A tie was announced today in the 12th annual World Responsible Tourism Awards held today at World Travel Market.
Indian chain Lemon Tree Hotels and South American train company Tren Ecuador were chosen as joint overall winners out of 13 finalists in five categories.
The awards judges were unable to split the top two companies, commending both on the extent of the impacts they have had and their powerful potential to inspire real change within the tourism industry.
Lemon Tree Hotels, the third largest group in India and the fastest growing, caught the judges’ attention in the ‘Best Accommodation for Responsible Employment’ category with its core programme to give opportunity-deprived local people a route into employment.
Tren Ecuador, which also won the ‘Best for Poverty Reduction & Inclusion’ category, impressed for reversing the traditional approach of heritage and luxury train travel – a model where the guests remain cocooned on the train, isolated from the places they pass through – and instead creating shared value with local enterprises, creating 5,000 livelihoods for local people in communities along the tracks.
Professor Harold Goodwin, chairman of the judging panel comprising responsible tourism leaders from across the industry, NGOs and public organisations said: “Lemon Tree Hotels are recognised for tackling, effectively, a major social problem in so many societies.
“A large corporate business backed by international investors successfully getting disabled and other opportunity-deprived people into the workforce in tourism and making this a core part of their operations is a powerful statement.
“The judges hold Tren Ecuador up as an outstanding, holistic example of how all tours should be designed, and feel that if all tourism was planned in this way it would be very effective at making better places in which to live, as well as better places to visit.”
Awards founder chief executive of organisers Responsible Travel, Justin Francis, said: “When I founded these awards in 2004 it was the aim to highlight what is possible to achieve through responsible tourism and hold the winners up as examples to be replicated by the wider tourism industry.
“Lemon Tree Hotels and Tren Ecuador show clearly how big corporations can adopt responsible tourism as a core part of their business, be commercially successful and deliver significant benefits for local communities.
“These businesses move a more responsible style of tourism into the mainstream. They are the future of tourism.”