A luxury resort in the Seychelles, a collection of eco-hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and the country of Slovenia are among some of the winners of National Geographic's annual World Legacy Awards, which aim to spotlight leaders in the sustainable travel and tourism industry.
This year, the 2017 edition coincides with the UN's International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development, a designation meant to raise awareness of sustainable travel and mobilize positive, earth-friendly change in the sector.
"When planned and managed well, tourism can be a tremendous force for good, from saving endangered species to heritage preservation and poverty alleviation," said Costas Christ, chairman of the legacy awards in a statement.
"The World Legacy Award winners and finalists are demonstrating the way forward to a brighter travel future for people and the planet."
- Leaders in sustainability -
In the category of Earth Changers, the Cayuga Collection hotel group with eight properties in Costa Rica and Nicaragua took the award, which recognizes "cutting-edge leadership in environmentally friendly business practices and green technology."
At Cayuga properties, no detail is too small, with even drinking straws made of bamboo.
Water treatment plants reuse wastewater to irrigate green areas, biogas is used for cooking, and water is heated with solar panels. Guests can also go on a tour that takes them behind the scenes into the environmentally friendly workings of the hotel.
Meanwhile guests of the luxury private island resort North Island, Seychelles, not only sign up for a paradisiacal retreat when they book, but also help protect rare and endangered species.
For their innovative "Noah's Ark" project, the eco-resort snagged the award "Conserving the Natural World," which recognizes outstanding support for the preservation of nature.
At the resort, on-site biologists monitor the land's ecology and help reintroduce some of the Seychelles' rarest and most endangered species back to nature.
And award Destination Leadership went to the Slovenian Tourist Board. With nearly 60 percent of its land protected, the Central European country is touted as one of the world's most sustainable destinations. To protect and promote this virtue, the tourist board has implemented a tool that sets guidelines and monitors progress throughout the country.
"The question before us is not whether sustainable tourism works to help safeguard cultural and natural heritage, advance environmentally-friendly business practices, and deliver meaningful economic and social benefits to local people. It does," said Costas.
"Rather, in 2017, let's focus on the most important topic: How far can we take sustainable tourism practices to usher in a brighter travel future?"
Find the full list of winners at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/worldlegacyawards/.