With $7 trillion in revenues expected this year, the travel industry has that kind of muscle—and with it, a responsibility to give back. Just imagine: If every travel company decided to go green, to support local schools, and to invest in clean water, what a difference they could make. This year, we have broadened our thirteenth annual ecotourism awards to include international hotel chains and to recognize outstanding initiatives in five areas: education, health, poverty relief, cultural and environmental preservation, and wildlife conservation. The hotels, tour operators, and destinations on these pages are the best of this year's 71 applicants. They have been scrutinized by our editors and judged by a panel of experts, who rated each on its environmental initiatives and community work. The next page reveals our overall winners and their scores, and those that follow highlight commendable programs being carried out by these pioneers. Think about them the next time you book a trip. You too, through your travel decisions, can help change the world.
Adam Aron, Chairman and CEO, World Leisure Partners (former chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts)
Ralf Buckley, Professor and Director, International Centre for Ecotourism Research, Griffith University, Australia
Mark Conroy, President, Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Louis D'Amore, Founder and President, International Institute of Peace Through Tourism
Marcia Gay Harden, Environmentalist, Oscar-winning actress
Martha Honey, Executive Director, Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development
Sven Lindblad, President and CEO, Lindblad Expeditions
Ron Mader, Director, Planeta.com
Nell Newman, Co-Founder and President, Newman's Own Organics
Shannon Stowell, President, Adventure Travel Trade Association
The fundamental challenge of travel is letting the world in while preserving what's uniquely local—from pristine ecosystems to indigenous cultures.
What happens when a naturalist guide founds a cruise line? He goes carbon-neutral. Todd Smith started out leading kayak expeditions in Alaska. When he began running small-ship cruises, he brought the great outdoors to mainstream travelers—but at a cost to the environment. So last year his company, AdventureSmith, kicked off its Carbon-Free Cruising program, which offsets the carbon emitted by each trip through Sustainable Travel International's MyClimate program—at no extra cost to the traveler. AdventureSmith has donated $10,000 and expects to contribute twice that amount this year. Smith realizes that carbon offsetting isn't a long-term solution to the planet's energy crisis, though, so he's retrofitted one ship to run on biodiesel and has called on the entire industry to follow his lead.