African winners at the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015

World Travel Market 2015, ExCeL, London: World Responsible Tourism Awards: Best Destination for Responsible Tourism - Winner: Gaansbai (L to R ) Justin Francis,, Glenda Kitley, Gaansbai and Catherine Foster,Visit Norway

World Travel Market 2015, London: World Responsible Tourism Awards: Best Destination for Responsible Tourism – Winner: Gaansbai . (L to R ) Justin Francis,, Glenda Kitley, Gaansbai, and Catherine Foster, Visit Norway

The World Responsible Tourism Awards (WRTA) 2015 winners have been announced and we’re highlighting the stars on the African continent.

Best Responsible Tourism Destination

Gansbaai, a town in the Overberg region of the Western Cape, scooped the gold award. The two silver winners were Aruba, one of the Dutch Antilles off the coast of Venezuela, and Cyprus.

Gansbaai has “transformed itself from fishing village to one of South Africa’s most exciting, and community-led adventure hubs, a process that has been led by the Gansbaai Tourism Association,” according to the WRTA website.

WRTA accolades: “Many of the tourism business members are Fair Trade Tourism-certified, and all are committed to protecting the natural environment, preserving heritage, improving the quality of life of local people, and strengthening the local economy. Shark cage diving, kayaking, responsible whale watching, horse riding, fynbos safaris, and hiking are just a few of the holiday experiences to be had in this area that used to be just a quiet fishing village.

Gansbaai African Horse Company

Riding on the beach. Image courtesy of Gansbaai Tourism and the African Horse Company

“Exemplary businesses include Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, one of the first members of the prestigious Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy. [Also] the Dyer Island Conservation Trust founded in 2006 by two Association members, Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Cruises to fund conservation studies into, for example, the African penguin and great white sharks. The Trust has also opened the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary for rehabilitation of injured, oiled and diseased seabirds.

“Gansbaai will always be about community, however, and the Gansbaai Tourism Association has been particularly active in social development through the Dibanisa Football Foundation and the Growing the Futures programme, creating employment in horticulture. Tourism grows, crops grow, communities grow in Gansbaai, with many new pearls just waiting to be discovered.”

Best accommodation for disability access

Gold was shared by Endeavour Safaris, a tour operator in Southern Africa (particularly tours and safaris in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Victoria Falls and Mozambique) and Scandic Hotels, which is leading the way in terms of access to information.

WRTA accolades: “It is rare to see a conventional tourism business get its head around what disability access really means, but when a safari company does it, you really have to take your khaki hat off. And most importantly, Endeavour Safaris understands inclusivity in tourism. They are not just about providing safari camps for people with disabilities. They are about providing top notch safari camps for everyone.”

Best for Poverty Reduction

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in Gansbaai took the silver award. The gold was awarded to Tourism Development Company Pvt Ltd in India.

WRTA accolades: Grootbos as a “highly prestigious, five-star nature reserve and eco-resort in the Gansbaai region of South Africa right down on the southern tip. It may seem wonderfully remote to visitors, but it is tied in with the local communities in ways that guests often won’t even know about. Because, as their stunning video tells you, ‘We are but a single thread in this complex web, bound together inextricably to conserve and protect diversity, to seek solutions that support humanity, to live in harmony with nature’.”

Read the full list of WTRA winners.

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