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Lemon Tree Hotels 2016 WRTA Gold and Overall Winner
India really does know how to do luxury hotels. You only need to have dipped into regal Rajasthan or the glimmering Golden Triangle to see that quality of service and facilities is something that Indian hotel chains pride themselves on. At Lemon Tree Hotels, they are adding to this quality by taking a refreshing approach to employment principles and practices that has introduced a whole new fragrance of fairness throughout the company.
The reason that Lemon Tree Hotels are standing out as leaders in responsible employment is because they have wholly committed to barrier free employment. This means they are ensuring that people employed throughout the organisation, front of house and behind the scenes, are from groups of people who, in India, are often otherwise marginalised. This is a tricky issue in India where social security does not support people with disabilities or those from deprived backgrounds. And so Lemon Tree Hotels believes that it has a responsibility to ensure that people with physical, mental, emotional and indeed financial needs are introduced into mainstream employment and well supported throughout. In other words, removing the barriers that previously prevented many people from working in tourism. In so doing, the company believes it is contributing to fair and sustainable "nation building"; something many more nations could think about when it comes to hotel employment.
In India, barrier free employment doesn't just refer to people with access needs, but also to those known as 'Opportunity Deprived Indians' such as women who have been physically abused, widowed or people living below the poverty line. Lemon Tree Hotels' fair employment record also stretches way beyond any sense of tokenistic box ticking, with 13 percent of employees having a disability or special need and nearly 500 employees coming from marginalised sections of society, which is a super impressive 25 percent of staff. A figure they plan to double in the next five years.
So, if you are staying at Lemon Tree Hotels, and your waiter, receptionist or any member of staff hands you a piece of card that makes you aware of his or her own needs or constraints, while also offering ways in which they can help you, then please smile and know that you are also playing a very important role in this fresh, fair and totally pragmatic approach to responsible employment.
IRTA 2017 Gold Winner and Joint Overall Winner, Best Innovation by a Tour Operator
The premise is simple: people with disabilities also have an equal right to recreation, leisure and travel. Planet Abled is about converting specially-abled tourists into travellers and creating a platform for inclusive tourism, providing people with disabilities the freedom to travel India no matter what their disability is, to experience something unique, safe and enjoyable. Planet Abled works with people who face a wide variety of challenges, not just the visually impaired or wheelchair enabled, to enable them to holiday or travel with friends and family. They work to provide mainstream itineraries and to avoid the ghettoization of travel for people with disabilities.
Planet Abled focusses on the individual capabilities and active senses or its clients, the tour is customized for each and every individual so that they don’t miss out on anything and can have a whole experience of the new place or culture they are visiting with family and friends or alone. Travelling in groups each traveller gains a first-hand experience of interacting with people with other disabilities and abilities, a blind person gets to interact with a deaf and mute person, a wheelchair user gets to understand the challenges facing a blind person. Planet Abled is creating an environment of inclusive tourism and spreading awareness amongst the volunteers who then become ambassadors for inclusion and accessibility in their respective communities.
As one of the referees wrote “The reason I keep going for as many Planet Abled tours as I can is that I am treated as truly equal. No discussion of disability, no hero-worship, no china doll treatment. I am just me…. everyone pays the same rate and these are competitive with the industry. I have shopped around and can testify to this. A heritage walk in the regular market costs Rs. 500 per head. The Planet Abled custom walk that I had them arrange for me, and some friends, cost the same. So, the traditional position where everything for the disabled is expensive is no longer valid.”
Open Eyes Project
IRTA 2019 Silver Winner, Best Experiential
In August 2014 they started a vocational tourism training course for young people with limited access to education and with a lack of employment opportunities. They offer cultural immersion tours in rural areas of Rajasthan and Tibet, and they have developed an ethical fashion project as part of a two day cultural immersion tour, in a rural area close to Jaipur. The judges wanted to recognise their Women in Tourism initiative which has, over seven years, created employment for twelve guides, thirteen artisans and two visually impaired women. This initiative has significantly increased the earnings of artisans, taxi drivers, guides and the blind female massage therapists.
Not On Map, New Delhi
IRTA 2020 'One to Watch', Best Tour Operator
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.
Sanctuary Nature Foundation
IRTA 2020 Gold Winner, Best for Wildlife Conservation Project
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.
Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative
IRTA 2020 Gold Winner, Best for Social Impact, and Overall Winner
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.
The judges also awarded the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative the 2020 Overall Winner. They recognised the success and replicability of the initiative, and felt that it demonstrates the value of partnership working and the potential of tourism to make better places for people to live in.