Each year a panel of Virtuoso advisors nominates travel companies that shine in the arena of promoting sustainable travel and upholding its three pillars – celebrating culture, supporting local economies, and protecting the environment. The winners will be announced at this year’s Virtuoso Travel Week in August in Las Vegas. Here, the nominees:
Tour Operators & Airlines
The Fly One: Air New Zealand
The airline pegs its sustainability approach to UN guidelines, which means it has committed to reducing emissions and going carbon neutral by 2020, and plans to remove 55 million single-use plastics from flights this year. They partnered with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation for environmental projects such as relocating endangered animals, and it releases an annual sustainability report.
Good Foundation: Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold
Travel companies Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold safeguard the cultural heritage of communities they operate in with experiences such as a visit to an Italian weaving cooperative. The TreadRight Foundation, the nonprofit arm of parent company The Travel Corporation, supports scores of sustainable tourism projects around the world, with its mission to “Make Travel Matter” by protecting people, wildlife, and the planet.
Mongolian Mission: Nomadic Expeditions
An emphasis on local community values and long-term environmental sustainability guides Mongolian tour operator Nomadic Expeditions. By rigorously educating its own guides and training college students to work in the tourism industry, the company has helped shape tourism’s future in Mongolia. Its conservation efforts range from snow leopard protection to cultural preservation, including the famed Golden Eagle Festival, which preserves the country’s falconry tradition and will celebrate its 20th anniversary in October.
Wildly Sustainable: Natural Habitat Adventures
The world’s first carbon-neutral tour company, Natural Habitat Adventures also led the world’s first zero-waste adventure (to Yellowstone) earlier this year. In addition to a longtime alliance with the World Wildlife Fund, the tour operator donates to grassroots sustainable-development efforts – from Namibia’s Cheetah Fund to a project bringing hydroponic agriculture to Canada’s subarctic regions – in destinations where it operates.
Tropic of Can-Do: Swiss Travel
Costa Rican tour operator Swiss Travel – carbon neutral since 2018 – supports local communities through medical missions and by offering travelers authentic experiences through long-standing relationships with local businesses, restaurants, and lodges. For instance, guests might visit a shop the company helped to establish where native artisans sell their wares directly to shoppers.
For the Love of Wombats: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley’s ten consecutive years of carbon-neutral operation and ongoing commitment to restore the landscape, waterways, and wildlife habitats in the region demonstrate the positive impact tourism can have on a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site.
Seeds of the Future: Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru’s hospitality apprenticeship program prepares young Maldivians to enter the country’s largest industry: Apprentices graduate with a nationally recognized certificate to help further their careers. The resort’s Marine Savers team works on turtle conservation, and its Reefscapers project has transplanted more than 300,000 coral fragments.
African Endeavors: Londolozi Private Game Reserve
At Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, sustainability efforts are driven by the philosophy of ubuntu, which roughly translates as: “I am because we are.” The reserve is transitioning to a battery-powered vehicle fleet, has established a medical clinic, and helped found an education program and an animal-tracking academy, creating job opportunities for rural people.
Ocean Blue: Soneva Fushi
The 62-villa Soneva Fushi, a carbon-neutral resort in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, honors the environment through its state-of-the-art Eco Centro Wasteto-Wealth program, which recycles 90 percent of the resort’s waste. The Soneva Ocean Stewards program teaches local children to swim and how to protect the ocean.
A Ranch with Conscience: Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve
Vermejo, A Ted Turner Reserve resort lives and breathes Turner’s conservation mantra: “Save everything.” The 550,000-acre ranch in northern New Mexico has contributed to the repopulation of American bison and brought the area’s Rio Grande cutthroat trout back from the brink of extinction, while also supporting local communities and economies. – Keriann Ashley-Chase
Top Photo: Soneva Fushi