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Thursday, November 5

NZ operators up for responsible tourism awards


Two top New Zealand tourism businesses have been short-listed for international responsible tourism awards.

Tourism operators Whale Watch Kaikoura and accommodation-providers YHA Wellington City have been nominated for the prestigious Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards which will be announced in London on 11 November.

The awards recognise destinations and organisations that are making a positive contribution to their local culture, economy and environment through tourism.

Last year, New Zealand won the 'Overall Winner' and 'Best Destination' categories in the awards.

Responsible Travel
Launched in 2004 by responsibletravel.com, the awards are run in association with headline sponsor Virgin Holidays, and partners World Travel Market, The Daily Telegraph and Geographical Magazine.

Contestants are nominated by tourists, and the awards are open for niche to mainstream tourism activities.

The 13 categories include cultural engagement, conservation of wildlife and habitats, poverty reduction, volunteering organisation, personal contribution, best small and large hotel, and best cruise or ferry operator.

Whale Watch Kaikoura
Whale Watch Kaikoura has been nominated in the ‘best marine environment’ category.

Whale Watch is a multi-award winning nature tourism company based at Kaikoura, a small town on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Owned and operated by local Māori, Whale Watch offers tourists close encounters with local marine life including the giant sperm whale, seen on 95 percent of outings.

Founded in 1987, Whale Watch has been a key factor in turning around the town’s declining economy. Now a leading tourist destination, Kaikoura offers a diverse range of marine activities which have, in turn, stimulated investment in new accommodation, restaurants, cafes and galleries filled with the work of local artists.

This week New Zealand Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key was on hand to launch the company’s fifth vessel. The expansion of the Whale Watch fleet required the building of a new marina.

YHA Wellington City
Backpackers hostel YHA Wellington City has been nominated in the small accommodation category.

YHA Wellington City is the largest hostel in the YHA New Zealand network of 53 youth hostels.

It is a Qualmark 5-star property with Qualmark Enviro Gold accreditation. The hostel has received New Zealand Sustainable Business Network awards, and was twice named Hostelworld best hostel in Oceania.

Hostel manager Chris Sperring is naturally delighted with making the shortlist.

"Our success as a responsible tourism operator began years ago when we made the initial commitment to look for improvements in the way we did business. In some ways the large projects like our heat exchanger are the easiest. Once they’re installed they just work," Sperring said.

"The hard work is in getting every staff member to think as a responsible tourism operator. When we create an atmosphere where working here is more than just a job, that’s when we do the most for our staff, guests and the environment."

2009 Responsible Tourism Awards

A record 580 organisations, individuals and destinations in 13 categories were nominated for the 2009 awards.

The shortlist was selected by a panel of 13 judges.

The panel was impressed by the willingness of organisations to take responsibility and their efforts to make better places for people to live in and visit, according to Dr. Harold Goodwin, chair of the judges and Professor of Responsible Tourism Management at Leeds Metropolitan University.

"Despite the economic difficulties being faced by the travel and tourism industry, responsible tourism continues to move ahead and I’m continually impressed as more is achieved by more people," Dr Goodwin said.

The 2009 Responsible Tourism Award winners will be announced at World Travel Market on 11 November.