Business is anchored in the present, but preparation for tomorrow is essential says Fiona Jeffery, chair of the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards

A recent Friday was an important day in the calendar of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual celebration of the very best examples of sustainable tourism businesses and destinations around the world.

It was the day when we chose the winners in each of the five awards categories, to be announced at the WTTC’s Global Summit in Madrid next month.

The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are celebrated across the industry for a number of reasons, but in particular for the rigour of the judging process which includes site visits to each of the 15 short-listed finalists regardless of where they may be in the world.

This approach involves a major investment of time and money, but it means every applicant is properly assessed and the judges have absolute trust in the quality and accuracy of the information presented to them.

The task of selecting five winners from 15 deserving finalists is a difficult one, rightly led by a team of professionals each with decades of experience in the field.

The Awards lead judge throughout the process is Graham Miller, professor of sustainability in business at the University of Surrey and head of the university’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

The final judging panel comprises Jonathon Porritt, co-founder and trustee of Forum for the Future; Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation; and Mandip Singh Soin, founder and managing director of Ibex Expeditions and founder of the Ecotourism Society in India.

I took over as chair of the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards last year and this was my first winners’ selection so I was excited to hear what my fellow judges had to say. I wasn’t disappointed.

The level of debate was no surprise given so many different, inspiring projects and the varied insights of the judging panel.

The judges’ opinions on the finalists differed surprisingly and it was fascinating, as well as invaluable, to garner their perspectives.

These awards provide not just an opportunity to showcase and promote the very best examples of sustainable tourism in practice across the world, but also produce inspirational tools for learning.

Sustainable or responsible travel can sometimes be seen as too academic or complex. It can cause people to switch off.

But the bottom line is that sustainability is about our industry setting standards and doing the right thing across businesses on behalf of the destinations, communities and environments we engage with.

It is about looking longer term and defining the DNA of an organisation economically, socially and environmentally.

These three – the economic, the social and the environmental – are equally important, and through programmes like Tourism for Tomorrow we get to see and understand what outstanding practise looks like, what it takes to get there and what a difference it can make.

Developing sustainability is a continuous journey, requiring constant improvement, which is what makes it tough.

It involves commitment to a bigger goal than simply bottom-line growth and profit, important though that is.

So I look forward to the finalists and judges gathering for the Tourism for Tomorrow ‘day of learning’ in Madrid ahead of the WTTC Global Summit, where we will share experiences.

The five winners will be announced the following day, April 15, at the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards ceremony at the Summit.

Watch this space to find out who has won – they will all be worthy champions of Tourism for Tomorrow.Fiona Jeffery OBE is chair of the WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards