In Las Vegas this week, Virtuoso hosted its its “Under One Sky” lunch, which brought together the network’s top advisors and preferred partners who are committed to creating a more sustainable future for travel and tourism. At the event—just one of many at Virtuoso Travel Week—the luxury travel agency network honored top leaders in the space, while also sharing findings from its new “Virtuoso Impact Report, Sustainable Travel – 2023,” an ongoing study that tracks sustainable contributions among its partners and the results of their efforts.
Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch and Virtuoso Vice Chair and Sustainability Strategist Jessica Hall Upchurch awarded two of the network’s member agencies with Sustainability Ambassador and Sustainability Practice Awards, while three additional award categories based on Virtuoso’s three pillars of sustainability—Protecting the Planet, Celebrating & Honoring Cultures and Supporting Local Economies—were voted on live during Under One Sky and presented to the winning partners.
Avenue Two Travel was honored with the Sustainable Practice Award, which goes to a member agency that intentionally integrates sustainability into its business practices and goals.
During the pandemic, Avenue Two Travel’s leadership team engaged Sustainable Wanderlust to help create a sustainable roadmap. Then, this year, Avenue Two Travel achieved B Corp Certification, completed the first travel advisor training program, launched its first annual “Impact Report” and created an ongoing plan to keep the agency accountable and hyper-focused.
“Being honored by esteemed industry peers was very humbling because we’re stewards of a larger mission, and we’ve barely scratched the surface,” said Avenue Two Travel’s CEO Joshua Bush. “The act of travel is impactful, however, the way we travel is even more transcendent. After going through the rigorous B Corp process and reflecting on our business practices, it couldn’t be clearer that we have a lot of work still to do and address as a collective industry.”
Primetour Viagens & Experiências, an agency in São Paulo, Brazil, won the Sustainability Ambassador Award, which acknowledges a member agency that advocates for sustainability and vocally supports sustainable tourism in their words, actions and marketing.
On the supplier partner side, the following awards were designated:
Protecting the Planet, which recognizes a Virtuoso partner that has taken a lead in protecting and preserving the globe and/or promoting sustainable practices in their local community or around the world.
- The winner: Singita. The rewilding project in Singita Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, restores habitat for the critically endangered mountain gorillas, exemplifying sustainable conservation through land rehabilitation, environmentally sensitive construction and localized socio-economic impact, resulting in increased wildlife populations and biodiversity while creating 700 jobs and contributing $1.15 million to the local community.
Supporting Local Economies, which applaud a Virtuoso partner that has made a positive financial impact on a local or global community. Their generosity has improved conditions, circumstances and livelihoods whether for a day, a month or long-term.
- The winner: Micato Safaris. Micato-AmericaShare uplifts underprivileged communities in Kenya through the power of education. Teaming up with Huru International, they break down barriers to champion young girls’ futures with reusable hygiene product and health education. Together, they empower children to continue learning and pursue their dreams.
Celebrating Culture, which honors a partner that is a driving force in transforming and impacting others in their community, the travel industry and/or the world around them through the expansion of knowledge, beliefs, arts, customs or capabilities.
- The winner: Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. The Mālama Hawai‘i initiative unifies residents and travelers by introducing the value of mālama (to take care) and emphasizes connecting with Hawaiian culture, giving back and preserving the destination through partnerships with dozens of community organizations, aiming to protect and perpetuate the natural beauty of Hawaii for future generations with volunteer experiences and responsible travel choices.