Sunvil's Noel Josephides

Noel Josephides, the co-founder of Sunvil Holidays, based in Old Isleworth, Middlesex, has been awarded the British Guild of Travel Writers’ highest honour, the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contribution to the world of travel, which includes his pioneering campaign for ‘green’ tourism long before the concept was adopted by other sectors of the travel industry.

Cyprus-born Josephides co-founded Sunvil Holidays, a small tour operation to Cyprus, in 1973. The company was badly affected by the Turkish invasion of 1974, but survived, expanded and now produces ten brochures a year to a range of destinations worldwide. Based in Isleworth, Middlesex, Sunvil has always stayed true to its original mission to provide responsible, low-volume, low-impact tourism to areas off the beaten track. When Josephides first started campaigning for ‘green’ tourism in the early 1980s, the idea was both new and controversial.

In 1988-89, Josephides was instrumental in setting up Green Flag International, the first advisory service to tour operators on green issues, with environmentalist Dick Sisman. He also helped to shape and form the travel industry’s charitable organisation, The Travel Foundation, supporting it financially and in management, and was one of the first operators to adopt a carbon-offset programme.

Dick Sisman says: “Noel has been an inspiration to me and others and has given his time and support freely to develop responsible tourism thinking in the industry.

“He has been a consistent ambassador for the concept, even in the days when few others supported it, and an outstanding – and outspoken - spokesman on the issue, both in the UK and internationally. His advocacy of responsible tourism places him at the forefront of people in the industry.”

Every time Sunvil has gone into a new area, its aim has been to bring prosperity to the locals. Expert Africa (formerly Sunvil Africa) and Sunvil Latin America, set up in 1991 and 1995, were founded wholly on environmental principles, supporting small local hotels, local charities and communities, and this continues with Sunvil’s new programme to rural Romania.

Presenting Josephides with the award, BGTW chairman Mary Anne Evans said: “Noel was in the forefront of supporting responsible tourism way before it became acceptable and ‘fashionable’. To many of us, he was a lone maverick in the days when tour operators were either very big and powerful, or absolutely tiny and specialised, and package holidays, unlike today, were pretty much the only way people travelled. But he was never afraid to take on the big boys in his fight for responsible tourism, and he has gone on to make very real changes in the industry and in the way people think.

“He has always practiced what he preached and through his company he has helped transform dying villages into vibrant communities, stressing the importance of maintaining local culture and local cuisine, for both visitors and residents. He has made a real difference to our world and this is why we have awarded him the honour.”

Says Josephides: “I am very honoured and happy to receive this prestigious award. It gives me enormous pleasure to see how, at long last, many of the environmental issues that I have been fighting for all these years are now being adopted by the industry as a whole. We’ve still got a long, long way to go – but who would have believed, two years ago, that the four market leaders would be taking the environmental and social impact of their activities so seriously today?”

Josephides has also been recognised by the governments of Cyprus and Portugal and the Greek and Cypriot tourism industries, and currently sits on the boards of AITO (the Association of Independent Tour Operators), the AITO Trust, AGTA (Association of Greek Cypriot Travel Agents), ATOP (Association of Tour Operators to Portugal) and ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents).

– from a press release