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World Responsible Tourism Awards 2018

Organised by WTM, London

To become a Finalist in the World Responsible Tourism Awards is a significant achievement, it marks you out as a leader in Responsible Tourism; it carries a responsibility to exercise leadership. The purpose of the WRTA is to inspire, educate and challenge. Our purpose in organising the Awards has not changed since they were launched back in 2004 – we want to encourage change in the industry, to single out for recognition those who are taking responsibility and can evidence that they are having a positive impact, that they are making tourism better.  The bar for winning a World Responsible Tourism Award rises every year reflecting the progress which is being made by some in the sector.

Overall Winner

Barcelona quickly moved beyond denial and recognised that tourism needed to be managed if the interests of residents and visitors were to be addressed and balanced. Since 2012 overtourism has become a widespread major challenge for urban and rural destinations around the world more often addressed in the mainstream media and on social media than in the travel trade. Barcelona recognised the challenge earlier than most and clearly separated the functions of promotion and management shifting resources from the former to the latter. The judges chose Barcelona as the overall winner in this year’s World Responsible Tourism Awards because of the importance of the issue and the range of management methods which Barcelona has used to address the challenge. Their experience has the potential to educate, inspire and challenge other destinations to respond to the issue and do more.

Best for Wildlife

The judges were looking for leadership in Responsible Tourism policies and practices where clear positive impacts can be shown on the conservation of species or on animal welfare; proven achievements, including demonstrable measures of success and novel ideas that can be adapted and developed by tourism providers around the world. The judges are particularly interested in nominations that focus on improving wildlife conservation and animal welfare in wild or natural settings. This may include fenced sanctuaries or rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction programmes with demonstrable evidence of successful reintroduction, but does not extend to zoos or other purely captive (or captively-bred) animal experiences.

This category combined the conservation of species and animal welfare – it was always likely that the category would produce two Gold Awards.

World Animal Protection  Gold

World Animal Protection has a clear strategy at the heart of their work: educate and mobilise public support through compelling, evidence-based campaign communications, so as to  engage and influence the travel industry as intermediaries to stop promoting and financially supporting cruel wildlife activities, as well as governments to adopt, improve and enforce policy and legislation. They work with both to catalyse sustainable solutions on the ground. The judges recognise the success of their Wildlife Not Entertainers campaign. They have moved from awareness-raising and encouraging tourists to make informed choices, to tackling demand from tour operators. They have encouraged the sector to listen to the evidence and to lead rather than to wait for a consensus to develop. They now have over 200 travel companies taking responsibility by no longer selling elephant entertainment.

Fringe Ford Wayanad, Kerala, India Gold

Fringe Ford is a former cardamom and coffee plantation stretching over 1000 acres, 520 acres of which have now been rewilded. The fences with the Wyanad and Tholpaty reserve forests have been removed creating a borderless reserve of Malabar rainforest and creating a wildlife corridor between reserves.  There are just five rooms, a very low impact wilderness guesthouse. The only activities offered in the wilderness reserve are guided walks. The Travancore flying squirrel, Nilgiri marten, Lion-tailed macaque, Brown palm civet and the Nilgiri langur can all be seen in the reserve along with elephants, gaur, tiger and leopard. The regular presence of wildlife enthusiasts and fieldwork students in the forest has significantly reduced poaching, cannabis cultivation and illicit liquor manufacture. The guesthouse has grid hydroelectricity; greywater is cleaned through a reed bed, brown water goes into septic soak pits. All the staff are from local villages, fresh fruit and vegetables come from the villages, spices and honey come from the local tribal co-operative in the village. Fringe Ford won Gold in the India Responsible Tourism Awards in 2018 – the World Awards judges wanted to recognise the significance of this rewilding initiative in India, a conservation strategy more common in Africa. This is an example of tourism being used to achieve conservation objectives.

Wildlife ACT, Africa Silver

Monitoring and data collection is essential to conservation, only if you have the data can you know whether or not the species or habitat is being effectively conserved. Wildlife ACT (the Africa Conservation Team) is ten years old this year, and the judges wanted to recognise the cumulative contribution that they have made to conservation, working in partnership with conservation practitioners in Botswana, Seychelles and South Africa. Their volunteers, some of the very few real eco-tourists, have been instrumental in helping to collect the data required to make informed decisions about the effective conservation of endangered and threatened African wildlife species. Wildlife Act was able to provide considerable detail on the volume and impact of their work. The volunteers play an active role in genuine conservation in daily wildlife monitoring, rescuing and treating animals caught in snares, translocating animals to other reserves and essential data collection to inform management decisions.


Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society – one to watch
For more than 20 years SLWCS has, through research, education and sustainable economic development, been working to bring about a more harmonious co-existence between humans and elephants. They are carrying out long-running scientific research, collecting critical data about elephant movement, feeding patterns, and other indicators of their health and impact on local villagers. They have taken a wide range of initiatives to achieve their conservation objectives: solar powered fencing, growing oranges as a buffer crop and bee-keeping and the 24-passenger EleFriendly Bus, launched in 2016, which enables children to get safely to school through an ancient elephant corridor.

Best for Employment

The judges were looking for businesses with a demonstrated commitment to, and a clear emphasis on, decent and fair working conditions and with recruitment practices which are either demonstrably based on equality of opportunity or practising positive discrimination. The winner will be able to demonstrate a holistic approach to the welfare and skills development of its staff and a commitment to employing local people and upskilling them. If you have evidence of progression through the company and beyond as employees leave to find promotion beyond your business, please include it.

Intrepid Group Colombo Gold
The judges have long been looking for applications which calibrate their remuneration against the national minimum wage, and Intrepid Colombo has done that. In Sri Lanka, the minimum wage for tour leaders is set at LKR 2500 per day. Intrepid’s salary range for leaders is LKR 4,000-5,750 per day, plus allowances and an annual bonus. The national minimum wage in Sri Lanka is LKR 10,000 per month, Intrepid’s lowest-paid staff member is paid LKR 27,000 per month. They also provide health insurance, paternity and additional maternity leave, 14 days annual leave, five days of educational leave per year; and a guaranteed annual festive bonus. Staff also have the opportunity to travel on an educational Intrepid Group trip free of charge anywhere in the world every year.

Mother Ivey’s Bay Holiday Park Silver

Patrick Langmaid, the owner of Mother Ivey’s Bay Holiday Park, is a keen campaigner for the Living Wage, winning the Living Wage Leadership Award for the South West region in 2015. Since 2015 they have paid at least the Real Living Wage to all their staff.  They pay £8.80, plus 20p per hour additional payment paid in a lump at the end of the year, or end of their seasonal contract. This Real Living Wage is £1.62 per hour more than the minimum Living Wage and Mother Ivey’s pay above the Real Living Wage.  The end of contract bonus helps seasonal workers’ transition between jobs or benefits. The owner cites productivity, loyalty and staff retention as important factors which translate into an overall cost benefit for the business. Staff retention increases the resilience of the staff and reduces training costs.  Mother Ivey’s Bay Holiday Park is the only accredited Living Wage campsite in the UK. Cornwall is not a wealthy county and investing in the tourism industry to provide high-quality seasonal jobs, and all year-round jobs have had a positive impact on the locale.


Best for Communicating Responsible Tourism

The judges were looking for businesses able to demonstrate the way in which they have successfully used their responsible business approach as part of their marketing or campaigns able to show a degree of success in addressing a tourism or tourism-related issue.

This category combined marketing and cause-related campaigning – it was always likely that the category would produce two Gold Awards.


TUI UK & Ireland Gold
TUI UK & Ireland have given the same marketing weight to TUI’s ‘Better holidays, better world’ as their other five key messages. They have embedded better business’ storytelling and experiences into the core brand and by doing so have put responsible tourism at the heart of their offer. In 2017 TUI’s market research revealed that consumers are critical of the lack of information and choice around sustainability and that two-thirds of holidaymakers are prepared to make lifestyle trade-offs for ecological and social sustainability. The TUI UK Board approved marketing guidelines for sustainability which have put sustainable and responsible tourism communications to customers via all owned marketing channels including blogs, social media, retail brochures, inflight & cruise magazines, retail (billboards, radio adverts, posters), SEO, digital marketing, video production and PR – bringing exposure on responsible tourism issues to over 4.5 million TUI customers.

Intrepid Group Nepal Gold

Intrepid has campaigned on animal-welfare, orphanage tourism, carbon-offsetting, and gender equality. The judges want to recognise their year-long Namaste Nepal campaign run in response to the 2015 earthquake and designed to contribute to rebuilding Nepal faster and stronger. The campaign delivered on fundraising and sales objectives and changed Intrepid’s approach to responsible business, showing how to work with NGOs after a crisis to create shared value. Intrepid facilitated Nepal trips in the year after the earthquake for 88% of the number carried in 2014, the year before the quake. In 2017 they carried 36% more than in 2014. The campaign raised AU$750,000, including dollar-for-dollar match funding in the emergency appeal and the commitment to returning all profits to the country. Following a damage assessment of the trekking route, more than 80 improved heating stoves were installed in teahouses and lodges along the Langtang Valley trek, 20 households on the Gosainkunda Trek Route had solar lighting installed, and three new water purification plants were installed for communities in the area.

Rethink Orphanages Australia Silver 
This is an Australian cross-sector network that aims to prevent the unnecessary institutionalisation of children by shifting the way Australia engages with orphans though overseas aid and development. The network comprises over 27 member organisations from international aid and development, tourism, philanthropic, education and faith-based communities and works with stakeholders from a range of sectors including government and media. They use clear and consistent, evidence-based targeted and customised messaging and have contributed to Australia’s decision to regard orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery which has set, the judges believe,  a global precedent for countries with children in institutional care. Intrepid Travel, Projects Abroad and World Challenge have ceased offering visits to orphanages and developed education modules to assist schools in ethically transitioning away from orphanage tourism and volunteering.


Best for Local Economic Benefit

The judges were looking for businesses with a demonstrable commitment to local economic development through local sourcing and employment and significant achievements in doing so. We are looking for practices and initiatives that will inspire others and that are replicable across the industry. Our ambition is to showcase great examples of Responsible Tourism in practice and to use them to educate others, including consumers, about what can be achieved and to challenge others to do as well or better.

OneSeed Expeditions  USA Gold
OneSeed Expeditions links exploration with investment to develop a completely local supply chain, incentivizing and educating their partners on Responsible Tourism practices, and using revenue from OneSeed clients to invest in local businesses through microfinance and mentorship. 79 cents of every dollar of revenue is spent on local suppliers including guides, porters, drivers, cooks, and lodges in the local economies where they operate. A further 10% of every dollar of revenue is invested in micro-finance loans to local entrepreneurs in a variety of sectors helping to expand and diversify local economic benefit from tourism. Since 2011 they have invested over $303,000 in six countries with more than 90% of investments supporting women-owned businesses. They have funded 619 loans averaging $560. They partner with local microfinance institutions (MFIs) to lend this seed capital to small-scale entrepreneurs as collateral-free, shared liability microcredit. Microfinance is not seen as a solution to poverty, but rather a tool to empower individuals looking to create opportunities through entrepreneurship. OneSeed publishes detail of the impact of the traveller’s investment on its site: www.oneseedexpeditions.com/invest/  They won silver in the Best for Poverty Reduction in 2015, the judges recognised that they have significantly grown their programme and their impact since then.


African Ivory Route South Africa Silver 
Transfrontier Parks Destinations, which manages the African Ivory Route, has won Best Tour Operator in the World Responsible Tourism Awards in 2017 and in the African Awards won Gold for Poverty Reduction and Silver for People and Culture. They are widely recognised for their pioneering work in making a success of community-owned lodges, taking them effectively to market, upskilling the communities which own the lodges and training and employing community members. In this application, the judges recognise the achievement of creating this functioning trail of cultural and safari camps and the reporting of the substantial economic and social impacts of the African Ivory Route and in particular the microenterprises which it has financed and mentored: Sacred Baleni Salt, Sacred Lake Fundudzi, the Ribola Art Route and with local weaving, furniture, craft and toiletries.

Coconut Lagoon, Kerala, India Silver
Coconut Lagoon is a destination resort in the backwaters of Kerala, an extension of the village of Kumarakom. They have consistently worked to create shared value for the local community, by creating opportunities for local people which go beyond employment and the sourcing of local produce. Sukumari, an old lady from the community, makes a living by weaving and selling screw pine from her shop within the grounds, she makes Rs.10,000 (135USD) per month. Smt. Shantha, the owner of a small tea shop in the village, provides chai from a copper samovar on the old plantation tea canoe within the Coconut Lagoon and a local man is employed as the resident naturalist. All these are examples of creating additional shared value for the local community ( and enhancing the guest experience), in addition to the economic impact of employment and local procurement.

Madi a Thava Limpopo, South Africa Silver
Located in Venda, previously a homeland, Madi a Thava works with the Venda, Tsonga and Lobedo people researching, documenting, presenting and promoting their rich cultural heritage through art and craft. They employ local people and source produce locally; when it was opened the building was renovated by local craftsmen and the furniture was made by a lodge employee. The art and craft of the local people is the attraction and Madi a Thava provides training and support to 30 artisans and craft producers, 9 of whom in 2018 were amongst the 50 artisans shortlisted for the South African National Crafts Competition. Their work is now being extended to the Makuleke people, and they are opening a CraftArt centre at Victoria Yards,and inner city regeneration project in Johannesburg, to enable artisans forom Limpopo to display and sell their work.

International Institute for Environment and Development, Uganda – one to watch
The judges were pleased to see this initiative to raise the earnings from tourism of those who live closest to the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and who consequently suffer significant costs from crop raiding. This UK Darwin Funded Initiative has worked with 14 small enterprises and trained over 300 local people in basket weaving, guiding, carving, horticulture and apiculture. In the final phase of the project, there should be evidence of the impact of the intervention on the livelihoods of the beneficiaries, the judges look forward to seeing it.

Associacio Marques de Pastor . El Cinque LlAC, Catalunya, Spain – one to watch
In the Pyrenees in the Pallars area of Catalonia, a group of rural accommodation providers and other small tourist businesses have come together to create and bring to market El Cinquè Llac, a walking (or cycling) journey that links several “casa rurals” in seven different rural settlements along historical pastoral pathways. For them, “local” refers to the businesses, young people seeking new opportunities, the farming community and those they work with to increase self-esteem and pride in their local area. This is an exciting Responsible Tourism initiative which is growing organically and deserves to be replicated.


Best for Managing Success

The judges were looking for destinations able to demonstrate the way(s) in which they have addressed the challenge of managing success – where there is a risk that the destination or attraction may experience unacceptable change (for hosts or guests) because of the very success of the destination or attraction in attracting visitors. The purpose of the Awards is to educate and inspire. The judges were looking for replicable and inspiring examples of the management measures which can be taken on the supply and demand side to manage success.

Barcelona Gold

Following the Barcelona Olympics tourism to the city grew rapidly, and by 2004 there was critical comment about tourism and sustainability in the city. By 2008 adverse comment was being voiced more regularly in mainstream and social media and long before overtourism became an issue in the elections the Council had approved a Strategic Plan of Tourism. Both the City Council and Turisme de Barcelona have consistently avoided negative and divisive language in discussing the impact of tourism and tourist behaviours in Barcelona emphasising “identity and coexistence”, the imperative to manage tourism better and referring to tourists as temporary residents have framed the discourse since 2008. Barcelona has developed a wide range of demand and supply-side strategies and tools to manage tourism better and to ensure that the city remains a great place to live and to visit. The judges recognise that Barcelona has developed and tested a great many methods of managing tourism to “ensure that tourism fitted better with the needs of the city.”

Kumarakom, Kerala, India  Gold

When Kumarakom was transformed into a tourist destination, the sector offered remunerative employment for local villagers mainly in construction and landscaping. As the resorts and hotels moved into the operational phase employment in the sector fell dramatically as the industry employed semi‐skilled workers from afar. There was considerable ill feeling about the consequences of the growth of tourism with litter and sewage pollution of the backwaters and the filling of paddy fields for building. Kerala increased the regulation of the industry and worked with the panchayats to control and remove waste. The Responsible Tourism programme addressed the environmental challenges and increased the positive socio-economic impacts through encouraging the growing of produce for the industry and creating Village Life Experience tours to improve the visitor experience and ensure that local people had a stake in the industry and benefited from it. There remains some criticism of tourism impacts but the community’s view is now overwhelmingly positive. An extensive household survey in 2015 found that for households not involved in tourism 61% that that tourism had positive impacts (it was 70% for households engaged in tourism). 34% of those not engaged in tourism thought that it had both good and bad impacts, less the 0.5% thought the impacts wholly bad. In Kumarakom tourism has been used to make better places for people to live in and for people to visit and what has been learnt in Kumarakom is now being rolled out across Kerala

National Trust, Northern Ireland – one to watch

At the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede the Northern Ireland region of the National Trust has introduced timed ticketing and carefully managed coach arrivals and departures to prevent overcrowding. Visitor Experience scores dramatically improved as a result – from 56% in July 2016 to 88% for the first 8 months of 2018. The National Trust has employed a Responsible Tourism Manager recognising the need for further action to be taken. The judges recognised the willingness of the National Trust to act to ensure that the quality of the places and the visitor experience will not be undermined by crowding

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