“Tourism for Tomorrow” Sites Protect Nature, Welcome Visitors

The World Travel and Tourism Council has named the finalists for its 2007 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. These awards recognize projects around the world that are succeeding in promoting tourism while protecting the cultural and natural assets of their destination.

Finalists for the Destinaton Award are Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Ireland’s Greenbox ecotourism project, and the State of Vermont, here in the USA.

The Great Barrier Reef is managed as a national marine park by the Australian government. Strict environmental policies are posted and enforced to protect the reef and ensure it isn’t harmed by visitors.

Greenbox offers small scale, low impact, culturally sensitive and community orientated eco-holidays in rural regions of Ireland. Their Web site offers tours that focus on surfing, mountain climbing, hiking, orienteering, cycling, or exploring caves and underground streams. You can also book eco-boat trips on Donegal Bay, or take a course in organic farming, cooking, or stonewall construction.

The State of Vermont has been working to preserve its historic villages and promote these small-scale destinations as tourism sites. The state also protects its natural environment and promotes local products and farms.

Three finalists also were named for Conservation Awards.

aqua-trek-2.gifAqua-Trek, of Fiji and the USA, offers tourists a shark-diving experience that focuses on educating them about the importance of protecting this threatened marine species whose role is vital to our ecosystem. Besides conservation and education, the project provides income to local villages; preserves the cultural heritage of the indigenous people; provides Fiji with a successful sustainable tourism enterprise; and creates an unparalleled opportunity to study sharks in their natural environment.

Colorado’s Aspen Skiing Company was recognized for its efforts to green up the ski slopes. The company follows green building principles, buys renewable energy to power its resorts, and burns biodiesel in its SnowCats.

Brazil’s Caiman Ecological Refuge in the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland, consists of a working cattle ranch of 132,000 acres. The owner started a sustainable development program there in 1987, aiming to promote the conservation of the area. The refuge now consists of a tripod of interdependent goals: cattle breeding, Wildlife Conservation and Ecotourism, all in harmony, supplying jobs for 150 locals and conserving over 380 species of birds and 60 of mammals.

Winners will be announced at the 7th Global Travel & Tourism Summit in May, in Lisbon Portugal.