Simien Lodge of Ethiopia, the highest lodge in Africa at 3,260 meters altitude, has been voted 1st in the Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards 2016.
Skål is the oldest tourism association in the world and has representation through clubs in 83 counties. The first club was formed in Paris in December 1932. Following this unexpected success, it is hoped that Ethiopia will soon be the 84th nation to form a tourism association and discussions are currently in progress with tour operators in Addis Ababa.
The prize is given in the rural accommodation category and it is for the work that the lodge has done in supporting local communities in the Simien Mountains. It is the first time that an Ethiopian company has been honoured by an international tourism organisation.
Skål professionals meet regularly and share their experiences to further the principal of sustainable and equitable tourism. The International Awards are given annually to those companies, who in the opinion of a panel of judges, are considered the best sustainable tourism projects if the year. This year some 450 delegates come together from 49 countries to meet at the International Congress in Monaco between the 29th October and 2nd November 2016.
It is against this background that Simien Lodge has been awarded this year’s first prize.
The prize is given based on a combination of factors. Firstly the lodge was considered to be of an appropriate international standard. However in appraising the rural accommodation category, the judges reviewed the many community support projects that have been undertaken. These include:
Restoring the Saddick Amba monastery that hangs from the northern face of the Simien escarpment. This project involved gaining the support of the local villagers to carry bags of sand and cement around the cliff face that has a one kilometre vertical drop on one side.
Organising the manufacture of hundreds of school desks for primary schools.
Donating a 25 seater bus to the community for going to market and hospital.
Organising an annual running race for 3000 participants with free tee shirts and medals bearing the message “protect wildlife”.