India was the standout destination at this year’s awards, winning 17 accolades and emerging as a “leading country for responsible tourism.” An international panel of judges came together remotely to determine the top achievers.
First launched in 2004, the awards recognise and reward businesses, destinations and operations contributing to a more sustainable and tourism industry.
This year’s global award winners were selected from the best of the entries from India and the rest of the world awards, along with the best of those already entered for Africa and Latin America.
India was placed in the following five categories.
- Decarbonising Travel and Tourism
- Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic
- Destination Building Back Better Post Covid
- Increasing Diversity in Tourism
- Growing the Local Economic Benefit
Read on to find out more about our inspirational winners.
Decarbonising travel and tourism.
Gold & Global award.
Govardhan Village, Maharashtra, India
Govardhan Village is a model farm community harnessing alternative technologies, which hosts residential conferences and study programmes, attracting in excess of 50,000 annual tourists. It is a zero emissions community, with energy supplied by 210kW of solar panels, a biogas plant converting cow dung and other wet waste into energy and a pyrolysis plant processing plastic waste into light diesel oil and electricity. Energy monitoring, meanwhile, allows Govardhan to save the equivalent of around 13% of its energy production. Soil bio-tech plants, meanwhile, process sewage water into greywater used for irrigation, while the harvested rainwater supply lasts for several months beyond the rainy season. https://ecovillage.org.in/
Destinations building back better post-Covid
Gold & Global award:
Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, Rural Tourism Programme, India
The judges were impressed by Madhya Pradesh’s ambition to draw on learning from others, such as the Responsible Tourism Mission in Kerala, to accelerate its own community efforts. The programme will be implemented in 100 villages over a three-year period, aiming to give tourists authentic rural experiences such as bullock cart rides, taking part in farming projects and cultural events, and staying in homestays that provide employment. Other skills being delivered span cooking, health, hygiene, accounting, housekeeping, guiding, photography and blogging, while local traders and artisans have been engaged to develop and promote responsible souvenir programmes. A commitment to inclusion is central to the programme, which engages people irrespective of their social and/or economic situation. https://www.mptourism.com/
Increasing diversity in tourism
Gold & Global award:
No Footprints, Mumbai, India
No footprints curates niche travel experiences for visitors. Over the past six year, it has created 22 different Mumbai experiences and is expanding to Delhi. Its aim is to introduce travellers to the history, culture and diverse communities living in both cities. Experiences include dawn walks, street food and market tours, art and cookery workshops, heritage cycle tours, introductions to cricket. and opportunities to learn more about the city’s queer culture. The judges said they were impressed by the breadth and diversity of experiences offered by No Footprints, providing a genuine insight into contemporary life in Mumbai. https://www.nfpexplore.com/
Growing local economic benefit
Gold & Global award:
Village Ways, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Village Ways, based in Mumbai, invites guests to walk from village to village with a local guide, staying in purpose-built guesthouses which are owned, managed and staffed by the community.
Starting out in 2005 with five villages, they now work with 22 villages, providing employment opportunities for young people who might otherwise migrate to cities. Tourism income complements rather than replaces other income, so that households do not abandon traditional work such as farming.
They also promote gender equality and social inclusion. During the pandemic, Village Ways restructured their business and enhanced the skills of staff in their Mumbai office, to ensure the company would continue to grow in the pandemic.
When tourism stopped, Village Ways developed virtual tours with village communities, including cookery demonstrations, each attracting around 200 participants. They also closed their UK marketing office, choosing to focus on the Indian domestic market. https://villageways.com/
Other awards for India:
Decarbonising Travel and Tourism
Gold: Govardhan Village, Maharashtra as above.
Silver: Invis Multimedia, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Invis Multimedia works closely with Kerala Tourism, since 2018 it has been promoting Crowd Foresting, providing free training to people interested in afforestation and persuading them to create forests on their premises. They follow the afforestation mode developed by Prof. (Dr) Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist. With this method, a forest equivalent to a 10-15 year-old natural forest can be created within a short span of 3-5 years, and a 100-year-old forest can be grown in 25-30 years, in areas as small as 100 sq.m. Prof. Akira Miyawaki himself has led the plantation of four thousand forests in 17 countries with more than 35 million plants. “It is the best way to splash our urban spaces with green and enliven them with mini-ecosystems.” Invis Multimedia has created more than 40 patches of urban forests with 50,000 plants over the last three years. In Puliyarakonam, barren rocky land has been transformed into forests and agri-farms. A cost-effective dwelling unit was also designed there based on a zero-carbon concept. A project of Kerala Tourism comprising of 22 forests in an area totalling 1.84 acres spread over the districts of Kerala is now being implemented.
Silver: Lakesong, Kumarakom, Kerala
In common with some other resort hotels in Kumarakom, Lakesong has made a real effort to reduce its emissions. Not a single tree was cut in the construction stage and they used traditional local construction methods: unpolished laterite stones and locally made clay roof tiles. By using natural light and air ventilation, electricity consumption is reduced. Solar power provides a third of what is required. Biogas produced from degradable waste materials is used for cooking, reducing LPG consumption.
Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic
Gold: Sita Travel
Sita responded to the pandemic by maintaining employment and salaries for all employees below middle management, reinstated for middle and senior management from May 2021. They introduced a four-day working week to enable employees to have more family time and achieve a better work-life balance. A company-wide Covid vaccination drive and an Employee Covid Care Plan provide ex gratia payments to support their staff and their family members in unfortunate situations, including death. Sita promptly paid the pending invoices from suppliers, including hotels, guides, and transporters during the pandemic, keeping every small or big vendor associated with Sita in good financial health. They also took the opportunity to provide training to further develop skills in the company.
Silver: Women With Wheels Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Bangalore and Indore.
The Azad Foundation, a professional feminist organisation working across religious and social divides, works to provide livelihoods with dignity for resource-poor women living in urban areas in India. They work with Sakha who employ women drivers: “Our women drivers have taken big risks to learn to drive and pushed hard to become professional chauffeurs. Some of our drivers have had to stand up to violence in the home and stare down their abusers. Others have been belittled by their families for wanting to find work and been told that they will never succeed. Many have been berated by their community for wanting to become a driver and do a man’s job.” They have trained over 3000 women in 8 cities as professional drivers, with over 1600 employed. They challenge women’s mobility restrictions daily by providing 1.5 million safe rides to other women. Their earnings in the last decade have been more than $2.4 million.
One to Watch: Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board
The UTDB covered the accommodation and food costs for tourists stranded by Covid in the state, 960 international tourists and 3300 domestic tourists were safely repatriated. Various fees and registration charges were suspended, and financial assistance was provided for many of those dependent on tourism for their livelihoods. The state continued to invest in tourism development at Kedarnath, the George Everest Heritage Park at Mussoorie and the Wellness City & Convention Centre at Rishikesh. Over 1000 new homestays were registered. It is expected that in 2021 103,000+ people will benefit from different Tourism Related Livelihood Schemes. The judges expect to see further applications from Uttarakhand as these investments bear fruit.
Destination 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 will 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.
Silver: Tiger Trails Jungle Lodges, Chichghat Conservancy, Maharastra, INDIA
Recognising that humans and wildlife compete for the same diminishing resources and that the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife preserves cultural heritage, the Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge has used tourism to help rewild barren lands, creating water security for bordering communities and future proof the park landscape. Engaging the local communities in habitat restoration has improved the wildlife viewing experience and created water security; the water table has risen from 48 feet in the 1990s to 12 feet in 2021. This has been good for local communities and for habitat and wildlife. The tribal communities in the Chichghat Valley have benefited economically. The tourism pressure on the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve has been relieved by spreading tourism over a wider area. The replenishment of groundwater has enabled the farmers to grow two crops a year, rice which they traditionally grow in the monsoon and a cash crop like turmeric or vegetables that they can sell through the year in weekly markets.
Increasing Diversity in Tourism
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 whom 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. How well do we reflect the diversity of the destinations we sell?
Gold & Global as above: No Footprints, Mumbai
One to Watch: Aymanam, Kerala, INDIA
The Responsible Tourism Mission in Kerala, is working in Aymanam to develop tourism in a way that ‘puts people first’ currently through eleven initiatives. 15 activities have been developed in the Aymanam Grama Panchayat, benefiting 600+ community members through over 110 individual, family and group SMMEs. The Responsible Tourism Mission has adopted a very inclusive approach to tourism development, engaging the diversity of people and activities in Aymanam, which has become the first “Model Responsible Tourism Village”. Aymanam was popularised by Arundhati Roy in her Booker Prize Winning Novel ‘God of Small Things.’ The judges look forward to hearing about the success of tourism in Aymanam in a year or two.
One to Watch: Safe Tourism Destinations for Women, Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh recognises that crime against women is rising in India, including in Madhya Pradesh. There is evidence of limited mobility for women for leisure and increasing concern about women’s safety in the tourism sector. A special project on “Safe tourist destination for Women in Madhya Pradesh” is proposed by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board. The proposal has been submitted to the Ministry of Women and Child Development Department under the “Nirbhaya Scheme” for technical support and funding. Since the entry was received, funding has been secured for implementation in a phased manner at 50 destinations in the state in the next three years at a cost of Rs 27.98 crores. Sixty per cent of the project cost will be borne by the Union government and 40 per cent by the state government. The MPTB plans to develop women-friendly tourism destinations by adopting various means to ensure women’s safety through community participation, raising public awareness, increasing the numbers of women working in tourism destinations as shopkeepers, guides, taxi and cab driver, naturalists and others. The judges hope to see further entries as this exciting initiative bears fruit.
Growing the Local Economic Benefit
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 marketplaces and performance spaces and providing marketing assistance.
Gold & Global as above: Village Ways
One to Watch: R.O.S.E Kanda, Bageshwar, Uttarakhand
Rural Opportunity for Social Elevation (R.O.S.E.) is a small self-help group offering eco village tourism in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand. Kanda has been a temporary home for many international volunteer tourists to see the village life and culture. R.O.S.E offers an authentic experience of a rural Indian lifestyle. It provides an opportunity to learn about organic farming biodiversity and cottage industries, including construction and local environmental protection. The judges would like to hear more about the impact of this kind of tourism and the benefits to hosts and guests