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Ritz-Carlton and Jean-Michel Cousteau sign agreement

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and renowned diplomat for the environment, Jean-Michel Cousteau and his Ocean Futures Society, have signed a 10-year agreement to further develop and expand the "Ambassadors of the Environment" (AOTE) program from the current location at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman to a select group of the brand’s other resort and urban hotel destinations around the world, including Kapalua, Maui and Sanya, which opened April 24, 2008.

The innovative program, which emphasizes education and respect for ecosystem sustainability through "hands-on" activities, was recently named "Best Children’s Program for 2007" by Virtuoso, the consortium of travel professionals specializing in ultra-luxurious business and leisure destinations.

"We are very excited to continue our highly successful relationship with a man whose entire life has been spent dedicated to preservation of the environment, with particular attention to marine conservation and education," said Simon F. Cooper, president and chief operating officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

"As the son of legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel has carried on his father’s legacy through the work of his Ocean Futures Society. Our first collaboration at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman has resulted in an activities program which has won praise from parents and children who have explored coral reefs by snorkeling on the ocean floor; discovered the critical role of mangrove trees in the ecosystem on pontoon expeditions and participated in the breeding programs of rare species like the Blue Iguana, recovering from near extinction and found only in Grand Cayman," Cooper added. "The Ambassadors of the Environment" program scored an unprecedented 98.97% satisfaction rating from guests who experienced it at the resort.

While initially AOTE was focused on the recreational needs of the youngest resort guests, the enthusiasm of adults was such that it was expanded to include visiting groups who have enjoyed team-building activities including mangrove kayaking, underwater photography and videography, rock wall climbing, and guided snorkeling expeditions. Currently, AOTE at Grand Cayman is based out of a 2,700 square foot, environmentally sensitive building known as the Ambassadors Heritage House as it is modeled on a traditional Cayman cottage. Space is divided into areas for young children, 4 to 7; and youth and young adults, 8 to 18. Older participants add to their educational experience by using computers to download photos, working with an interactive mural and continuing their scientific exploration in a wet lab after their eco-adventures. A lounge area is also available for children to learn, read and play.

"As we join in this new and expanded collaboration with The Ritz-Carlton, we will look to what has been done at Grand Cayman and with Ocean Futures Society to make certain our new locations, on land and sea, are in concert with the local community and culture," said Jean-Michel Cousteau, whose documentaries have won an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award, among other recognition.

"Once we have assured that our community outreach efforts help us to better understand the education and environmental needs and concerns of the region, Ocean Futures Society will work with The Ritz-Carlton to develop activities, excursions and other initiatives which will offer hands-on, practical examples of how we can live more environmentally respectful and sustainable lives," said Cousteau, who is currently producing a series of Public Broadcasting System documentaries on subjects including the Amazon and beluga whales.

"While the future AOTE locations are currently under review, the 10-year agreement is likely to place the program in Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts in areas as diverse as The Caribbean, urban centers, and Asia. We believe the extension of AOTE is absolutely in keeping with The Ritz-Carlton commitment to future programs and activities which contribute to the protection and preservation of the world’s environment, while at the same time offering our guests the opportunity to become educated proponents of the vital importance of helping to make the planet a better place for future generations," said Cooper.

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