"Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal."
- Edward O. Wilson
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2013 Ecotourism Awards

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Congratulations Everyone!

The Ancient Forest Foundation (AFF) celebrates the efforts of the global eco-tourism industry in promoting forest conservation through our inaugural 2013 awards. We have recognized regional leaders in conservation tourism which offer inspirational travel experiences.

Ecotourism tourism has been on an exciting trajectory which reaffirms the values of social responsibility. Safari tourism in Indian and Africa began the trend prior to today's broader awareness of conservation issues. Conservation tourism in the tropical rainforests gained momentum since in the early 90's. Birding, reptile and primate watching are signature activities for nature lovers to explore their rainforest surroundings. Canopyways and ziplines have also created novel forms of tourism adventure. Such travel experiences have helped to foster awareness of the incredible biodiversity of tropical rainforests.

Boy and 400 year old ceiba credit: Robert Oelman Photography

Many realize that the planet's web of life-sustaining systems is under intense pressure. Achieving the potential for conservation tourism will be important for our children's future. Tourism aids the developed world in building positive relationships with indigenous cultures especially in tropical locations. Well managed wildlife lodges run in partnership or even managed by indigenous people can offer a sustainable, culturally congruent and profitable livelihood in their new economic reality. Without such opportunities, these people are often left with no choice but to destroy their forest for short term profit because there are no other alternatives to make money in those areas.

Rapid deforestation of tropical rainforests is now a factor in climate instability on a global scale. Economic development has all too often occurred at the expense of primary forests. Temperate forests and dry forests are even more threatened in some cases. Little primeval forest exists in temperate regions today. Fuelwood consumption and agriculture are having a large impact on what remains of dry forests.

Since international cooperation on protecting forest biodiversity has recently improved, it seems rather appropriate to recognize the value of all forest ecosystems. The UN's formal declaration of 2011 as 'International Year of Forests' recognized the importance of conserving forest biodiversity. REDD has also established a direct funding mechanism for protecting 'forest carbon'.

Our nominations of wilderness ecolodges aim to best represent conservation tourism in terms of:

  • service and the overall quality of visitor experience,
  • engagement with and tangible benefits to local communities and/or indigenous peoples,
  • sustainability of the operation and leveraged local and regional conservation successes.

The 2013 inaugural awards recognize leaders of the travel industry as well as recognizing newcomers. We would like to acknowledge previous research by National Geographic and the Rainforest Alliance in addition to our team's efforts in the candidate selection process. We hope that our awards program will facilitate growth in socially and environmentally responsible eco-tourism operations as a means to increase both regional economic prosperity and justice for forests peoples and overall conservation success in these places.