Eighteen finalists and six winners took home esteemed 2014 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards from the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual Global Summit in Hainan, China on April 24. The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards – now in its tenth year – honors businesses, organizations and destinations that exhibit best practices in sustainable tourism and serve as a benchmark for others in the travel and tourism industry to strive toward.
Of the award applications received, entrants ranged in size from global hotel groups to small eco-lodges, in service from international airline transportation to luxury tour operation, and spanned 56 countries in all six populated continents around the globe.
To narrow the field of finalists to the top six award winners in each category, an independent panel of 22 judges from around the world converged under the leadership of chairman Costas Christ, a global expert on sustainable tourism, to take part in a rigorous three-step judging process and on-site evaluations of all award finalists. It is this fine-tuned attention to detail and in-depth firsthand assessments of the merits of each finalist that makes the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards the gold standard for sustainable tourism awards around the world.
“Each year, the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards recognize sustainable tourism best practices in action, helping to transform the travel and tourism industry based upon the principles of environmentally-friendly operations, support for the protection of cultural and natural heritage, and direct benefits to the social and economic well-being of local people in travel destinations around the world,” said Christ. “This year’s finalists continue to demonstrate that when carefully managed, tourism can be a powerful force for improving livelihoods and protecting our planet for future generations.”
New to this year’s award are two new categories that represent the importance of people and innovation within the travel and tourism sphere.
“For ten years, WTTC has led the sustainability debate within travel and tourism through our Tourism for Tomorrow Awards,” said David Scowsill, president & CEO of WTTC. “To mark the tenth anniversary this year, we have changed the awards to reflect the broadening scope of WTTC’s sustainability agenda. There are now six award categories, with the addition of two entirely new awards to recognize the areas of human resources and innovation.”
The winners of the 2014 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are:
Arviat Community Ecotourism
Arviat Community Ecotourism makes the natural arctic wildlife and rich, historic culture of the native Inuit in Canada’s sparsely-populated northernmost territory accessible through its sustainable, native-owned, community-led tourism service. Funded by a sum of money received under a land claim agreement from the Federal Conservation Areas, the younger generation of indigenous Inuit created a sustainable investment in their community with the launch of Arviat Community Ecotourism in January 2011. Through their ecotourism service, which is 100% owned and operated by natives in the community, tourists can immerse themselves in ancient Inuit history and culture, embark on a guided tour to the National Historic Sites of Arvia’juaq and Qikiqtaarjuk, and visit other cultural sites along the bay with the most knowledgeable, local guides available.
Sustainability is fundamental principle that has been entrenched in African safari tour operator, Asilia Africa’s, business model since its launch a decade ago. To beget sustainable tourism throughout its thirteen properties in Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique, the forward-thinking safari operation built its business upon five core standards: community, conservation, capacity, certification and commitment. Operating in critical conservation areas where wildlife is severely in danger of extinction, these regions have actually thrived under Asilia’s guidance, protection, education, monitoring and management of its resources over the past 10 years.
Before his passing, the late Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos of Messinia, Greece set out on a mission to invest in the protection of the land he loved so dearly through the establishment of sustainable tourism facilities and renewable resource projects in the region. Through his company, Temes S.A., his vision to protect the rich cultural heritage and pristine nature of Messinia’s local community remains intact through sustainable investments in infrastructure, environmental and habitat protection projects, and local economic stimulation in the form of jobs for the local community. Among Temes S.A.’s accomplishments include the creation of two water reservoirs for river winter runoff to cover irrigation needs, the development of one of the largest photovoltaic facilities in Greece to supply electricity, and the establishment of one of the largest olive tree transplanting programs in Europe.
Jetwing Vil Uyana
It takes a staunch dedication to environmental sustainability to revive and re-forest an area that has been completely wiped out by slash and burn agricultural practices, but that’s exactly what Jetwing Vil Uyana in Sri Lanka has been doing since 2002. Taking two whole years to regenerate the barren landscape with native plants and natural wildlife, the hotel’s six hectares of land were given new life in the form of natural wetlands, native flora and fauna, and rich native species returning to the area before any of Jetwing’s 30 luxurious, eco-friendly dwellings were built upon the land. Thanks to its regeneration efforts, close maintenance of environmental sustainability, and implementation of energy efficient measures, Jetwing is investing in a bright future for Vil Uyana.
Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality
Since 2008, Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality (LANITH) has been revolutionizing the tourism economy in some of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries through travel and tourism industry education. Its two primary thrusts include a two-year Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality for those hoping to break into the industry and its Passport to Success program for those already working in the industry. The training center offers short vocational courses in customer service, kitchen management and food production, while the full-time degree offers a full-scale curriculum for low-income, minority and disadvantaged populations.
Ecosphere in Spiti Valley, India takes a holistic approach to sustaining the legacy of the Himalayas’ history, culture and natural beauty for generations to come. Through social enterprise, Ecosphere turns everyday assets into innovative tourism products right from within its 4,000-meter, high altitude, cold desert climate region. Since its founding in 2002, Ecosphere has been protecting the natural Himalayan environment through the design of nature-inspired products like mud pottery replicas of depleting fossils that tourists take home as souvenirs and its sensitization video which educates tourists on methods of responsible, eco-friendly travel.
These forward-thinking, sustainability-minded businesses and organizations are leading the charge and establishing high standards for global sustainable practices and promoting eco-friendly growth in the industry. Through their valiant efforts, these cutting-edge pioneers are showcasing the powerful impact sustainable tourism can have on local economies, people, environments and humanity as a whole.