Cape Town - Coinciding with the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development, National Geographic has announced the five winners of their 2017 World Legacy Awards.
The awards showcase the leading travel and tourism companies, organisations and destinations — ranging from large resorts to small eco-lodges and from wildlife conservancies to entire countries — that are driving the sustainable tourism transformation of the global travel industry.
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More than 100 entries, representing 45 countries across six continents, were submitted for these prestigious travel awards. An international panel of 26 judges coordinated by , scored each entry according to globally recognised sustainable tourism criteria. All 15 finalists underwent a rigorous on-site inspection.
According to Costas Christ, an internationally recognised sustainable tourism expert and award-winning National Geographic travel writer judging the awards, “Sustainable tourism development is crucial for the future of travel and for the planet.
He says that the travel and tourism industry is based on promoting and selling culture and nature holiday experiences and as such, "needs to take a bigger role in protecting the very resources that their business depends upon".
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The World Legacy Award winners and finalists are demonstrating the way forward to a brighter travel future for people and the planet, Christ says.
Although South Africa does not feature on the list, various local tourism companies and destinations have featured in NatGeo's sustainable accolades before.
SEE: SA's Grootbos named NatGeo finalist in World Legacy Awards
Apart from the NatGeo awards, the 2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards, will also be taking place at World Travel Market Africa in April this year.
The winners of the 2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards, a part of the World Responsible Tourism Awards, will be announced in Cape Town at the CTICC during Africa Travel Week 2017.
READ MORE HERE: Responsible Tourism Awards: What you need to know about this Africa Travel week event
In 2016, the world awards founded by Responsible Travel celebrated 13 years at WTM London. Several category winners in the 2016 African round came out tops in the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards.
Bushmans Kloof, for example, won silver for the Best Accommodation for Responsible Employment category at the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards, joining the ranks of Grootbos Nature Reserve, Hotel Verde, Gansbaai Tourism, Marine Dynamics and the V&A Waterfront as the top responsible tourism businesses.
SEE: Wellness travel craze suits SA's natural tourism offering all too well...
The 2017 National Geographic World Legacy Awards winners, in their respective categories, are -
Earth Changers — recognising cutting-edge leadership in environmentally friendly business practices and green technology, from renewable energy and water conservation to zero-waste systems and carbon-emission reduction.
Cayuga Collection, Costa Rica and Nicaragua
"This innovative hotel collection combines state-of-the-art sustainability with experiential travel at eight unique properties in Central America. Reduction and monitoring of energy, water, waste, composting, recycling, and other earth-friendly initiatives inspire staff and guests to make green practices part of their own lives. Innovative practices also include eliminating plastic waste (at Cayuga, even drinking straws are reusable bamboo), and guests join popular behind-the-scene tours to learn how sustainability directly touches their vacation experience."
Sense of Place — recognising excellence in enhancing sense of place and authenticity, including support for the protection of historical monuments, archaeological sites, cultural events, indigenous heritage and artistic traditions.
City of Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
"If American pioneers from more than a century ago were to visit Santa Fe’s central plaza today, they would recognise it instantly. The oldest state capital in America considers safeguarding its rich heritage a duty and a passion. The historic downtown and surrounding area protect archaeological sites and cultural authenticity, including the Santa Fe Indian Market, now almost 100 years old and still going strong. Santa Fe’s annual festivals and events place Native American, Spanish, and Anglo heritage front and centre, while strong sustainability initiatives also bring the past into the future."
Conserving the Natural World — Recognising outstanding support for the preservation of nature, restoring natural habitat and protecting rare and endangered species, whether on land or in the oceans.
North Island, Seychelles
"With the Seychelles Islands known as the Galapagos of the East, this luxury eco resort's innovative Noah’s Ark project has successfully reintroduced some of the Seychelles’ rarest and most endangered species back to nature as part of their restoration of native habitat on the former plantation island. Biologists on-site monitor all aspects of the island’s ecology, contributing to greater global understanding of migration patterns, sea temperatures, and the impacts of climate change in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots."
Engaging Communities — recognising direct and tangible economic and social benefits that improve local livelihoods, including training and capacity building, fair wages and benefits, community development, health care and education.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek, Belize
"Belize’s pioneer jungle lodge demonstrates that putting local people first benefits employees, villagers, and its own bottom line. The Lodge provides economic benefits to community projects across the nation, directing 10% of all room revenue to support social and environmental programs. They offer annual training and workshops to promote career development and sponsor an Environmental Outreach Program, a free Eco-Kids summer camp, and scholarships and internships for local students."
Destination Leadership — recognising destination leadership, including cities, provinces, states, countries and regions that are demonstrating environmental best practices, protection of cultural and natural heritage, benefits to local communities and educating travellers on the principles of sustainability.
Slovenian Tourist Board, Slovenia
"With nearly 60% of its land protected, the country of Slovenia has successfully laid the foundation to become one of the world’s most sustainable destinations. The Tourist Board unifies all stewardship initiatives through its Green Scheme, which sets guidelines and provides tools for monitoring sustainability progress, instilling a culture of continual improvement in the country’s tourism efforts based upon benefiting local communities, protecting cultural heritage and saving nature, including revitalising rural areas and creating authentic travel experiences for visitors."
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