Winners vow to protect planet


“WE encourage people to travel to some of the most beautiful and sensitive parts of the world so all of us have the responsibility to do something.”

That was the message from Tony Williams, senior vice president, resorts and projects for Emirates Hotels & Resorts as he accepted the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) 2010 Tourism for Tomorrow Award in the conservation category.

The four winners of the prestigious awards were announced during the WTTC’s 10th Global Summit in Beijing with New Zealand’s indigenous Maori-owned and locally operated, Whale Watch Kaikoura taking the community benefit award, Botswana Tourism Board winning the destination stewardship award for its ‘low-volume-high-yield’ approach to tourism in the Okavango Delta (pictured) and Accor receiving the award for global tourism business for its Earth Guest programme and company-wide philosophy based on hospitality, respect for diverse cultures, environmental best practices and the social welfare of local people where it operates in more than 100 countries.

Costas Christ, chairman of the judges, said: “We are seeing a new horizon in the global travel and tourism industry where more and more companies and destinations, both large and small, are leading the way forward in demonstrating that tourism can be an opportunity for protecting our planet and delivering tangible social and economic benefits at the local, national and international level.

“We are in a global transformation of the industry as we have known it.”

Whale Watch Kaikoura was recognised for its outstanding achievement in rebuilding the local economy through community-based tourism in Kaikoura on the east coast of South Island in New Zealand. Whale Watch Kaikoura specialises in giving more than 100,000 visitors annually the opportunity for up close observation of marine life, including rare sperm whales, using environmentally-friendly vessels. The company was founded in 1987 by local Maori, to create jobs for the indigenous Ngati Kuri community, and has since grown into a multi-million dollar nature tourism business.

In the Conservation category, Emirates Hotels & Resorts was awarded for its success in creating the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) through the establishment of the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa and in Australia, the company’s Wolgan Valley Resort is one of the best examples in the world of conservation through tourism. The project is successfully reversing extensive grazing and development damage to restore rare native flora and fauna.

Williams added: “We talk about growth, sustainability, profits – none of this will happen unless we are environmentally sustainable.”

The decision in favour of Botswana Tourism Board was an extremely popular one at the awards ceremony. The organisation has taken a ‘low-volume – high-yield’ approach to tourism in the Okavango Delta – an internationally recognised Ramsar Site (ODRS) – and has been instrumental in putting in place the legislative framework and ecotourism standards to ensure proper management of one of the world’s most iconic nature travel destinations. Today, sustainable tourism in the Okavango employs 34 per cent of the adult population while protecting the largest inland wetland in the world.

Receiving the award a delighted Myra Sekgororoane, CEO, Botswana Tourism Board, said: “As well as motivating us to look for new ways to improve tourism and conservation in our country, we hope the award can inspire other countries to do similar work to protect their natural heritage.”

And accepting the award on behalf of Accor, chairman and CEO Gilles Pélisson said: “Accor’s strategy is underpinned by a deep respect for people and the environment. This respect is expressed through the Earth Guest programme, respectful of employees, customers, host communities and the planet’s natural resources.