The Society of American Travel Writers Announces 2022 Winners of the Distinguished Phoenix Awards

New York, NY – September 10, 2022 – Two sustainable and cultural tourism initiatives in the United States and one in Ecuador garnered recognition this year in the 2022 SATW Phoenix Awards.

The First Americans Museum respectfully tells the story of the relocation of 39 distinctive First American Nations to or within Oklahoma as part of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. The Mashpi Lodge started as a luxury eco lodge in Ecuador and today protects 7,000 acres of pristine tropical rainforest in the Chocó Bioregion (UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) and works and trains local workers to sustain and protect the region’s extraordinary biodiversity. The Monroe County Restorations of the “Old Seven” Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys has created a linear recreational park that spans the brilliant aquamarine waters of both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.


“This year’s Phoenix Award is notable for diverse, sustainable, environmental and cultural tourism attributes of its worthy recipients,” said Toby Saltman, SATW’s Phoenix Award Committee Chair. “First Americans Museum recognizes the historic culture and pride of indigenous Indians. Mashpi Lodge sets remarkable environmental, cultural and educational standards for third-world areas. Old Seven Mile Bridge models how environmental preservation of historic built architecture leads to sustainable, accessible tourism.”


Founded in 1969, the SATW’s Phoenix Awards recognize and honor destinations that showcase responsible, sustainable tourism, including conservation; preservation; beautification and anti-pollution efforts as they relate to travel. North America’s premier travel media organization maintains a long-standing focus on sustainability and appreciates the benefits of cultural understanding and economic activity that come with travel.

Awardees may be individuals, communities or organizations that have contributed to a quality travel experience through conservation, preservation, beautification or environmental and cultural efforts. Nominations must be made by SATW members; they are then reviewed by the SATW Phoenix Committee and submitted with recommendations to the Board of Directors for final approval.


“Sustainable tourism is more important than ever,” said SATW President Elizabeth Harryman Lasley. “Increasingly, travelers vote with their dollars to support entities that respect the environment and honor indigenous cultures. With the Phoenix Awards, SATW is proud to acknowledge companies and organizations that have committed resources to helping to sustain our precious planet.”


The three 2022 winners are:


First Americans Museum


The First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, OK celebrates the collective histories, cultural diversity and contributions of the 39 distinctive First American Nations who either lived in or were moved to Oklahoma (Indian Territory) as a result of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. Building the museum required remarkable community efforts over 10 years to environmentally remediate land that had languished as a result of the notorious brownfields left by derelict oil wells. Opened in September 2021, the museum preserves precious artifacts, promotes an appreciation of Indian heritage and traditions with educational and cultural programs for indigenous and other communities.


Housed within the museum, the inclusion of the Smithsonian’s special collection of artifacts inspired museum curators to contact descendants of the original artifacts. The personal contacts enabled curators to ultimately document the descendants’ heart-touching family stories and preserve legacies that had previously vanished when the tribes were displaced. Enhancing cultural appreciation, the museum’s restaurant, 39 is run by Chef Loretta Barrett Oden, member of Citizen Potowatomi Nation, who incorporates indigenous ingredients.


Mashpi Lodge


Mashpi Lodge is located in the tropical rainforest of Ecuador’s Chocó Bioregion, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Established in 2012 as part of Metropolitan Touring, Ecuador’s largest tour operator, the lodge project has grown from 2400 acres in 2001 to today’s 7,000 acres of protected pristine tropical rainforest. This region is one of the earth’s biodiversity hotspots, rich with rare habitats and species.


Today Mashpi Lodge exemplifies responsible tourism that enables sustainability while benefitting indigenous culture with education that ultimately leads to conserving the biodiversity of the land. Loggers are now “ambassadors of conservation.” Forty percent of the staff are trained as research field assistants, naturalist guides, cooks, waiters, housekeepers, forest wardens. Mashpi Lodge has 24 rooms for up to 47 guests. It is a 100% carbon neutral operation. Its biology and research department has produced 24 scientific publications and documented over 1000 new species including plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, mammals and butterflies.


Old Seven Mile Bridge


Monroe County Florida’s restoration of the “Old Seven” Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys officially reopened to the public Jan. 12, 2022, almost 110 years after the bridge’s original debut as the centerpiece of railroad magnate Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad. “Old Seven” connected the Keys with each other and mainland Florida for the first time extending more than 100 miles over open water.


In 1982, the new Seven Mile Bridge (actually 6.79 miles long) debuted alongside the old one and became a linear recreational park that spans brilliant, stunning aquamarine waters of both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Then, almost five years ago, the old bridge's steel swing span, which had facilitated marine traffic, was removed. A project to fully rehabilitate and restore the 2.2-mile section of the bridge leading to historic Pigeon Key began September 30, 2017, and was completed Dec. 22, 2021. During the reconstruction, extraordinary measures were taken to preserve the environmental sustainability of the water and marine life below the bridge.


The fully restored complete bridge is enjoyed by visitors and Keys residents as the only land access to the tiny five-acre island of Pigeon Key. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Pigeon Key Historic District was home to about 400 workers who helped build the Over-Sea Railroad. It also served 3 years as a supply depot, dormitory with commissary, and a passenger train stop during the Flagler era. Today Pigeon Key is a historic and educational center, with a railroad museum and original structures. “Old Seven” is an enduring tribute to Flagler, a persevering dreamer who first envisioned the Keys as a subtropical vacation destination.



The SATW Membership

Founded in 1955, SATW and its members have adapted continually to meet the ever-changing media landscape. SATW maintains its distinction as North America’s premier professional travel media organization by constantly learning from and reevaluating needs of a changing world and its media landscape. The organization is made up of 1,000 of the travel industry’s most experienced journalists, photographers, editors, broadcast/video/film producers, bloggers, website owners, media relations experts and hospitality industry representatives from the United States, Canada and beyond. All members must meet and maintain the industry’s highest standards of productivity, ethics and conduct, and they must support SATW’s mission of “Inspiring Travel Through Responsible Journalism.”


A Welcoming, Vibrant and Professional Community

Bringing together travel media and destinations, SATW is a vital resource for the travel industry. It is a community in which professionals can network, learn through professional development, share peer-to-peer best practices and experiences, and build relationships. At its annual convention, SATW also presents the SATW Bill Muster Photo Awards, which recognize excellence in travel photography featuring nature, people and cultures, and the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards, the industry’s most prestigious honor for outstanding travel journalism.


SATW also champions the ongoing struggle for equality and welcomes all professionals. Besides its formal statements supporting diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion, it publicly welcomes all races, religions, ethnicities, physical abilities, sexual orientations and gender identifications. The very active DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion) Committee presents programs on diversity and strives to ensure that membership is inclusive.

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