The 2020 Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards were held on 17 October, where Aquila Private Game Reserve & Spa was honoured to receive one of its prestigious awards in the category of Major Tourist Attraction.The awards seek to recognise and give visibility to best practice examples of responsible and sustainable tourism from around the globe, and are open to public and private sector companies, educational institutions, NGOs, and government agencies. Searl Derman, the owner of Aquila Private Game Reserve, said, “It is an honour to receive global recognition for the sustainable tourism efforts we make in Cape Town – South Africa, and being the only South African recipient at the 2020 awards ceremony, we are proud to once again be able to shine the light on our ongoing projects and initiatives to enhance sustainable tourism, job creation, social upliftment, conservation and natural resource management efforts.”
“We are proud to once again be able to shine the light on our ongoing projects and initiatives to enhance sustainable tourism, job creation, social upliftment, conservation and natural resource management efforts.”This year, 44 entities from 23 countries competed in the nine available categories. What helped Aquila to stand out is the work it has been doing with the local Touws River community over the past 21 years. The former railroad town was devastated by the closing of its railway services, which left roughly 97% of its 15 000 residents unemployed. Since then, Aquila has provided employment and upskilling opportunities, while also nurturing the growth of small businesses that have been able to sell their products and services to the Big 5 game lodge and its guests. The game reserve is also involved in conservation efforts, such as Saving Private Rhino.
The awards are judged on achieving tangible, measurable benefits to the environment and the society and communities in which the entry operates, while also enhancing their business.The awards are judged on achieving tangible, measurable benefits to the environment and the society and communities in which the entry operates, while also enhancing their business. Three distinguished judges independently assessed this year’s entries. They are:
- Patricio Azcárate Díaz de Losada: General Secretary, Responsible Tourism Institute
- Ellen Rugh: Program Manager, Center for Responsible Travel
- Dr. Louis D’Amore: Founder and President, International Institute for Peace Through Tourism
“Aquila truly is a gem within the region and Searl and his team have gone to great lengths to ensure that the reserve not only meets the minimum requirements for responsible tourism, but exceeds them in every way.”Derman noted that wining the awards this year made the achievement even more special; “We fought extra hard to support our teams, our business, social upliftment and conservation efforts during the pandemic. This international accolade inspires us to continue pushing hard and working day and night on our recovery efforts to ensure we have a business – and tourism sector – to welcome guests back to.” Aquila Private Game Reserve & Spa also won the 2014 National Lilizela Imvelo Award for best economic impact by a large tourism establishment in South Africa, and the 2015 National Lilizela Imvelo Award for sustainable development. “We do this work selflessly and we most certainly do not do them for the awards, but we appreciate the honour we have to stand on the world stage as we try every day, to make the world a better place through tourism,” adds Derman.