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ResponsibIe Tourism Awards 2005

Posted by Richard Hammond at 10:33 on Sunday 20 November 2005

Whitepod eco-camp, Swiss AlpsWhitepod eco-camp, Swiss Alps

From island hideaways to alpine escapes... Richard Hammond profiles the 12 award winners:

BEST TOUR OPERATOR Winner:
Tribes Travel (www.tribes.co.uk), which also won the overall award.

Highly commended:
Explore (0870 3334001, www.explore.co.uk), the small group adventure tour operator, runs more than 400 small-group trips worldwide. It is working with Tourism Concern to develop a labour standards code of practice for suppliers.

Traidcraft People to People Tours (0191-265 1110, www.traidcraft.co.uk) runs small-group tours to developing countries to see the “people behind the products”, including suppliers of Traidcraft’s products.

BEST HOTEL Winner:
Nihiwatu Resort, Indonesia (00 62 361 757 149, www.nihiwatu.com). Two hundred and fifty miles (400km) from Bali on the southwestern coast of the island of Sumba, Nihiwatu Resort is an upmarket island hideaway that has an effective humanitarian aid programme.In the past four years the resort’s charitable arm, the Sumba Foundation, has raised over £600,000 for community projects, including 22 water stations that produce clean water for 4,500 villagers, and a malaria eradication programme.

Highly commended:
Bird Island Lodge, Seychelles (00 248 22 49 25, www.birdislandseychelles.com), a remote coral island hotel owned and staffed by resident Seychellois and home to more than a million sooty terns. The Boat Landing Guesthouse, Laos (00 856 86 312 398, www.theboatlanding.laopdr.com), which has pioneered community-based ecotourism in the country’s northwestern province, Luang Namtha.

BEST MODE OF TRANSPORT OR INITIATIVE Winner:
Sustrans (0845 1130065, www.sustrans.org.uk).

This year Sustrans completed the opening of 10,000 miles of the National Cycle Network. Harold Goodwin, chairman of the judging panel, said that Sustrans won because “for the past ten years it has encouraged people to get out of their cars and use cycling as an alternative low-emissions form of transport, especially for journeys of under two miles”. Almost three quarters of the UK population now lives within two miles of the network, which links railway stations and ferries with more than 11,000 attractions, including national parks, youth hostels and National Trust and RSPB sites.

Highly commended:
National Trust Greenway Garden (01803 842382, www.nationaltrust.org.uk), which has developed an innovative traffic management plan that includes ferry access to the woodland garden on the banks of the River Dart in South Devon.

BEST IN A MOUNTAIN ENVIRONMENT Winner:
Guerba (01373 826611, www.guerba.co.uk). Guerba runs small group trekking, overland, adventure and discovery tours. The company recently bought land around the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in Moshi, Tanzania, and has raised more than £50,000 for construction of a new orphanage for the Amani Children’s Home (www.amanikids.org). The new home will house more than 100 children, with washing facilities, dining room and classrooms. The company employs only local leaders and guides, and uses locally managed hotels. It recently handed over control of Guerba Kenya to Kenyan staff.

Highly commended:
Black Sheep Inn, Ecuador (00 593 3 281 4587, www.blacksheepinn.com), a ten-room ecolodge and permaculture demonstration site in the Ecuadorian Andes. Neilson (0870 3333356, www.neilson.co.uk), the activity holiday company that takes clients out of the resort to visit national wildlife parks and support local cultural activities.

BEST FOR POVERTY REDUCTION Winner:
Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET), The Gambia (00 220 462 057, "www.asset-gambia.com). ASSET was created so fruit sellers, craft market vendors and guides could work with small hotels, guest houses and ground tour operators to benefit from tourism. ASSET has helped members to improve the quality of their products and given them confidence to charge more for their goods and services. According to Patricia Barnett, of Tourism Concern, ASSET “is the real way to tackle poverty” in The Gambia. “Now everyone working in tourism, whether a small entrepreneur, a taxi driver, or major international operator has a forum to discuss, learn and transform tourism together,” she said.

Highly commended:
Koiyaki Guiding School and Wilderness Camp, Kenya (01747 831005, www.rekero.com/koiyaki), a training facility for young Masai secondary school leavers to learn how to be guides in the Masai Mara.

Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives, Ethiopia (00 251 114 0583, www.community-tourism-ethiopia.com), a local NGO helping to develop community-based tourism.

BEST FOR INNOVATION Winner:
Whitepod (00 41 79 744 6219, www.whitepod.com). High above the Swiss ski resort of Villars in the heart of the Vaudoises Alps, Whitepod is a luxury winter eco-camp that challenges the traditional ski chalet experience. The camp consists of five canvas “pods” made of geodesic designed steel frames. The pods are designed for two people and have a wood fire, washstand, sheepskin-covered bed and easy chair with views of the valley. The concept was developed by a Swiss entrepreneur, Sofia de Meyer, a former City solicitor who wanted to establish an eco- friendly place in a more natural setting than resort hotels.

BEST IN A NATIONAL PARK OR OTHER PROTECTED AREA Winner: Basecamp Mara, Kenya (0800 0894422, www.basecampexplorer.co.uk).

In the heart of the Masai Mara, Basecamp Mara is a safari camp that has integrated conservation and tourism in partnership with the Masai people. Among its many collaborative schemes, the camp has set up a Masai arts and crafts project that allows Masai women to earn money by selling traditional crafts.

Highly commended:
South Hams District Council (01803 861456, www.lifeintolandscape.org.uk), for its Life into Landscape project, which helps with environmental activities in South Devon.

Lake District Tourism and Conservation Partnership (015394 34630, www.lakespartnership.org.uk), which has raised £800,000 from local tourism businesses for conservation projects.

BEST FOR CONSERVATION OF AN ENDANGERED SPECIES Winner:
Discovery Initiatives (01285 643333, www.discoveryinitiatives.co.uk).

This small travel company runs nature holidays with conservation organisations and organises safaris, wildlife courses, walking trips and cruises in 35 countries, where guests get up close to endangered wildlife. Founded in 1997 by the Zimbabwe-born Julian Matthews, the company has contributed £600,000 to conservation projects.

Highly commended:
Snow Leopard Conservancy and Himalayan Homestays, India (www.himalayan-homestays.com), which offers accommodation in a Himalayan village in Ladakh and Sikkim to help support snow leopard conservation.

BEST FOR TECHNOLOGY

Winner: Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), Wales (01654 705950, www.cat.org.uk) in southern Snowdonia is a showcase of the environmental and economic advantages of using green technology. The centre produces enough electricity from its wind turbines, hydro, solar power, wood and solar heating to meet the energy demands of its 60,000 annual visitors, and even sells excess electricity to the national grid. Its visitor centre aims to “inspire, inform, and enable” people to live more sustainably, and includes interactive displays that demonstrate the power of wind, water and sun.

Highly commended:

3 Rivers Ecolodge, Dominica (001 767 446 1886, www.3riversdominica.com), which runs a training programme using alternative energy units. Green Dragon Rollercoaster, Greenwood Forest Park (01248 671493, www.greenwood-centre.co.uk, a “people-powered” rollercoaster that uses the weight of visitors to pull the empty coaster uphill and subsequently generate electricity as it travels downhill.

BEST VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME

Winner:Rural Organisation for Social Elevation (ROSE), India (00 91 5963 241081, www.rosekanda.info) undertakes community work in villages in the Kumoan Hills of Uttaranchal at the base of the Himalayas. Volunteers stay with local families and can perform manual work, such as building earthquake-proof homes, or help with more artistic work to raise funds for the organisation. One of its most successful projects has been the construction of a sanitation programme.

Highly commended: Azafady, Madagascar (020-8960 6629, www.madagascar.co.uk), a UK charity that sends volunteers to southeast Madagascar to take part in construction work, conservation research and educational activities.

OUTSTANDING PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION

Winner: Jo Pope, Zambia (00 260 6 246 090, www.robinpopesafaris.net).

In the 20 years Jo Pope has helped to run Robin Pope Safaris in the South Luangwa National Park, she has worked tirelessly with local communities to promote responsible tourism. She helped the villagers of Kawaza Village to set up a village tourism scheme to allow visitors to experience the traditional lifestyle. Chris McIntyre, author of the Bradt guide to Zambia, said that Pope had played a large part in putting responsible tourism on the political agenda in Zambia. “Her backing for her local community has raised the bar for other Zambian operators — who now almost universally adopt responsible community practices as part of their operations,” he said.

BEST IN A MARINE ENVIRONMENT

Winner: The Venus Company (01803 770343, www.venuscompany.co.uk) in Devon is leading the way in greening up the “English riviera”. The company operates four beach cafés and shops — three in Devon at the beaches of Blackpool Sands, Bigbury-on-Sea and East Portlemouth, and one in Cornwall at Tolcarne Beach, Newquay. Its shops use green tariff electricity and energy-efficient equipment, while its cafés provide cardboard packaging, wooden cutlery and paper cups and sell only local and organic produce. In the past four years, the cafés have raised £18,000 for the Green Lanes heritage conservation project in the South Hams.

Highly commended: Ionian Eco Villagers, Zakynthos, Greece (0871 7115065, www.relaxing-holidays.com), a tour operator based at Gerakas in the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, which protects loggerhead sea turtles.

The judges
Harold Goodwin, chair of judges, director, "International Centre for Responsible Tourism at the University of Greenwich Cath Urquhart, Travel Editor, The Times Fiona Jeffery, group exhibition director of the World Travel Market Neel Inamdar, ecotourism business adviser, Conservation International Tricia Barnett, director, Tourism Concern Sue Hurdle, director, Travel Foundation Justin Francis, managing director, "responsible travel.com"; Debbie Hindle, managing director, BGB & Associates; Andy Cooper, director general, FTO; Frances Tuke, PR manager, ABTA Ian Reynolds, formerly of ABTA; Nick Smith, editor, Geographical magazine Richard Hammond, journalist and editor of www.greentraveller.co.uk.

This article, by Richard Hammond, was first published in the Times.

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