“It is possible to have the best vacation of your life and at the same time help to make the world a better place – that is what lies at the heart of sustainable tourism”, explained Costas Christ, Editor in Chief of the National Geographic Traveler, at the presentation of the World Legacy Awards for sustainable tourism companies on Wednesday at ITB Berlin. Together with Dr. Taleb Rifai, Sectretary General of the UNWTO, Christ called for travel to be recognized as a human right. In his welcoming address Rifai made a passionate appeal to use tourism in order to build bridges and bring people closer together. Building walls and refusing entry are the wrong approach, said Taleb Rifai. “Walls create tension, and tension leads to more insecurity, not greater security”, Rifai stated.
The five encouraging examples that have been chosen by ITB Berlin and National Geographic to receive the World Legacy Awards show how tourism projects can be used to build bridges, with lasting effects, not only economically and socially, but also in an ecological and a cultural sense. The individual winners were:
The Cayuga Collection, an association of eight particularly eco-friendly hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. They were chosen to receive the award in the category “Earth Changers” for achievements such as reducing their energy consumption and cutting waste production to a minimum.
In the category “Sense of Place” the prize went to the city of Santa Fe in New Mexico, which preserves the cultural heritage of the Native Americans, the Spanish and the Anglo-Americans by staging numerous festivals and events, and which has also conserved the historic city centre and retained its authentic architecture.
In the category “Conserving the Natural World” the winner was the Noah’s Ark project on the Seychelles, where this luxury eco-resort has succeeded in recreating a habitat for rare and endangered creatures on the former plantations of North Island.
In the category “Engaging Communities” the award went to the leading eco-resort in Belize, the Lodge at Chaa Creek, which uses ten per cent of its revenues from its rooms to support social and ecological projects.
In the “Destination Leadership” category the Slovenian Tourism Office was chosen for developing and introducing its “Green Scheme”, which has made a measurable improvements to the efforts by suppliers and communities to promote sustainability.