Each year Blue Ventures brings more than 100 paying volunteers to the southwest coast of Madagascar where they are trained in SCUBA diving, scientific research, community outreach and on-the-ground conservation. All revenue raised through the expeditions is channelled directly back into the conservation of coral reefs and other threatened marine resources.
“These awards show that there is a growing demand for holidays that not only are enjoyable but also help improve the world around us,” said Richard Nimmo, Executive Director of Blue Ventures. “Blue Ventures’ success over the years shows that conservation makes good business sense. I hope more tour operators will be motivated to offer trips that are socially and environmentally responsible.”
The Responsible Tourism Awards are sponsored by Responsibletravel.com, Virgin Holidays, The Times, the World Travel Market and Geographical magazine. The awards, announced during a ceremony today at the Excel Centre in London, recognise tourism ventures that make a positive contribution to conservation and the economies of local communities while minimizing any negative impacts of tourism. More than 1,700 tour operators from across the globe were nominated for the awards.
Blue Ventures’ main project site is in the remote fishing village of Andavadoaka, along the southwest coast of Madagascar. The region is home to the third-largest continuous coral reef system in the world. But pollution, destructive fishing practices and climate change are threatening to destroy the region’s vital natural resources.
Andavadoaka earlier this year won the prestigious Equator Prize from the United Nations for its work with Blue Ventures and other partners to create sustainable development projects that benefit both people and nature, including eco-tourism and mariculture enterprises.
Blue Ventures is now partnering with 25 villages in the region to create a community-run protected area that will span 700 square kilometres, benefit more than 10,000 villagers and protect coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds and other threatened habitats.
Blue Ventures is also working with Andavadoaka to build Madagascar’s first community-run eco-lodge that will be run entirely on clean solar and wind power. Fully owned and operated by Andavadoaka, all proceeds will go directly to the village for sustainable development projects.
“Blue Ventures believes tourism can be a powerful conservation tool, providing economic incentives to keep natural resources healthy and productive,” Nimmo said.