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This year the Imvelo Awards for Responsible Tourism will extend its reach to ensure that both large and small organisations can benefit from these prestigious Awards.

For the first time in twelve years’ since inception, the seven Imvelo Awards categories will each have two prize winners, allowing both large and small operations to win by not competing against each other, but rather with like-sized businesses. There will also be an overall winner which will be chosen from the six categories’ winners.

The Imvelo Awards categories are: Best social involvement programme; Best practice – economic impact; Best overall environmental management system; Best single resource management programme – with sub-categories for energy efficiency, water efficiency and waste-management; Most empowered tourism business, and the Investor in people Award. Each of the categories will recognise both large and small establishments in terms of their contribution to Responsible Tourism.

The Imvelo Awards once again will award tourism businesses for their sustained responsible practices through their operations taking into account their contributions to sustaining their natural, social and economic environments.

According to Eddy Khosa, Chairman of FEDHASA, the custodians of the Imvelo Awards, the need for a bold restructuring of the Awards was precipitated through discussions between FEDHASA, the National Department of Tourism and other partners to give recognition to both big and small operations and operators in the tourism hospitality sector. “In the past, the playing field was not entirely level for all organisations that wanted to compete – and smaller or independent organisations were pitted against major players. Last year we started this process with two winners in two of the categories – Best Social Involvement Programme and Best Practice: Economic Impact – and after careful consideration it was deemed fair to extend the practice across all the prize categories.”

The Imvelo Awards are organised by FEDHASA and the National Department of Tourism with sponsors Eskom, Absa, the Industrial Development Corporation, the Department of Water Affairs and Don’t Waste Services, industry leaders whose operations are synonymous with responsible tourism in South Africa.

Imvelo – which means ‘nature’ in South Africa’s Nguni languages – encourages industry members to accept voluntary guidelines promoting responsible tourism.

Khosa notes that each year has seen the number of entries to the Imvelo Awards increasing, which he believes signifies a growing appreciation within the industry of the value of environmentally friendly practices. “Imvelo has become a benchmark in this regard and the work done by the FEDHASA regions has been excellent. We trust that this year will see a higher level of enthusiasm for the awards in the industry as well as a greater number of entries than ever as the number of winners has doubled and small and large organisations are judged separately.”

In addition to the Awards, Imvelo now incorporates the newly launched Responsible Tourism Aftercare Programme. This has been introduced by FEDHASA to ensure that its involvement in Responsible Tourism practices extends beyond the recognition of best-practice, but also assistance and support to other businesses who show willingness but are somewhat lacking in either skills or resources to achieve the required standards.

“In 2013, we will select a handful of qualifying establishments in different categories to be included in the programme. A baseline study will be conducted on this establishment, which will be followed by improvement plans to achieve the desired results. A variety of approaches will be adopted during the implementation phase, including workshops, mentorships, etc,” says Khosa.

Over and above the selected establishments, the programme will also look at various impactful ways to assist the industry in changing from dated practices and adopting a responsible tourism mindset in all facets of business.

Khosa encourages all organisations in the tourism sector – large and small – to assess their environmental management practices for sustainable growth and entering the Imvelo Awards to enjoy the prestige that comes from being a finalist or even a winner.

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