Today, the Institute for Tourism and Development (Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung e.V.) announced the winners of the International Contest for Socially Responsible Tourism. At the 42nd International Tourism Exchange (ITB) in Berlin, three successful applicants were awarded with the TO DO! 2007. The new TO DO! winners are from Mexico, South Africa, and Australia.
The winners include HACIENDAS DEL MUNDO MAYA from the Mexican states of Campeche and Yucatán. The second project among the equal winners is the WESTERN AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS TOURISM OPERATORS COMMITTEE (WAITOC) from Perth/Australia. A Special Award was given to the DIRECT ACTION CENTRE FOR PEACE AND MEMORY (DACPM) in Cape Town/South Africa. The reason: DACPM does not work like a tourism enterprise in a classical sense, but works on over-arching socio-cultural issues and plays an extremely important role, both in economic respects and in defining identity.
In the current debate on the conditions under which a social market economy functions, it is of "utmost importance to emphasize positive examples of socially responsible action in the business world and in society", said Thilo Hoppe, MP, in his award presentation speech honouring the winners. The chairman of the German Bundestag's Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development praised the approaches towards "socially responsible business models" highlighted in the award rationales.
How such a claim can actually be fulfilled can be understood from the exam-ple of the Mexican winner HACIENDAS DEL MUNDO MAYA on the Yucatan peninsula. The family enterprise "Grupo Plan" is engaged with their investment in order to contribute significantly to regional economic development, and also to implement a tourism concept that offers new income opportunities, training and education to the local Maya communities while taking their interests and needs into account.
The main idea of HACIENDAS DEL MUNDO MAYA is to renovate fallow haciendas which were earlier used for sisal production, and to put them to a new use as high class hotels and guest houses. The haciendas revitalised in this way (there are now six of them) are being marketed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts under their "Luxury Collection" brand, ensuring that suppliers, products and workers from the region are being considered, so that each of the enterprises will provide a stimulus to the local and regional economy. That's how - after broad qualification programmes - now almost 90 percent of the hacienda staff are from the local Maya communities. According to one of the family members of Grupo Plan, the project "The Haciendas" would have been "unthinkable had it not taken into account the social and cultural development of the local population".
The DIRECT ACTION CENTRE FOR PEACE AND MEMORY (DACPM) in Cape Town/South Africa had a much more difficult route to take. Without any financial resources worth mentioning, the project started in 1997, purely as a self-help and reintegration programme for young former ANC soldiers (Nelson Mandela's party had its own military wing operating underground). After the victory over the Apartheid regime, many of these ex-combatants - who in most cases had neither completed school nor any
vocational training - led a disoriented and socially uprooted existence in the townships of Cape Town.But thanks to the work of DACPM, it was possible to guide more and more of these former fighters back into civilian life. Through training and educational programmes and psychological support, DACPM managed to build the basis for their current activities (including tourism) and to generate badly needed jobs. Under the title "Journey of Remembrance", the DIRECT ACTION CENTRE FOR PEACE AND MEMORY offers very authentic one-day and two-day excursions in Cape Town and in the townships, with guides who are from the townships themselves.
DACPM works in a similar way as "StattReisen" organisations in Germany, following the concept of looking at a city and its surroundings from an unusual and different perspective. Therefore, the tours turn into remarkable programmes of cultural and political tourism, as they both work on coming to terms with the history of the black population during Apartheid and on making the struggles, confrontations and resistance in the townships an issue. What is particularly interesting is the forward-looking tenor of these memory excursions under the motto "Crossing Barriers - Bridging Divides".
From a purely historical point of view, certain similarities which led to the foundation of the WESTERN AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS TOURISM OPERATORS COMMITTEE (WAITOC) cannot be dismissed. WAITOC is an association founded by Aborigines and based in Perth/Western Australia. As a non-profit organisation, WAITOC represents the interests of about 100 independent indigenous entrepreneurs who are involved in the tourism sector in various ways. The enterprises are from different parts of Western Australia and are all in the hands of indigenous individuals, families, or communities.
The activities of the member enterprises focus on cultural aspects (music, paintings, Aboriginal art) and range from the management of lodges and storytelling evenings to socalled "bush walks" and off-road tours in the outback. WAITOC is the central coordinating sales and marketing agency for all these enterprises, also offering training programmes for business start-ups. They also ensure that Australian Aborigines are able to actively and independently participate in the growing tourism sector in Western Australia. After all, for 45 percent of the visitors to Australia surveyed, Aborigines and their culture of "dreamtime" constitute the main motive for their stay.
The Aborigines' contemporary history has been a long ordeal which is only gradually coming to an end. In 1967, the indigenous population of Western Australia was finally granted Australian citizenship, and equality before the law was established. Earlier, white Australians had been allowed to take children of Aborigine background from their parents, to take them to unknown places and have them grow up in missions and children's homes in order to subject them to forced assimilation. This practice, however, was stopped only in the early 1970s, and recently Prime Minister Kevin Rudd officially apologized to the Australian Aborigines for the many years of unworthy treatment. This helps forces in Australia who are intensively working to heal the wounds of the past and to build bridges to a common future, similar to the situation in South Africa, and similar to the situation in Mexico. In Mexico, the sisal-producing haciendas stood for an exploitative feudal structure. Now they have become a symbol of social coexistence and cooperation.
For the fourth time in succession, the Swiss Foundation for Solidarity in Tourism (SST) has given a prize money of CHF 5,000 to each of the TO DO! winners. Furthermore, SST has also joined the group of supporters of the TO DO! contest. On the occasion of presenting the prize money, SST President Hansjörg Ruf explained the decision of the foundation to join: "The TO DO! is awarded to projects that show in an exemplary manner that socially responsible tourism is possible. The objective of SST is to promote such projects, to support them financially, and in some cases to make their implementation possible at all."
In his speech in honour of the TO DO! winners, Hans Stadler, sales manager at "European Travel Insurance" (Europäische Reiseversicherung), welcomed "the commitment and creativity of people's initiatives for sustainable and socially responsible tourism all over the world". Mr. Stadler emphasized that the European Travel Insurance had for a long time been supporting environ-mental and social projects, as they play a major role in contributing to the protection of resources in tourism. Supporting the TO DO! Contest for Socially Responsible Tourism was perfectly in line with this objective. Since 2004, "European Travel Insurance", as a member of the TO DO! supporters, has been giving a prize money of 2,100 Euro for the award winners.
Responsible for the
text: Klaus Betz