WTM Responsible Tourism Awards Winners Announced: India Leads the Way

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Earning international recognition, the rural tourism project of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board has been awarded ‘Best Project’ at the World Travel Mart (WTM) World Responsible Tourism Awards 2021 function held in London recently. The International Responsible Tourism Center gave this award in the category of ‘Best Post-Covid Tourism Destination Development’.

The awards, first launched in 2004, recognise and reward businesses and destinations which are contributing to more sustainable and responsible tourism industry.

Winners were chosen by a group of industry experts, which met online to allow for an internationally diverse panel.

This year, India stood out in the Awards emerging as the leading country for Responsible Tourism.

Indian states have seen the benefits in Kerala from the efforts of the Responsible Tourism Mission which has been working since 2008.

The Global Award winners have been selected from the best of India and the Rest of the World Awards along with the best of those already entered for Africa and Latin America.

1. Decarbonising Travel & Tourism

GLOBAL AWARD: Govardhan Village, Maharashtra, INDIA

The judges for the global awards commented that there was a much stronger field this year and wanted to emphasise the importance of the clean generation of power and what can be done, by adopting technical solutions, to achieve real and significant reductions in emissions.

Govardhan Village is a 100-acre retreat centre and model farm community, a campus that showcases alternative technology and provides residential conferences and study programmes, attracting 50,000 tourists a year. The judges were particularly impressed by the effort which has been made at Govardhan to avoid emissions in the build and operational phases. With zero emissions, 210kW of solar panels deliver 184,800 units of electricity annually.

2. Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic

GLOBAL AWARD: V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa. AFRICA

The V&A Waterfront demonstrates what can be achieved by a large scale destination business that is determined to work at using its scale and dominance to benefit those otherwise excluded and marginalised. The V&A Waterfront is a mixed-use destination on the harbour in Cape Town, “a platform that facilitates and champions art and design, to support entrepreneurship and innovation, lead the charge on sustainability and drive positive social and economic change.”

It has continued to grow employment at 3.7% annually through the pandemic. In December 2020, as cases soared, they launched Makers Landing, a food community that celebrates South Africa’s diverse cultures through food.

3. Destinations Building Back Better Post-Covid

GLOBAL AWARD: Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, Rural Tourism Programme, INDIA

One of the ambitions of the Responsible Tourism Awards is to encourage businesses and destinations to learn from others, replicate and amplify achievements. The judges for the Global Awards wanted to recognise and celebrate how Madhya Pradesh is drawing on learning from others, particularly the Responsible Tourism Mission in Kerala, to accelerate and grow its impacts for rural communities.

Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board’s Rural Tourism Program is being implemented in 60 villages in the first phase and 40 in the second phase over three years. This project gives the tourist the most authentic and ground breaking rural experience through several rural activities like bullock cart rides, farming and cultural experiences and the opportunity to stay in homestays in rural areas to generate employment and alternative business opportunities for rural communities.

Exposure visits and need-based training on homestay operations, cooking, health and hygiene, book-keeping and accounting, housekeeping, guest house management, guiding, sensitivity towards travellers, photography and blogging is being provided. The arrival of tourists has created employment for guides, drivers, artists, and other opportunities for selling goods and services to visitors. The artisans of the villages are also engaged in the diversification of the local economy through handicraft development and promotion under responsible souvenir development programs.

4. Increasing Diversity in Tourism: How Inclusive is our Industry?

GLOBAL AWARD: No Footprints. Mumbai, INDIA

The judges were impressed by the diversity and breadth of experiences that No Footprints offers of contemporary life in Mumbai, offering genuine insight to travellers and holidaymakers.  They were recognised as Best Tour Operator in the India Responsible Tourism Awards in 2020: “No Footprints enables visitors to connect with the communities which have made the city what it is over generations, to meet with them, and to hear their stories. No Footprints offer opportunities to meet with Parsees, Bohris, the East Indians and the queer* community.” In 2021 they have been recognised in the WTM Global Responsible Tourism Awards.

5. Reducing Plastic Waste in the Environment

GLOBAL AWARD: Six Senses, Laamu, Maldives, INDIAN OCEAN

The Global judges were impressed with the extensive range of ways in which the management has worked to reduce the use of plastics in the resort and to reengineer their supply chain to eliminate plastic.

At Six Senses Resort on The Maldivian island of Laamu, guests join a Sustainability Tour to see innovation and experimentation in action at their Earth Lab, their hub for self-sufficiency and zero waste. The resort has set itself the goal of becoming plastic-free in 2022. This includes all front of house plastics but also food packaging.

Fifty per cent of water sales in all Six Senses Laamu’s restaurant outlets goes into a fund providing clean, reliable drinking water to local communities in need. Six Senses Laamu stands out for having installed enough water filters (97) in the local community to eliminate over 6.8 million plastic water bottles every year. They have also conducted over 200 beach and reef cleans- including submitting data to Project AWARE- and held education sessions for all members of the public on plastic pollution and waste management.

6. Growing the Local Economic Benefit

GLOBAL AWARD: Village Ways, Mumbai, Maharashtra, INDIA

In the context of the pandemic the Global judges looked for businesses that had actively worked to sustain and develop relationships between previous and potential guests, using recommendations and referrals to generate domestic and international business through virtual tours. They have restructured their business and enhanced the skills of their staff in the Mumbai office to ensure that Village Ways can grow out of the pandemic.

When Covid struck, tourism stopped. Village Ways adapted by developing virtual tours with village communities, including cookery demonstrations, each virtual tour attracted around 200 participants, often renewing old acquaintance across the ether. Village Ways was successful in obtaining training contracts from Madhya Pradesh. They have restructured, closing their UK marketing office, planning to outsource marketing efforts in the UK, and developing further the skills of the Mumbai head office.

They are rebuilding first from the Indian domestic market. The Village Ways model is distinctive. Guests are invited to walk through the landscape from village to village with a local guide staying in purpose-built village guesthouses, owned, managed and staffed by the community. All the village committees which manage the guest houses operate transparently.

For the full list of those being recognised from India and the Rest of the World for taking responsibility for making tourism better and further information about the entries, please click here