Below you can read more about our responsible travel policies - the details of how we maximise the benefits of our holidays and the ethical standards we hold ourselves to. If you'd like to more out more about any aspect of these policies, please do ask us as we love to talk about them!
We try to include stays with local communities in our trips wherever possible, because community-based tourism is potentially one of the best ways to spread the benefits of tourism to those that most need it. This includes using community guides as well as accommodation and we work closely with our ground operators to ensure that our customers have a high-quality experience and money is distributed fairly, for example by rotating the families that host visitors. Community-based tourism is particularly tricky to get right, so we ensure the operations are monitored on a regular basis and there is ample chance for our customers to feed back.
Communities often look to tourism as an alternative to more destructive forms of development, or to help preserve their local environment or traditions. They will have invested a lot of time, effort and hope in developing activities to attract visitors and we and our local partners have an important part to play in helping them bring their ideas to market. We aim to incorporate these activities directly into our holidays wherever we can, to encourage other communities and tourists to try them and ultimately to support community empowerment and sustainable livelihoods.
We actively search out excursions and activities that put local people at the centre, protect the environment and spread the economic benefits of tourism. Through these, local people are empowered by the opportunities created for employment, development and conservation, while visitors have the chance to take part in high quality, often unique experiences safe in the knowledge that they are having a direct and positive impact.
In order to be as sustainable as possible, we do not donate to charities or projects that are not connected to tourism, as is often done by travel companies as a way of offsetting the negative impacts of tourism. Instead, we focus on organisations that use tourism as a positive livelihoods or environmental strategy, for example restaurant schools that provide training for disadvantaged young people as well as delicious food. We make them part of our day to day operations to help change the model of tourism from the inside, not just a ‘good cause’.
Our guides are the life blood of our trips and are often what makes a great holiday into an unforgettable one. As such, we value them highly and work with our local partners to make sure they receive fair pay and conditions. We don’t employ guides and drivers directly as they are mostly self-employed, but we try to find the best guides and book them regularly as well as keeping some drivers on retainer, which helps to keep their incomes more stable.
We use local guides on our treks and where tips are appropriate they must be in addition to a fair wage. Too often, tourist tips are treated as a top-up to porters’ and guides’ payments rather than as a reward for good service. We aim to be transparent, to ensure that all our porters are are treated in accordance with the International Porter Protection Group guidelines and to advise our customers about the appropriate amount to tip.
Overtourism, where the sheer number of visitors threatens to overwhelm destinations and the people who live there, has been an increasing problem in recent years. Hotspots like Venice, Barcelona and Dubrovnik host many thousands of visitors per day, particularly from cruise ships, who may contribute little to the local economy and put local amenities out of business. Sometimes this is compounded by insensitive, rude or even illegal behaviour that further alienates local people.
To stop the problem spreading we feel it is important to encourage visitors to get away from the most famous sites and explore. Many of our trips are geared towards exactly this, rewarding you with a more authentic, memorable and fulfilling trip. When we include ‘must-see’ attractions we try to visit them in a different way to alleviate overcrowding, for example approaching Angkor Wat from the back gate, taking alternative routes to Machu Picchu, visiting Yaxha as well as Tikal, or sailing to the hidden parts of Ha Long Bay.
It is important that visitors also play their part in acting responsibly. We provide our customers with advice on local customs, how to behave sensitively and how they can contribute to the destination they are visiting. We also provide information on the social and political situation in country on our website and in pre-trip documentation.
We believe that the best way to help limit the environmental impact of our tours is to stop wasteful and polluting practices at the point of consumption. We provide advice on our website and in pre-trip documentation to help our guests adopt appropriate behaviour such as not littering, reusing plastic bottles and switching off lights and air conditioning when not in their rooms. We will also be giving a free refillable filtering water bottle to everyone who books with us, in order to minimise the amount of bottled water that is drunk while on our trips.
Of course it’s not all up to the individual traveller, so we only use hotels that manage their environmental impact, particularly water, energy and waste and food sourcing. They also often provide advice and help for guests to reduce their environmental footprint.
We have chosen local operators that share our commitment to environmental responsibility and work with them to minimise waste and pollution on our tours. For example, by making sure rubbish is taken back from sensitive areas and providing clean water refills in their vehicles. We ask them to help our customers during their holiday to understand the environmental damage tourism can create and what they can do to mitigate it.
The Beyond Tourism Co. Was founded on the belief that responsible travel can bring huge social, economic and environmental benefits and should be a powerful tool for sustainable development around the world. However there’s no getting around the fact that our holidays require long haul flights, on top of the carbon emissions during your stay.
We believe that there is a place for carbon offsets in travel BUT they must be secondary to cutting our overall emissions as quickly as possible. That means reducing flying in absolute terms by flying less often, taking longer trips, holidaying at home, stopping airport expansions and finding alternative ways to travel like trains. These voluntary changes in behaviour need to be backed up by financial incentives. We support responsibletravel.com’s aviation manifesto, based on reforming the Air Passenger Duty into a Green Flying Duty, and increased taxes on private jets, business and frequent fliers. The huge subsidies for aviation fuel will also need to be addressed and eliminated in a fair way.
We believe this will still leave space for people to take fewer, more responsible holidays. Travel will not - and should not - stop completely, so properly-audited carbon offsets can help to mitigate the travel that does happen. Ultimately, though, they are only a stopgap measure while truly zero-carbon air transport is being developed, which should be the overriding focus of time and resources now.
We are committed to keep reducing the carbon footprint of our holidays as much as we can. Already we design our itineraries to avoid domestic flights whenever it’s logistically feasible and we use trains if possible or else our private vehicles instead. A lot of our trips include zero carbon transport, like walking, cycling or rickshaws (which also helps to support the drivers’ livelihoods). We search out hotels that source their food locally or even grow it themselves, as food miles are one of the biggest parts of the trip’s carbon footprint. We work with local operators that use efficient and well-maintained vehicles to minimise pollution and some even offset the emissions from your tour automatically.
In the UK, we keep our energy and transport emissions as low as possible by not operating retail premises and by running a virtually paperless office. Our bookings are made by phone or email and customers receive relevant documentation electronically. Post-trip follow up is also carried out by phone and email.
After much discussion about the places and issues that are important to us, we also decided to donate £10 per passenger from each booking to the World Land Trust. Both Dave and Simon both feel passionate about the WLT’s work to protect the world’s natural ecosystems and biodiversity through community land ownership and sustainable local management. WLT also has a useful tool if you want to offset your flights, with the funds going to support their projects.
We know there is always more to do and we will work to improve in the years ahead. Our plans are evolving continuously based on learning and sharing, so if you have suggestions or insights that can help us improve, please do get in touch at [email protected].