MANILA, Philippines—Besting more than a hundred other tourism organizations from more than 46 countries, El Nido Resorts won a prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow Award (TTA) during the recent 13th annual World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit held in Abu Dhabi.
El Nido Resorts (ENR), a cluster of four eco-resorts in Bacuit Bay in Palawan, was one of four international organizations recognized for best practices in sustainable tourism in four categories—Destination Stewardship Award, Conservation Award, Community Benefit Award and the Global Tourism Business Award.
ENR, run by the Ayala-owned Ten Knots Development Corp., bagged the Community Benefit Award and was recognized for “demonstrating the power of tourism to address poverty alleviation, improve local livelihood and protect the cultural and natural heritage for future generations.” The WTTC’s awards body noted that 90 percent of ENR’s staff came from the local community.
The group was also cited for “purposefully educating guests on how their vacation can be good for the planet and the local people,” according to the WTTC newsletter.
The Destination Stewardship Award was won by Peaks of the Balkans—Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. The Conservation Award was won by &Beyond, South Africa. The Global Tourism Business Award was won by Air New Zealand.
Finalists were selected by a panel of independent judges chaired by Costas Christ, an internationally recognized expert on sustainable tourism.
During the ceremonies, El Nido’s award was handed over by Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman.
Mariglo Laririt, ENR’s director of sustainability received the award together with ENR president and CEO Laurent Lamasuta in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
In her acceptance remarks, Laririt said the company opened 30 years ago “with a vision of achieving harmony with nature and the local community.”
Laririt said guests leave any of the four El Nido Resorts remembering their encounters with a wide spectrum of bird species, fish and marine invertebrates. “They feel the warmth and sincerity of the (local) staff who proudly point out to them evidence of the diversity all around them. The effect is like that of someone welcoming you proudly into his home.”
Home for ENR is Bacuit Bay which hosts 45 islands. With its limestone cliffs and pristine beaches, the area has been declared a Philippine Protected Area since 1998.
The ENR resorts are in the islets of Miniloc, Lagen, Apulit and Pangalusian. On these four islands, the staff invite guests to witness a glowing sunset or the release of newly hatched sea turtles making their way back to the ocean on wobbly legs. They also point out the long-tailed macaque monkeys and Palawan hornbills that populate some islands.
ENR’s vision of harmony with nature gave rise to policies to hire locals as much as possible, to provide training in environmental conservation not only to staff members but also to the local schools and organizations, to buy from locals, and to work with the of municipality of El Nido to establish development guidelines for the area.
Ten Knots Development Corp., which started ENR was founded by Japanese investors. It has changed hands through the years and is now owned by Ayala Land Inc. and Asian Conservation.
Lamasuta said ENR was the largest taxpayer in the municipality and has generally influenced the brand of environment-centered tourism also practiced by other local operators, mostly cottage industries. Moreover, ENR has set the benchmark for other resorts by installing its own wastewater treatment plant and desalination system, he said.
Ties with the community have further been strengthened by a deliberate decision to buy food ingredients and services locall. Said Laririt: “Our chefs continually revise our menus to accommodate local ingredients and consequently improve livelihood of both the fishermen and the farmers.”
Added Lamasuta: “We hope to inspire the Philippines by showing that a tourism business can be successful while embracing sustainable principles and contribute to the local communities in which they operate.”
According to the WTTC, travel and tourism accounted for 260 million jobs globally in 2012. At $6.6 trillion (9.3 percent of world GDP), the sector is a key driver for investment and economic growth.