East Africa’s largest rhino conservancy and the Botswana Tourism Organisation have been named among the winners of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2017.

The awards winners were announced at the WTTC summit in Bangkok on Thursday.

The Botswana Tourism Organisation won the Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award with lead judge Professor Graham Miller of the University of Surrey commending its “outstanding leadership and integrity in sustainable tourism over many years”.

Miller noted: “The country recently banned trophy hunting, becoming one of the first countries in the world to do so.”

He commended fellow finalists in the category – the city of Bydgoszcz in Poland for its demonstration of urban regeneration through tourism and the Pallas-Yllastunturi National Park of Finland.

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy of Kenya, which conserves rhinos – including the white rhino – won the Community Award.

Awards judge Randy Durband, chief executive of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, described Ol Pejeta as “a leading role model, combining conservancy, cattle ranching and community engagement”.

G Adventures of Canada and Cinnamon Wild Yala of Sri Lanka were the runners up in the category.

The Environment Award went to the Misool eco-resort of Indonesia for its creation of a marine sanctuary, with conservation trip organiser Biosphere Expeditions of the UK and the Caiman Ecological Refuge of Brazil as runners up.

The Mapping Ocean Wealth Project undertaken by Nature Conservancy of the US, which has developed a means to measure the value of coral reefs, won the Innovation Award.

Native Hotels and Accessible Tourism of Spain was a finalist in this category with its creation of an online platform accessible to people who can’t see or touch a screen or speak on a phone.

Fellow finalist Soel Yachts of the Netherlands developed a solar powered catamaran, described as “the Tesla of the marine industry” by awards judge Mario Hardy, chief executive of the Pacific Asia Travel Association.

The People Award went to the J Willard and Alice S Marriott Foundation’s China Hospitality Education Initiative which has brought 87,000 students into the industry.

Fellow finalists in the People Award category were Desert & Delta Safaris of Botswana, for its management programme for young Botswanans, and Streets International of Vietnam which provides opportunities for children from disadvantaged and trafficked backgrounds.

Fiona Jeffery, chair of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, stressed the rigorous judging process and hailed the finalists as “outstanding examples of sustainable development”.

WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill said: “Travel and tourism is growing fast and we have to ensure this growth does not see short-term gains prioritised over the longer-term health of local environments and communities.

“This year’s Award Winners demonstrate not only that tourism can be sustainable, but that it can bring tangible improvements to the environmental and cultural surroundings in which it operates.”