Honko takes the wildlife conservation gold at World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015

Media release:  4th November 2015

Honko Mangrove Conservation and Education has been named the Gold winner of the Best for Wildlife Conservation category at the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 at World Travel Market in London.

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The small community-based ecotourism and mangrove conservation project in Madagascar was announced the Gold winner at a special ceremony today at World Travel Market in London, part of World Responsible Tourism Day.

The Best for Wildlife Conservation, sponsored by Florida Keys and Key West Tourist Development Council, awards operators and conservation organisation committed to conserving habitats. The judges were looking for integration of holiday experiences with progressive and sustainable programmes in wildlife and habitat conservation, ideas which can be adapted and developed, and the measures of success by providers.

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Professor Harold Goodwin, Chair of the judging panel comments, Based in the southwest of Madagascar, Honko is working with coastal communities to improve livelihoods by restoring and protecting the mangrove environments on which they are dependent. Honko empowers these communities to take charge of their mangrove resources and use them to secure sustainable and resilient livelihoods. The success of Honko as an ecotourism and training organisation is now being used as a model in other mangrove wetland regions. It is a challenge to make mangroves attractive to tourists and although the ecotourism initiative is small and only part of its strategy, visitor numbers grew 60% between 2013 and 2014. The judges wanted to recognise that Honko has achieved sustainability and has demonstrated what a small scale initiative can achieve for impoverished local communities and their environment.”

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Nina Hamilton from Honko Mangrove Conservation and Education commented on their win, “This is a very exciting win for Honko, Madagascar, and mangrove conservation worldwide. Winning a World Responsible Tourism Award is a perfect example of how small-scale, community-based initiatives can have an impact at a global scale, and we hope this award will help us to inspire similar projects that bring together impactful conservation and sustainable tourism.”

Welcoming over 500 people to the event in London, Justin Francis, Managing director of Awards organisers Responsible Travel explained how the Awards were founded to change the face of the tourist industry. “The aim of the Awards is to inspire the tourists and the tourism industry by what is possible to achieve through responsible tourism” says Francis. “In our 12th year we have added one more inspiring winner and more remarkable stories which will shape how the industry and tourists think about the future of tourism”.
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Category sponsors, the Florida Keys and Key West Tourist Development Council provided an insight into why they are backing this Award. “Environmental protection and resource sustainability have been priorities in the Florida Keys & Key West for many years,” said Stacey Mitchell, sales director for the Keys tourism council. “In fact, this month we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

“The Sanctuary protects more than 6,000 species of marine life, while ensuring access so our visitors can responsibly experience unique marine habitats spread over more than 4,600 square kilometers of waters that surround the Keys island chain.” Mitchell said.

Simon Press, Awards Judge and Senior Exhibition Director for World Travel Market London says, “The standard of entries to this year’s World Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM London have been of a phenomenally high standard. Loola Adventure is a truly inspiring example of responsible tourism at its finest, demonstrating that all stakeholder can benefit from well-planned and well-run tourism projects.”

Read below for the full list of this year’s finalists, or log on to www.worldresponsibletourismawards.com to read their stories, download images, or watch videos from the Overall Winners. A full free copy of ‘Progress in Responsible Tourism’, which publishes the full reasons behind the judges’ decisions, will be available for download from this site after the ceremony on Wednesday 4th November 2015.

An overview of the rigorous judging process, and criteria by which the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 have been judged can be found at: http://www.responsibletravel.com/awards/about/judging-process.htm

A photo library of winner’s images is accessible here: http://www.responsibletravel.com/awards/media/

Additional photos of the ceremony can be found at WTM London’s Picture Library after 14:00 today at: http://wtm.mediafiler.net/.

The full list of 2015 winners is below:

Overall Winner:

LooLa Adventure Resort, Bintan, Indonesia

Contact: Marc Van Loo info@loola.net 

Judges Reasons for winning:  “The judges look for examples which are surprising and inspiring. LooLa is based on the principle that a good business can and should benefit all other stakeholders too: local community, staff, and clients. The judges singled them out because of their innovative approach, based on the Dutch “polder principle” – that all stakeholders should benefit – and because they have proved that it works. LooLa sells a package in Singapore that includes accommodation, activities and food, but the staff operate their own shop and sell drinks, extra menus, massage, wake-boarding and so on. Each department runs its own budgets, and the staff keep surpluses as long as guests are satisfied. These initiatives result in a 20 – 50 % increase in local staff incomes and guests are encouraged to pay a bit extra to participate in community projects such as the building beds, roads, and waste water processing systems. The judges applaud LooLa’s innovative approaches to creating shared value with the local community and better guest experiences.”


  1. Best Animal Welfare Initiative supported by the Born Free Foundation

Gold Winners: Campaign Against Canned Hunting & Hetta Huskies

Contacts: Chris Mercer info@cannedlion.org  @cannedlion

Anna McCormick info@hettahuskies.com @hettahuskies

Judges reasons for winning: The Campaign Against Canned Hunting (www.cannedlion.org) has been engaging with the tourism industry and is applauded for the considerable success it has had in raising awareness of the commercial exploitation of lions, which are petted as cubs, used as photo props in ‘walking with lions’ experiences then later shot just out of their cages by trophy hunters. The Campaign Against Canned Hunting has found that “once travel agents, tour operators and volunteering agencies know the truth, they quickly discourage clients from visiting such facilities”. Hetta Huskies (www.hettahuskies.com) based in Finland carry some 4,000 clients per year at their husky sled dog farm. The judges recognised both the high standards of sled dog welfare practised in the operation and that, having established a viable business with higher standards, they are now able to campaign for change from within the industry.

Silver Winners: Lotus Travel & the Donkey Sanctuary

Contacts: Linda Svensson linda@lotustravel.se

Suzie Cretney suzi.cretney@thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk @donkeysanctuary


  1. Best for Beach Tourism sponsored by Visit Jersey

Gold Winners: LooLa Adventure Resort and Soneva Fushi

Contacts: Marc Van Loo info@loola.net

Arnfinn Oines arnfinn@soneva.com @SonevaFushi @TheSonevaGroup

Judges reasons for winning: Two very contrasting winners. A luxury resort with significant success in reducing its carbon footprint, the judges recognise Soneva Fushi in the Maldives for demonstrating what can be achieved, at scale, in improving environmental performance and benefitting local people. By contrast LooLa, an adventure resort in Bintan catering for family and educational groups impressed the judges with its unique business which has resulted in zero staff turnover and local incomes 20-50% higher than they otherwise could be. Rainwater collection systems, green aircon and waste water gardens are all also highly replicable.

Silver Winners: andBeyond and Turtle Bay Beach Club

Contacts: Valeri Mouton valeri.mouton@andbeyond.com  @andBeyondSafari

Ken Ombok kenombok@turtlebay.co.ke @TurtleBayWatamu


  1. Best Cultural Heritage Attraction sponsored by Wightlink

Gold Winner: Loop Head Peninsula, Ireland

Contact: Cillian Murphy cillian@loophead.ie  @LoopHeadTourism

Judges reasons for winning: On Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Loop Head Peninsula shares local people’s heritage with tourists for the benefit of both, with sites of interest identified through a heritage audit undertaken by local people. The judges were impressed by the bottom up approach using a tourism initiative to encourage a community to discover, own and protect its heritage.

Silver winners: Cnoc Suain and Bushmans Kloof

Contacts: Charlie Troy info@cnocsuain.com  @CnocSuain

Roxanne Sonnenberg roxanne@fivestarpr.co.za  @BushmansKloof


  1. Best Destination for Responsible Tourism sponsored by Visit Norway

Gold Winner: Gansbaai, South Africa

Contact: Brenda du Toit Brenda1dutoit@gmail.com  @GansbaaiTourism

Judges reasons for winning: Two hours from Cape Town in the Overberg, Gansbaai is home to a cluster of responsible tourism businesses  – and these businesses have come together, cooperating with each other and the local authority to make Gansbaai a better place to live for local people. The judges were impressed by how much more the businesses, which include Grootbos and Dyer Island (both previous winners of our Responsible Tourism Awards) have been able to achieve by working together and with local government.

Silver winners: Aruba and Cyprus

Contacts: Jo Walding  j.walding@aruba.com  @ArubaTourismUK

Lillian Panayi  lillianctolon@btconnect.com  @VisitCyprus


  1. Best Accommodation for Disability Access sponsored by Enable Holidays

Gold Winners: Endeavour Safaris and Scandic Hotels

Contacts: Silvia Hill  info@endeavour-safaris.com  @EndeavourSafari

Magnus Berglund magnus.berglund@scandichotels.com @ScandicGlobal

Judges reasons for winning: Running mobile tented safari camps in southern Africa, Endeavour Safaris demonstrate that it is possible to enable people with a wide variety of disabilities to enjoy the same safari experience as their families and friends. With specially-adapted mobile camps, Endeavour Safaris prove that tourism accommodations, even in the wildest of environments, can be enjoyed by nearly all tourists, no matter what their needs. Scandic Hotels are applauded for their top-down, all-encompassing approach to inclusivity, integrating accessibility into all parts of their hotel business from floor to board level. Like Endeavour, they address a wide range of disabilities and particularly impressed the judges with their leadership – developing an e-learning course and making this freely available to their peers across the tourism industry.

Silver Winner: RuralSuite Hotel Apartamentos****

Contact: Marius Gutiérrez info@ruralsuite.com @ruralsuite


  1. Best for Engaging People & Culture sponsored by Audley Travel

Gold Winner: Urban Adventures

Contact: Lindsay Young  Lindsay@urbanadventures.com @UrbanAdventures

Judges reasons for winning: Part of Intrepid and established in 2009 Urban Adventures offers an alternative to the standard city tour offering the opportunity to visit local neighbourhoods with a passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic local guide or friend, not only supporting local entrepreneurs, but empowering them too. The judges were pleased to see that local partners, within the framework of a Responsible Travel Code of Conduct, are able to own and manage their own businesses and in return for commission on tours sold, Urban Adventures, provide these local partners with the technology, marketing, and sales support to promote and sell their tours. All in all, leading to different and arguably better experiences for tourists and locals alike.

Silver Winners: Felin Talgarth Mill, Connemara Wild Escapes

Contact: Liz Rose lizrose@talgarthmill.com

Cathy Wolfe cathy@connemarawildescapes.ie @Connemarawild


  1. Best Hotel for Local Sourcing sponsored by Colorado Tourism Office

Gold Winner: Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge

Contact: Hassan Aboutayeb contact@atlaskasbah.com   @AtlasKasbah

Judges reasons for winning: Based in Morocco’s Argan Forest near Agadir, the judges were impressed by Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge’s ability to report in detail on its impact on the local economy, with 81% of money spent within a 50km radius, and staff employed from nearby Berber communities. By offering guests local experiences such as cooking and craft classes, and starting up an organic food basket scheme with deliveries in Agadir and neighbouring villages, Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge has successfully developed wide a range of economic activities with the local Berber communities to their mutual advantage.

Silver winners: Shangri La’s Villingili Resort & Spa and Matava, Fiji

Contact: Yaw Ling Wong yawling.wong@shangri-la.com @SLMaldives

Adrian Watt adrian@matava.com @MatavaFiji


  1. Best Innovation for Carbon Reduction sponsored by Visit Gozo

Gold Winner: TUI UK & Ireland

Contact: Rosie Howell rosie.howell@tuitravel.com @TUIGroup

Judges reasons for winning: Often tour operators are rightly criticised for pushing responsibility for achieving sustainability targets down their supply chain, but TUI have proven to be an exception. Last year we awarded their airline, Thomson Airways, for delivering real carbon reduction targets, and this year the judges recognise TUI UK & Ireland for their holistic approach to reducing carbon consumption in their shops and offices. By working with staff to change behaviour and with investment in new technology TUI UK and Ireland have achieved a 40% reduction in carbon emissions in their offices between 2010 and 2014.  The judges believe this is a highly replicable approach and a good example of a large tour operator taking responsibility to reduce carbon emissions rather than leaving it to others.

Silver Winners: Airport Authority Hong Kong and North Sailing

Contacts: Ringo W. K. Yu ringo.yu@hkairport.com @hkairport

Birna Lind Bjornsdottir birna@northsailing.is @northsailing


  1. Best for Poverty Reduction sponsored by the Tobago House of Assembly

Winner: Agri Tourism Development Company Pvt Ltd

Contact: Pandurang Taware pandurang@agritourism.in 

Judges reasons for winning: Recognising that farm incomes in India have become stagnant in recent years, the Agri Tourism Development Company has worked with 750 farmers in 218 locations across the state of Maharashtra to empower them to diversify into tourism, resulting in a 33% increase in income over and above previous levels. These farmers are now offering packages which give families in India’s urban areas  the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of activities from animal feeding and farm walks to festivals, folk dancing and music. The judges were impressed by the scale of the programme and the resulting number of small farmers developing supplementary incomes to raise themselves out of poverty.

Silver winners: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, OneSeed Expeditions and Uakari Floating Lodge

Contact: Karin Blumer karin@grootbosfoundation.org @Grootbos

Chris Baker chris@oneseedexpeditions.com @oneseedex

Luciana Vieira Cobra luciana@mamiraua.org.br


  1. Best Responsible Tourism Blog sponsored by Fair Trade Tourism

Winner: Uncornered Market

Contact: Daniel Noll dan@uncorneredmarket.com @umarket

Judges reasons for winning: True to their motto ‘driven by curiosity, guided by respect’ Uncornered Market is a blog with a goal to create a movement of respectful travellers. People, not just place are always at the centre of its content, dispelling fears of the unknown and assuring readers that travel can be a force for good. The judges were pleased to see them unafraid to tackle gritty topics in their writing – for example around volunteering or giving gifts to begging children.  The blog has inspired other bloggers to extend their travel horizons with its thoughtful, engaging writing and has impressed the judging panel by reaching over 1.2 million people monthly via the blog and social media platforms combined.

Silver winner: Travel for Wildlife

Contact: Cristina Garcia cristinagarcia.cat@gmail.com  @Travel4Wildlife

  1. Best Sea or River Cruise

Gold winner: Ullswater Steamers

Contact: Rachel Bell Rachel@lakedistrictstates.co.uk @UllswaterSteam

Since 2011 Ullswater Steamers have begun to monitor their performance in reducing water and carbon emissions, and work with other local public transport providers, and the Lake District national park, to encourage people out of cars. They excel at work in the local community and have become an important local employer. Ullswater Steamers were highly commended in these Awards in 2008 and 2011, and with their Gold win today the judges recognise how much progress it is possible to make by adopting a strategy of continuous improvement in sustainability and keeping at it  – and the judges feel they provide a real example which other cruise operators need to follow.

Contact: Rachel Bell rachel@lakedistrictestates.co.uk @UllswaterSteam


  1. Best for Wildlife Conservation sponsored by the Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council

Gold winner: Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education

Contact: Lara Danhaive lara@honko.org @HonkoMangrove

Based in the southwest of Madagascar, Honko is working with coastal communities to improve livelihoods by restoring and protecting the mangrove environments on which they are dependent. Honko empowers these communities to take charge of their mangrove resources and use them to secure sustainable and resilient livelihoods. The success of Honko as an ecotourism and training organisation is now being used as a model in other mangrove wetland regions, it is a challenge to make mangroves attractive to tourists.  Although the ecotourism initiative is small and only part of its strategy, visitor numbers grew 60% between 2013 and 2014. The judges wanted to recognise that Honko has achieved sustainability and has demonstrated what a small scale initiative can achieve for impoverished local communities and their environment.

Silver winners: Coral Cay Conservation, North Island Seychelles and Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge

Contacts: Tristan Brown tb@coralcay.org @CoralCay

Nick Galpine nick@wilderness-collection.com @NorthIsland_sc

Aditya Dhanwatay  info@tigertrails.in  @TigerTrails1


People’s Choice in Responsible Tourism in association with National Geographic Traveller (UK) Magazine, sponsored by the Catalan Tourist Board.

Winner: World Animal Protection

Contact: Pippa Rodger PippaRodger@worldanimalprotection.org  @MovetheWorldUK

Organiser’s comments: Our Awards seek to inspire tourists and the tourism industry alike. The nine previous Awards winners contending the People’s Choice have been recognised by our judging panel as leaders in responsible tourism, but this Award reveals which the travelling public find the most inspirational.  Last year the judges were impressed with the success of World Animal Protection’s ongoing Compassionate Travel campaign, reaching out to international tourism bodies, tour operators and travellers to bring an end to the unnecessary use of wild animals in tourism. With this Award, World Animal Protection show they have won over the people who can really create change, and that we can all be compassionate in travel.

Other Nominees: Adventure Alternative, Campo & Parque Dos Sonhos, Chole Mjini, Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours, Hotel Verde, Kutch Adventures India, Thomson Airways, V&A Waterfront





Notes to editors

About the World Responsible Tourism Awards

For more information on the World Responsible Tourism Awards visit www.worldresponsibletourismawards.com

Now in their 12th year, the World Responsible Tourism Awards were founded by Responsible Travel in 2004 to celebrate the most inspiring stories in responsible tourism.

The Awards are organised by Responsible Travel and ICRT (International Centre for Responsible Tourism). The Awards ceremony is hosted by World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, during World Responsible Tourism Day, the world’s largest event for responsible tourism which this year takes place on Wednesday 4th November.

This year, the Awards feature 13 categories covering a variety of topics, which reflect the hottest issues currently debated in the world or responsible and sustainable tourism. For the first year tourism businesses and organisations around the world can submit themselves for consideration. The only publically voted Award is the People’s Choice Award. Public voting for the People’s Choice will be open early June.

Follow Awards news and updates on Twitter: @RTAwards or #WRTA2015 and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/responsibletourismawards where you can also find stories from our previous international winners.



About Responsible Travel:

Responsible Travel is the founder and organiser of the World Responsible Tourism Awards and the world’s leading market place for small and tailor-made tour operators, all screened for their commitment to responsible tourism.

Responsible Travel connects these operators with people looking for real & authentic holidays.  Starting with just 2 tour operators in 2001 we’ve become the leading place to find tours from over 400 small & specialist tour companies in 197 countries.  As tourism grows globally the opportunity for authentic experiences diminishes, and the impacts of tourism on places & local people (not always positive) grows.   We’ve found the secret to authentic travel is treating local people & places responsibly.

In addition Responsible Travel:

– campaigns for positive change in the travel and tourism industry.

– is publishing an expanding collection of open, honest travel guides

CEO Justin Francis has been included in Courvoisiers The Future 500, Thames and Hudsons 60 Innovators Shaping Our Creative Future and taken his place on the Advisory Board of The International Centre for Responsible Tourism.

The company is based in Brighton’s North Laine district, England.


About World Travel Market London

WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry.

Almost 51,500 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.

WTM London, now in its 36th year, is the event where the travel industry conducts and concludes its deals. WTM 2014 will generate around £2.5 billion of travel industry contracts.

WTM London is part of Reed Travel Exhibition’s World Travel Market events, which also includes Arabian Travel Market, World Travel Market Latin America and World Travel Market Africa.  http://www.wtmworld.com


World Travel Market Events

World Travel Market is comprised of the leading leisure travel events in the world; World Travel Market London, WTM Latin America in Sao Paulo, WTM Africa in Cape Town and Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

New events for 2016 are WTM connect Asia and WTM connect China, which join WTM connect Ski and International Golf Travel Market. These unique one-to-one events are targeted at leisure and niche travel markets, allowing exhibitors to exclusively meet with elite hosted buyers.

The World Travel Market events are attended by the global travel and tourism industry’s senior executives to conduct business deals and discover the latest research, insight and opinion.

In 2014, the World Travel Market events facilitated around $7 billion in industry deals from negotiations between the more than 15,000 buyers, 9,500 exhibitors (1,500 main stand holders and 8,000 stand sharers) in attendance of its four events.

WTM is owned by the world’s leading events organiser Reed Exhibitions.


About Reed Exhibitions

Reed Exhibitions is the world’s leading events organiser, with over 500 events in 43 countries. In 2014 Reed brought together over seven million event participants from around the world generating billions of dollars in business. Today Reed events are held throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa and organised by 41 fully staffed offices. Reed Exhibitions serves 43 industry sectors with trade and consumer events. It is part of the RELX Group plc, a world-leading provider of information solutions for professional customers across industries.


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