10 November 2009, London THE WINNERS of the UK travel trade’s most prestigious new tourism project awards were announced at the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Annual Gala Awards Dinner in London on November 8 on the eve of the World Travel Market.
The event is the UK’s premier occasion for the travel industry to recognise the world's most innovative and newest tourism projects following nominations from members of the Guild, the premier professional association for bonafide journalists, editors, photographers, and radio and film broadcasters working in the travel field from Britain.
The Guild Tourism Awards – presented for successful and environmentally sustainable projects that benefit local communities – are highly coveted.
The evening was attended by more than 300 of the UK’s top travel media professionals as well as high-profile representatives of the international travel world. It was sponsored by the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Elite Island Resorts and Virgin Holidays and guests enjoyed a rum punch/champagne reception, a gourmet Caribbean menu and a steel band from Antigua at the reception. The keynote speech was made by Antigua and Barbuda's Minister of Tourism John Maginley, with a presentation GMTV’s Jenni Falconer, and hosted by TV travel presenter Alison Rice and BBC Radio 4 Travellers’ Tree producer David Prest.
The winner of the Globe Category (receiving more than 250,000 visitors a year), nominated by Anthony Lambert, was Switzerland Mobility (www.switzerlandmobility.ch), a new car-free transport trail that allows visitors to bike, canoe, hike or skate through thousands of kilometres of Switzerland's most beautiful scenery. “It is the essence of sustainable tourism, using the lowest impact modes of transport, encouraging tourism in undeservedly neglected parts of the country, helping small businesses and spreading the economic benefits of tourism,” said Anthony.
Switzerland Mobility is the largest national network of non-motorised routes ever created: 20,000km of itineraries have been devised, all marked with standardised colour-coded signposting and a single point-of-contact booking service that covers accommodation, luggage transfer, equipment rental and discounted use of public transport. The network covers every canton in Switzerland and spreads the benefits of tourism, using 1,100 mostly family-run smaller hotels, B&Bs and even haylofts as staging posts geared to the needs of walkers, cyclists, etc.
Part of the genius of the concept is the website (www.switzerlandmobility.info) – a model of intelligent design to help you choose the right itinerary for your level of fitness, interests and time available. It includes gradient charts and maps showing the routes.
The winner of the New Overseas Tourism Project category, nominated by Hilary Bradt, was conCERT Cambodia, Connecting Communities, Environment & Responsible Tourism in Cambodia (www.concertcambodia.org), a one-stop information service NGO that allows tourists to volunteer or contribute to local projects of their choice during their travels in Cambodia. Hilary said Cambodia was a land of great beauty with huge problems where over half the population lived below the poverty line.
“There's no space here to describe some of the heart-warming stories of how ConCERT has enabled ordinary tourists to have the gratification of being able to help the people or wildlife of Cambodia,” she said. “But here's one example: a British couple who planned to stay in Siem Reap for four days before travelling on to Thailand for four weeks came into the office asking ‘how they could be useful? They were introduced them to a local orphanage and they ended up staying five weeks; they never made it to Thailand.”
The winner of the UK New Tourism Project was Down House (www.english-heritage.org.uk), the former country home in Kent of Charles Darwin revamped by English Heritage to include a brand new exhibition celebrating the 200th anniversay of the scientist's birth and the 150th anniversary of his book, On The Origin of Species.
It was nominated by Gillian Thorton who said: “Conservation work has refreshed the ground-floor family rooms but the big new attraction is the handheld video guides which provide film clips, specialist information and games. Sir David Attenborough 'guides' visitors through the house and Andrew Marr through the extensive gardens - Darwin's 'outdoor laboratory' - where several experiments have been recreated.”
Visitor estimates for this year were doubled to 50,000 but by August had been revised again to 70,000. Down House is also the UK's 2009 nomination for World Heritage Site status.
• Globe category runners up:
• California Academy of Sciences, nominated by Mary Moore Mason: www.calacademy.org
• Hermitage Amsterdam, The Netherlands, nominated by Natasha Blair: www.hermitage.nl/
• Overseas category runners up:
• Al-Ayoun Trail, Jordan, nominated by Matthew Teller: www.abrahampath.org/jordan.php
• Magritte Museum, Belgium, nominated by Diana Bentley: www.musee-magritte-museum.be
• UK category runners up:
• Agatha Christie at Greenway, nominated by Roger Macdonald: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway/
• The Saatchi Gallery, nominated by Paul Wade: www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk