16 May 2008

Honduras La Ruta Moskitia Wins Tourism for Tomorrow Award-1Dubai, UAE, April 22 - La Ruta Moskitia, an alliance of five community-owned ecotourism enterprises in Honduras's Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve, has been awarded the highly coveted World Tourism & Travel Council (WTTC) Tourism for Tomorrow award in the "Investor in People" category.

La Ruta Moskitia was established by Rare, an international conservation organization, and the Small Grants Programme (SGP)/GEF/ Honduras United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in an effort to link sustainable tourism, biodiversity protection, and poverty alleviation in the Reserve. The Alliance competed against 150 applicants from all seven continents to win the award, which was presented to Matthew Humke, Rare's Senior Manager of Enterprises, this week in Dubai, UAE.

The Tourism for Tomorrow "Investor in People" award celebrates the world's best example of an ecotourism enterprise that creates sustainable economic alternatives for local communities as well as protects nature and cultural integrity. Established in 2006, La Ruta Moskitia is 100% owned and operated by local indigenous members. The enterprise has infused more than a quarter of a million dollars into rural communities within the largest and most threatened rainforest north of the Amazon. These revenues directly support more than 250 jobs and over 1000 family members in one of the poorest regions of Central America.

Costas Christ, Chairman of Judges, Tourism for Tomorrow awards and internationally recognized leader in sustainable tourism, said "Sustainable tourism practices are ramping up to a new level. There is a more sophisticated effort happening now at greening tourism operations and delivering tangible returns for conservation and community development. The 2008 winners represent the very best examples among a great pool of exceptional Award applicants who are part of the global transformation of tourism now underway."

La Ruta Moskitia offers a menu of four to eight-day adventure tours to the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a two million acre UNESCO World Heritage Site that was recently nominated as one of the world's seven natural wonders. Containing some of Central America's greatest biodiversity, the Reserve boasts jaguars, sea turtles, manatee, as well as nearly 400 bird species. The Reserve is threatened by massive deforestation by farmers and ranchers, over fishing, illegal hunting, and a lack of effective forest management.

"Creating economic opportunities for indigenous communities is only the first step for La Ruta Moskitia" said the Alliance's Executive Director, Elmor Wood. "The longevity of La Ruta Moskitia and the jobs it has created depend upon local people taking a stance in protecting our lands and culture. This year, La Ruta Moskitia communities will support a number of conservation projects ranging from environmental education to reforestation to waste management. We are developing an army of environmental activists here in La Moskitia." Those projects will be supported in part by La Ruta Moskitia's "Conservation Fund" which collects 10% of all gross tour sales.

Along with winning the Virgin Holidays "Responsible Tourism" award last year and being named to the Condé Nast Traveler "Green List" in 2006, La Ruta Moskitia has now achieved the "trifecta" of international recognition with the Tourism for Tomorrow award. La Ruta Moskitia was also recently selected as one of National Geographic Adventure's "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth".

"La Ruta Moskitia embodies the opportunity for community-based tourism to not only support local economies, but to also contribute to the conservation of the world's most endangered natural areas," said Brett Jenks, Rare President and CEO. "Rare is proud of La Ruta Moskitia, of our role in its formation, and of the Tourism for Tomorrow Award."

For more information about La Ruta Moskitia, visit www.larutamoskitia.com.

For more information about Rare, visit www.rareconservation.org.

For more information about the Small Grants Progamme (SGP)/GEF/ United Nations Development Programme in Honduras, visit www.ppd.org.hn

For more information about the World Travel and Tourism Council's Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, visit www.tourismfortomorrow.com.