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World Responsible Tourism Awards – Winners Interview Series

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Ana Garcia, Tren Ecuador

Exclusive Interview: Ana Garcia, Tren Ecuador

Founded in 2004, the World Responsible Tourism Awards allow people the chance to celebrate the heroes and share the stories of the most exciting and enduring responsible tourism experiences in the world.

Tren Ecuador were the joint overall winner and also won the Gold award for “Best for Poverty Reduction and Inclusion.”

Best for poverty reduction and inclusion is awarded to a tourism organisation with a creative and long-term approach to reducing poverty in local communities and including local and marginalised people in their activities. It is one of the longest standing categories of the World Responsible Tourism Awards. The judges wanted a tourism organisation that could prove significant reduction of poverty in a local community, inclusion of local and marginalised people, and a long-term sustainable vision for continuing their work, and providing a working example for others tourism providers around the world.

Tren Ecuador is the commercial brand of the Ecuadorian Railway Company. Through their one-day expeditions and the 4 day- 3 night Tren Crucero The Luxury Experience tours they seek to provide a unique and authentic experience of Ecuador’s diverse cultural and natural heritage by engaging local communities offering tourist services along the routes.

They share tourist value with 26 station-cafes, 14 artisans’ plazas, 13 museums, 2 lodges, 9 folklore, historical recreation groups and several community-based tourism operations, serving 150,000 tourists yearly and creating local opportunities to 180 micro enterprises and around 1,400 families.

Through their social responsibility strategy, “Travel Good, Do Good, Feel Good” every time you grab a bite at one of their cafes, buy a souvenir in their Plazas or jump on board for one of their tours you become a part of this big family committed to making responsible tourism sustainable, fun and profitable for all.

We interviewed Ana Garcia, General Manager of Tren Ecuador to find out more.

Tren Ecuador recently won not one, but two World Responsible Tourism Awards. In 140 characters (a tweet) or less – why do you think you won such an important award?
The way we operate our tours manages to spread tourism benefits more evenly to the local communities
What was the driver for creating Tren Ecuador specifically – what gap does it fill?
Tren Ecuador is the commercial brand of Ecuadorian Public Railways Company. We were created with a specific mandate to restore the abandoned railway system and operate it as an example of how tourism can contribute to local development.
Who is Tren Ecuador primarily for?
Tren Ecuador’s average 130,000 to 150,000 customers every year are for the most past Ecuadorian tourists, with growing numbers of international tourists who for the greatest part choose our Tren Crucero 4 day-3 night luxury experience..
What difference does Tren Ecuador want to make?
We aim at creating opportunities for local communities through tourism, and also to offer tourists a different way of discovering the extraordinary cultural and natural heritage of this country through those who actually preserve it.
What are the barriers to making that difference?
Mostly budgetary. We are a very young company so we still need to increase the numbers of visitors so the economic benefit for the communities keep growing.  The same barriers that affect all tourism businesses, mostly.
Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
We work closely with our allies: distribution channels, the local governments, the communities themselves, to keep growing our market share. Also we have established alliances with schools of hospitality to support our suppliers with continuous training to keep improving the quality of service.
Is the tourism sector doing enough to deliver a sustainable travel and tourism?
I think the tourism sector is steadily understanding and assuming the need for a more sustainable, responsible holistic approach. What we need is to harness the power of  responsible consumers to really becomes a mainstream trend.
How can people find out more about Tren Ecuador?
At our website: www.trenecuador.com, and please go check our social responsibility section to learn more about our “Travel Good, Do Good, Feel Good” strategy
What are the key factors of your success?
Having a clearly stated mandate for economic inclusion at the core of the company, having a long-term strategy, having a professional team with experience in developing and marketing tourist products with local communities,  a monitoring system that allows us to identify problems and set up solutions,  and above all, patience and conviction.

Awards

Ocean Awards 2017 Winners Announced

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ocean by victor via flickr

The winners of the second annual Ocean Awards, hosted by Boat International Media, the international authority on super-yachting, in partnership with the Blue Marine Foundation, have been revealed.

From the development of whale drones and virtual chase boats to the banning of shark fishing and absolving the Seychelles’ debt crisis, each finalist was celebrated for their outstanding contribution to the health of the oceans from every corner of the world.

Land Rover BAR, the yacht racing team founded by four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie, leads the list of winners honoured for their passion for improving the oceans, along with Palau’s former UN Ambassador for the Oceans and Seas, the late Stuart Beck. Professor Daniel Pauly and Dr Dirk Zeller – whose monumental study of the world’s fish catches for the Sea Around Us project took the media by storm – are also among those recognised for their efforts in advancing marine conservation through policy initiatives, new innovation and campaigning.

The awards, which are in association with Y.CO, were judged by an esteemed panel chaired by Charles Clover, executive director of Blue Marine Foundation. Also judging the awards were: Sir Charles Dunstone, co-founder and former chairman of Carphone Warehouse and chairman of the TalkTalk Group; Ben Goldsmith, CEO of Menhaden Capital, a new green-focused investment trust; and Charlie Birkett, co-founder and CEO of Y.CO, the challenger brand of the global superyacht industry.

Sacha Bonsor, editor in chief, Boat International Media, said: “Boat International Media is committed to fixing one of the world’s largest solvable problems – the crisis in our oceans. We are delighted to have built a platform of recognition for the outstanding organisations and individuals working towards improving the health of the oceans. Our inspirational nominees and winners are driving awareness and implementing the change that can save our oceans, and they should all be immensely proud.”

Charles Clover, executive director, Blue Marine Foundation, said: “Studies show that although the oceans are now under serious threat, with decisive action their resilience and carbon absorption can be improved and overfishing reversed within 20 years. There are still huge challenges ahead but the work of our winners is promising, motivating and worthy of celebration. This is one area of conservation where we are winning.”

Adrian Grenier, actor and founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation, who was also shortlisted for an Ocean award, said: “The biggest threat to our oceans right now is non-action. Our oceans are resilient but only if we take collective steps towards protecting and rebuilding them. We need to protect 30 per cent of our oceans by 2030. Today, we’ve protected just three per cent. We have a long way to go but I’m ready for the challenge and the opportunity to engage a new community of environment leaders.”

Helena Christensen, model and environmentalist, said: “I have huge respect and admiration for the sea. There is hardly anything more magical; its power is infinite and ever-changing. Ocean life depends on a thriving coral reef and we are destroying it.”

Full list of winners: Ocean Awards 2017

Seafarers’ Award: Ben Ainslie Racing, Land Rover BAR

Local Hero Award: Dennis Bryan Bait-it, Project Sharklink

Innovation Award: The Nature Conservancy

Responsible Business Award: Industry Group Agreement to Cod fishery in the northern part of North-East Atlantic

Policy Award: Claire Nouvian, Bloom

Public Education Award: Ian Urbina, The New York Times

Visionary Award: Stuart Beck, UN Ambassador for the Oceans and Seas

Science Award: Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller, Sea Around Us, the University of British Columbia

Additional Information

The Seafarers’ Award, which celebrates an individual or group from the seafaring community that has made the biggest difference over the past year to advance marine conservation, went to Land Rover’s Ben Ainslie Racing partnership. Known as Land Rover BAR, the movement was driven by Dr Susie Tomson and inspired the British America’s Cup sailing team’s sustainability strategy. The team is recognised for its project to bring back native oysters to southern British water and ‘say no to single use plastic’ campaigns while using technology sustainably via ‘virtual chase boat’.

The Local Hero Award was picked up by Dennis Bryan Bait-it of Philippines-based Project Sharklink. A co-founder of Project Sharklink, Bait-it has worked to enhance the benefits of diver tourism to his local community. He was also recognised for bringing together local fishermen tasked with protecting Monad Shoal, the only place in the world where it is possible to dive with thresher sharks, by patrolling waters and reporting illegal shark fishing activity.

The Nature Conservancy created a groundbreaking marine investment model when it brokered a debt swap between the government of the Seychelles and its Paris Club creditors, restructuring the Seychelles’ debt in exchange for a commitment by the 115-island archipelago to invest in marine conservation. This innovation provides a model for other small island developing states and saw the Conservancy awarded the Innovation Award.

The Industry Group Agreement to cod fishery in the northern part of Northeast Atlantic won the Award for Responsible Business. This follows the statement made by industry bodies including fishing unions, fleets, supermarkets and processors not to trawl for cod in the waters around Svalbard and up to the North Pole until evidence showed no harm would be caused. McDonald’s Corporation played a major role in convening industry stakeholders around the question of protecting vulnerable marine habits in the Arctic. Other members of the group include the Norwegian Fishing Vessel Owners Association, Tesco, Young’s Seafood Ltd and Marks & Spencer.

Claire Nouvian was awarded the Policy Award for her work with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, leading to the EU to pass a ban on deep-sea bottom trawling in June 2016. Nouvian founded BLOOM in 2005, waging a campaign to highlight the damage caused by such practices.

Investigative journalist Ian Urbina was selected as the winner of the Public Education Award for his Outlaw Ocean Series, published in the New York Times between July 2015 and February 2016. Urbina travelled across 14 countries and five seas to bring the extent of lawlessness on the oceans into the public eye, encouraging criminal prosecutions and alerting governments to the enormity of the problem. There are now plans for a Netflix film of the series produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Following a visit to Palau to study coral reef preservation in 1976, Stuart Beck became a passionate supporter of the island nation, helping it gain independence, and later becoming its ambassador to the United Nations. Beck, who died last year, was honoured with the Visionary Award for his work in establishing Palau as one of the strongest advocates for marine protection on the world stage. Beck is succeeded in his role by his wife Tulik.

On the 19th January 2016, Nature Communications published a study by Prof. Daniel Pauly and Dr Dirk Zeller, which showed that over the past 60 years the global fish catch had been about 50 per cent greater than official estimates suggested. The study, based on 10 years of collecting data, resulted in substantial media attention and is encouraging many countries to improve their monitoring of fisheries, control and enforcement approaches. Pauly and Zeller were awarded the highly coveted Science Award.

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Awards

Switch2 Energy Awarded Trio Of International Management Standards

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heating and ventilation by Clive Darra via flickr

Switch2 Energy, district heating specialist, has received the ISO 14001:2015 environmental and OHSAS 18001: 2007 health and safety accreditations, which have been integrated with the company’s existing ISO 9001:2015 quality management system to mark a triple achievement.

The company was supported through the process by FPA Consulting, and LRQA, which recommended Switch2 for the double certification following a five-day audit process.

Kirsty Lambert, Managing Director, Switch2, said: “We have always had robust management systems and processes, but we now have a fully integrated management system that combines the world’s best environmental, health and safety and quality ISO standards.

“We have undertaken a rigorous business improvement and assurance process with professional support from FPA and LRQA and are very proud to have achieved a trio of ISO accreditations. These standards are at the heart of our strategy and operation, and are crucial in supporting the ongoing growth of our business.”

John Barke, Managing Director, FPA Consulting, said: “Congratulations to Kirsty and the team. They have worked hard to maximize the benefits that ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 can bring, in particular around customer service, satisfaction and managing business risk which is critical to their business resilience.”

Yorkshire-based Switch2 Energy has more than 35 years experience of smart metering and billing for the community energy and district heating sector. The company remotely manages and monitors its smart meters from its UK customer service centre, which offers complete billing and administration services to more than 430 heat networks and 70,000 homes.

Further information: www.switch2.co.uk

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