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Reaping the rewards.

The Responsible Tourism Awards recognize individuals, companies and organisations in the travel industry that are making a significant commitment to the cultures and economies of local communities and are providing a positive contribution to biodiversity conservation. Richard Hammond reports on the inspirational projects that were honoured at this year's awards

As many white South Africans were moving from the inner cities to the suburbs in 1996, Paul Miedema and his wife Thandi took up residence in Calabash Lodge in the historical heart of Port Elizabeth, a city of 1.4 million people on the southern coast of South Africa. Operating from the seven-bedroom lodge, Miedema set about developing the concept of 'township tourism'--arranging tours to Port Elizabeth's poorest areas. He now employs 13 black staff, who organise trips into the townships for 300-800 tourists a month.

"It's a commercial venture with a social agenda," explains Miedema. "By opening up townships to tourists, we create profit for the company, profit for the community and profit for our service providers."

As well as bringing business to local communities, Miedema has set up the Calabash Trust to develop and assist community projects. Among the projects that it has sponsored to date are a pre-primary school and a food scheme in the poverty-stricken shanty town of Rhamaphosa.

In recognition of its achievements, Calabash Lodge and Tours was recently named the winner in the Best for Poverty Reduction category of the Responsible Tourism Awards. Together with Exodus Travel, an adventure holiday specialist, Calabash was then selected by the judges as the joint overall winner of the inaugural awards.

The winners were chosen from more than 700 nominations sent in by readers of Geographical and The Times and visitors to's website, who were asked to identify holidays and tourism organisations that provided an enjoyable and responsible travel experience. TV presenter and journalist John Stapleton presented the awards with Justin Francis, managing director of, at the travel industry's premier annual event, the World Travel Market.

The awards fall within ten categories that range from those for specific ecosystems, such as the marine environment and mountain areas, to sectors of the travel industry, such as sustainable transport and accommodation.

According to Francis, the awards reflect the changing agenda in responsible travel, away from focussing solely on the environment. "The judges were looking for travel companies that are not only eco-friendly, but also make a positive contribution to the economies of local communities," he says.

Calabash Lodge and Tours was singled out as the joint overall winner because of its contribution to the township community. It has recently qualified for a Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa trademark (FTTSA), a movement that has broken new ground in encouraging socially conscious tourism in the new South Africa by recognising tourism companies that are using fair and responsible business practices. The key principles of the FTTSA are that companies ensure fair wages and working conditions for their staff, ethical business practice and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.

"Much of African tourism is about wildlife and nature, less about people. But we've made people a core component of the business," says Miedema. "Tourism is often a win-lose scenario, but by finding new business models that involve the local community, it has become a win-win position."

Three other companies were highly commended in the Best for Poverty Reduction category for their commitment to ensuring local communities benefit from tourism: Kahawa Shamba Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union, which gives coffee growers an alternative income through tours in the Kilimanjaro area; Santa Lucia Eco-lodge in Ecuador, which has provided income to the local community by managing ecotourism; and Makasutu Cultural Forest in The Gambia, which has provided 150 jobs for local people in an area of high employment.

As well as recognising outstanding tourism projects in destinations, the awards also sought to draw attention to some of the many personal contributions that have been made to responsible tourism. Adama Bah was given the Outstanding Personal Contribution Award for his work in The Gambia. For the past 20 years, while managing the Bungalow Beach Hotel, Bah has worked to help local people benefit from tourism. He set up a Big Issue-style street paper, Mango News, which is sold to tourists by beach hustlers or 'bumsters', encouraging tourists to buy local food, crafts and fair-trade products. He also ran a regular radio show, Tourism Bantaba, inviting hoteliers, operators and local businesspeople to come on and discuss how tourism can benefit local people. And he recently helped form the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism, which helps everyone from taxi drivers to fruit sellers gain greater benefits from tourism.

The judges also recognised several conservation projects. UK-based travel company Naturetrek was awarded for its work to protect endangered birds in Madagascar's fragile Mahavavy Delta Wetlands, an area under threat from draining, agriculture, hunting and over-fishing. And Chumbe Island Coral Park, a private company in Tanzania, won the Best in a Marine Environment award for helping Chumbe Island become the country's first marine park. The protected area now supports a thriving coral island ecosystem with nearly 400 fish species and 200 species of coral. The 167-room eco-friendly Casuarina Beach Club in Barbados picked up the Best Accommodation award, while Hilton Hotels was highly commended for training 15,000 of its staff in the UK and Ireland on environmental issues.

High up in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the stunning Kasbah du Toubkal was recognised for its commitment to the mountain environment and local Berber community. Located just 60 kilometres from Marrakech, the Kasbah is a renovated fortress managed and staffed by local Berbers in partnership with British-owned company Discover. It provides employment for local mountain guides and income for local producers. A five per cent levy on the cost of staying at the Kasbah goes towards community projects and it has also raised 50,000 [pounds sterling] to help build a village hammam (bathhouse).

One of the many small-group adventure operators that uses the Kasbah as a stop-off on one of its North African trekking holidays is Exodus Travel, which scooped the Best Operator award, as well as being named joint overall winner. For the past 30 years, Exodus has developed small-group holidays in 80 countries. It now organises more than 300 trips a year, including cycling and walking holidays, overland journeys and cultural holidays, as well as more adventurous trips, such as rock climbing and white-water rafting.

Francis explains that Exodus was singled out by the judges for integrating responsible tourism throughout its business. "Exodus is an outstanding example of how responsible tourism can become part of a company's DNA and run like a thread through all the company's activities," he says. Where possible, the company buys local produce and uses local services, so that money generated from its trips is kept within local economies. Exodus's responsible tourism manager, Stephen Natrass, says that winning the award "is a reflection that small-group adventure travel, when organised sensitively, can be a real help to local communities, providing income, positive cultural exchanges and the financial incentive to protect the natural environment".

While many of the awards went to projects in far-flung destinations, several British projects were recognised. North York Moors National Park was awarded for its work in developing tourism based on the cooperation of local businesses and park authorities. For three years, the park authorities have run the Developing Assets of Protected Areas scheme, which has created links between the rural economy and the park's management. One of the cornerstones of the project was the promotion of locally produced goods through the publication of a local-producers directory that was distributed to B&Bs, hotels and tourist information centres in the region.

Given air travel's contribution to climate change, critics argue that no holiday can be truly responsible when it involves flying to the destination. In recognition of the fact that there are ways travellers can reduce their ecological footprint, the judges gave the Best Mode of Transport award to Eurostar for proving a low-emissions alternative to flying and also because more than 60 per cent of its passengers arrive at Waterloo by public transport.

Although this was the awards' inaugural year, according to Francis, the response from the public was overwhelming. "We were surprised and thrilled by the number and diversity of nominations," he says. "There were some truly inspiring examples of what both mainstream and niche tourism can do to benefit both conservation and local people."

The tourism industry is often criticised for failing to address issues of social responsibility, but this year's winners provide evidence that great holidays can make a positive contribution to local communities while minimising tourism's effect on the environment. Many of the stunning places we love to visit are coming under increasing pressure, both environmentally and socially, from the enormous growth of tourism. These awards not only provide a celebration of the companies that are making a positive difference to holiday destinations, but also set a clear standard from which the rest of the travel industry can learn.

The Responsible Tourism Awards were organised by with The Times, World Travel Market and Geographical

Responsible Tourism Awards: Winners and highly commended

Joint Overall Winners (sponsored by First Choice)


Best Tour Operator

EXODUS TRAVEL, UK, a small-group adventure-holiday company that organises more than 300 trips a year in more than 80 countries. (0870 240 5550,

Highly commended

INTREPID TRAVEL, AUSTRALIA, which runs small-group adventure holidays in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America. (020 8960 6333, THE ADVENTURE COMPANY, UK, runs more than 130 small-group adventure holidays worldwide. (0870 7941009,

Best Accommodation

CASUARINA BEACH CLUB, BARBADOS, a 167-room eco-friendly hotel that supports the local community. (+ 246 428 3600,

Highly commended

HILTON HOTELS, UK AND IRELAND, for training all 15,000 of its employees in the UK and Ireland on environmental issues. (0870 590 9090,

Best Mode of Transport (sponsored the Energy Savings Trust)

EUROSTAR, UK, the high-speed cross-Channel train company that connects London Waterloo with Paris, Lille and Brussels. (0870 518 6186,

Best in a Mountain Environment KASBAH DU TOUBKAL, MOROCCO, a renovated fortress, part-owned by a local Berber, at the foot of Jbel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. (01883 744 392,

Highly commended

GUERBA WORLD TRAVEL, UK, a small-group adventure holiday company that arranges trips to Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. (01373 826 611,

Best in a Marine Environment (sponsored by Fiji Visitors Bureau)

CHUMBE ISLAND CORAL PARK, TANZANIA, a partnership between local people and private business that has helped an island near Zanzibar become a thriving coral-island ecosystem. (+255 24 223 1040,

Highly commended

BLUE VENTURES, UK, organises marine-conservation holidays in Madagascar, Tanzania, New Zealand, South Africa and the Comoros Islands. (020 8341 9819,


Chair: Harold Goodwin (International Centre for Responsible Tourism at the University of Greenwich)

Cath Urquhart (travel editor, The Times)

Fiona Jeffery (group exhibition director, World Travel Market)

Nick Smith (editor, Geographical)

Michael Lomotey (social outreach worker, Tourism Concern)

Sue Hurdle (director, The Travel Foundation)

Jane Ashton (sustainable tourism manager, First Choice Holidays)

Frances Tuke (Corporate Affairs, ABTA)

Justin Francis (managing director,

Jonathan Hodrien (director, Friends of Conservation)

Richard Hammond (travel journalist)

Best in a Protected Area

NORTH MOORS NATIONAL PARK AUTHORITY'S DEVELOPING ASSETS OF PROTECTED AREAS SCHEME, UK, a local project that has created links between the rural economy and the park's management. (01439 770 657,

Highly commended

OPERATION WALLACEA, UK, a volunteer conservation organisation that operates in Indonesia, Egypt and Honduras. (01790 763 194,

Best for Conservation of Endangered Species (sponsored by Friends of Conservation)

NATURETREK, UK, a nature tour operator that helps to preserve wildlife. (01962 733 051,

Highly commended

GROOTBOS PRIVATE NATURE RESERVE, SOUTH AFRICA, helping to protect the Cape's unique vegetation. (+27 28 384 0381,

Best for Poverty Reduction (sponsored by Exodus)

CALABASH LODGE AND TOURS, SOUTH AFRICA, a holiday company that runs a guesthouse and townships tours in Port Elizabeth. (+27 41 585 6162,

Highly commended

SANTA LUCIA ECO-LODGE, ECUADOR, which provides ecotourism holidays. (+593 2 215 7242,

MAKASUTU CULTURAL FOREST, THE GAMBIA, which manages a river lodge and cultural centre. (+220 9900 279,


Best for Innovation (sponsored by Active Hotels) THE MIHAI EMINESCU TRUST, ROMANIA, a trust that manages tourism to help conserve the cultural heritage of mediaeval Transylvania. (+ 40 265 772 494 or 020 7229 7618,

Highly commended

KAHAWA SHAMBA, TANZANIA, which runs tours in the Kilimanjaro area. (

Best Personal Contribution (sponsored by Intrepid Travel)

ADAMA BAH, THE GAMBIA, a hotel owner who has worked for 20 years to increase the benefits of tourism to local people and the environment. (

Highly commended

TRICIA BARNETT, TOURISM CONCERN, UK, has campaigned on human rights issues in the travel industry. (020 7133 3330,
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Title Annotation:Responsible Tourism Awards
Author:Hammond, Richard
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Feb 1, 2005
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Next Article:Travel for a living: Paul Miedema is the founder of Calabash Tours, which offers guided tours of the townships of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and...

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