Regenerative Travel 2023 Impact Awards – Winners

Written byAmanda Ho | Regenerative Travel

The Impact Awards celebrate people and projects that embody the spirit of regeneration—improving people’s lives, our communities, and the world around us. We have searched the globe for inspiring change makers who work to solve our biggest challenges and had inspired positive action, both inside and outside of travel.

Our judging panel was selected based on their exceptional expertise, achievements, and diverse backgrounds. With their collective knowledge in marine ecology, social entrepreneurship, travel journalism, sustainability, visual storytelling, tourism policy, hospitality, and impact investing, the judging panel had been well equipped to identify innovative ideas that had the potential to advance regenerative travel.

Our judges included: Angelique Brathwaite, director of science & Co-Founder at Blue Finance, Kathleen Rellihan, travel journalist & editor, Veronica Chou, impact investor, Kelley Louise, founder of Impact Travel Alliance, Sophia Li, journalist & climate optimist, Mukul Bhatia, visual storyteller, Paul Rodgers, Co-Founder & director at Planet Happiness and Harsha L’Acqua, Saira Hospitality.

Our shortlist was determined by the following criteria: 

1. Alignment with Category: Assessing the extent to which the project aligns with the designated category

2. Regenerative Travel and Principles Alignment: Evaluating the strength of the entry’s connection to both regenerative travel and regenerative principles

3. Significant and Verifiable Contributions to Social and Environmental Impact: Examining how effectively the entry makes a compelling case for its substantial and measurable contributions to social and environmental impact

Without further ado, the winners of the Impact Awards 2023 are as follows:

Regenerative Hotel of the Year: Emboo River Camp – Kenya

Emboo River Camp stands out as a prime example of regenerative travel, displaying an unwavering commitment to bettering the world through significant impacts on environmental and social fronts. Rooted in a mission of cultivating a harmonious coexistence between humanity and the planet, the camp ignites transformation and hope. Innovating with silent, solar-powered safaris and championing local communities, especially women’s empowerment, they elevate guest experiences while sharing their achievements to highlight the feasibility of sustainability.

Earning a B Corp certification, Emboo River Camp takes the lead in regenerative travel with stringent sustainability benchmarks. They demonstrate carbon-neutral operations through solar-powered safari vehicles, reducing emissions and noise pollution during game drives for eco-friendly and serene experiences. Their dedication extends to reforestation, advanced water management, Farm to Fork meals utilizing biogas from organic waste, and sustainable farming practices. Collaborating profoundly with the Maasai community, they generate economic opportunities, education support, and cross-cultural exchange. Their commitment to women’s empowerment in wildlife conservation and community leadership promotes inclusivity and equality. Through environmental and social regeneration woven into every operation, Emboo River Camp emerges as a powerful contender for the Impact Awards, inspiring a luminous, sustainable future for the entire travel industry.

Finalists: Manta Resort, Basata Eco Logde, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort and Fogo Island Inn.

Agency of the Year: Futurismo – Portugal

Futurismo is a transformative initiative embodying regenerative tourism principles that have significantly impacted the Azores for over three decades. Rooted in a profound commitment to environmental and social betterment, Futurismo stands as more than a family-owned enterprise; it is a visionary force shaping the Azores’ tourism landscape. Futurismo’s journey begins with a resolute dedication to responsible tourism in the ecologically diverse Azores. Their regenerative ethos revolves around stewardship and preserving Açorianidade, the region’s heritage and culture, inspiring collective guardianship within the local community. This commitment fuels sustainable land use, ensuring the Azores’ longevity as a cherished destination.

Their distinctive commitment to scientific exploration and learning has resulted in an extensive database and significant advancements in cetacean research. Since 2008, they’ve diligently amassed over 15,000 records of cetacean sightings, accompanied by identification photos, forming comprehensive catalogs for 11 species. Complementing this, they’ve collected an additional 15,000 land-based observations, generously shared with global institutions, cultivating collaborative scientific initiatives in the Atlantic region. Their scientific dedication has yielded remarkable outcomes, influencing numerous theses and 11 comprehensive studies published in esteemed journals, spanning habitat, distribution, social dynamics, and rare occurrences of cetaceans. This impact extends to 30 scientific posters at national and international conferences, propelling scientific dialogue. 

Finalists: Landsby, Authenteco Travel, Rebecca Adventure Travel and Indagare.

Regenerative Travel Initiative of the Year: Chumbe Island – Tanzania

Chumbe Island, a pioneering holistic ecotourism, conservation, and environmental education project, marks its 25th ecotourism anniversary this year. Located off Zanzibar’s Unguja coast, this private island is stewarded by the not-for-profit enterprise Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP). It established the world’s first privately managed marine protected area fully financed through ecotourism, fostering environmental education and supporting local communities. With a strict daily visitor cap of 18 and educational components integrated into guided activities, such as snorkel tours in the Coral Reef Sanctuary and forest walks in the Forest Reserve, the environmental impact of tourism is minimized. Guests leave the island enriched, having gained knowledge about marine conservation, sustainable development, and eco architecture, and participating in citizen science projects for marine data collection.

Chumbe Island is dedicated to sustainable tourism advocacy and has recently intensified efforts in 2022, including a partnership with the Zanzibar Commission for Tourism and involvement in the Zanzibar Declaration on Sustainable Tourism. Conservation initiatives, aligned with the Chumbe Management Plan, continue, such as the Chumbe Big Five citizen science project. This encourages visitors to participate in reporting and monitoring reef sharks, stingrays, turtles, brown-marbled grouper, and dolphins, contributing valuable data for the Conservation and Education Status Report. Chumbe Island’s commitment to conservation and education is unwavering, as showcased by its achievements in reef health, surveillance, data sharing, and environmental education trips.

Finalists: Oceanic Global, Tourism Cares, Exodus Travels and Indagare Impact.

Regenerative Storyteller of the Year: GLP Films

For over 15 years, GLP Films (GLP) has harnessed the storytelling potential of video to advance the sustainability, regenerative, and stewardship goals of destinations. Their mission revolves around using the art of storytelling and content marketing to support destinations in achieving sustainability goals that protect nature, communities, and culture. GLP’s Founder and Chief Strategist, Rob Holmes, underscored the company’s recommitment to sustainability and its role in aiding the industry’s recovery and growth.

GLP’s global campaigns also exemplify its commitment to sustainability. Collaborations with destinations like Visit Sedona and the Azores have showcased responsible travel practices and positioned the Azores as a premier sustainable and regenerative European travel destination. By highlighting local champions, GLP Films captures the resilient spirit and commitment of communities working towards a more sustainable future. Through video storytelling, GLP Films continues to shape a more sustainable and resilient future for the tourism industry.

Finalists: The Centre for GOOD Travel, Mary Holland, Travis Levius and The Food Principle.

Regenerative Change Maker of the Year: Julie Cheetham

Julie Cheetham, the visionary Founder and Managing Director of Weeva and Head of Sustainability at Nianova Advisors, is a dedicated leader driving regenerative travel forward. Her resolute commitment reflects her pursuit of lasting industry transformation. Despite hospitality and tourism being vital for the global economy, their substantial environmental impact, contributing up to 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, necessitates more than carbon offsetting to align with ambitious climate goals. Weeva, a pioneering Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, emerged from Julie’s efforts, providing travel businesses with affordable, data-driven sustainability practices that catalyze profound change.

Weeva’s innovative 360° Framework embodies holistic sustainability assessment rooted in The Long Run 4C’s – Conservation, Commerce, Culture, and Community. By tracking and managing 18 interconnected parameters, it addresses the multifaceted dimensions of sustainability. Julie and co-founder Lindsey Walter believe in integrating social aspects with environmental efforts, fostering a culture of sustainability within organizations. Weeva’s role extends beyond data handling, serving as an educational conduit that empowers teams. Julie’s leadership not only enhances business impact but also nurtures future change agents. Concurrently, in her capacity as Head of Sustainability at Nianova Advisors, she leverages her expertise to cultivate sustainable enterprises across Africa and beyond.

Finalists: Aziza Mbwana, Jamal Galvez, Robyn Woodhead and Beks Ndlovu.

Regenerative Design: Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape

An embodiment of a “no walls, no doors” concept spanning its 16 luxurious balés (villas), the adult-exclusive Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape, beckons guests to embrace a transformative way of existence. The core of the resort showcases the Open Kitchen and Living Room, designed to foster a communal ambiance for dining and relaxation. An innovative zero-waste farm-to-table approach, deeply rooted in local sourcing and heritage techniques, permeates the dining experience.

Buahan celebrates unconventional craftsmanship, embracing sonic branding in partnership with Singapore’s Parable, while showcasing repurposed Ulin ‘iron’ wood from boat jetties, intricately carved wooden headboards, hand-forged copper bathtubs, and naturally dyed soft furnishings. The resort’s idyllic setting amid rice paddies and lush jungle, flanked by the Ayung River and waterfall, offers a serene backdrop. Buahan’s expansive balés intertwine indoor and outdoor living, granting a 180-degree panoramic vista while presenting the bold concept of ‘The Naked Experience,’ where the thin boundary between guests and nature dissolves. Hidden within the landscape, secret Hideaway Spots invite guests to rekindle their connection with nature, providing private garden sanctuaries for contemplation, reading, and moments of serene reflection.

Finalists: andBeyond Punakha River Lodge, Tiskmoudine, Jade Mountain Resort and Ngalung Kalla.

Regenerative Travel Experience: Manta Resort – Pemba Coral Reef Safari

Manta Resort in Tanzania launches its new Pemba Coral Reef Safari—an unparalleled scuba diving experience. Teaming up with Ecotraining, a guide training organization, Manta Resort offers a unique 28-day course tailored for marine environments. Guides gain specialized underwater techniques and learn to interpret Pemba’s marine life. The resort ensures top-quality training, augmented by full-face masks with microphones for real-time commentary. Divers wear specialized earpieces for a truly immersive encounter.

This journey seamlessly blends terrestrial safaris with marine exploration, providing guided encounters with marine life. Limited to two divers, the safari guarantees an intimate experience. Trained guides lead each dive, having completed a specialist course in underwater guiding and marine life interpretation. Manta Pemba Island partners with BlueRise and supports the Kwanini Foundation, aiding local community development and marine protection. Booking a Pemba Coral Reef Safari not only promises remarkable diving but also contributes to positive social and environmental impacts. Each booking directly allocates $35 to the Kwanini Foundation.

Finalists: Astrostays, Kind Human, Ubah Rumah and Six Senses Zighy Bay.

Health and Wellness: Woods At Sasan

Woods At Sasan, a pioneering retreat, embodies a dedication to regenerative principles that shape its core values of environmental stewardship and societal advancement. Its firm commitment to enhancing the environment finds tangible expression in an expansive permaculture-based food forest sprawling across 8 acres. This haven of fruit-bearing trees, vibrant berries, and nourishing vegetable gardens stands as a testament to the retreat’s mission to reduce carbon footprint, invigorate local sourcing, and drive afforestation. It not only serves as a living illustration of carbon-neutral practices but also sets a profound example for sustainable models.

At Woods At Sasan, SOM represents an enclave of ayurveda, yoga, and inner well-being. Drawing inspiration from timeless Indian traditions of holistic living, SOM provides a gateway to achieving unity of the mind, body, and spirit. Its array of treatments encompasses Ayurveda, naturopathy, acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. Vanaushadhi, derived from ‘medicines from the forest,’ integrates aromatic herbs, healing plants, and freshly powdered herbal leaves, along with oil extracts cultivated from the resort’s edible garden. Under SOM’s care, the path to well-being commences with an insightful consultation, paving the way for a selection of treatments aligned with individual health aspirations.

Finalists: The Rockhouse Hotel, Future Found Sanctuary,  Bliss & Stars and The Datai Langkawi.

 Community: Wolwedans

Founded in 1995 by Albi Brückner and his son Stephan, Wolwedans has evolved from four igloo tents into a visionary venture. Presently led by Stephan, Wolwedans comprises five distinctive tourism properties, a dynamic Foundation, and the Desert Academy, all encapsulated by a visionary narrative known as “The AridEden Project.” This ambitious framework, represented by Matrix |25, underscores Wolwedans’ commitment to sustainability across five dimensions: Commerce, Conservation, Community, Culture, and Consciousness.

Central to Wolwedans’ ethos is its prioritization of people. This ethos is manifested in vocational training initiatives, desert-centric economic projects, and inculcating a values-driven ethos among its personnel. By nurturing personal growth and providing avenues for advancement, Wolwedans aims to create a ripple effect of positivity, enhancing local communities and setting a global benchmark. Wolwedans addresses societal upliftment through active community engagement. Fostering equitable working conditions, fostering positive local relationships, supporting social initiatives, promoting social responsibility, and bolstering small and medium enterprises are among its primary endeavors. Wolwedans aspires to elevate the quality of life within the community, underscoring its unwavering belief in the fundamental right to basic needs fulfillment and the enhancement of overall well-being.

Finalists: Kasbah du Toubkal, The Time and Tide Foundation, The Manta Resort and Woods At Sasan.

Conservation: Song Saa Foundation

The Song Saa Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 2013 to protect the habitats of the Koh Rong Archipelago and improve the welfare of its communities. Song Saa’s accolades include Cambodia’s inaugural marine protected area, a significant marine park in Southeast Asia. The Boat of Hope initiative delivers crucial resources to remote communities, and their Waste Management Initiative combats ocean waste while empowering locals. Coral Restoration and Community Development initiatives nurture biodiversity and local stewardship. Melita’s approach respects each environment’s uniqueness, generating a co-creative model that harmonizes with existing systems for ongoing regeneration and conservation.

In the past year, the Song Saa Foundation expanded its impact, launching the Rainforest Protection project amidst the pandemic, safeguarding Cambodia’s threatened rainforests. Their marine conservation efforts led to the discovery of new coral species and the planting of over 2,000 coral fragments. The Foundation’s education program has integrated environmental education, fostering local conservation understanding and stewardship. A recent food sourcing project enhances sustainability, aligning with Song Saa’s commitment to environmental and social regeneration in Cambodia.

Finalists: Within the Wild, The Marine Innovation Center, &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and Explora.

Food and Agriculture: Wild Food Adventures

Wild Food Adventures (WFA) offer unique travel experiences that blend local ingredients, regional history, and stunning natural landscapes in Armenia. These immersive meals, set in picturesque settings, contribute to local conservation efforts while reviving forgotten recipes and showcasing seasonal ingredients. Through partnerships with local experts, WFA curates menus, trains hosts, and fosters storytelling to promote cultural exchange. As part of ONEArmenia’s experiential travel startup, WFA aims to uplift rural communities by providing training in cooking, hospitality, customer service, and environmental protection. By showcasing Armenia’s natural beauty, preserving culinary heritage, and improving tourism standards, WFA aligns with changing international tourism trends towards authentic local experiences while fostering equitable tourism development and sustainability.

In the evolving landscape of international tourism, Wild Food Adventures (WFA) stands as a distinctive initiative in Armenia. These immersive travel experiences celebrate local ingredients and history amidst the country’s natural beauty, aligning with changing trends favoring authentic and rural cultural interactions. Through partnerships with local experts, WFA not only showcases Armenian cuisine but also empowers rural communities by providing training and skills in various aspects of tourism. By promoting conservation, culinary heritage, equitable tourism development, and sustainability, WFA contributes to Armenia’s tourism sector’s growth while nurturing the well-being of local communities and their environment.

Finalists: Le Crocodile/Billion Oyster Project, Sagra, Vegan Travel Asia and Pocono Organics.

Education: African Bush Camps Foundation 

In 2006, the African Bush Camps Foundation was established as a testament to ABC’s dedication to community collaboration and conservation excellence. This visionary foundation works closely with communities near ABC camps in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana, aiming to enhance lives and establish sustainable conservation through education, community empowerment, and environmental stewardship. Addressing challenges like unemployment, food scarcity, inadequate infrastructure, wildlife poaching, and resource preservation, the foundation’s collective efforts resonate across the region.

A standout initiative within this framework is the Female Guides program, launched in November 2021. Breaking gender norms in a region where most safari guides are male, this program empowers women with comprehensive training. Spanning two years, it offers theory, practical instruction, and immersive on-the-job training within ABC camps, in partnership with the African Guiding Academy. This intensive preparation equips women to become proficient safari guides, fostering confidence and expertise in wildlife, conservation, photography, communication, and more. The program’s emergence of female leaders reshapes traditional norms, embodying transformation, empowerment, and a new era of equality and conservation consciousness in the safari domain.

Finalists: Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust, Fernweh Fair Travel, The Maldives Underwater Initiative and Audley Travel.

Climate Innovation: CalWave

CalWave is driven by a mission to revolutionize sustainable energy access through reliable and cost-effective ocean wave technologies. Their cutting-edge proprietary wave energy converter technology not only achieves exceptional performance but also demonstrates resilience in the face of storms and extreme conditions, making it an indispensable contender in the renewable energy landscape. Ocean waves harbor unparalleled potential as a renewable energy source, offering consistency, predictability, and up to 20-60 times greater energy density compared to other forms of renewable energy. CalWave’s patented technology transforms this immense energy into electricity, empowering coastal communities with clean, dependable, and economically viable power solutions. By harnessing the inexhaustible motion of the oceans, CalWave is dedicated to safeguarding the environment and the well-being of future generations.

As waves encounter CalWave’s wave energy converter devices, innovative technology comes into play. These devices are designed to harness wave energy in a variety of ways, with different motion patterns and characteristics optimized to extract maximum energy. Through the Wave Energy Prize competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, CalWave’s xWave device stood out and received recognition for its potential. The process culminates in transforming the kinetic energy of waves into usable electricity. The converted energy is then transmitted via cables to the grid or other applications, powering coastal communities and businesses. CalWave envisions a future where wave energy supports thousands of jobs, meets significant portions of electricity demand, and addresses critical water needs for vulnerable populations. Through innovation and dedication, CalWave is at the forefront of advancing the clean energy revolution.

Finalists: AKUA, Navier, Weeva and AIR COMPANY.

View all of our categories and shortlisted finalists.

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