2020 Skal International Sustainable Tourism Awards

News at Aquila


The 2020 Skal International Sustainable Tourism Awards was presented at their annual general assembly on Saturday 17 October 2020. This year’s world congress assembly was held virtually after the intended Croatian event was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The virtual assembly, together with the presentation of its internationally acclaimed awards, gave a glimmer of hope while the tourism economy of the world is recovering from the COVID19 lockdown, and some regions going back into strict regulations.

Having previously been awarded the most prestigious South African tourism awards: The 2014 National Lilizela Imvelo Award for best economic impact by a large tourism establishment in South Africa, and the 2015 National Lilizela Imvelo Award for sustainable development, Searl Derman, the owner of Aquila Private Game Reserve was proud to once again be honoured with the world’s most prestigious international sustainable tourism award: The 2020 Skål International Sustainable Tourism Award for a Major Tourist Attraction.

The Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards were launched in 2002 to showcase global best practice. “The awards are geared towards enhancing the visibility and grant recognition to entities within the Travel and Tourism Industry,” said Peter Morrison, World President of Skål International.

The awards are open annually to all public and private sector companies, educational institutions, NGOs, and government agencies. In its nineteen edition of the awards ceremony, 44 entities from 23 countries competed in the nine available categories.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said: “We send our congratulations to the team at Aquila Game Reserve for this international award, which comes at a time when we are working hard to promote our tourism sector both locally and internationally. Tourism is a major job creator in our province and making this sector more sustainable will help to create and preserve jobs in the long term.”

Furthermore, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, Enver Duminy said: “We are thrilled that Searl Derman, the owner of Aquila Private Game Reserve, has won this prestigious award. Aquila truly is a gem within the region and Searl and his team have gone to great lengths to ensure that the reserve not only meets the minimum requirements for responsible tourism, but exceeds them in every way. This award also further solidifies the Cape Town region as a sustainable and responsible destination”.


Searl Derman - Owner of Aquila Private Game Reserve & Spa

Searl Derman noted that “it is a honour to receive global recognition for the sustainable tourism efforts we make in Cape Town – South Africa, and being the only South African recipient at the 2020 awards ceremony, we are proud to once again be able to shine the light on our ongoing projects and initiatives to enhance sustainable tourism, job creation, social upliftment, conservation and natural resource management efforts.

Derman continued that “the 2020 awards are an extra special occasion, as we fought extra hard to support our teams, our business, social upliftment and conservation efforts during the pandemic. This international accolade inspires us to continue pushing hard and working day and night on our recovery efforts to ensure we have a business – and tourism sector – to welcome guests back to, in order for them to experience the dedication and heartfelt efforts of all our staff at our Big 5 Safari lodge just outside of Cape Town”.

The local community of Touws River is extremely important to Aquila Private Game Reserve & Spa. This former railway town is situated 12km from the Big 5 game reserve and was left in poverty when the former railway services closed down leaving approximately 97% of its 15 000 residents unemployed.

Over the last 21 years, Aquila has empowered the local residents through employment and upskilling, while the business operation also enabled flourishing supporting small businesses.

Three prominent and distinguished judges from internationally recognized entities have independently evaluated each entry based on leadership criteria in sustainability that encompass tangible, measurable benefits to the environment, enhance business, and the society and communities in which they operate:

  • Patricio Azcárate Díaz de Losada: General Secretary, Responsible Tourism Institute
  • Ellen Rugh: Program Manager, Center for Responsible Travel
  • Dr. Louis D’Amore: Founder and President, International Institute for Peace Through Tourism

We continue to lift the spirits of our teams as we work hard and put in every effort to uplift them socially and economically. Our social involvement programmes together with our conservation efforts, like Saving Private Rhino, is proud of the work we achieve. We do this work selflessly and we most certainly do not do them for the awards, but we appreciate the honour we have to stand on the world stage as we try every day, to make the world a better place through tourism.” Searl Derman concluded.