Here’s the bottom line – awards offer a great incentive which encourages good practices and helps develop communication about critical topics. That said, awards can be manipulated or simply developed in a way that does not promote in-depth dialogue.
What we’d like to see: more surveys/investigations of awards.
We like to see awards that have encourage public and real-time interaction among nominees and their supporters AND among nominees. We’d like to see announcements and short lists go live in a timely manner and for final announcements to be made prior to the ceremonies. Unlike the Oscars, Emmys and other entertainment awards, tourism and conservation awards don’t need the drama. That said, we love to see the ceremonies online the Web. More live streaming please!
Few people receive or give or an award that is not ‘prestigious.’ Awards play a critical role in establishing a positive reputation for products and services.
One factor that distinguishes the awards conducted on Planeta.com: the awards are not just a one off announcement. We use every tool — the website, twitter, wiki, flickr and face-to-face conversations — to talk up the positives.
What’s interesting is that awards tend to certify the recipient and the donor. ‘How green is that lodge? It won x-award.’ ‘How green is that organization? It gives the x-award.’ How ‘green’ are the green tourism awards? It depends who you ask!
Acknowledging good practices in tourism is still evolving. Leaders who attempt to work in an ethical and ecological fashion do so not necessarily for the recognition, but appreciate the kudos given by their peers.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating award programs. Some request applicants nominate themselves. Others seek out leaders and award them for their accomplishments. Some programs provide a financial incentive to the winner. Others ask that the ‘winners’ pay for their prize.
Participating in awards is one way in which nominees can share experiences and grow their field.
Critics point out that some award programs choose the winner based on whether or not the winner is attending a particular trade event or conference.
Here are some true stories from first-hand experiences as a judge, recipient and grantor.
In 2001 Conde Nast Traveler (CNT) asked me to be a judge for their annual ecotourism award (as of 2007 the World Savers Awards). It has been a positive experience seeing how the award has become more demanding and competitive.
Tour operators, destinations and hotels nominate themselves by completing a six-page application. CNT then sorts through the nominees and delivers pertinent information on the finalists to the judges. As judges, we receive detailed information including the original application, but have no opportunity to visit the sites first-hand.
Having served as a judge for various eco-related award programs over the past few years, my impression of this particular process was mostly positive. I believe that the award-winning establishments had done enough to deserve the Conde Nast kudos and that CNT is to be commended for their coverage and handling of tourism. What was missing was transparency during the longlist period. There was no way to listen to seek out other viewpoints on the merits or faults of the nominees.
Some background, I have won numerous awards for my work and in particular for the Planeta website. The most recent was the 2010 Innovation Award from the International Ecotourism Society. What I liked was that the organizers posted the nominees and then the short list in real-time. On top of this the announcement was made several weeks prior to the ceremony. This is key in generating some ‘buzz’ before attending a conference.
Other awards I’ve received include Mexico’s Silver Lens (Lente de Plata)
Colibri Ecotourism Award: In 2000 Canyon Travel President Emilio Kifuri surprised me with the good news that he wanted to give me a sizeable fund to disburse to worthy pioneers of ecotourism in Mexico. In 2010 there was no financial support, but the award continued. For background, consult the short history of the Colibri Award.
ITBW: Planeta.com and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity are collaborating to showcase good practices in web-based technologies helping indigenous people manage tourism in a biodiversity-friendly way. Indigenous tourism websites that promote sustainable practices and educate visitors on cultural protocols and biodiversity conservation are eligible to win the Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award.
Ecotourism Spotlight Award: Government websites that spotlight ecotourism and sustainable travel were eligible to win Planeta.com’s Ecotourism Spotlight Award. The award is currently suspended (2010) until financing and institutional support can be found to make this more effective.