NADI, Fiji and SAN FRANCISCO (TVLW) – Skal International of Spain announced the winners for the 6th Annual Skal International Ecotourism Awards during the 68th Skal World Congress in Antalya, Turkey. Tourism businesses from all over the world applied for these prestigious awards, which represent the highest honors for best practice in travel and tourism.
An international group of independent judges evaluated the entries. With scrupulous evaluation standards, the Skal Ecotourism Awards are highly respected in the travel and tourism industry. Primary criteria include conservation of nature, preservation of cultural heritage, community involvement, educational features, business viability and innovation.
Aqua-Trek Beqa’s Fiji Shark Dive was declared the Winner of the Ecotourism Award for Tour Operators worldwide. In 1999 Aqua-Trek created a world-class Shark Dive in Beqa Passage near Pacific Harbour, Viti Levu. The Dive has attracted shark enthusiasts from around the world who can view up to 8 species of shark, including multiple Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks.
Since starting the dive Aqua-Trek has worked with Wainyabia village and the Fiji government to establish Locally Managed Marine Protected Areas to protect the sharks. A per-diver fee is paid to the village in exchange. World Travel and Tourism Council said: “At a time when the global shark population is in dramatic decline due to unsustainable practices such ‘shark finning,’ and in a country where shark fishing remains popular, Aqua-Trek’s Fiji Shark Conservation and Sustainable Tourism Programme has been successful in educating both tourists and the Fijian people on the benefits of protecting sharks. This successful initiative to preserve the Fiji shark population through sustainable tourism practices demonstrates best practice in collaboration between local communities and an international dive operator in the conservation of a threatened marine species.”
This award, along with Aqua-Trek’s recent honor as one of the top 3 in the 2007 WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow Conservation Awards, brings international recognition to both Aqua-Trek and the Fiji islands. Mrs. Bernadette Rounds Ganilau, Fiji’s Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations, Tourism and Environment, said: “Aqua-Trek reflects the most amazing best practice strategy I have seen in a dive operation in Fiji or in the Pacific. Apart from building Fiji up as one of the best dive sites in the world, Aqua-Trek has undertaken this in the most sustainable way in association with the environment and the traditional link that most Fijians hold to sharks and their prowess as kings of the reef. I salute Aqua-Trek for their vision.”
Skal, a member of the World Tourism Organization, was founded in 1934 and is the largest organization of travel and tourism professionals in the world. Skal’s international organization of industry leaders serves as a powerful force in the travel and tourism industry to initiate change and encourage the conservation of the environment in order to promote tourism and travel.