17/06/2014 11:21 BST | Updated 17/08/2014 06:59 BST

How Travellers Can Take on Tourism's Greatest Challenges

This Friday will be the last chance for travellers to make their suggestions for the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2014 - a global search for the most inspiring and enduring examples of responsible tourism in the world.


Secret city tours run by the homeless, safaris paying locals for wildlife sightings, Patagonian ecolodges conserving water (more info on this issue at http://www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/patagonia#travel-guide), and even tour operators tackling sex tourism in Brazil - over the years the Awards have teamed up with travellers to take on some of the greatest challenges in tourism, and uncovered the kinds of holidays that are changing the way we travel for the better.

Sponsored by the Oman Ministry of Tourism, the Awards were founded as a way to inspire change in the way we travel by highlighting memorable holidays that celebrate and protect people and places. To do so, travellers are asked to make their suggestions of holidays in 11 key categories tackling some of the biggest contemporary issues in tourism.

With just three days left for travellers to nominate in the Awards, here's a rundown of three of this year's categories and why they matter for the future of travel.

Best animal welfare initiative - a tourism business or organisation leading the way in their approach to the care, wellbeing and dignity of animals.

Why does it matter? - In a previous blog I discussed the impact of films like Blackfish on public perceptions of marine wildlife used in tourism. With an estimated 70% of tourism excursions including animal interactions, the tourism industry will need to catch up to public perception by offering holidays with higher standards of animal welfare.

Best for people with disabilities - a tourism attraction or facility making holiday experiences accessible and enjoyable for all, whatever their physical or mental challenges.

Why does it matter? - An estimated 15% of the world's population live with some form of disability, yet many site theirs as a barrier to taking a holiday. This year we're hoping to see examples of holiday attractions free from obstacles for those living with disabilities, and leading the way in making tourism something anyone can enjoy.

Best for poverty reduction - a tourism organisation with a creative and long-term approach to reducing poverty among local communities.

Why does it matter? - 9.5% of the world's GDP comes from tourism, and it is usually among the top two export earnings for 20 of the 48 least developed countries, yet not all of that wealth is fairly distributed to the communities involved in our holiday experiences. Travel that actively reduces poverty by upskilling and securing the livelihoods of local people will be one of the most important ways to combat global poverty in the future.

Travellers can make their nominations for these categories and many more, including Best city hotel, Best short film for responsible tourism and Best cultural heritage attraction by visiting http://www.worldresponsibletourismawards.com/nominations before Friday 20 June.