Magazine article Geographical

Walking Tall: British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards

Magazine article Geographical

Walking Tall: British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards

Article excerpt

An Oxford-based walking company was one of five category winners in this year's prestigious British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. ATG is an independent tour operator that specialises in walking holidays and takes 7,000 people on small-group or individual holidays each year it gives ten per cent of its pre-tax profits to a trust to fund conservation and heritage-preservation projects in the destinations it visits.

Director Christopher Whinney said: "We never really looked rot recognition. Last year, one of our staff put in for the top US award for environmental tourism, the National Geographic-Conservation International World Legacy Award for Heritage Tourism, which we won. So we tried again and won the AITO Award for Responsible Tourism. Now we've won a BA Tourism for tomorrow Award We've been slightly surprised by this 'clean sweep',"

The company was founded on the principles of environmental conservation and sustainability in 1979, long before these concepts became fashionable. It was recognised by BA for its comprehensive environmental policy; its support of local economies (65 per cent of revenue is spent in destination communities); its use of locally produced, ecologically friendly foodstuffs and products; and its investment in its suppliers' hotels, which has ensured their survival by raising standards. At home, ATG runs one-day fundraising treks fur projects to preserve local heritage.

"ATG cannot lay claim to any glamorous high profile projects in exotic locations," said the company's application for the award "ATG's objectives, possibly too mundane to be considered for an award, are simply to work towards ensuring environmental 'best practice' throughout every aspect of the organisation's activities."

Relying only on personal recommendations and no advertising, the company saw an 85 per cent increase in sales between 1996 and 2002 "ATG has demonstrated that 'giving something back'works," said Whinney.

Walking among the treetops

The other winners in this year's awards included Costa Rica's Finca Rosa Blanca Country Inn--the only hotel in Central America with five 'green leaves' from Certification of Sustainability in Tourism--Bunaken National Marine Park in Indonesia, and Australian forest canopy attraction the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, which won the award for best environmental experience

The 600-metre walkway, which was the world's highest and longest when it opened in 1996, has invigorated the economy of nearby Walpole, a coastal village on Australia's southwest tip. …

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