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World Responsible Tourism Awards

Rewarding the best

Leaders in responsible tourism were honoured yesterday in 13 categories, with one winner also taking an ‘overall’ crown

significant of their kind. Organised by Responsible Travel,


the vision for the awards – which are open to any organisation anywhere in the world – is to surprise and inspire tourists and the tourism industry by showing what it is possible to achieve with responsible tourism, and to shine a light on the best of the best.

ow in its 12th year, the World Responsible Tourism Awards have become the most

Harold Goodwin, chair of the judges

panel, says: “Judging the Awards is an exacting task. The decisions the judges take get tougher every year. “The volume, quality and diversity

of nominations grow each year and each category engenders considerable debate among the judges. “The quality we have had before us

this year has been higher than ever – evidenced by the fact that there are joint gold winners in four of the 12 judged categories.”

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Best Responsible Tourism Blog: Uncornered Market

Sponsored by Fair Trade Tourism Winner’s background Uncornered Market is a blog that focuses on the personal travel experiences of American husband and wife team Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott. Founded in 2007, they have travelled to more than 90 countries, and with a focus on storytelling and personal experiences their aim is to inform and inspire a respectful movement of travellers around the globe.

What they do Audrey and Dan’s aim is to create a “chain of stewardship” around the world, with their stories and experiences helping to inform readers about ways in which to travel responsibly and with respect – with 70,000 unique visitors per month to their site and an impressive social media following, that has the potential to be one big chain. People, not just place, are always

at the centre of their blog, with Audrey and Dan giving voice to people who don’t always have one, particularly in far-flung destinations or “uncornered markets”. Part of their aim is also to dispel stereotypes and fears, particularly from their predominantly American following,

and thus assure readers that travel is a force for good, and not to be feared. The writing is strong and engaging,

without guest blog additions, and Uncornered Market is commercially viable through sponsorship, speaking engagements, training and affiliate sales and advertising. They have inspired other bloggers to grow and extend their travels, while maintaining an ethos of responsible tourism through thought-provoking pieces about people, culture and the living environment.

Judges’ comments Guided by their motto “driven by curiosity, guided by respect”, this blog is written by full-time travellers and storytellers. Their goal is to create a movement of respectful travellers and they reach more than 1.2 million people monthly through their travel and life adventure blog and social media platforms. They also deal with critical issues around volunteering, fear and awareness.

Best for Beach Tourism (joint winner): LooLa Adventure Resort

Supported by Visit Jersey Winner’s background Founded on Indonesian Bintan island, close to Singapore, by Dr Marc van Loo and Isabelle Lacoste (thus the Loo and La) in 2000, this eco-resort specialises in adventure and activity holidays aimed mainly at school groups and families.

What they do As well as boasting exemplary sustainable building, energy and waste disposal practices, this eco- resort puts the Bintan community at the core of what it does, with all 50 employees hailing from the island. Although the founders own 95%

of the business, 5% of the shares are donated to employees. LooLa’s innovative business model is based on the Dutch polder system, which allows staff to set up their own independent businesses within LooLa – a system that is challenging in a local commercial culture and very much based on the top-down approach. However, there are now thriving food, drink and other businesses at Loola, leading to a substantial rise in staff


income and strong customer service. Customer feedback is also extremely positive regarding this cooperative style of business.

Judges’ comments The judges were impressed with LooLa’s ( small eco-resort, which provides for schools and family groups. LooLa operates a very successful business (TripAdvisor top 1% and the most popular overseas destination for Singapore-based schools). The staff are all local and have had limited access to education. Staff turnover is zero. The judges believe the resort’s rainwater collection systems, green air- conditioning and waste water gardens are all highly replicable.

Best for Beach Tourism (joint winner): Soneva Fushi, Maldives

which goes to carbon reduction programmes managed by Soneva’s own Slow Life Foundation. The environmental impacts of the

Winner’s background Built in 1995 by Soneva founders Eva and Sonu Shivdasani on the island of Kunfunadhoo in the Maldives, it was the first in a series of environmentally friendly, luxury hotels, resorts and spas. The submission for this award is for their original and pioneering resort Soneva Fushi.

What they do Waste is always an issue on an island and Soneva Fushi recycles more than 80% of waste through the Eco Centro Waste to Wealth programme, while 100% of food waste is composted and used in the vegetable gardens, saving $100,000 annually in waste handling. Soneva Fushi imposes a 2% environmental levy on each room,

Baaru organisation, a collaborative platform between the Baa Atoll resorts that was founded by Soneva, are also far-reaching, such as lobbying to have the atoll protected as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 2011 and to ban shark fishing in the Maldives, with a law passed in 2010. Social responsibility is also part of

Soneva Fushi’s ethos, with 77% of staff hired locally. Many local people cannot swim, and one of Soneva’s most exciting social initiatives was the Learn to Swim programme.

Judges’ comments The judges were impressed by the carbon footprint reduction (12% since 2008-9), the 2% environmental levy on room revenue that has raised $5.7 million for work to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a ban on plastic water bottles and funding of water projects that have benefitted 600,000 local people.

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