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London Tours by the Homeless and Luxury Safaris are Joint Winners of Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2011


Responsible Tourism Awards 1

A luxury safari company, Robin Pope Safaris, and a social enterprise operating walking tours of London by the homeless, Sockmob Events/Unseen Tours, are the joint winners of this year’s Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards.

At a ceremony hosted at World Travel Market, ExCel, London, as part of World Responsible Tourism Day on Wednesday, the Awards were handed out by Justin Francis, Managing Director of responsibletravel.com, organisers and founders of the Awards, and Amanda Wills, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays, in their fifth year as headline sponsor of the Awards.

The judges said: “This year the judges wanted to award two joint overall winners to recognise both long term excellence and bold innovative new ideas. Robin Pope Safaris’ 20-year record of remarkable work with local communities in Zambia is a standard for tourism organisations to aspire to. At the same time, Sock Mob Events/Unseen Tours offers a glimpse of new perspectives for the future. The judges feel the combination of proven and new, Africa and London, demonstrate the breadth of achievement in responsible tourism.”

An additional 13 awards were presented in a range of categories, which included poverty reduction, volunteering organisation, responsible writing, and accommodation for the environment. Each of the winners and highly commendeds details are outlined below.

Justin Francis, founder of the Responsible Tourism Awards and Managing Director, responsibletravel.com, organisers of the awards said: “Right now it’s tough times for business – industries the world over are facing difficult questions from a public who want to know if business can be a force for good. Tourism is no exception, and thankfully our winners are on hand with the answers. Where travellers ask for authenticity, our winners are there with genuine experiences. Where destinations ask ‘what’s in it for me’, our winners share the benefits.”

Amanda Wills, Managing Director, Virgin Holidays, headline sponsor of the awards said: “For the fifth year running, Virgin Holidays is honoured to be involved in celebrating the humbling and hugely inspiring winners of these awards. Everyone in the travel industry can and should learn from them and seek ways we can work together to make a meaningful and ongoing commitment to responsible travel. The example set by the winners shows that fairness in travel can be good for us, good for our customers and suppliers, and most of all good for the communities and destinations with which we work.”

This year, travellers can read the winners’ inspiring stories as well as other news and holiday ideas in the world’s first app for green, responsible tourism: r:travel, in association with the South Australian Tourism Commission. Visit www.responsibletravel.com/awards/app (free of charge).

Launched in 2004, the awards are run in association with partners World Travel Market, Metro Newspaper and Geographical Magazine.

For more information about all the award winners and highly commended organisations, visit the official awards website: www.responsibletourismawards.com

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Award Winners 2011

Joint Overall Winners:

Robin Pope Safaris, Malawi and Zambia

Sockmob Events / Unseen Tours, London, UK

Responsible Tourism Awards 2

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Best Tour Operator for Local Experiences (sponsor: Travelife)

Winner: Sockmob Events / Unseen Tours, London, UK

Contact details: www.sockmobevents.org.uk, Dr Lidija Mavra, Director, [email protected]

“The judges were excited by the promise of this relatively young tour operator to provide a model for responsible tourism in cities. Organised by the Sock Mob volunteer network, ‘Unseen Tours’ take a unique view of London by organising tours run by trained homeless guides, offering an unexplored view of the big city. Incorporating history with personal perspective, the tours give voice to those usually silent in tourism, create job opportunities, and an unforgettable experience.”

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Best for Poverty Reduction (sponsor: Tourism KwaZulu Natal)

Winner: Robin Pope Safaris, Malawi and Zambia

Contact details: Robin Pope Safaris, www.robinpopesafaris.net, Ton de Roy, Managing Director, [email protected]

Highly Commended: Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan, www.feynan.com

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Best Accommodation for the Environment (sponsor: Tourism Authority of Thailand)

Winner: Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant, UK

Contact details: Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant, www.battlesteads.com, Richard Slade, Director, [email protected]

“Originally an 18th century farmhouse, this net zero carbon neutral, 3-star hotel impressed the judges with its range of initiatives and achievements in the past six years. To name just a few: a biomass boiler supplied by a sustainable forestry, and solar thermal panels providing all heating and hot water, charging points for electrical vehicles, and enough rainwater collection to supply water for two acres of land, including the two polytunnels used to grow their own food!”

Highly Commended: Campi Ya Kanzi, Kenya, www.maasai.com, Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco, www.kasbahdutoubkal.com

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Best Accommodation for Local Communities (sponsor: Kenya Tourist Board)

Winner: Fauzi Azar Inn, Israel

Contact details: Fauzi Azar Inn, www.fauziazarinn.com, Maoz Inon, Founder and Owner, [email protected]

“This 200-year-old Arab mansion-turned guest house is the vision of Maoz Inon. Set in the old town of Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, the opening of the Inn has helped to facilitate interaction between tourists and locals – part of Maoz’ goal to transform a neglected area through tourism and promote communication across boundaries of race and religion in the Middle East. The Inn has designed, produced and distributed 50,000 maps of Nazareth to enable exploration of the old town, and organises a free tour experienced by 2,500 people per year.”

Highly Commended: Semadep Safari Camp, Kenya, www.semadepcamp.com

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Best Low Carbon Initiative (sponsor: Slovenian Tourist Board)

Winner: Eurostar International Ltd, UK

Contact details: Eurostar International Ltd, www.eurostar.com, Luke Ervine, Environment Manager, [email protected]

“No stranger to the Awards, Eurostar impressed the judges this year by refusing to sit on their laurels, instead finding new ways to save energy and encourage their passengers to do the same. Since 2007 they have reduced their waste to landfill by 40%, and in 2009 started working with ‘Worn Again’ to upcycle old uniforms into new saleable products. 15% of each supplier tender is scored towards the company’s environmental behaviour, and the new phase of their ‘Tread Lightly’ campaign aims to reduce supporting business CO2 emissions by 25% by 2015. They have even launched the ‘Eurostar Ashden Award for Sustainable Travel’ to encourage further innovation in sustainability.”

Highly Commended: Intrepid Travel, UK, www.intrepidtravel.com

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Best in a Mountain Environment (sponsor: Oman Ministry of Tourism)

Winner: Himalayan Holidays (Pvt), Pakistan

Contact details: Himalayan Holidays (Pvt), www.himalayanholidays.pk, Najeeb Ahmed Khan, Owner CEO, [email protected]

“The judges were full of praise for this responsible tour operator committed to providing low volume, low impact trekking holidays in what is a highly controversial tourism destination. In the face of incredible odds Himalayan Holidays’ ‘Vacations for All’ programme in the Kaghan and Astore Valleys provides tented accommodation that secures employment for local people, and the Khanpur water-based sports programme benefitting over 80 families with income.”

Highly Commended: Mountain Lodges of Peru, Peru, www.mountainlodgesofperu.com; Whistler Blackcomb, Canada, www.whistlerblackcomb.com

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Best in a Marine Environment (sponsor: Tourism Fiji)

Winner: Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development, Belize

Contact details: Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development, www.pcsdbelize.org, Mary Toy, co-chair, [email protected]

“The judges were impressed by this organisation’s campaign for locally owned tourism development in the face of planned cruise tourism in the Placencia Peninsula of Belize. After uniting the community to preserve the authenticity of the Peninsula, they have continued to promote collaboration between local tourism organisations and the village council to proactively develop sustainable tourism.”

Highly Commended: Coral Cay Conservation, Cambodia, www.coralcay.org;  Maple Leaf Adventures, Canada, www.mapleleafadventures.com

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Best Responsible Cruise or Ferry Operator (sponsor: Oman Ministry of Tourism) 

Winner: DFDS Seaways, UK

Contact details: DFDS Seaways, www.dfdsseaways.co.uk, Stephen House, Head of Product, [email protected]

“DFDS Seaways is one of Europe’s largest ferry companies, and has gone a long way towards marine conservation. Teaming up with ORCA to discover a wealth of whales, dolphins and wildlife on their routes, they now host an onboard ‘wildlife centre’ offering fun activities for passengers, employ onboard wildlife officers, and work with the School of Whales on a range of mini wildlife-watching cruises.”

Highly Commended: Ullswater Steamers, UK, www.ullswater-steamers.co.uk

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Best for Conservation of Wildlife and Habitats (sponsor: South Australian Tourism Commission)

Winner: Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Malawi

Contact details: Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, www.lilongwewildlife.org, Kate Moore, Marketing Manager, [email protected]

“Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is a wildlife rescue, conservation and education centre in the heart of Malawi’s capital city. Fending off developers, the centre has reclaimed and revived 90 hectares of urban wilderness to provide sanctuary for rescued, orphaned and injured wild animals, and promotes conservation to locals and tourists alike. It now takes over 20,000 visitors per year, showing its value as a centre for both the people and wildlife of Malawi.”

Highly Commended: Great Ocean Ecolodge, Australia, www.greatoceanecolodge.com; Africat Okonjima, Namibia, www.okonjima.com

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Best Contribution to Conserving Cultural Heritage (sponsor: Oman Ministry of Tourism)

Winner: Agri Tourism Development Corporation, India

Contact details: Agri Tourism Development Corporation, www.agritourism.in, Pandurang Taware, President and Managing Director, [email protected]

“The Agri Tourism Development Corporation organise tourism experiences on working farms in India. By providing holiday experiences based on local agricultural traditions, this initiative is creating job opportunities for local farmers, allowing them to diversify their livelihoods whilst preserving their way of life. The judges were impressed by the replicability of the idea, and how this primarily domestic tourism experience was helping to bring Indian tourists back into rural communities.”

Highly Commended: Nutti Sami Siida, Sweden, www.nutti.se

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Best Volunteering Organisation (sponsor: Oman Ministry of Tourism)

Winner: Global Vision International, UK

Contact details: Global Vision International, www.gvi.co.uk, Andy Woods-Ballard, Director of Business Development, [email protected]

“Global Vision International impressed the judges with the scale of their impacts on the ground. Placing 3,500 volunteers each year in 60 countries, GVI teaches over 10,000 people each year in six continents. And for GVI the proof of their work is in the performance of their students – in Guatamala their students were in the top 5% nationally examined in 2011 – proving that well-placed skilled volunteers can have genuine impacts. Their charitable trust already estimates £400,000 will be raised for their partners this year alone.”

Highly Commended: Tiny Island Volunteers, Maldives, www.tinyislandvolunteers.com

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Best Destination (sponsor: Oman Ministry of Tourism)

Winner: Destination Røros, Norway

Contact details: Destination Røros, www.roros.no, Hilde Bergebakken, General Manager and Project Leader Sustainable Tourism, [email protected]

“This former mining town in Norway may have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, but it has been preserving traditions as a tourist destination for over 85 years. Attracting over one million visitors each year, the town of just 3,700 inhabitants maintains its sense of place through a ‘local knowledge’ programme run for over 90 businesses, local food safaris and much more.”

Highly Commended: Forest of Bowland, UK, www.forestofbowland.com

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Best in Responsible Tourism Writing (sponsor: Trinidad and Tobago Tourist Board)

Winner: Tourism must tap into the water issue, by Catherine Mack

“Originally appearing as part of her ‘Ethical Traveller’ column in the Irish Times, Catherine Mack’s thought-provoking piece impressed the judges for bringing attention to the issue of water consumption for travellers. Something of a rarity in travel journalism, the piece is praised for offering an honest view of an overlooked and yet considerable tourism issue, highlighting it clearly to the travelling mainstream.”

Highly Commended: Sicily’s First Eco Village Blooms, by Gail Virginia Simmons, www.travelscribe.co.uk; Telling the stories of their land/World’s Oldest Tour Guides, by Nick Haslam, www.nickhaslam.co.uk



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