Entering the 2017 World Responsible Tourism Awards

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: 

sdg8SDG8: 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:

Cape Town backpackers hostel, The Backpack, were silver winners at the 2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards in the category for best Accommodation for Social Inclusion. The judges commended The Backpack for the breadth of their approach to fair employment conditions for their staff. Entry salaries of 2.5x the minimum wage give all staff a solid starting point on which to build higher levels of education, building a home, starting up a small business, all which are financially supported by the business. 

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:

Two Cape Town businesses, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway and the Vineyard Hotel won silver awards in this category, and together with Hotel Verde who won the world Award for Best City Hotel in 2016, are excellent candidates for 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:

Cape Town Tourism member, Marine Dynamics won the Best for Wildlife Conservation category in 2015. As a shark cage diving operator, they operate in a sector where there is rightly a lot of criticism of current practice. Marine Dynamics are industry leaders, a commercial operation which operates to the highest conservation standards, where every trip has a marine biologist aboard to provide interpretation and collect data for scientific research. They are an operator that makes a significant contribution to both conservation and the local economy.

sdgs and tourismRemaining 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.


sdgs and tourismNewcomers: 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 WTMRTA@responsibletourismpartnership.org. Applications close on 31 August 2017.