Today, National Geographic has named Robert Pennicott, founder of the award-winning cruise business Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, as a Traveler of the Year for 2012.
Robert has been recognised for his unique connection with travel – as an entrepreneur, ecotourism operator, adventurer, environmentalist and philanthropist.
"We sifted through hundreds of nominations to pick world-shaking people on innovative missions,” said George Stone, contributing editor of National Geographic Traveler. "Each of these dedicated voluntourists, green-minded adventurers and culture-embracing pilgrims reminds us that we have the power to reach beyond the bubble of our daily lives, learn from locals in far-flung places and make a difference both around the world and in our own neighbourhoods."
In 1999 Robert founded Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, showcasing the spectacular coastal scenery, geology and wildlife of southern Tasmania. Since then, his award winning Bruny Island Cruises and Tasman Island Cruises have impressed and delighted more than 300,000 guests.
The custom-built yellow boats provide an unequalled cruising experience, taking guests inside sea caves, up to blowholes and beneath the highest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere. They enjoy close encounters with abundant wildlife such as seals, dolphins, migrating whales and seabirds.
Philanthropy has always been a key part of Robert’s business philosophy. Each year, he donates at least 25% of his net profits to charity and conservation. In 2007 he co-founded the Tasmanian Coast Conservation Fund, into which his business has donated $100,000. These funds have been used by the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service for coastal conservation projects. The first of these was the eradication of a feral species on Tasman Island, which had been killing over 50,000 breeding seabirds each year. The eradication was successfully completed in June 2010.
In 2011 he led the first-ever circumnavigation of Australia in an outboard-driven boat. Robert and his operations manager Mick Souter skippered two 5.4m yellow dinghy-sized rigid inflatable boats, travelling more than 20,000 km in 101 days. Their journey, Follow The Yellow Boat Road raised over $290,000 for conservation and to help Rotary in their global fight to eradicate Polio from the world.
Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings MP, congratulated Robert on being one of the inaugural National Geographic Travelers of the Year at a media event in Hobart.
"I am both thrilled and humbled that National Geographic has named me a Traveler of the Year," Robert said. This honour adds to the string of recent accolades for Tasmania, with Hobart being recognised as one of the world’s ‘Top 10 Cities’ by Lonely Planet and as one of TripAdvisor’s ‘Top 10 Destinations on the Rise’.
"This gives Tasmania yet another opportunity to promote itself to an audience of millions," Robert said. "We have such a beautiful island known for its pristine wilderness, beautiful coastlines, fresh produce, fine wine, culture and history. I am incredibly optimistic about the future for Tasmania."
The December 2012 / January 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine will feature Robert and his fellow Travelers of the Year when it is released on December 4. A profile and interview with Robert is available on the National Geographic website, which is visited by 20 million people every month. To read the online story, go to http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/travelers-of-the-year/robert-pennicott/.