A resort turning trash into fuel. An island racing to be free of fossil fuels by 2020. An innovative nature reserve protecting endemic species and indigenous ways. These are three of the initiatives recognized by the 2015 World Legacy Awards, created by National Geographic Traveler in partnership with ITB Berlin—the world’s largest travel gathering—to applaud and support a tourism revolution in the making. Sustainable tourism principles are redefining how we explore our planet and the impact we have in the process. Among those forging the way: the winners and finalists profiled in this gallery. —The Editors
Sense of Place
Photograph by Kodiak Greenwood
Excellence in enhancing sense of place and authenticity; support for indigenous traditions
The Winner: Cavallo Point Lodge, United States
Embracing authenticity can sometimes make for unexpected pairings. Take Fort Baker, a military base overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge that helped defend San Francisco for more than a century before being deeded to the National Park Service in 2002. When Mike Freed, a Marin County resident who had admired the woodwork characterizing the fort’s colonial revivalist structures, learned that the Park Service was considering the development of a conference center on the site, he, along with some friends, offered to restore the decaying army barracks and adjoining ten-acre parade ground by turning it into a lodge—and in the process preserving a noteworthy California landmark.
Today, Cavallo Point invites travelers to stay in meticulously renovated LEED-certified buildings that have garnered top architectural honors from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. But the real winners in this successful collaboration between the lodge owners, the city of Sausalito, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area are the residents and visitors who flock to Cavallo, where they can enjoy homey comforts paired with a “healing arts spa,” tea bar, and locally sourced farm-to-fork dining. A perk: next-door views of the Golden Gate Bridge and easy access to miles of nearby biking and hiking trails.
Fogo Island Inn, Canada: Celebrates island culture through partnerships with local and international artists and designers.
Gwaii Hannas National Park Reserve: A collaboration between Parks Canada and British Columbia’s Haida people to manage a national park reserve.
Photograph by Paul Souders, Corbis
Places fostering exceptional cultural, environmental, and community best practices
The Winner: Aruba
It is perhaps poetic that one of the world’s smallest islands, situated next to one of the biggest oil nations, Venezuela, has committed itself to being the first nation free of fossil fuels, by 2020.
A Dutch outpost centered on tourism, Aruba punches above its weight. It is a member of the Carbon War Room, founded in 2009 by international leaders such as Richard Branson to fight climate change; its solar parking lot is the largest such installment in the Caribbean, with 14,400 panels (soon to double); 20 percent of its electricity comes from wind; and a waste-to-energy plant turns island trash into renewable power. Among Aruba’s smart-growth plans: electric car stations and the first trolley system powered by batteries using hydrogen fuel cells, which are fed by sun and wind energy. That the island boasts miles of sand fringed by blue waters is a bonus. “We’re a living laboratory for a sustainable society,” says Prime Minister Mike Eman, who spearheaded many of the initiatives. The example is catching on. Six Caribbean nations have said they’ll follow the “Aruba Model.”
Delaware North, Yosemite: The management company’s Green Path plan implements, and trains staff in, environmental practices.
Val d'Aran, Spain: A public/private partnership safeguards regional ways and indigenous species, such as the endangered hazel grouse.
Photograph courtesy Orange County Resorts
Leadership in environmentally friendly business practices and technology
The Winner: Orange County Luxury Resorts, India
In a country with more than 1.2 billion people (nearly one fifth of the world’s population), living in harmony with the natural world takes on a particular urgency—a challenge that has been embraced by India’s Orange County Luxury Resorts, a family-run enterprise based in the southwestern state of Karnataka. “We focus on delivering life-enriching experiences to our guests without sacrificing the planet,” says Orange County Luxury Resorts’ managing director Jose Ramapuram, who also serves as an adviser on sustainability for the Karnataka state government.
At its two elegantly rustic villa properties, Coorg and Kabini, recycled and natural materials were used throughout construction, and indigenous flora provides the landscaping. Plastic water bottles have been replaced by a reverse osmosis water-purifying system in all 80 villas and cottages, wind-power generators deliver energy, kitchen waste is transformed into biogas for cooking, and the remaining waste is weighed, cataloged, and recycled to improve sustainability. Guest activities reflect a “spirit of the land” philosophy, from tiger-spotting excursions in Nargarhole National Park to bird-watching on resort property, participating in traditional dances, volunteering for plantation chores, and exploring local waterways on boat safaris.
Nikoi Island, Indonesia: The resort exceeds standards for excellence in low energy use set by the International Tourism Partnership.
The Brando, French Polynesia: A luxury eco-resort with a marine research center and a focus on innovative green technologies.
Photograph by Andrew Rowat, Tropic Journeys in Nature
Promoting benefits that directly improve local livelihoods
The Winner: Tropic Journeys in Nature, Ecuador
Travel outfitter Tropic Journeys in Nature wants to change how ecolodges operate by offering not just employment to local communities but ownership of the lodge itself. Its Huaorani Ecolodge, in Ecuador’s Amazon region, is owned by the indigenous Huaorani people, who set their own salaries and plow profits back into community projects; Tropic Journeys is their partner in managing the lodge. This collaboration has led to the creation of a 135,908-acre nature reserve that is off-limits to oil companies (which have wanted to drill for underlying crude oil), allowing visitors to experience one of the most species-rich places on Earth, home to such unique rain forest animals as spectacled bears and pygmy marmosets.
“It takes years of patient dialogue to fully engage indigenous communities,” says Jascivan Carvalho, Tropic Journeys’ owner, “but the result is a deeper, more enriching experience for travelers—and for locals, whose livelihoods improve.” Tropic Journeys’ two decades in the Amazon have inspired another community tourism project, on Floreana Island in the Galapagos.
Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan: Rural Bedouin communities staff and supply the lodge.
Mukul Resort, Nicaragua: Educates and employs locals, supports area businesses, and helps provide clean drinking water.
Conserving the Natural World
Photograph by Jonathan Irish
Preserving nature, restoring habitats, protecting rare and endangered species
The Winner: Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, Chile
Take 247,000 acres of temperate rain forest, sprinkle it with an array of eco abodes, from tree houses to imaginative wood lodges—a “magic mountain,” a giant mushroom—weave in a foundation devoted to promoting local Mapuche culture, and add a big helping of scientific research. The result is Huilo Huilo, an innovative enterprise safeguarding one of the 25 most valuable and threatened eco-regions on the planet. “The destruction of Patagonia’s natural heritage has been a steady and silent process accompanied by poverty and deforestation,” says Alexandra Petermann, Huilo’s executive director. “Sustainable tourism offers a more virtuous cycle, allowing us to establish lasting conservation.”
Among the beneficiaries: the critically endangered Patagonian huemul deer, Huilo’s mascot. Petermann is just as enthusiastic about activities on tap here, from kayaking green lakes and trekking glacier-topped Mocho-Choshuenco volcano to touring Huilo’s Museum of the Volcanoes, sampling beers crafted at its micro-brewery, and paying a visit to the Huilo Huilo Foundation, where local women produce and sell organic honey, hand-embroidered placemats, and whimsical “spirits of the forest” cloth dolls.
andBeyond, Africa and Asia: A mission to protect and restore wilderness has included rhinos and coral reefs.
Conservation Ecology Centre, Australia: Among the center’s projects: creating a wildlife corridor and planting trees for koalas.
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
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