The World Travel and Tourism Council recently announced the winners of the 2012 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, which recognize world leaders in sustainable tourism. According to the Council, the awards were created to highlight and honor best practices “beyond short-term considerations (and the) benefits not only for people who travel, but also for people in the communities they visit, and for their respective natural, social and cultural environments.”
With innovative sustainable practices in travel and tourism, the winners lead by example. They are chosen by an international team of judges representing various backgrounds within the industry. Awards are given in four categories: Destination Stewardship, Global Tourism Business, Conservation, and Community Benefit. This year’s winners were selected from among 150 entries from more than 60 countries.
The 2012 Destination Stewardship award winner is Destination R¯ros, a Norwegian organization promoting tourism in a former mining town with a total population of just over 11,000. In accordance with a strategic sustainable plan drafted in 2008, Destination R¯ros has focused on five areas including: a host program training for tourism employees in the region, environmental certification for tourism businesses, sustainable waste management systems, local food training, and sustainable value creation. To date, 350 local employees in the tourism industry have participated in the host certification program, which requires workshops on local culture and history, and a completion of a “Copper card” designed to encourage a deep knowledge of the area; each participant must participate in five local tours or attractions to fill out the card and complete the program.
Singapore-based Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts won the award for Global Tourism Business. Banyan Tree opened Asia’s first luxury spa resort at Phuket, Thailand, in 1994 and remains committed to blending ancient Eastern healing therapies with a modern twist. Thai villas feature a saltwater lagoon and coconut groves—the natural environment serves as a peaceful setting for the “high touch, low tech” resort. Banyan resorts are located around the world, and each setting includes plants indigenous to its respective area. In addition, the company supports the Banyan Tree Global Foundation, which gives guests the opportunity to volunteer for conservation efforts such as programs to protect coral reefs and green sea turtles.
The Conservation award for extraordinary contributions to the preservation of nature, wildlife, and biodiversity went to Peruvian tour operator Inkaterra, the first carbon neutral tourism company in the country. With 30 years of experience in the field, the company has conducted ecological research in the Andean cloud forest and the Amazon Basin, managing over 40,000 acres of rain and cloud forest, a rescue center for endangered bears, as well as butterfly breeding programs. In addition, the company invested in the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway, a suspension bridge system in the rainforest that gives guests unprecedented access to the biodiversity of the area.
Saunders Hotel Group of Boston, Massachusetts, won the Community Benefit award for their commitment to supporting the environment and the local community. Their eco-friendly initiatives started as early as the 1980s, when the company opened a historic hotel in a converted police station while also working to develop affordable housing in the surrounding neighborhood. The environmental initiatives in place at Saunders properties include recycling programs, hybrid cars, waterless urinals, ozone laundry systems, eco-friendly cleaning products, and replacing complimentary toiletries with dispensers. The family-owned company also has a strong commitment to social responsibility, providing extensive support to local nonprofit organizations through financial donations, volunteer efforts and other resources.
The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards were originally established by the Federation of Tour Operators in 1989 to encourage other industry stakeholders to protect the environment, and have been managed by the WTTC since 2006. This year’s winners and finalists were recognized at a ceremony at the WTTC Global Summit in Tokyo, Japan.
Read Ethical Traveler's Reprint Policy.