Who Won the 2017 WTM Responsible Tourism Awards?

Highlights of this year’s Responsible Tourism Awardees are among the best operators globally in ecotourism, community-based tourism, nature tourism, adventure tourism and sustainable destination. Mallika Naguran reports.

SINGAPORE, 30 November 2017. Shu Tan dreamt of solving the social problems faced by her ethnic minority community up in the mountains of Sapa, northern Vietnam. Little did the former child street seller know that she would grow up to create a credible tourism business called Sapa O’Chau that would go on to win numerous awards including the recent WTM Responsible Tourism Award in the Best Community Initiative category.

 Founder and director of Sapa O'Çhau, Shu Tan seeks to uplift livelihoods and educational opportunities of the ethnic minority people in Northern Vietnam.

Founder and director of Sapa O'Çhau, Shu Tan seeks to uplift livelihoods and educational opportunities of the ethnic minority people in Northern Vietnam.

Sapa O’Chau joins six other businesses in clinching the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards presented in London on 8 November 2017, which was also earmarked as the World Responsible Tourism Day. Around 500 applicants were received where 12 among them were shortlisted for the awards.

Sapa O’Chau is a female ethnic minority-owned enterprise in Vietnam that employs mostly female staff who come from ethnic minority groups. Shu Tan and her co-directors aim to provide educational opportunities for youths as they provide trekking, homestays and handicraft retail services.

Traditionally, for the last 13 years, the World Responsible Tourism Awards have been presented at the World Travel Market in London each November. This year, WTM took over the reins in organising the awards from responsibletravel.com.

Moreover, in conjunction with this year’s recognition as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the awards focused on the application of UN Sustainable Development Goals and the measurable impact generated by recognising each winner as a ‘Leader in Demonstrating Responsible Tourism Impact’.

The World Responsible Tourism Awards were given in the categories of Best for Carbon Reduction, Best for Accommodation, Best Community Initiative, Best for Communication, Best Tour Operator, and Best for Poverty Reduction.

On the list of finalists this year were a game lodge in Botswana, a fynbos protected area in South Africa, a tour operator working to benefit local communities in Limpopo, a European city, a group of guest cottages in Kangaroo Valley in Australia and a company enabling travellers to walk from village to village in rural India.

 Demonstrating impact in their sustainability initiatives are the finalists of WTM Responsible Tourism Awards 2017.

Demonstrating impact in their sustainability initiatives are the finalists of WTM Responsible Tourism Awards 2017.

Winning the award in 2017 were a nature reserve, a safari camp, a hotel, a European capital city, and three rural tourism organisations.

 Harnessing energy from solar on its boats and vehicles, Chobe Game Lodge manages to reduce its carbon footprint.

Harnessing energy from solar on its boats and vehicles, Chobe Game Lodge manages to reduce its carbon footprint.

Botswana’s Chobe Game Lodge clinched the Best for Carbon Reduction category. Since 2014, it converted its transport to run on solar power and now has a fleet of electric vehicles and boats.  “Since the successful introduction of the electric fleet, we have seen several operators seeking to adopt the electric approach and convert their vehicles or boats as we are currently doing. A positive sign for the future of safaris in Africa,” it said on its website.

Grootbos, a hotel promising luxury located in its own nature reserve in South Africa, grabbed the Best for Accommodation category for its series of energy reduction practices and running a foundation. The Grootbos Foundation acts to conserve the Cape Floral Kingdom and develop livelihoods, enterprise, education and sports.

The capital city of Slovenia—Ljubljana—took home the Best for Communication award. Its Sustainable Urban Strategy since 2016 allows hotels and restaurants to source for local products through its Green Supply Chains online portal, encourages cooperation toward sustainable mobility, and manages tourist flows to prevent over crowding in the city. Ljubljana City is now calling for comments and proposals from its citizens and businesses on its implementation plan for the strategy.

 Ljubljana has been recognised for its constant pursuit of destination sustainability at the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards in 2017.

Ljubljana has been recognised for its constant pursuit of destination sustainability at the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards in 2017.

South Africa’s Transfrontier Parks Destinations won the Best Tour Operator for its support of economically disadvantaged rural communities through commercialising community-owned lodges and creating a network of independent micro-enterprises.

Indian tour operator Village Ways with huge British staffing won the Best for Poverty Reduction award. Village Ways was recognised for its community oriented tourism offering that mainly involves walking trails. It has also developed nearly 20 village guesthouses and in the process created employment for around 260 families.

Commenting on the standard of the finalists, Chair of Judges, Emeritus Professor Harold Goodwin said:

“This year we have discovered some new and innovative approaches to demonstrating the contributions which tourism makes to sustainable development. I was chair of the judges for the 13 years of the World Responsible Tourism Awards organised by responsibletravel.com. When they decided to cease running the Awards I was delighted that WTM London stepped up to continue them.

“This is a major year of change with a new organiser and a focus in the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development on the UN’S Sustainable Development Goals – we shall be publishing some great examples of how businesses have met the new challenge of transparently reporting their impacts and communicating them to stakeholders”.

The highly-commended remaining finalists were Crystal Creek Meadows; Green Tourism Business Scheme; Kumarakom; Ol Pejeta; TUI Cruises; and Marine Dynamics.