Since their launch in 2004 at WTM London, the World Responsible Tourism Awards have grown in prestige. Every year, remarkable new examples of responsible businesses and destinations are ‘discovered’ and recognised through the Awards. In 2021, for the first time, we are launching Global Awards for each category – selected from the Gold winners in each of the regions.
I have chaired the diverse panels of judges who have selected the winning entries from the regional and world awards to ensure consistency across the family of awards. Regional Responsible Tourism awards are held in Africa, India and Latin America, all using the same approach, judging on the basis of evidence. The judges are clear about their reasons for selecting the winners and we publish those reasons. We have not yet organised European awards, but destinations and businesses across Europe have had success in the World Responsible Tourism Awards. This year Antonio Buscardini, CEO of Travel Tomorrow and Buscardini Communications will be joining the panel of judges.
The 2021 Awards are now open; they close on August 31st. The judges can only choose from amongst those that apply. You can nominate others or your own business, destination, or organisation on the awards page here.
There are six categories this year.
1. Decarbonising Travel & Tourism
Climate change is with us. It is something we now have to learn to live with. Climate change will have profound consequences for businesses in our sector and people and wildlife in originating markets and destinations. We must also find ways to reduce the amount of carbon that people travelling and on holiday cause to be emitted. We have to change the production and consumption of tourism – travel, accommodation, attractions and activities all need to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through the Awards we would like to showcase examples of technologies, management systems and ways of changing consumer behaviour that have demonstrably reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
We are looking for applications from accommodation providers, airlines and ground transport provides, tour operators, attractions and destinations.
2. Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic
We recognise that the pandemic is far from over, and as the World Health Organization rightly reminds us, we are not safe until we are all safe. It will take many more months before travel and holiday volumes recover to whatever the ‘new normal’ will be. We are aware that many businesses and organisations in the travel and tourism sector have worked hard to sustain their employees and the communities in which they operate with really positive impacts around the world. Many of these efforts have involved others in their supply chain and consumers. We would like to recognise and draw attention to those who have successfully helped others, employees and neighbours alike, to weather the storm.
We are looking for applications from accommodation providers, tour operators, attractions and other organisations which have delivered support to employees and tourism-dependent communities.
3. Destinations building back better post-COVID
In the Awards last year, we saw several destinations which were beginning to rethink the tourist volumes and market segments that they would attract post-COVID and some who were considering demarketing. The apparently inexorable increase in visitor numbers has been halted by the pandemic. Many destinations have had a ‘breather’. A reminder of what their place was like before the hordes arrived. An opportunity to rethink tourism and perhaps to decide to use tourism rather than be used by it.
We are looking for nominations and applications from destinations in rural or urban areas, rethinking their tourism and planning to build back better post-COVID.
4. Increasing Diversity in Tourism: How inclusive is our industry?
We travel to experience other cultures, communities, and places. If everywhere was the same, why travel? Though we seek diversity through travel, we’ve noticed that diversity is not always reflected in the industry that helps others have such experiences. Diversity is a broad term: “identities include, but are not limited to, ability, age, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, immigration status, intellectual differences, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.” We do not expect to find an organisation that has made demonstrable progress on all of these in the last few years. For our industry, it is about who we employ at various levels, who we market to, the way we present the destinations we sell, the range of experiences we promote, and the stories we tell.
We are looking for nominations and applications from businesses and destinations that can demonstrate their efforts to be more diverse and inclusive and report the difference it has made. We want the Awards to showcase how inclusivity improves tourism and inspire other businesses and destinations to do the same.
5. Reducing Plastic Waste in the Environment
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the amount of single-use plastic, adding to the plastic waste crisis. Plastic waste is now entering the food chain of other species as well as ours. Once plastic enters watercourses, it ends in gyros of garbage in the oceans, on beaches and in the stomachs of fish we then eat. The industry needs to do more to reduce its use of single-use plastics and take responsibility and work with local communities and their governments to capture waste plastic with nets and floating barriers and upcycle it as cobbles, furniture and crafts.
We are looking for nominations and applications from businesses and environmentalists who have found ways to capture and upcycle plastic waste or reduce its use in our sector. This category is open to high-tech and low-tech solutions, to ideas tested within the industry or in another sector but which might be viable in travel and tourism.
6. Growing the Local Economic Benefit
There is still a place for CSR1.0 and philanthropy, as is evident from last year’s Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic category. However, by adapting the way they do business, accommodation providers and tour operators can create additional market opportunities for local communities in their supply chains and create opportunities to sell goods and services directly to tourists. This diversifies the local economy and enriches the destination in both senses, creating additional livelihoods for locals and a richer range of activities, food and drink, and craft and art products for tourists. Destinations can assist these changes by, amongst other things, providing micro-finance, training and mentoring, creating market places and performance spaces and providing marketing assistance.
We are looking for nominations and applications from businesses and destinations that can share how they have created additional livelihoods through SME and micro-entrepreneurial activity and report the impacts of their efforts. We are looking for examples to recognise that can assist in encouraging others to engage and make change.
Only those that enter can win.
Every year remarkable new examples of responsible businesses and destinations are ‘discovered’ and recognised through the Awards. Do not be daunted by the application questionnaire – see it rather as an opportunity to document what you are doing and the impact you are having and use the information you send us to communicate what you have achieved with your clients, suppliers, partners and neighbours.