Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards Winners 2012

Reality Tours and Travel steal the show

Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India
Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India

At a ceremony hosted at World Travel Market, as part of World Responsible Tourism Day, the awards were handed out by Justin Francis, Managing Director of responsibletravel.com and Amanda Wills, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays.

Overall winners Reality Tours and Travel demonstrated that it's possible for tourists to tour a slum in India in a responsible way. Established in 2005, the company offers city and village tours in Mumbai and beyond, and this award was for their educational Dharavi Slum Tours.

The Awards Judges said: "We were really impressed by their fully integrated approach to realising the social purpose of using tourism to raise awareness of the reality of slum life, both positive and negative, and to raise money through their business to assist the Dharavi community to develop. This form of responsible tourism deserves to be adapted and replicated elsewhere, and for this reason, as well as its own substantial achievements, we have selected Reality Tours and Travel as the 2012 Overall Winner of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards."

Amanda Wills, Managing Director, Virgin Holidays, headline sponsor of the Awards said:
"The Responsible Tourism Awards serve to remind us of what can be achieved with ingenuity, passion and commitment. They are also an opportunity for us to stop, be inspired, and remember why being 'responsible' in business should be - must be - second nature."

Other winners in the Responsible Tourism Award Winners in other categories, included:

Best accommodation for local communities, sponsored by Caribbean Tourism Organisation 

Winner: Soria Moria Boutique Hotel, Siem Riep near Angkor Wat, Cambodia

About the winner: Soria Moria Boutique Hotel is named after the Norwegian fairytale Soria Moria Castle, which is often interpreted as being about individual paths to perfect happiness. For its employees, fairytales can come true, as its exemplary employee training programme supports staff from entry level jobs right up to management positions.

Best accommodation for the environment, sponsored by Visit California 

Winner: Song Saa Private Island

About the winner: Located in the Koh Rong archipelago in Cambodia, the luxurious Song Saa Private Island has 27 stunning villas that deliver on style, intimacy and picture perfect surroundings. Beauty isn't just skin deep at Song Saa though, as its thorough and holistic approach to conservation sets it apart.

Best carbon reduction initiative, sponsored by Johannesburg Tourism 

Winner: Sawadee Reizen

About the winner: Dutch small group adventure tours company Sawadee Reizen have identified that changing to direct 'point-to-point' flights is the most effective way of reducing the carbon footprint of trips, resulting in a reduction in carbon emissions by an average of 10%.

Best destination for conserving architectural heritage, sponsored by Gibraltar Tourist Board 

Winner: St Kilda, Scotland

About the winner: The St Kilda islands were abandoned in 1930 by the remaining 36 islanders when life on St Kilda became unsustainable and the buildings rapidly fell into disrepair. Between 2008 and 2010 the National Trust for Scotland carried out a sympathetic restoration.

Best engagement with people and cultures, sponsored by Oman Ministry of Tourism 

Winner: South Nottingham College in Partnership with The Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia

About the winner: The judges were impressed by the strength of the partnership between South Nottingham College and the Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia (ITTOG).

Best for conservation of wildlife and habitats sponsored by Rainbow Tours 

Winner: Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, Chile

About the winner: Since 2000 the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve has conserved over 100,000 hectares of Patagonian temperate rainforest. The owners have changed the way in which they, and the local community, secure a living form this large piece of Patagonian forest, moving from logging to conservation and sustainable tourism. The judges were impressed by the scale of the transformation at Huilo Huilo.

Best for poverty reduction sponsored by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal 

Winner: Reality Tours and Travel

About the winner: Reality Tours and Travel are our overall winners for 2012! Learn about them at the top of this press release.

Best in a marine environment sponsored by Tourism Fiji 

Winner: Moonraker Dolphin Swims, Australia

About the winner: Moonraker Dolphin Swims offer the opportunity to swim with wild Burranan Dolphins and Australian Fur Seals, whilst taking steps to ensure the dolphins do not become habituated and remain truly wild. Port Philip Bay in Victoria is one of Australia's last remaining homes for this genetically unique family of dolphins.

Best in a mountain environment, sponsored by Visit Norway 

Winner: 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking

About the winner: Owned and run by the Chheti sisters, 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking train and employ women as high-altitude guides and porters, a break from tradition in the male-dominated Nepalese trekking industry. Employment means empowerment for women in the impoverished west of Nepal, their wages can lift whole families out of poverty and allow the women themselves to continue their education, a rare opportunity in a country where, according to UNESCO, just 2% of female school leavers go on to university.

Best in responsible tourism writing sponsored by Trinidad and Tobago Tourist Board 

Winner: Emma Thomson

About the winner: The judges particularly liked Emma Thomson's account of her homestay with the Himba and the makeover she had while dressed as a Himba woman. A colourful and engaging piece without being preachy, the article explains why this more responsible form of tourism makes such a better tourist experience. On the day before she leaves she is ogled by some tourists, and to quote from her article "for a brief moment, I catch a glimpse of life on the other side of the fence."

Best in responsible transport, sponsored by Wightlink 

Joint winners: Big Lemon Bus Company, UK and Green Tomato Cars, UK and Australia

About the winners: This year the judges decided to award two winners in this category, partly because there were a number of strong nominations this year, but also to reflect the importance of taking responsibility for reducing carbon emissions in all kinds of transport.

Best innovation sponsored by Jamaica Tourist Board 

Winner: The Nature Observatorio Amazing Treehouse, Costa Rica

About the winner: Designed, developed and self-financed by Peter Garcar, The Nature Observatorio Amazing Treehouse is suspended in the canopy of a Nispero tree, 25m above the forest floor. The Treehouse is a guest of the tree for five to seven years, and great care is taken to ensure that when the tree house is removed there will be no trace of it ever having been there.

Best tour operator for promoting responsible tourism sponsored by Slovenian Tourist Board 

Winner: Explore

About the winner: For Explore, Responsible Tourism is a commercial decision, not just an ethical one. By operating responsibly they believe their customers will have a better experience. The judges were impressed by how they engage travellers in their Responsible Tourism approach. Their Responsible Tourism pages give information to customers about how they can make their trips more responsible both before and during their trip, as well as when they return home.

Best volunteering organisation sponsored by Tourism Authority of Thailand 

Winner: Elephant Human Relations Aid

About the winner: Elephant Human Relations Aid focus their activities on the conflict between the desert elephants of Namibia and local communities, caused by elephants damaging vital water points. Their short-term volunteer teams strengthen water points so they can be used by both humans and elephants without getting damaged. 


For more on all our Winners and Highly Commended organisations, visit www.responsibletourismawards.com


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