The 15 finalists of the National Geographic World Legacy Awards were unveiled today. The World Legacy Awards, a partnership between the National Geographic Society and ITB Berlin, showcase the leading travel and tourism companies, organizations and destinations — ranging from large resorts to small eco-lodges and from wildlife conservancies to geoparks — driving the sustainable tourism transformation of the travel industry based on National Geographic’s work of inspiring people to care about the planet.
More than 150 World Legacy Awards entries were received, representing 51 countries and six continents. Finalists in five award categories were selected by an international team of judges. The judging process also included on-site inspections of all finalists. For details on the judges, go to http://www.nationalgeographic.com/worldlegacyawards/judging.html.
Conserving the Natural World — Recognizing outstanding support for the preservation of nature, restoring natural habitat and protecting rare and endangered species, whether on land or in the oceans.
- Arkaba by Wild Bush Luxury, Australia —Located on the outskirts of Flinders Ranges National Park, Wild Bush has systematically restored a 60,000-acre former sheep ranch into a thriving wildlife conservancy. Sharing its scientific monitoring of the area’s biodiversity with its guests, conservation groups and community members, Wild Bush is demonstrating that ecotourism can be a vehicle for nature conservation and rural economic growth.
- Elephant Hills, Thailand — With two tented camps bordering remote Khao Sok National Park, Elephant Hills focuses on the protection of the endangered wild Asian elephant. Through guest and community education, including caring for rescued elephants, Elephant Hills is demonstrating that local livelihoods can be improved through conservation-based tourism, while supporting an alternative to captive elephant riding as a tourism attraction.
- Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, Mexico — This nonprofit grassroots community organization has been instrumental in the creation and maintenance of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, an area of rich biodiversity in central Mexico. Working with local communities, Sierra Gorda has provided new opportunities for employment, encouraging and supporting the development of small ecotourism businesses, while monitoring and tracking benefits to biodiversity conservation and economic development.
Earth Changers — Recognizing cutting-edge leadership in environmentally friendly business practices and green technology, from renewable energy and water conservation to zero-waste systems and carbon emissions reduction.
- Mission Hills, China—Demonstrating that environmental responsibility can be adopted across the Chinese tourism industry, Mission Hills published a sustainability manual and was one of the first resorts in mainland China to engage in green operations. They launched an educational campaign against the sale of ivory and shark fin. Incorporating solar-powered golf carts and solar “pest control,” Mission Hills Haikou earned the UK based Golf Environment Organization’s certification in 2014.
- Laguna Lodge, Guatemala — A luxury eco-lodge focused on green operations and environmental responsibility, Laguna Lodge uses solar power and carefully tracks and monitors energy, water, waste and purchasing. It grows most of its own food, sources locally, and offers a vegetarian and vegan menu to all guests. It also offers cooking classes and highlights the environmentally responsible benefits of food choices.
- Inspira Santa Marta Hotel, Portugal— Located in Lisbon, this hotel works to minimize negative impacts on the environment, implement environmentally friendly operations and serve as a role model for Portugal’s tourism industry. In addition to careful tracking of energy and water, the hotel’s “Green Squad” provides leadership in implementing innovative sustainable tourism ideas both in the hotel and the community.
Sense of Place — Recognizing excellence in enhancing cultural authenticity, including implementing vernacular architecture and design, support for the protection of historic monuments, archaeological sites, indigenous heritage and artistic traditions.
- CGH Earth, India — CGH Earth operates 16 properties in southern India emphasizing local cultural heritage, including lodge design, community relations and helping guests experience authentic local culture. All of its properties emulate the traditional design of the region’s villages and are built using local, recycled and reclaimed materials, while the introduction of organic farming and local markets contributes to the conservation of local biodiversity.
- Tierra Patagonia, Chile — Built to blend harmoniously with the dramatic landscape of Torres Del Paine National Park, the goal of the lodge construction was to create a place that not only used local materials but also took care to ensure the least amount of disruption possible to the surrounding environment, taking wind patterns, animal trails and native vegetation into account in the lodge design.
- TIME Unlimited Tours, New Zealand — TIME (To Integrate Maori Experiences) Unlimited Tours is an Auckland-based ecotourism company offering environmentally friendly tours across New Zealand. A Maori-owned company, TIME Unlimited introduces guests to both the natural and cultural heritage of New Zealand, providing a “living cultural” experience that immerses guests in the local Maori way of life, benefiting local communities while promoting sustainable tourism.
Engaging Communities — Recognizing direct and tangible economic and social benefits that improve local livelihoods, including training and capacity building, fair wages and benefits, community development, health care and education.
- Grootbos Green Futures Foundation, South Africa — Founded in 2003 as the nonprofit arm of the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, the Grootbos Green Futures Foundation’s work is focused on community-based training and capacity building to support poverty alleviation, provide education and upward job mobility and advance nature conservation in the high-biodiversity region known as the Cape Floral Kingdom where Grootbos is located.
- The Bushcamp Company, Zambia — As a guiding principle, The Bushcamp Company recognizes that protecting the natural environment means fully involving the local community in management and decision making. Through close collaboration, Bushcamp supports projects in the Luangwa area that help conserve critical wildlife resources and it supports education, health care and other community development initiatives through its“Luangwa Conservation and Community Fund.”
- Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy, United States — Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy works alongside parent company Abercrombie & Kent to support community and conservation projects across its global travel portfolio, focusing on four main goals in interacting with local communities — education, conservation, health and enterprise (providing economic opportunities to local people) — and sponsoring projects in local communities that its guests can also visit.
Destination Leadership — Recognizing destination stewardship, including cities, provinces, states, countries and regions that are demonstrating environmental best practices, protection for cultural and natural heritage and benefits to local people, and educating travelers on the principles of sustainable tourism.
- Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, Ireland —From the seeds of a local community project, Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark today represents a vibrant and successful destination-wide partnership between the private sector, local villagers and municipal authorities working together to safeguard one of Ireland’s – and the world’s- most beautiful natural landscapes – the Cliffs of Moher. The project demonstrates the power of well-planned and managed tourism to improve local livelihoods, provide a high-quality visitor experience and promote conservation.
- Destination Røros, Norway — Each year, over 1 million tourists visit the traditional mining town of Røros, a World Heritage site. Destination Røros works with more than 200 member businesses to encourage cooperation and coordinate tourism development, ensuring that sustainability is kept foremost. Through a comprehensive system of monitoring, evaluation, training and capacity building, Destination Røros continues to elevate the implementation of sustainable tourism best practices, serving as a model for other communities in Norway.
- Travel Oregon, United States — Travel Oregon works to promote economic development opportunities through such programs as the Rural Tourism Studio destination development initiative, representing over 1,000 participants spanning eight regions in Oregon and constituting a true destination-wide effort that combines marketing, capacity building and training. Travel Oregon works with rural communities to improve their lives by supporting sustainable rural economic growth based upon care for local people and the environment.
Costas Christ, chairman of National Geographic World Legacy Awards, said, “Sustainable tourism is the foundation for the future of the travel industry, and those destinations and companies that understand this today will be the global leaders of tomorrow. Tourism is based on selling culture and nature — the very things sustainable tourism practices work to protect. Have you ever heard someone come back from a vacation and say, ‘I just had a great holiday hiking in a dead rain forest and then staying on a beach filled with trash?’ The World Legacy Awards finalists are all about protecting the places travelers love to visit and benefiting the local people who live there. Together, these 15 finalists are working towards a future when all tourism will be sustainable.”
The winners will be announced on stage at the World Legacy Awards ceremony on March 10, 2016, during ITB Berlin. Finalists and winners will also be featured in National Geographic Traveler magazine and other National Geographic media.
The sponsors of the World Legacy Awards are Botswana Tourism Organization, Adventure World and TreadRight Foundation. For more information on the World Legacy Awards, go to www.nationalgeographic.com/worldlegacyawards/ or http://www.itb-berlin.de/en/ITBBerlin/SocialResponsibility/WorldLegacyAwards/.