Condé Nast Traveler’s current issue has a rundown of its annual World Saver Awards, recognizing those companies who “are dedicated to saving their communities and our world.”

As you would expect in the original home of eco-tourism, Latin America has a strong presence in every category. Several organizations show up in multiple categories and some international chains that were recognized are active in the region.

Scrappy Nature Air of Costa Rica beat out nearly all the world’s airlines, recognized in the Education category for donating part of its profits each year so 200 local students can study English and the environment. They were also called out in the Wildlife category for helping to reforest Corcovado National Park. And they beat out all but two of the other airlines around the world for the “Doing it All” category for air carriers. Probably factoring into that is something I mentioned in this previous post on Nature Air: they were the first airline to go totally carbon-neutral. See more about them at NatureAir.com.

The Haciendas hotel group in Mexico, operators of lovingly restored retreats such as Hacienda Temozon, was the overall winner in the Poverty category. They were lauded for hiring local people who were having trouble making a living from the infertile land in areas where they restored the old buildings and “helped others start businesses, including folk art and massage cooperatives.” They were also recognized in the Education category and were the top Good Guys Overall for the “small chains.” See our reviews of several Haciendas properties in our Merida and Campeche luxury hotels section and at the end of each review is a link to the company’s website.

Upscale Costa Rican eco-lodge Lapa Rios on the Osa Peninsula was recognized for its poverty-fighting efforts. This included one project we wish more plastic-water-bottle-pushing hotels would initiate: the building and staffing of a local recycling facility. They were also recognized in the Education category and were #2 overall in the “small resorts” grouping, along with the less upscale Costa Rican nature haven Pacuare Lodge. Grano de Oro in Costa Rica’s capital placed in two categories: for providing vocational training and placement for abused mothers and providing job training for disadvantaged city children.

Ecoventura cruise line, operating in the Galapagos, has been leading the way in trying to reduce tourism’s impact on the fragile ecosystem there and the awards called them out in almost every category. They were the first company to earn and maintain the ecological SmartVoyager certification, the first Galapagos cruise ship company to offset carbon emissions, and the first to install alternative energy sources. Their solar and wind-powered hybrid yacht got called out in the Preservation category. They were recognized for their scholarship program in marine conservation for Ecuadorian students and a micro-enterprise project for fishermen’s wives. In the Health area they built and equipped a sign language school and they pay the salaries of physical therapists on the inhabited islands. Naturally, they placed at the top in the “cruise lines” grouping. See more at Ecoventura.com.

One of the other winners was Aqua Expeditions, the most upscale Peruvian Amazon River excursion company, which we are planning to cover with a tour feature in the first half of 2010. Also getting a nod were the Ritz-Carlton chain (operating in Santiago, Cancun, and soon Mexico City), Costa Cruises (operating in part of South America), Fairmont Hotels (with multiple locations in Mexico)

See the full results in each category here.