The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) has announced the names of three companies that have won accolades at its annual Sustainable Tourism Awards.
Held at a private dinner at the Millennium Grosvenor Hotel in Kensington last Tuesday, the group handed out the trio of gongs to tour operators that have excelled in their field in the past year.
AITO brings together over 140 of Britain’s specialist travel companies, and Chris Breen of the organisation’s sustainable tourism committee featured in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Tourism in May this year.
Judges for its annual awards included professor of international tourism studies at Sheffield Hallam University Bill Bramwell, Guardian writer Richard Hammond and Julie Middleton of the Travel Foundation.
“AITO’s annual Sustainable Tourism Awards are not just a flash-in-the-pan marketing gimmick but represent real effort and long-term commitment from all involved”, said chairman Derek Moore.
“One of the key criteria is that projects should be replicable by other AITO members and in the wider industry, thus spreading the benefits of the initiatives still further.”
Moore added that the award winners were selected for their superiority in allowing travellers to experience a new way of seeing the world’s many wonders.
“All show clear environmental commitment and demonstrate intelligent thinking that’s produced admirable projects that deserve our recognition.
“We hope that others are inspired to emulate AITO members’ efforts.”
Here’s a rundown of the winners, as well as a short bit about each:
AITO innovation award: Explore
Highly commended: Corsican Places
Adventure holiday specialist Explore picked up the innovation award after launching a master’s programme in sustainable tourism at the University of Surrey.
“Sustainable tourism needs to become an integral focus for the whole tourism industry”, said director John Telfer.
“We’ve involved a lot of Explore staff in giving seminars on their individual areas of expertise, and we’re using our overseas agents as case studies to demonstrate both opportunities and challenges.
“A field trip to Morocco gives insight into sustainable tourism practice on trips, too. These ‘real life’ models add a definite edge, immediacy and relevance to the course.”
AITO affiliates green award: Lanzarote Tourist Board
Highly commended: Orion Expedition Cruises
Lanzarote – the third most populous island in the Canary Islands – depends on tourism for growth in its economy. But its tourist board has taken to developing the industry sustainably.
It’s home to Spain’s first ‘green’ airport, which utilises renewable energy and energy efficiency, and has looks to promote water and energy conservation in its many hotels.
AITO says, “[Lanzarote] is seen as a reference model for all tourism destinations wishing to become sustainable – a remarkable achievement all told.”
The Roger Diski community project award: Adventure Alternative
Highly commended: The Gambia Experience
The memory of Roger Diski, the founder of Rainbow Tours who died in February last year, is preserved not only through his impact on the ethical travel industry, but also in the form of a £1,000 bursary handed out at AITO’s Sustainable Tourism Awards.
Adventure Alternative bagged the gong for the second consecutive year – this time for a project in the East Malaysian rainforest.
AITO says it won the award because its programme “provides a sustained source of income for the Penan people – numbering around 1,000 in total – that both complements their traditional way of life and actively incentivises protection of the natural environment and of the tribe’s cultural heritage.”