International Win for Island Cruise Operator

The winners of the 2011 Responsible Tourism Awards have been named, and Maple Leaf Adventures, a Victoria-based sailing expedition cruise operator, has taken one of the top three spots in the category of tourism in a marine environment.

The international awards, held Tuesday, Nov. 8, at the World Travel Market in London, are designed to celebrate and honour tour operators that preserve, respect, and benefit their destinations’ cultures, communities, and biodiversity, and, in the process, inspire positive change in the tourism industry.

With 13 categories to enter, ranging from best accommodation for the environment to best for poverty reduction, it was up to an expert panel of judges to determine this year’s 31 finalists and 13 winners from thousands of nominations.

“It’s an incredible honour for all of us here at Maple Leaf Adventures to be recognized for responsible tourism,” says president Kevin Smith. “Ever since Maple Leaf first set sail, it’s been important to set an example of tourism with a complete commitment to social and environmental sustainability. For example, we approached Coastal First Nations years ago to create economic protocol agreements that respect their culture, history, rights, and traditional title to territories we visit.”

{advertisement}Other mindful actions of Maple Leaf Adventures’ team include hosting naturalists and environmental researchers aboard voyages to teach guests about coastal and ocean ecosystems; donating one per cent of all cruise revenues to conservation projects through the organization 1% for the Planet; and co-founding the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of B.C. to establish, promote, and teach responsible bear-viewing practices.

In recent years, Maple Leaf Adventures has ranked as one of the Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth by editors of National Geographic Adventure, had a trip named one of the “50 Tours of a Lifetime” by National Geographic Traveler, and was listed as a Best Travel Experience and a Trip of a Lifetime by Frommer’s.

Since its foundation in 2004, the Responsible Tourism Awards have attracted more than 10,000 nominations by members of the public, leading to 201 unique organizations from 51 countries around the world being recognized.