Today the Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung e.V. (Institute for Tourism and Development) announced the winners of the International Contest for Socially Responsible Tourism. At the 43rd International Tourism Exchange (ITB) in Berlin, three applicants from Brazil, Peru and Switzerland were awarded with the TO DO! 2008.
The equal winners include the regional network REDE TUCUM from the Brazilian state of Ceará, the MOUNTAIN LODGES OF PERU in Cusco and Lima as well as, for the first time, a project from Switzerland: The UNESCO BIOSPHERE ENTLEBUCH in the canton of Lucerne. "After nine years we again have a European project on the TO DO! podium", said Studienkreis Managing Director Dr. Wibke Reger. "More than 80 percent of the winners and almost two thirds of the project entries continue to be from developing countries or emerging economies."
This year's winning projects are prime examples illustrating "that the sustainable use of natural resources is at the same time the best way to protect them," said Dr. Harry Lehmann in his speech in honour of the TO DO! winners. Embedded in regional economic circuits, "tourism that has been conceptualized in a sustainable manner has many advantages: It combines nature conservation with the conservation of cultural heritage, creates jobs and encourages intercultural dialogue between visitors and local people." Mr. Lehmann, Head of Environmental Planning and Sustainability Strategies at the German Federal Environment Agency, furthermore emphasized: "The award-winning projects show that in all parts of the world and in every socio-cultural context, the application of sustainability criteria in tourism leads to success."
The focus of the criteria of the TO DO! - Contest Socially Responsible Tourism is, among others, on the interests of the local population in the planning and implementation of tourism projects. This is taken into account through active participation of the local people. The chances and risks of such endeavours as well as the extent and spread of the economic benefit must be transparent to all stakeholders. Other criteria for the contest are: guaranteeing the attractiveness of jobs in tourism and measures to sustain and strengthen the local culture.
The inspiration for "REDE TUCUM - Network for local development" came from an earlier TO DO! winner. The successful example of the fishing village of Prainha do Canto Verde (TO DO! 99) has, over the years that followed, contributed significantly to the development of a network on tourism and regional politics along several hundred kilometres of coast line. The twelve initiatives and communities involved are situated along the wonderful beaches east and west of Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará with a population of 3.5 million.
Almost all the local initiatives emerged from resistance struggles against real estate speculators, and aim to enable communities to manage the increasing tourism by themselves. Furthermore, the groups involved want to make use of the progress associated with this development according to their own highly participatory standards. Their goal is the achievement of an ecologically sustainable and socially equitable development. The reason why REDE TUCUM deserves the award is not the focus on an individual tourism project or an individual tourism product or service, but the network activities as a whole, conducted by village associations (Associaçãos dos Moradores) working for local development in the coastal areas of Ceará.
The members of REDE TUCUM (mainly fishing villages) are strong proponents of a tourism development that they initiated themselves. Their motto: "We cannot hide from tourism. That's why it is important to think about what kind of tourism we want." The keyword for all the groups involved is "Turismo Communitário." This does not mean a tourism concept developed by a municipal institution; but refers to a model of a local economy with regional linkages that benefits the poor local people.
Connected to this concept is a holistic approach based on "chains of small value addition" on the basis of local village communities organised as cooperatives. The objective is that local people themselves provide tourism products and services which form a more or less complete tourism package. The income thus generated stays in the community, can create jobs, reduce dependence of fishing and can ensure a future perspective for young people - without having the respective villages run over by externally determined developments.
Overcoming poverty is also the objective of the MOUNTAIN LODGES OF PERU (MLP). MLP is a network at the micro level. Four lodges are currently being marketed, which can be booked only as part of the concept "From Lodge to Lodge along the Salkantay Route." The Salkantay Route is an alternative route to the often congested "Inca Trail" and leads from Cusco to Machu Picchu through impressive scenery and less frequented trekking trails. The size of the groups is between four and a maximum of 14 participants.
Background to the activities of the family business MOUNTAIN LODGES OF PERU is the founders' plan - in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals - to eliminate poverty along the Salkantay Route by 2015. The lodges are the basis of this venture. Workers were first needed to construct the lodges, then to run them. MLP's new employees are from a very poor background and have not worked in the hotel industry before. Every year, they are now given training during the low season.
The objective of MOUNTAIN LODGES OF PERU is to combine an upmarket tourism product with corporate social and ecological responsibility. The local communities along the Salkantay Route are important partners, who can - by cooperation in a targeted manner - develop new sources of income for themselves. MLP want to strengthen the cultural identity and self-esteem of the local people and enhance the way of living in an Andean cultural setting. Through the participation thus ensured, the local people involved have their first opportunity for self-determined development.
In order to be able to coordinate and implement all these components, MLP founded the non-profit organisation Yanapana Peru. Its tasks include consultancy and training for small local entrepreneurs and partners of MLP. 90 percent of Yanapana (Quechua for "help") is financed by MOUNTAIN LODGES OF PERU which furthermore receive donations in cash and kind from individuals and institutions.
Unlike earlier TO DO! winners, it is for the first time that a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve receives the TO DO! award: the Swiss UNESCO BIOSPHERE ENTLEBUCH (UBE). What is special about the UBE is that the initiatives which were implemented here were not federal, regional or externally initiated. It was rather the local population which, in a municipal referendum in 2000, cast 94 percent of their votes in favour of entrusting the local politicians in charge in the municipalities with the task of submitting the application to UNESCO.
In the following year, the Entlebuch region was already recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It was the first biosphere reserve to emerge through the involvement and decision of its inhabitants - upon a demand voiced "from below." This had consequences at the international level. Today, all UNESCO biosphere applicants have to use the participation model of ENTLEBUCH as an orientation.
The starting point for the unusual transformation from a conservative holiday destination to a progressive model region was a referendum held in 1987. It was about the so-called "Moorland protection initiative" which was adopted by the majority of the Swiss sovereign. As about half of the area of the Entlebuch was and is considered moorland, this meant at that time that about 50 percent of the local sub district would come under national nature protection.
People in the Entlebuch saw their livelihoods at stake. They were afraid that land would be lost for agricultural use and that every activity would need to be authorised. Winter tourism seemed seriously threatened as various ski pistes ran through the newly protected areas. All other economic development opportunities seemed to be barred.
Yet due to the self-confidence of the local people groups and initiatives were founded that took up the issue of "moorland protection." Everybody involved soon understood that only a comprehensive, integrated concept would ensure a real balance between man and nature. The guidelines of UNESCO's "Man and the Biosphere" programme were adopted. As an outcome of the collective discussion and learning process across all political divides people realised that they would have to shape their future way of living in the Entlebuch by attributing equal importance to man and nature.
The result: As a brand in tourism, the participatory cooperation model has become a success story. Farmers work with the cheese producers of the Entlebuch. Local herb gardens supply herbs to the restaurants, and the association of the Entlebuch's chefs tries to serve mainly local products. Motto: "How about some moor?" It is all about the unique selling proposition in tourism - about what is special, rare and unique.
For the fifth time in succession, the Swiss Foundation for Solidarity in Tourism (SST) has provided prize money of 5,000 Swiss Francs for each of the winners of the TO DO! contest. The SST Foundation is also a member of the support group of the TO DO! contest. Board President Hansjörg Ruf explained the foundation's involvement: "The TO DO! award provides an important platform for projects that contribute to a sustainable kind of tourism development. The prize monies offered are meant as recognition of the activities implemented so far, and at the same time as an encouragement to continue the work."
Since 2004, the "European Travel Insurance Group" (EUROPÄISCHE Reiseversicherung AG), a member of the TO DO! support group, has been offering prize money of 2,100 Euro. In his speech in honour of the TO DO! winners, Hans Stadler, sales manager at EUROPÄISCHE Reiseversicherung, emphasized: "Especially in times of economic difficulties, it pays to act in a socially responsible manner. Our commitment is needed today more than ever so that the financial crisis will not lead to a social crisis. We are pleased that EUROPÄISCHE Reiseversicherung can support the TO DO! winners financially, and can thus contribute to sustainable development. We wish the winners all success in continuing their projects".
"As organisers of the TO DO! which was launched in 1995, we welcome the continued interest in this contest for socially responsible tourism," said Stu-dienkreis Chairman Armin Vielhaber. "Above all, we are pleased that worldwide and also at this year's ITB, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and 'Fair Trade in Tourism' is increasingly on the agenda."
Responsible for the
text: Klaus Betz
English translation: Christina Kamp