects according to the destination where hotels are located and praise the focus on waters and oceans as the key strategy for becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

One to Watch: Green Initiative
Machu Picchu / First Carbon Neutral Wonder of the World
This project, led by GreenIniative and local partners such as the municipality of Machu Picchu, Inkaterra Hotels Group and AJE Group has developed solutions to which probably is the destination in Latin America with the most severe overtourism issues. Divided into 03 levels of action, the project aims to implement a comprehensive climate change mitigation approach that involves the destination as a whole, including the local government, trade and travellers in the solution of the problem. Judges consider this a project to watch results as it has a solid plan that can be replicated in other destinations. Also, judges believe Green Initiative has led to a "holistic solution that brings all stakeholders to the same table and shares responsibilities among all of them".

Sustaining Employees and Communities

Gold: Braziliando
Conexão Baré
Braziliando is a women-led tour operator focused on community-based experiences, mainly in the Brazilian Amazon. At one of those riverine communities - Baré - challenges were arising (or accentuated) by the pandemic, especially the lack of income because locals could not receive travellers nor sell their crafts during the COVID-19 crisis. This is when Braziliando developed the "Conexão Baré" (Baré Connection) aimed to be an immersive, interactive, inclusive online travel and Online Learning Experience (VOA) - a program whose goal is to promote an exchange of knowledge. Judges were happy to see a small and young company taking responsibility with innovative solutions with real impact during the challenging times of the pandemic. "Even with short resources, it is clear that Braziliando has developed a program where both community and the virtual traveller win". Judges also mention that "being in such a remote and distant area compared to main markets it is great tourism came to the community in a clean, respectful way" and that "people from all over the world can travel to the Amazon and get to learn its reality from home".

Silver: Hotel Belmar
Hotel Belmar is a 30-year hotel located in the Monteverde region, Costa Rica, gateway to the famous Cloud Forests wonderlands. The hotel's sustainability policies show the company's respect for the destination and is closely connected to the solution developed during the pandemic to hold employees and provide them with regular incomes. The hotel has decided to covert its yard to a small farm where training was offered to all employees and agricultural products sold locally became a strong economic alternative to the hotel and also strengthened connections with the destination as a whole, expanding actions to about 250 unemployed community members. Judges say "it is a simple solution but it demands courage and will to take responsibility". They also mention "Hotel Belmar did what every company in tourism should have done during pandemic times" and "results now show they have now an even stronger sense of community".

One to Watch: Eposak Foundation
Tourism in Action
Eposak is an organization that aims to transform lives through tourism, as an strategy for sustainability, mainly in the rural areas of Venezuela. During the pandemic Eposak created "Tourism in Action" developing virtual tourism and local training for 150 people at 06 tourism-dependent rural communities. 25 online experiences were developed so far. Judges were very impressed by the length of those experiences - that can take up to 03 days, representing an almost-real "trip". They also believe "Tourism in Action" is a chance to not only tackle the impact of the pandemic but go beyond and make it a local development opportunity. Now judges want to follow up on how those online experiences will evolve as the pandemic effects ease and how virtual experiences can expand to other regions of Venezuela.

Growing the Local Economic Benefit

Gold: TUI Foundation
COVID-19 Relief Programme for Tourism and the Tourism Recovery Programme
"The TUI Care Foundation, initiated by TUI - the world´s largest tourism business and is based in the Netherlands - has taken responsibility during the pandemic outbreak with a relief programme for 150 businesses in 04 countries, being 60 of those in Mexico and later a recovery programme supporting 315 small business - 105 being Mexican. The programmes consist of a 6-month cycle which includes financial support, online training and dedicated one-on-one mentoring for the participating businesses by European tourism experts. Judges recognize TUI Care Foundation went beyond its responsibilities in supporting its suppliers when decided to support small businesses at destinations as a whole, considering the complete local economic ecosystem. Judges mention that "The COVID-19 Relief Programme is an important message to the travel and tourism industry that taking elementary responsibility for impacts is not enough anymore and that destinations are also made of those who do not belong to the sector". Judges also see long-term results of both programmes and are willing to see how TUI expects to expand that to other destinations.

Silver: Smartrip Chile
Smartrip is a mission-led company that in 2013 challenged "business as usual" by inventing a new social impact business model for a travel agency. The core belief at Smartrip is that it is possible to create positive social change in hosting communities of tourism all over Chile. Among the many projects Smartrip Chile develops throughout the country, there is the program called "More Local Handicraft", focused on artisans from underserved host communities who face difficulties when entering the job market, barriers to access to new markets, exploitation and trading problems. Judges say "it is clear they have results that impact entire communities" by "developing trade conditions and scenarios that go beyond tourism and have long-lasting results". Judges are also enthusiastic about how Smartrip collects and measures the results of the project and that "that itself is a key- factor as the travel and tourism industry in Latin America still lacks proper impact information on projects".

Destinations Building Back Better

Gold: Tamaulipas
The Tamaulipas State Government Secretary of Tourism in Mexico has led the control of access to the destination's main attractions, the beaches. In an effort shared with the local travel trade, it was suggested that visitors and local citizens should, during the COVID-19 outbreak, book a spot if they wanted to be by the sea. That should be done using a smartphone application called "Compra Tam", which ended up uniting products, services and all tourist information for the traveller. The application has been implemented ad adopted by locals, making the economic recovery from the pandemic by the local entrepreneurs faster than the average in Mexico. "Compra Tam" has over 223 thousand downloads, with over 353 beach spots booked for over 1.6 million visitors. "Compra Tam" ended up being the most downloaded tourism app developed by a government in Latin America. Judges mention that "Compra Tam represents what a common effort of a destination to tackle COVID-19 impacts, being developed in a fast pace and becoming public for download in only 02 months after the pandemic outbreak". They also mention that "again technology has become the central strategy to deal with an unexpected crisis and that Compra Tam is easily replicable to other destinations not only as an e-strategy for controlling the number of visitors to a destination but also to promote commercialization of services and products of all kinds for the tourist, as it becomes a mandatory service".

Reducing Plastic Waste in the Environment

Gold: Costa Rica Accessible Network
Donatapa - "Beaches for All by re-using plastic"
The Red Costarricense de Turismo Accessible is a non-profit born to promote Human Rights and make accessibility a reality in our country, that cares about the right of recreation and leisure in the tourism industry for locals and foreigners alike. The Donatapa Project collects single-use plastic to transform it into plastic wood and develop accessibility solutions for natural and rural areas that had never been accessible, like beaches. The number of people with disabilities has been tracked where plastic wood has been used to create access - in one single destination, Jaco, 134 people started using the area. 5 accessible beaches are created and 500 meters of pathways have been installed, reusing about 56ton of plastic. Judges were especially impressed by the strategy to connect two important issues: the recycling of single-use plastic and the diversity and inclusion agenda in tourism. "Including people that commonly are not frequent users of areas such as beaches by developing pathways made of recycled plastic that would otherwise be on oceans is a smart, replicable and cheap strategy"; "this is another project from Costa Rica that shows the country is a reference of responsible tourism in the continent".

Silver: Wilderness Patagonia
Wilderness Patagonia is a tour operator that connects travellers to local people in one of the most remote areas in the continent. The company has adpopted a strong sustainability policy that includes a "zero waste" commitment to end the use of single-use plastic items. Judges say "Wilderness Patagonia brings the single-use plastic issue to the Latin America reality and shows how small companies can start acting for a cleaner operation in such a remote area" and "it is important to share with other companies in the continent that anyone can adopt commitments on the UN SDG's and act for a more sustainable development of our industry".

Silver: Iberostar
With more than 100 four and five star hotels in 16 countries, including many in Latin America in countries such as Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and Brazil, Iberostar has outlined a roadmap for becoming waste-free by 2025 and carbon neutral by 2030. This ambitious project started in 2017 following an internal corporate audit that detected all the products containing plastic. Plastic straws are a case in point: following a campaign conducted in hotels to cut down on their use and replace them with biodegradable alternatives, usage was reduced by 10%, which in real terms means a reduction of 10 million units. Judges say "Iberostar shows real commitment to reducing single-use plastic in its operation. They have a business plan and a strong action plan in place". "The entire industry should be looking at Iberostar's commitment to the project and see how their plan can be incorporated into business".


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