2004 World Legacy Travel Award Winners Announced

By Jennifer Ballesteros
National Geographic Traveler
Updated June 9, 2004
Queen Noor of Jordan presented the 2004 World Legacy Awards in
sustainable tourism Tuesday evening, June 8, at National Geographic
Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Four different awards went to businesses and organizations from around the world that were judged to best exemplify ways to protect the environment and culture of a place, while creating commerce for the local community. Eight runners-up were also honored.

The awards are a joint effort by National Geographic Traveler magazine and Conservation International. The program aims to increase awareness of sustainable tourism's benefits and to recognize those who practice it well.

"We want to reward the people who are doing trailblazing work in forging mutually beneficial relationships between tourism and the destinations on which tourism depends," said Jonathan Tourtellot, geotourism editor at National Geographic Traveler and co-creator of the World Legacy Awards.

Tourtellot added, "We want to put a spotlight on these awardees not only because they deserve it, but because we hope others will emulate them."

In the Tuesday ceremony, winners were announced in each of four categories: Nature Travel, Heritage Tourism, General Purpose Hotels and Resorts, and Destination Stewardship.

This year's winners come from the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Barbados, and Indonesia. Applicants from more than 40 countries sought the 2004 World Legacy Awards.

Three applicants were chosen as finalists in each category. The 12 finalists were then inspected on-site, a unique feature of the World Legacy program. Reports from on-site inspectors were sent to a panel of judges, who selected the winners:

Nature Travel

Al Maha Desert Resort in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, won this year's Nature Travel award.

"We started this project seven years ago and have now brought a luxurious facility into the desert to help people understand their environment," said Al Maha vice president Tony Williams.

The resort has helped repopulate its surrounding desert ecosystem with native animals and flora and has helped reintroduce two endangered species of oryx, an Arabian gazelle.

Al Maha provides a water-recycling program and heats much of its water with solar energy. The resort respects the local desert and culture, with a design based on a traditional Bedouin camp, with rooms of canvas and stone.

The two runners-up in the Nature Travel category were the following:

• Kwande Private Game Reserve of South Africa, which includes historical and archeological tours

• Chumbe Island Coral Park in Tanzania, a resort that serves local cuisine and protects marine wildlife

Heritage Tourism

Anangu Tours of the Northern Territory, Australia, won this year's Heritage Tourism award. The tour company's Aboriginal guides give tours in their own language, with interpretation by other staff members.

Owned by local Aboriginal people, Anangu Tours provides a cultural learning experience in the area of Uluru (Ayer's Rock). There, guides explain tjukurpa, the Aboriginal body of traditions; laws; and economic, ecological, and religious rules for living.

All eyes were on Richard Kulitja, an unassuming Aboriginal guide, as he took the stage. In his native tongue (interpreted into English by another Anangu staffer), Kulitja spoke of the Anangu people: "Winning this award makes us feel stronger." Asked later why tours are not in English, he explained that for his people, language is an essential matter of cultural pride.

The tour company contributes profits to local recreation and education facilities and helped establish the first Aboriginal secondary college in the area.

The two runners-up in the Heritage Tourism category were the following:

• Campi ya Kanzi in Kenya's Maasai Mara, a joint venture with local Maasai dedicated to sustaining wildlife and Maasai cultural heritage

• Moki Treks of Utah, whose Indian guides provide their own perspectives on Native American culture, customs, and natural resources

Hotels and Resorts

The Casuarina Beach Club in Barbados won this year's Hotels and Resorts award. No two rooms are decorated alike in the resort, which supports local artisans and educates its guests about how to conserve the local environment. Or as one manager put it, "Reduce, reuse, recycle, and rethink!"

Rare among Caribbean resorts, Casuarina offers guests a nine-acre (TK-hectare) wooded retreat. "When the owners originally built the property in 1981," said environmental manager Loreto Duffy-Mayers, "a lot of people thought they were totally crazy because they built in what was called the Dover Woods. Now we have a virtual garden of Eden."

The resort also involves itself in community activities, with the result that guests might even be invited to play cricket with the locals, a rare occurrence at other Caribbean beach resorts.

The two runners-up in the Hotels and Resorts category were as follows:

• Turtle Island in Fiji, which helps sustain the environment, language, and traditions of local Yassawa islanders

• Voyages Hotels and Resorts in Australia, which offers adventures into local rain forests, seas, deserts, and flood lands, while helping Aboriginal communities develop their own tour businesses

Destination Stewardship

Winner of this year's Destination Stewardship award is the Gunung Rinjani National Park area on the island of Lombok, Indonesia (just east of Bali), and the Rinjani Trek Management Board—a park, business, and community partnership.

"The Board increases the awareness of the local people," stated Chairman Tjokorda Suthendra Rai, "and from the many activities on Rinjani the people also increase their prosperity."

Rinjani is a forested volcano where 200 villagers work as trek guides and porters. Rinjani's "cleanup patrol" program is one example of the park-community partnership.

Revenue from Rinjani tourism and entry fees is used for conservation, training, and management of the Rinjani Trek, which promotes cultural and historical pride and preservation of the island's environment.

The two runners-up in the Destination Stewardship category were the following:

• England's Jurassic Coast, whose community visitor centers educate tourists about the ancient fossils and marine wildlife of this UN World Heritage site in Dorset and Devonshire

• The Moosalamoo region of Vermont, where residents work with the Green Mountain National Forest to promote tourism and local heritage awareness while pursuing such conservation efforts as volunteer-maintained bird habitats and a program for inns to purchase local farm produce

Changing Tourism's Outlook

Project organizers say the winners and finalists of the World Legacy Awards play a key role in changing the current outlook on tourism.

As Costas Christ, senior director of ecotourism for Conservation International, explained, "In some countries, tourism has grown by as much as 2,000 percent over the past decade. Their rapidly depleting natural resource base will hurt them greatly in the long term. These winners are outstanding examples of responsible tourism that both helps to protect nature and promotes the well-being of local people."

For information about the World Legacy Awards, visit

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