The Supreme Award at the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award was awarded to Whale Watch Kaikoura on 11 November, following on from the company being declared winners of the Marine Environment category. The awards have been running since 2004, and the award ceremony was held as part of World Responsible Tourism Day at the World Travel Market in London.
Whale Watch Kaikoura chief operating officer Kauahi Ngapoura said he was overwhelmed by the award, which saw the South Island-based operation edge out tourism giants including fellow finalists the City of Cape Town, Royal Caribbean Cruises and SeaFrance.
“I am honoured to accept the award on behalf of Whale Watch Kaikoura, and New Zealand. To be chosen as the best against the world’s leading responsible tourism operators is a humbling experience,” Mr Ngapoura said.
Whale Watch Kaikoura was one of 35 organisations shortlisted for honours and among hundreds throughout the world nominated for the prestigious awards; the Whale Watch entry prompted the following comments from the judges:
“Rarely do we see a tourism initiative developed from the ground up by a local community to such a successful and grand scale – growing from modest beginnings to securing a joint venture with Sea World on the Gold Coast of Australia to provide their whale watching.
Whale Watch Kaikoura provides consistently responsible whale watching tours with minimal impacts. The founding of the enterprise by four Maori families has demonstrated that the local Maori community can not only grow a considerable tourism business, but, more significantly, use that business to buy back their ancestral land for the benefit of the indigenous people and their cultural identity.”