Rivers Fiji Recognized Among World Leaders in Responsible Tourism

raft makes its way through a narrow canyon on the Upper Navua River in Fiji

22 Jan Rivers Fiji Recognized Among World Leaders in Responsible Tourism

Rivers Fiji has been selected by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) as one of 15 finalists for its 2015 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, considered the highest accolade for sustainability in the global travel and tourism industry. Rivers Fiji is one of only three companies in the Environment category being considered for the prestigious awards.

raft makes its way through a narrow canyon on the Upper Navua River in Fiji

Photo by Pete McBride

According to the WTTC, Rivers Fiji was selected for “protecting threatened forests and river systems” by running a low-impact commercial rafting operation in the Fijian Highlands of Viti Levu. Though the economic support given to the region is an important aspect of Rivers Fiji’s work—they’ve created jobs and given more than $1 million back to local communities in the last 15 years—it’s the unique conservation model the company helped foster that demonstrates the full extent of their commitment to sustainable tourism.

rafters rest near a waterfall on the Upper Navua River in Fiji

Photo by Pete McBride

Rivers Fiji’s sustainability efforts began in 1998, when the company, with the support of O.A.R.S. president and founder, George Wendt, and an eclectic group of local entities, including two villages, nine mataqali (land-owning clans), a logging company and a government organization, banded together to create the Upper Navua Conservation Area (UNCA). This unlikely public-private partnership included a 25-year land lease that has protected the area’s natural assets from logging, road building or mining in the fragile river corridor. Instead of quick money from resource extraction, the arrangement created long-term sustainability through tourism and one-day rafting trips year-round on the Upper Navua River.

child gets treatment at a clinic

Photo by Pete McBride

Rivers Fiji also pioneered the establishment of Fiji’s first Ramsar site in 2006, which recognizes the UNCA as a wetland of international importance. Beyond these efforts, the company has developed outreach programs in partnership with local NGO Nature Fiji to provide educational river trips that enable local communities to experience first-hand the economic, environmental and cultural importance of where they live. By supporting both community development and environmental conservation, Rivers Fiji programs strive to set the bar for ecotourism.

Fijian kids swim in the Upper Navua River Fiji

Photo by Pete McBride

“The Upper Navua is a very special place which encapsulates the possibility of what ecotourism can achieve, to actively contribute to conservation and affect positive change,” said Wendt. “In cooperation with the team at Rivers Fiji and the commitment of local community partners, this is a wonderful honor and tribute to all those who have committed their time and vision to Rivers Fiji.”

The 2015 Tourism for Tomorrow winners will be announced during the 15th WTTC Global Summit in Madrid, Spain, in April 2015.

Rivers Fiji is part of the O.A.R.S. Family of Companies. O.A.R.S. is a member of the Adventure Collection.

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