The winners of the 2010 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards have been announced at the Global Travel & Tourism Summit in China.
Hosted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the awards saw 12 finalists invited onto the stage at the Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing to receive the applause before being whittled down to just four winners.
Pictured: The Botswana Tourism Board, centre, picks up the Destination Stewardship Award last night
Before announcing who would walk away with the prestigious awards, Costas Christ, chairman of the judges, explained: “We are seeing a new horizon in the global travel and tourism industry.
“More and more companies and destinations, both large and small are leading the way forward in demonstrating tourism can be an opportunity for protecting our planet and delivering tangible social and economic benefits at the local, national and international level.”
First up was the Botswana Tourism Board (BTB), which took home the Destination Stewardship Award for its ‘low-volume - high-yield’ approach to tourism in the Okavango Delta - an internationally recognised Ramsar Site (ODRS).
“We are truly honoured to win this Award as the world recognises our efforts in protecting the Okavango and its vast population of wildlife,” enthused BTB chief executive Myra Sekgororoane.
“As well as motivating us to look for new ways to improve tourism and conservation in our country, we hope it can inspire other countries to do similar work to protect their natural heritage.”
Emirates Hotels & Resorts was also celebrating after scooping the coveted Conservation Award.
The United Arab Emirates-based group was recognised for its success in creating the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) - the first protected area in the UAE - through the establishment of the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa.
Nominees for the Tourism for Tomorrow Conservation Award – including winner Tony Williams (second left)
In Australia, the group’s Wolgan Valley Resort - next to the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area – is also considered one of the best examples in the world of conservation through tourism.
Speaking to Breaking Travel News after the ceremony, Tony Williams, senior vice president for resorts and projects at Emirates Hotels & Resorts, said: “It’s a fantastic, prestigious award.
“This is a true honour for the staff who have worked so hard to achieve this.”
On a night of high drama, Maori-owned Whale Watch Kaikoura (WWK) won the Community Benefit Award for its outstanding achievement in rebuilding the local economy through community-based tourism in Kaikoura on the east coast of South Island in New Zealand.
“Whale Watch is committed to carefully managing its use of a rare natural resource,” explained WWK chief operating officer Kauahi Ngapora.
“We will cherish this award, just as we cherish our values of hospitality to visitors and reverence for the natural world.”
Nominees for the Global Tourism Business Award, including Accor representative Sophie Goldblum-Flak (left)
Finally, Accor took the award for Global Tourism Business for its Earth Guest Program and company-wide philosophy based on “hospitality, respect for diverse cultures, environmental best practices and the social welfare of local people” where they operate.
“Accor’s strategy is underpinned by a deep respect for people and the environment,” added Accor chairman Gilles Pélisson.
The Chinese hosts of the event also received their share of recognition last night with a surprise announcement at the end of the show.
The Beijing Tourism Group walked away with the World Tourism Award – in recognition of their hosting of the tenth annual WTTC Global Travel & Tourism Summit – with chairman Duan Qiang saying: “Remember, BTG will always be a friend by your side.”