Virtuoso Traveler 2018 August 2018 Sustainable Tourism Leadership Awards

2018 Sustainable Tourism Leadership Awards

A leader in the field: Singita Grumeti funds a local farmers’ co-op in Tanzania.
A leader in the field: Singita Grumeti funds a local farmers’ co-op in Tanzania.
Photo by Karin Schermbrucker
Sustainable travel has gone from trend to transformative movement, and the list of innovators within the Virtuoso network helping advance this cause runs long and deep. Wilderness Safaris, for example, commenced operations in 1983 with a mission of conservation through tourism, and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts was the first hospitality company in North America to establish green operations, as far back as 1990.

Today, the Virtuoso Sustainable Tourism Leadership Awards, now in its eighth year, recognizes companies that are committed to travel that is environmentally friendly, protects cultural heritage, and contributes to the well-being of local people. “It’s incredibly inspiring to see what Virtuoso partners, large and small, are doing to make the world a better place,” says Sue Kasmar, a Santa Barbara-based Virtuoso agency owner and one of eight travel-advisor judges who helped narrow this year’s 150 award entries down to five nominees in each of two categories: Hotels and Tour Operators. We’ll announce the winners for each category in mid-August at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas and on In the meantime, here are the ten finalists.


Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, Australia
This resort in the Greater Blue Mountains has restored natural habitat for rare wildlife and planted more than 200,000 indigenous trees.

Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, Maldives
Four Seasons’ Reefscapers project helps regenerate coral damaged by climate change. In addition, the coral-growing frames are locally produced, providing small-business development.

Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
Located in a former logging area, Mashpi works to rehabilitate biodiversity-rich cloud forest; its efforts have led to the recent discovery of two new species: the Mashpi torenteer frog and Mashpi magnolia.

Singita Grumeti -- Sabora Tented Camp, Tanzania
Singita Grumeti’s community efforts include funding a farmers’ cooperative, training game scouts to reduce poaching (the lodge is adjacent to Serengeti National Park), and establishing a culinary school for locals.

Six Senses Douro Valley, Portugal
Six Senses’ on-site Earth Lab teaches guests about conservation, and its cork exchange program collects used wine corks and trades them for tree saplings used in reforestation.

Tour Operators

EXO Travel
As part of its efforts to eliminate single-use plastics, EXO gives its guests reusable bottles and refills them with safe, clean water from in-vehicle water bags.

Lindblad Expeditions
Lindblad’s environmentally friendly practices include serving sustainable seafood. It also supports conservation and research in fragile destinations such as the Galápagos Islands.

Royal Caribbean International
This cruise line partners with the World Wildlife Fund to educate guests on marine conservation, and its environmental officers focus on water conservation and recycling.

Swiss Travel
Based in Costa Rica, this company sets annual targets for reducing energy and water use and tracks progress toward sustainability goals through a “Smart Flow” system.

This China-based tour provider’s program to actively support artisanal cultural heritage includes establishing a pop-up bazaar in Beijing that showcases traditional crafts from all over the country.

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