For the second year running, New Zealand has taken the top spot at the prestigious Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards.
Whale Watch Kaikoura was named as overall winner at the awards announced yesterday at the 30th anniversary of the World Travel Market, held annually in London. They also won the marine environment category.
YHA Wellington City was also announced as winner of the best large hotel/accommodation category.
Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive George Hickton says “This is a fantastic achievement for Whale Watch Kaikoura, YHA Wellington City and for New Zealand. Both awards are well-deserved and I hope this recognition will encourage other New Zealand operators to make responsible tourism part of their everyday business practices.
“Already, Whale Watch Kaikoura has been interviewed by media, including BBC news, providing fantastic coverage for New Zealand to millions in the UK and overseas.
“Last year, New Zealand became the first country to win the overall award as well as 'Best Destination'. For New Zealand operators to have featured in the Responsible Travel Awards again this year shows our industry’s strong commitment to the environment and local communities,” he says.
The panel of judges declared Whale Watch Kaikoura the overall winner for developing a tourism initiative from the ground up. “The founding of the enterprise by four Maori families has demonstrated that the local Maori community can not only grow a considerable tourism business, but, more significantly, use that business to buy back their ancestral land for the benefit of the indigenous people and their cultural identity,” they said.
Whale Watch Kaikoura Chief Operating Officer, Kauahi Ngapora said he was humbled on behalf the community based operation he leads. “To be nominated as one of the best in the world is an honour in itself, but to then be chosen as the overall winner by such respected judges and from among so many other world-class organisations is a wonderful accolade.
YHA Wellington City Manager Chris Sperring says, “We made the easy gains early on. Getting this award now is recognition of our accumulated efforts. But it’s also recognition for our young and energetic staff and guests who are the inspiration and the answer to our continued improvements.”
The awards are nominated by tourists and recognise individuals, companies and organisations in the travel industry that are making a significant commitment to the culture and economies of local communities and are providing a positive contribution to biodiversity conservation.
The judging process includes analysis from a panel of 13 judges including interviews and consultation from an international network of contacts and organisations with responsible tourism expertise and knowledge in specific destinations.