Last week Wild Asia announced the winners of the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards. The Awards are an opportunity to verify some of the claims being made by accommodation operators and to share and promote their best ideas.
Of this year’s winners, the large hotel category was won by ITC Muhgal India who were particularly impressive with the degree to which they had internalised their RT effort over some ten years of operation.
The medium sized category was taken by El Nido Resorts of the Philippines. Pipped to the post last year by Six Senses, El Nido rebounded this year with a demonstration of humility and integrity in their interaction with both local people and their natural environment.
Extending the winning run for India, Sundarbans Jungle Camp narrowly ousted Andaman Discoveries in the Community Based & Homestay bracket. This success is another feather in the cap for a network of operators which includes Spiti Ecosphere, last year’s unanimous winner in this category.
As the dust settles, our thoughts naturally turn to next year’s Awards and how they can help more would-be RT operators to get to grips with the subject. Reflection on this year’s assessment, judging and feeback process gives some pointers.
Firstly the assessment process is not meant to be an RT consultancy service but the finalists understandably want constructive feedback on their performance, particularly those who did not win.
Then there is the odd dynamic of site assessments where the vibe can be like an audit with the subject feeling defensive about their hard work and good intentions coming under scrutiny.
Filling in the RT checklists and subsequently submitting to the factfinders’ clip boards is hard work and operators need some kind of reward for their effort.
At last year’s RT workshops we talked about marketing benefits but at this year’s worshops we learned how consumers are loosing faith in ‘green’ marketing as a result of a deluge of greenwash.
Responsible Tourism is gathering momentum to the extent where it is no longer a ‘pissing into the wind’ effort to simply convince operators to go down that path. Instead operators are coming forward and saying “we want to do RT but we need some help to do it well and then we need to be able to evaluate our progress”.
The benefits to the operator of participating in the competition are that the process neatly ticks both of these boxes.
Constructive feedback and criticism is inherent in the assessment process and progress can be measured against other finalists. The whole thing makes sense if it is done in the spirit of learning, sharing and collaborating.