Overall: HIMALAYAN ECOTOURISM
Himalayan Ecotourism is a co-operative society engaging individuals from 72 families in villages in the buffer zone of the Great Himalayan National Park. Theirs is a model for tourism development which ensures local benefits,, empowers local communities and provides a viable route to market as a model which could, and should, be replicated.
Outstanding Property: SPICE VILLAGE-CGH EARTH, THEKKADY
CGH Earth were pioneers in environmental, social and economic sustainability, and they have developed a series of destination-based experiences in 15 boutique resorts, all of which respect nature, build social relationships with their neighbours and with their participation and insights create unique experiences. Early adopters of Responsible Tourism, they have proved that “less can be more and that true luxury is an experience rooted in simplicity and soul, transcending mere form and ostentation.”
RESPONSIBLE TOURISM PATHFINDER
Parag Rangnekar’s passion for the environment has led him to engage with an array of interventions- ranging from bird conservation to impacts of mining and eco-tourism. Credited with setting-up Goa’s first tourism cooperative, Parag also has the distinction of discovering the Goan Shadow Dancer Dragonfly and documenting for the first time in the state, 17 species of butterflies and 64 dragonflies.
Pema Bhutia is a founding member of the Khangchendzonga Conservation Committee (KCC), a pioneer in environmental interventions and ecotourism in Sikkim. In the last two decades, Pema with other members of the KCC has initiated the Yuksum community-run homestays, trained tourism service providers and built waste management & recycling systems. In 2009, they developed a zero-waste trekking trail to mitigate the impacts of mass tourism in the Kanchenjunga National Park region.
BEST ADVENTURE OPERATOR
GOLD: HIMALAYAN ECOTOURISM
In Himalayan Ecotourism’s co-operative model local villagers are partners and managers of the tour company. By investing in good working conditions, safety, equipment and training, the organisation establishes erstwhile wage workers as owners and expert adventure tourism service providers. The model also links business performance with environmental concerns by routing a share of the profits to the cooperative.
SILVER: EXPEDITIONS INDIA
Expeditions India offers high-quality kayaking and rafting experiences on the Ganga, which it conducts in intentionally small groups, with rigorous safety standards and a strict ‘leave no trace’ policy. The judges found their closed-door policy in May and June particularly impressive, for it recognises that peak season trips not only harm nature but also deny travellers the true experience of the river.
BEST EXPERIENTIAL OPERATOR
GOLD: JOURNEYS WITH MEANING
Journeys with Meaning is recognised for its commitment to earth friendly-travel as a tool of transformation. Designed in collaboration with local communities and organisations like HIAL- SECMOL of Ladakh, these experiences help travellers to engage with climate change or the impact of unbridled consumption while learning about inspiring environmental solutions they could adopt in their everyday.
SILVER: OPEN EYES PROJECT
The Open Eyes Project’s cultural immersion tours in rural Rajasthan along with their ‘Women in Tourism’ initiative, stand out for their contributions to sustainability, creating livelihoods that have significantly increased the earnings of artisans, taxi drivers, guides and blind female massage therapists, who have all been trained by Open Eyes.
GOLD: MAYAL LYANG, DZONGU
Mayal Lyang welcomes visitors into the warmth and hospitality of a Lepcha way of life in the Dzongu reserve. By choosing to stay small, this family-run homestay has supported the development of 20 others in surrounding areas, contributing to the local economy and helping to develop this part of Sikkim as a destination.
GOLD: BHORAMDEO JUNGLE RETREAT, NEAR KAWARDHA
Planted at the foot of the Maikal Hills, near a wildlife sanctuary, Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat welcomes guests to an area where tourism is still a rather novel idea. Rooted in the local community life of the Yadavs, Gonds and Baigas, the owners encourage visitors to taste Chhattisgarhia life through short treks to the forest, cycle rides and visits to the weekly market.
ONE TO WATCH: KUNDAN HOMESTAY
Developed by a vegetable seller in his century-old home, the guests at the Kundan Home Stay eat with the family and are introduced to the Natti dance and the local crafts native to this part of Kullu.
BEST WILDLIFE STAY
GOLD: KAADUMANE HOMESTAY, NEAR DANDELI
This three-acre wilderness “hideaway” with a bee park attracts deer, gliding frogs, flying squirrels and 65 species of birds. Its growing popularity notwithstanding, this homestay has chosen not to expand and has demonstrated how a small tourism business can create significant conservation and local economic development benefits.
GOLD: MANGALAJODI ECOTOURISM TRUST, CHILIKA LAKE
Mangalajodi is a community-owned and managed wildlife conservation venture that has consistently drawn conservation attention in India and abroad. The judges were particularly impressed by the way in which the former poachers of Mangalajodi now actively patrol and protect the birds in the marshes of the Chilika Lake.
BEST EARTH-FRIENDLY STAY
GOLD: THE GOAT VILLAGE, NAG TIBBA, ECOPLORE
The Goat Village has 10 Garhwali cottages, at the midpoint on the trek to Nagtibba, which use a thousand-year-old architectural technique called ‘Koti Banal’ to minimise earthquake damage. There is no electricity by design and no swimming pool, but guests can use the mud pool when there is enough water.
SILVER: THE SARAI AT TORIA, NEAR KHAJURAHO
The Sarai is a wonderful example of a responsible, energy-efficient luxury accommodation for travellers in Madhya Pradesh and a destination in itself. Thick mud walls create traditional structures with elegant interiors. The owners are also heavily invested in conservation projects in the area.
ONE TO WATCH: HEARTH HOSTEL
The Hearth Hostel is a restored community hostel for backpackers, built using local techniques and materials sourced from within a 50 kilometre radius. Equipped with dry toilets and furnished with old wood furniture, it offers visitors a kitchen garden, a library and an exhibition space among other amenities.
ONE TO WATCH: BANLEKHI RESORTS
Established only in May 2017 the judges recognised this new stylish ecologically responsible resort built of local materials by local artisans,with adventure and nature activities, as one to watch.