15th UNWTO Awards


Held during the 23rd Session of the UNWTO General Assembly, the 15th edition of the UNWTO Awards aimed to celebrate the very best examples of tangible and sustainable improvements in policy, processes, and governance. Alongside cities and regional authorities, NGOs and private sector enterprises are also welcome to be considered for an award.

For this latest round of awards, initiatives from Canada, Colombia, India, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Philippines made it to through to the final shortlist. A jury committee made up of eight tourism experts from the public sector, private companies and universities, announced the winners of the UNWTO Awards.

General Assembly - UNWTO Awards Ceremony

(click on the album above for more photos of the UNWTO Awards Ceremony)


And the winners are....



WINNER: “Love San Sebastian, Live Donostia” (San Sebastian Turismoa, Spain)

Love San Sebastián, Live Donostia project is a reflection of the change in priorities in the city’s agenda when it comes to the management and publicity of this destination, as laid out in the Tourism Master Plan 2017-2021.

This Master Plan places people at the center of the sustainable development model for tourism in Donostia San Sebastián and is executed through the following working lines: the balanced incorporation of tourism into city’s urban fabric, economy and society, the consolidation of the Donostia San Sebastián brand, inspired in the tradition of tourism, authenticity, cultural identity, hospitality, and the human factor. 

In this sense, Love San Sebastián. Live Donostia is an example of public-private collaboration, and favors the complicity and understanding between the city and its visitors, and promotes the concept of tourismophilia (rather than tourismophobia) through a tourist experience that focuses on an open, welcoming and hospitable city, and responsible and respectful tourism.


FINALIST: "Tourism and Peace Programme" (Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Colombia)

The Tourism and Peace Program began in four territories; Camino Teyuna (Magdalena), Sierra de La Macarena (Meta) and the Urabá - Darién region (Chocó and Antioquia). Because of its impact, this program has been replicated in 111 new municipalities/destinations. The Tourism and Peace Program consists of prepare and consolidate a competitive offer, encouraging sustainable dynamics and governance schemes at the local, regional and national levels. Since 2014, it has benefited more than 2,600 people, associates 3,678 people and 595 families in tourism activities.  

The program is a pioneer in the sector, by linking successful tourism activity and peacebuilding through joint actions by the public and private alliances. It has developed new methods for tourism planning as "co-creation models", generating spaces for dialogue such as the "Committee on Tourism, Peace and Coexistence", the "Reincorporation of Tourism Board - Post-Conflict" and projects for cooperation and horizontal learning. Likewise, it is a pioneer defining reconciliation route to connect victims and victimizers in the tourism value chain.

Colombia is experiencing an exceptional moment, in which territories that had been stigmatized for years by the conflict are now emerge, due to the commitment of communities and companies that have believed in tourism as the best option to generate income and preserve cultural and natural heritage.


FINALIST: "Sustainability Whale Watching Charter" (Turismo de Tenerife, Spain)

The “Whale Watching Sustainability Charter” has been created by and for companies involved in this activity to foster sustainable and responsible tourism in a particularly sensitive marine environment, both in terms of the species that live there and the habitat itself. Up to 22 species of cetaceans can be seen in Tenerife, in addition to its resident colonies of bottlenose dolphins and short-finned pilot whales.

The Charter is the result of collaboration between the public authorities and the private sector. It has been operating since 2010 as the Quality Charter, becoming the Sustainability Charter in 2018. This is a voluntary commitment by the companies, who are evaluated annually. 

15 companies are currently signed up, representing 41% of all boats dedicated to whale watching on the island. The objective is for all of the boats involved to have signed up by 2022.



WINNER: "Community Impact by V Resorts” (V Resorts under the aegis of Bliss Inns Ltd, India)

With over 150 resorts spread across 22 Indian states, V Resorts is a micro-tourism focused hospitality management company, providing boutique stays in the leisure travel space. With resorts around offbeat and rural destinations of India, the company is deeply committed to working with local communities, growing micro-economies, and providing its guests rich and diverse experiences seeped in the local culture.  

With all properties employing 90% local staff, ensuring 100% local procurement, and also assimilating local culture, the company brings empowerment to local communities, especially women, thus, also facilitating the development of circular and inclusive economies.


FINALIST: "Fighting food waste at sea: 4GOODFOOD programme" (Costa Crociere, Italy)

Management of food-related issues is one of the most complex challenges for a cruise operator. Catering for millions of different people and dealing with all the associated implications requires a huge planning and organizational effort, especially considering the scheduling of procurement and the logistic complexity stemming from the specificity of the ship.

The food experience is a key part of the cruise experience; the relevant figures are staggering:  54 million meals a year are prepared on board Costa's fleet. As a global first for the cruise industry, Costa has designed and launched a far-reaching program, unparalleled in terms of scope and complexity, with the aim of halving food waste on board their ships by 2020, ten years ahead the 2030 Agenda: the 4GOODFOOD programme. The project tackles the food experience from preparation to post consumption waste management, with the aim of sensitizing passengers on responsible consumption. First year implementation performance shows significant results.


FINALIST: "Masungi Georeserve: Innovations for Conservation" (Masungi Georeserve FoundationPhilippines)

The Masungi Georeserve is a privately-managed conservation area 45 kilometers east of Metro Manila. It protects a 10-kilometer limestone spine and its unique biodiversity through innovations in conservation, education, and sustainable development.

After twenty years of conservation, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation opened in December of 2015 with innovative trail experiences featuring unique low-impact structures to sustain conservation efforts financially. In 2017, the Philippine Government expanded the conservation area from 400 hectares to 2,700 hectares, ensuring the legal protection of the land in perpetuity, the first of its kind in the Philippines.

Conservation efforts are now 100% financed by tourist visitation, winning a special commendation from the UNDP and IUCN for innovation in conservation financing and resourcing at the 2018 Pathfinder Awards and cited at the International Handbook for Geotourism as a global model.



WINNER: "Amuse Project" (Fundacion Once, Spain)

The AMUSE project is an innovative initiative that aims to turn museums and exhibition centers into inclusive smart environments where the needs and preferences of people with disabilities met.

It is an application, developed for Android and iOS operating systems, that provides access to the visual content of an exhibition, allowing visitors with disabilities to fully enjoy.

The application is based on Beepcons a smart beacons system developed by ILUNION Tecnología y Accesibilidad which connect to the user’s smartphone through Bluetooth. The Beepcons allow users to obtain information in an accessible format and to locate objects in their surroundings. In addition, users can use the app to carryout self-guided tours or participate in games organized by the museum or art center. This tool includes a content managing website to allow museum or art center personnel to add, customize and update the contents. 


FINALIST: "Embracing Our Potential" (Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Canada)

Thompson Okanagan Region in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada attracts more than 4 million visitors generating over $2.2 billion in direct revenue. Keen to maximize the benefits of its popularity, but likewise concerned to broaden its concentrated 45 day visitation window and protect its natural, cultural, social and economic heritage, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association in 2010 embarked on an 18-month process that ultimately led to the adoption of a 10-Year Regional Tourism Strategy “Embracing our Potential”. Drawn from the Strategy’s foundation on sustainability and responsible tourism development, the Region employed a management model that included inclusive operating practices and policies; experienced-based projects; innovative partnerships; certification and accreditation programs; and Big Data visitor measurement. The results of this focused multi-year approach include full community endorsement; expanded industry engagement; 3.5% annualized revenue growth; expanded peak visitation window to 110 days; and accreditation as the America’s First Biosphere Destination certifies through the Responsible Tourism Institute.


FINALIST: "Treadright Foundation Heritage Initiative" (Treadright Foundation, Switzerland)

The Treadright Foundation’s Heritage Initiative was developed to help support artisans globally. The initiative was developed in partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Alliance for Artisan Enterprise in 2014. To achieve its goals, it utilizes series of grants and capacity support to help artisans that engage in the creation of handmade and culturally significant products to get to market, reach scale and make returns. In all cases 100% of all returns goes to the artist, thereby helping to support the culture and local economy. The also helps to expose the work of artisans by bringing them in contact with travelers and helping to bring their work to market using ecommerce. At the core of the initiative is empowerment and supporting artisans to thrive, protect our heritage, support cultural integration, encourage sustainable tourism and provision of livelihood to disadvantaged groups especially women. Also, the integration of artisans into global commerce increases standard of living for hundreds of thousands of people around the world, thus helping to fight the issues of poverty and helping to address some of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).


Congratulations to all!


More information:

Press release (winners): http://www2.unwto.org/press-release/2019-09-10/unwto-awards-celebrate-best-accesible-and-sustainable-tourism 

Press release (announcement of finalists): http://www2.unwto.org/press-release/2018-12-21/finalists-15th-unwto-awards-announced 

15 UNWTO Awards Finalists: http://marketintelligence.unwto.org/content/15th-unwto-awards-finalists 

15 UNWTO Awards Jury Committee - http://marketintelligence.unwto.org/content/15-unwto-awards-jury-members