Spotlighting Travel + Leisure’s 2020 Global Vision Award Honorees


It’s finally here! Travel + Leisure relaunched its Global Vision Awards for the first time since 2014 as a platform to draw attention to and celebrate the companies, people, and places taking strides to develop more sustainable and responsible travel products, practices, and experiences. Not only are they demonstrating thought leadership and creative problem-solving, they are taking actionable, quantifiable steps to protect communities and environments around the world.

What’s more, they are inspiring their industry colleagues and travelers to do their part.

The list of honorees is a result of nominations drawn from an esteemed panel of experts across the travel, hospitality, and sustainability industries. Those nominations were then narrowed to a select list of finalists vetted by Travel + Leisure. Kind Traveler is honored to be included amongst the list.

From eco-warriors to sustainable trailblazers, Kind Traveler is highlighting 11 (of 24) 2020 Global Vision Award honorees whose dedication to sustainability, conservation, and ethical environmental practices deserve special attention.

Here’s a look at the full list of 2020 Global Vision Award Winners:

1. Greta Thunberg

Activist, environmentalist, and Time's 2019 Person of the Year, 17-year-old Greta Thunberg’s passionate pleas for the planet enlivened a new generation of climate activists all over the world. Her outspoken advocacy for the environment first caught the attention of the media after she bravely skipped school to protest in front of Swedish Parliament. Since then, Thunberg has spoken at the U.N., met with the Pope, sailed across the North Atlantic Ocean and inspired 4 million people to join 2019’s global climate strike, the largest climate demonstration in history.

With her straightforward, no-nonsense attitude, Thunberg has captured the attention of government leaders, urging them to address the climate crisis and the systematic inequalities it produces globally. But Thunberg is more than just an advocate for the environment. She is also greatly concerned with other issues, such as gun control, indigenous rights and democratic representation. Her message has given millions of kids and adults around the world hope that the future can be better. She is living proof that one person’s actions can make a positive difference in the world.

2. President Thomas Remengesau, Jr. 

As President of the Republic of Palau, an archipelago of hundreds of limestone and volcanic islands, Remengesau has managed to spearhead a number of impressive eco-conscious initiatives, such as banning single-use plastics; outlawing reef-damaging compounds in sunscreens; and curbing runoff of agricultural chemicals into the sea. Remengesau’s marine conservation efforts are best exemplified when he signed into law the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act, establishing one of the world's largest protected areas of ocean, which will fully protect roughly 80 percent of the nation's maritime territory. As an island nation, Palau is especially vulnerable to sea level rise. Remengesau has been vocal about the need to address the dangers of climate change, telling other Pacific Island leaders, “It’s simply time. Time for each Pacific leader to make conservation a priority.”

3. Julia Jackson

As a second-generation winemaker in Sonoma County, Julia Jackson has grown up with a deep appreciation for the land. With that appreciation, Jackson founded the summit and organization Grounded. Grounded’s annual summit in the northern California wine region brings together some of the world’s leading scientists, changemakers and creative minds to find solutions for the planet’s ongoing climate crisis. Speakers have included acclaimed chef Alice Waters, founder of Bill McKibben, environmentalist and author Paul Hawken, and even fellow Global Vision Award winner Daniela Fernandez of Sustainable Ocean Alliance, just to name a few. Sonoma is also slated to be the first ever completely sustainable wine region in the country, making it the perfect backdrop for positive environmental change. Through creating a thinktank for innovative and diverse forward thinking, Jackson has proven herself to be a true vanguard and steward of the environment.

Related: 11 Sustainable Stays in Sonoma

4. Intrepid Travel x Offset Earth

When it comes to sustainability, Australian travel company Intrepid Travel is setting the standard for tour businesses everywhere. By 2010 Intrepid successfully achieved carbon neutral status. Just four years later it became the first ever tour operator to end elephant rides. Intrepid has built its company on the guiding principles that sustainable tourism and development make for the most meaningful and authentic experiences.

Related: 14 Animal Attractions to Avoid

Through its partnership with Offset Earth, a carbon offsetting startup that plants millions of trees around the world each month, Intrepid Travel plans to become the world’s first “climate positive” travel company, meaning it would remove more carbon emissions than it generates. Intrepid has also committed to promoting gender equality across their entire business, achieving its goal to double its female leaders in 2020. Since 2010, this honoree now boasts 42 carbon-neutral offices and offers over 2000 carbon-offset trips.

5. Villa Copenhagen

Determined to redefine the hospitality industry, Denmark’s stunning Villa Copenhagen has embraced sustainability as the future of the hotel business. Located in the country’s capital, Villa Copenhagen is an architectural masterpiece set in the historic Central Post & Telegraph Head Office. In addition to its breathtaking design, it has committed to all 17 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to ensure full responsibility for its environmental footprint. The 390-room hotel’s moral approach to hospitality, dubbed “conscious luxury,” is best exemplified in its premiere room Earth Suite. Designed by Earth Studio, a partnership between architect Eva Harlou and internationally recognized furniture manufacturer Mater, the property’s Earth Suite is as environmentally conscious as it is stunning. The property is set to open later this spring.

6. Desa Potato Head

On his inspiration for the hotel group, Jakarta native and entrepreneur Ronald Akili said, “The moment I was surfing in a sea of plastics 100 metres out from the beach, I realized the chances of my kids enjoying the gifts of nature would be very slim. I want to pass on to future generations a better world.” With this realization Potato Head was born. Don’t let the name fool you. Potato Head hospitality group is a forward-thinking creative village located throughout Asia.

The group’s flagship compound of hotels and bars in the city of Seminyak in Bali is designed with an array of sustainable features including: hand woven ceilings made from 1.7 metric tons of recycled plastic bottles, a zero-waste locally caught seafood restaurant, upcycled furnishings and all-natural cleaning and skin care products plus countless other eco-friendly elements. What makes Potato Head especially exceptional is how it actively incorporates Balinese culture throughout its complex. Watch a traditional Balinese ritual, try a 5th century remedy at Djamu Bar or enjoy the comforts of ancient craftsmanship and Ata basketry at Katamama Suites.

7. Inkaterra

With 40 years of experience in sustainable tourism under its belt, Inkaterra’s success is no doubt a result of its deep respect for Peru’s nature and cultures. A true industry trailblazer, Inkaterra is the first Peruvian business to ever be certified carbon-neutral. The company has built a total of seven hotels all throughout the Peruvian wilderness four of which were awarded the title of Unique Ecolodges of the World by National Geographic with some located in the Andes Mountains, the Amazon rainforest and the infamous Machu Picchu.

Recognizing the important role Peru’s incredible landscapes and immense biodiversity play in his hotels’ success, Inkaterra’s founder and environmental enthusiast, Jose Koechlin and his team of naturalists have incorporated at least one facility built in the service of conservation and biology in all of his hotels. From a butterfly house at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, an eco-lodge in Puerto Maldonado, to Amazon’s first molecular-biology and genetics lab inside Tambopata National Reserve, Inkaterra is making great strides in embracing all the gifts the natural world has to offer. What’s more, Inkaterra’s website includes more educational information like birding and flowering calendars travelers can use when planning their wilderness excursions.

8. JetBlue

With more and more individuals demanding (as they should) transparency and accountability from the companies they support, JetBlue has shown that it is more than willing to change with the times. In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, JetBlue announced in January that it would be going completely carbon-neutral by July of this year for all domestic flights – the first in U.S. airline history. It plans to offset its carbon emissions by investing in projects focused on forest conservation and landfill gas capture, as well as in solar and wind power generation programs. The airline also announced that flights out of San Francisco will soon be switching to a biofuel-kerosene blend that could cut emissions by perent.

JetBlue’s carbon offsetting program is only a part of the company’s sustainable efforts. The airline has partnered with The Nature Conservancy, The Ocean Foundation, New York Botanical Garden and The Wildlife Conservation Society to fund scientific studies on climate change’s impact on terrestrial and marine life. In addition to its sustainable and technological investments, JetBlue continues to be a leader in philanthropy with crewmembers having volunteered “over 675,000 hours of service, resulting in over $1.5 million of in-kind donations impacting their local communities.”

  9. African Parks

Founded in 2000 in response to the dramatic decline of protected areas due to poor management and lack of funding, African Parks has quickly become the first name in conservation throughout the continent. The non-profit takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of 17 national parks and protected areas in 11 countries in partnership with governments and local communities. Under African Parks’ management, the organization has seen parks previously decimated by poachers and locals hunting for bushmeat come back to life once again. An important aspect of park revitalization is improving local and surrounding communities. As African Park’s CEO Peter Fearnhead knows, “When wildlife survives and thrives there’s the opportunity for people to do so as well.” Through its business approach to conservation – creating jobs, education opportunities and cooperation with locals – the organization has created a more successful and sustainable operation model. About 90 percent of African Parks’ 5,214 employees come from nearby communities.

As of 2017, Prince Harry is amazingly the organization’s president. With this newfound high-profile support on its side, African Parks has generated more requests for their assistance. Just this month, the world’s largest terrestrial transfrontier conservation area, the Kavango Zambezi, was awarded 16.9 million euros by the Dutch Postcard Lottery. African Parks along with two other conservation non-profits will aid in its protection and continued conservation.

10. Costa Rica

Home to over 500,000 species (5% of the world’s biodiversity), 27 national parks and 6 active volcanoes, Costa Rica is a virtual environmentalist’s paradise. Recognizing the great value of its natural wonders, the small Central American country has continued to make conservation the highest priority, even going so far as to legally guarantee its citizens the right to a healthy environment in their constitution. Today, more than a quarter of its land is protected from development and about 98 percent of the country’s electricity now comes from renewable sources.

The tourism board has also introduced a number of eco-friendly programs to strengthen public health and tourism activities including its Certification for Sustainable Tourism and the Ecological Blue Flag Program, for which receiving a blue flag is a notable accomplishment. Programs like these have led to great success is keeping the country’s 800 miles of shoreline pristine and beautiful. By choosing to invest in its environment, Costa Rica has garnered the reputation as one of the most thrilling travel destinations. Of the 3.1 million annual visitors to Costa Rica, half now engage in some variety of ecotourism, boosting the economy and helping protect places like the La Fortuna waterfall and the Monteverde Cloud Forest for future generations.

Related: A Heart-to-Heart with Costa Rica's Abriendo Mentes

11. Kind Traveler

In less than 4 years, Kind Traveler has grown from a small startup to a global social responsibility movement. Founded in 2016 after an eye-opening visit to Belize where one small, kind gesture sparked what would become Kind Traveler, founders Jessica Blotter and Sean Krejci have created the world's first socially conscious Give + Get hotel booking and media platform to empower travelers to positively impact the communities and environment in the destinations they visit.

The way it works is simple: Travelers unlock exclusive hotel rates and perks upon a $10 nightly donation to a highlighted local charity, or to a charity of their choice. All charities and non-profits on Kind Traveler aim to tackle the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, with 100 percent of donations given to the charity selected. Travelers can search for hotels based on the initiatives they have in place for sustainability, wellness, and community impact.

Learn more on Travel + Leisure about the 2020 Global Vision Award honorees.


Kate Eplboim is a travel writer and senior at UCLA passionately studying Literature and the Environment. Over the last four years, she has cultivated her passion for travel, environmental journalism, and gardening. She is a native of Los Angeles.