To celebrate 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the organisers of the WTM World Responsible Tourism Awards are taking a detour from the usual format of the awards and focusing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) instead.

All five categories in the 2017 awards are linked to the SDGs. Another change is what categories organisations can enter in. The first four categories are open only to those who have won gold or silver in the last three years in the global, African, Indian or Irish Responsible Tourism Awards. The fifth category is for organisations new to the awards.

This year’s World Responsible Tourism Awards are looking for examples of good practice where tourism organisations and destinations leverage tourism to make better places for people to live in, and then transparently report on the impacts of their responsible tourism efforts.

The judges are looking for tourism organisations that can demonstrate their positive sustainable development impact. They recognise that smaller companies will have smaller impacts, but feel strongly that smaller businesses and organisations are no less worthy of an award and should not be deterred from applying. Instead the awards are looking to recognise effective approaches to reporting impact and communicating it to consumers, local people and governments.

Awards categories

The 2017 Awards categories are:

SDG8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Categories that focus on responsible employment have always been strongly contested in both the African and the World Responsible Tourism Awards. Contenders for this category include:

Stellenbosch wine estate, Spier, were gold winners in 2016 in the Best Accommodation for Responsible Employment category. The judges were looking for examples of businesses able to demonstrate an exemplary responsible approach to the employment and treatment of staff. The gold went to Spier for the transparent reporting and the breadth of their approach to improving the employment conditions of their staff ranging from addressing the issue of safety on public transport to their provision of Individual Learning Spend budgets to support the development of skills and knowledge, for personal development and innovation for the employee and their family for example by using it to pay school fees.

sdg12SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, tourism that creates jobs, promotes local culture and products.

When the African Responsible Tourism Awards ran the Best for Resource Efficiency category in 2015, they were overwhelmed by the quality and variety in entries. Contenders for this category include:

Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana walked off with the prize. Given that the lodge is over 40 years old, to refurbish an old structure the size of this lodge, making it more eco-friendly is a mammoth and on-going task. The lodge has a long term approach to energy efficiency with the ultimate aim of reducing dependency on the grid. The most noticeable innovation is the use of All Electric Game Drive Vehicles and Electric game viewing boats. The lodge was also a silver winner in the 2016 awards in the category for Best Accommodation for Responsible Employment – strengthening their application in the SDG12 category.

sdg14SDG 14 Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development through the sustainable management of tourism on and in the oceans.

Contenders for this category include:

Nkwichi Lodge in Mozambique won the Best for Beach Tourism category in 2016. They were commended for helping to bring the world’s most biodiverse freshwater lake and a 120 000 ha of lakeshore and escarpment under formal protection – in partnership with 16 villages.

Chumbe Island Coral Park in Tanzania was highly commended for water conservation in the World Responsible Tourism Awards in 2013 and they won the marine environment category in 2004. In 2015, they won the African Responsible Tourism Award in the ategory for Best for Beach Tourism. The judges wanted to recognise them for their careful review of progress and the development of the new Management Plan 2006-2016.

sdgRemaining SDGs: Businesses and tourism organisations that can demonstrate their contribution to one of the other 14 SDGs

There are several other SDGs that past winners can demonstrate their contribution against. SDG1 states “No poverty”, and given that the poverty reduction category is traditionally the most competitive in the awards, there are several ideal contenders that can enter. Previous winners of this category include Grootbos Lodge and Transfrontier Parks Destinations (2015) and !Xaus Lodge (2016). Coffee Shack Backpackers, winner of the 2017 award for Best Accommodation for Social Inclusion can enter under SDG4: Quality Education, based on their support of education from preshool to college. Past winners of conservation awards like the Kenyan Mara Naboisho and Ol Pejeta conservancies (2016) are good candidates for SDG15: Life on land.

Newcomers: Businesses and tourism organisations which can demonstrate a contribution to one of the SDGs but which have not won Responsible Tourism Awards in the last three years.

Entering the World Responsible Tourism Awards

Before you tackle the application, you need to select the best category for your organisation to enter and to do this you need to have a good understanding of the SDGs. Follow the links above to find out more about what the SDGs cover, especially since several they have multiple targets.

Unlike previous years, there is only one stage in this year’s awards. To apply, you will have to complete the application form and submit it together with supporting documents to Applications close on 31 August 2017.