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These Travel Companies Are Setting a New Standard in Responsible Tourism: Global Vision Awards 2022

The Global Vision Awards honorees in this category demonstrate a clear vision for how the travel and hospitality industry can become more sustainable and benefit underrepresented or underemployed communities around the world.

The Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards aim to identify and honor companies, individuals, destinations, and organizations taking strides to develop more sustainable and responsible travel products, practices, and experiences. Not only are they demonstrating thought leadership and creative problem-solving, they are taking actionable, quantifiable steps to protect communities and environments around the world. What's more, they are inspiring their industry colleagues and travelers to do their part.

In choosing the honorees in our annual Global Vision Awards, the first thing we look for is real, tangible impact. The five companies in this category are thinking both broadly and deeply about concrete ways that travel can spur long-term, positive change. Whether they're in the business of planning enriching itineraries led by the communities where people are traveling, innovating in the aircraft industry, or finding ways for tourism to lift up marginalized communities, these honorees are dedicated to turning their ideas into actionable projects that will improve travel — and the world — for generations to come.  — T+L Editors

Guests from an Alaskan cruise on an excursion in a zodiac
A Zodiac excursion with Alaskan Dream Cruises, the only cruise company in the state owned and operated by Native Alaskans. | Credit: Courtesy of Alaskan Dream Cruises

Alaskan Dream Cruises

Plenty of cruise companies offer expeditions through Alaska's majestic Inner Passage, Glacier Bay, and frontier lands, but only Alaskan Dream Cruises is owned and operated by Native Alaskans. The Allen family, whose lineage is Tlingit, has been welcoming curious cruisers for more than 50 years. The company's six vessels, which range from five to 38 cabins, are staffed by Alaskan naturalist guides who dispense the sort of personal insights that only locals can. Ports of call are often Indigenous villages such as Kasaan, where guests visit the last Haida longhouse in the United States. The onboard experience also highlights the state's riches: bath amenities are Alaska-made; bed scarves were designed by local artists; cocktails are prepared with glacial ice; and local seafood highlights every menu. Guests can spot whales, otters, bears, sea lions, deer, and eagles regularly, while the sounds from the fathoms below burble to the surface thanks to a shipboard hydrophone. The company's newest ship, the six-stateroom Kruzof Explorer, takes passengers to communities where larger ships can't dock, landing at under-the-radar destinations includingLituya Bay, Dall Island, and Baranof Warm Springs. — Heidi Mitchell

Tour group guests listen to a tour guide
Black Cultural Heritage Tours is the only Black-owned receptive tour operator in the United States. | Credit: Courtesy of Black Cultural Heritage Tours/National Blacks in Travel & Tourism Collaborative

Black Cultural Heritage Tours

Despite infusing $109.4 billion into the leisure travel industry, Black Americans have been sidelined from mainstream travel experiences — their companies omitted from itineraries, their histories left untold. But Stephanie M. Jones, founder of the National Blacks in Travel and Tourism Collective, is changing that. In 2016, her group debuted the Cultural Heritage Alliance for Tourism, Inc. (CHAT), "to level the playing field for micro local Black and Brown businesses within underrepresented neighborhoods," she says. This year, she launched Black Cultural Heritage Tours, which aims to drive tourists' foot traffic and revenue to underrepresented businesses so they can become sustainable and scalable. From September onward, travelers can book itineraries of the Southeastern U.S. that may include jaunts through the Gullah Geechee Corridor, deep dives into the Civil Rights Movement, an in-depth exploration of the Underground Railroad. No matter the route, all tours include church visits, culinary adventures, and contemporary culture excursions. "Our approach to our itineraries is to provide transformative experiences for culturally curious travelers who seek a broader understanding of the Black experience and culture in the U.S.," explains Jones. "We want travelers to become intentional about depositing into local communities as much as they take away." — H.M. 

Three sleek white supersonic jets on an airport tarmac
Boom's 65-seat Overture will be the first supersonic commercial aircraft since the Concorde. | Credit: Courtesy of Boom

Boom 

As Blake Scholl sees it, travel has been a net good for the world: "Since the dawn of the jet age," he says, "people have been able to spend more time with other people in other cultures." But as he pondered a world in which everything — from computers to phones to cars — was getting significantly more efficient and environmentally friendly, the lifelong airplane geek wondered why the same wasn't happening for aircraft. Scholl made it his goal to help air travel become "faster, more affordable, and dramatically more sustainable than it is today." By 2029, his Denver-based company, Boom, plans to put into service the 65-seat Overture, the first supersonic commercial aircraft since the Concorde. The Overture will minimize noise and run entirely on sustainable aviation fuel. And from the start, acknowledging that no machine lasts forever, the team has designed with both airborne efficiency and possibilities for recycling in mind. United Airlines has already ordered 15 Boom Overture jets, which will whisk passengers from New York to London in less than three-and-a-half hours. "We want to make the airplane you most want to be on — with speed, comfort, and convenience," Scholl says, "and also the best one for the planet." — Jeff Chu

Two women work together during tourism experience in Kerala, India
The Responsible Tourism Mission's Kerala itineraries include learning coconut-­leaf weaving, traditionally used to cover roofs. | Credit: Courtesy of Kerala Responsible Tourism

Kerala Responsible Tourism Mission

Five years ago, the government of the south Indian state of Kerala unveiled a groundbreaking new agency. Its charge: to use tourism as a platform to eradicate poverty, empower women, and safeguard the environment. Its philosophy? "Making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit." Since then, the Responsible Tourism Mission has carefully mapped the state, identifying communities with rich but overlooked cultural expertise. A new database connects artists and performers with players in the tourism industry. Farmers are trained to host visitors on their land. And new itineraries highlight (and produce new income streams for) artisans. These include visits to ceramicists in the hamlet of Nellarachal and metalworkers in Kunhimangalam — a town long known for its handcrafted bells and Hindu idols. RT Mission also has environmental initiatives — cleaning waterways, for example, or implementing more efficient waste-management practices — in nearly two dozen communities, from the Arabian Sea village of Mararikulam in the west to Thekkady, on Kerala's eastern border, which abuts a sanctuary for elephants and Bengal tigers. J.C.

Saira Hospitality founder speaking with a student in the program
Saira Hospitality founder Harsha L'Acqua speaks with a student at one of Saira's pop-up schools. | Credit: Courtesy of Saira Hospitality

Saira Hospitality

Harsha L'Acqua has always been passionate about the hospitality business. While working at luxury hotel brands such as Six Senses and the Standard, she became discouraged by the unsustainable turnover rate of employees at most properties (almost 50 percent). In 2016, she decided to launch her own nonprofit to help remedy the problem. Saira Hospitality develops bespoke pop-up hospitality schools that partner with hotel brands launching new properties to train underserved and disadvantaged individuals from the surrounding community. Not only does the approach create more jobs and better prospects for long-term growth in communities, it also fosters a more enriching experience for hotel guests who reap the benefits of interacting with the people most knowledgeable about a given area. Saira has seen its model work around the world in countries including Namibia (Habitas), Mexico (Hotel San Cristóbal in Todos Santos), and the British Virgin Islands (Rosewood, Virgin Limited Edition, Autograph Collection, and Bitter End). This year, Chanrai is opening up a permanent Saira location in London, a city that, like many others, is suffering from a lack of hospitality employees due to the pandemic. — Gisela Williams