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How Responsible is your Responsible Travel Company?
How Responsible is your Responsible Travel Company?

Making tracks in the Sahara Desert

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

By responsibletravel.com

In the rush to be seen as green, tour operators and travel companies are jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon in droves. And they are using a variety of terms, such as eco-tourism and responsible travel, to describe their activity. But unlike the term organic, the words eco and responsible don't have a regulated definition. How is the traveller to know if their hotel or tour guide is truly dedicated to conservation and improving the lot of the local community or merely seeking to exploit a marketing potential for their own economic gain?

We've put together a list of 10 questions to help you determine if your travel company really is responsible or just 'greenwashing'. Pose the following questions to your tour operator, hotel or guide before you book a trip round the bend or round the world!

  1. Do you have a written policy regarding the environment and local community? If it's not written down ('yeah, yeah we do all that stuff ') it probably means they do not take it seriously.

  2. What is the single contribution to conservation or the local community that you are most proud of? A company that is truly passionate about making a difference should be able to give you an inspiring example.

  3. How do you measure your contribution to conservation and the local community? Find out what checks they have put in place to ensure their programs make a real difference and what evidence they have to support their claims.

  4. How many 'locals' do you employ? What does that mean in terms of the percentage of total employees? Do any local people hold management positions? Local people need to be involved, particularly in management positions, for the local community to benefit financially, socially and environmentally. Too often staff are flown in from elsewhere, taking these benefits home with them when they leave!

  5. Are your guides 'local'? Not only do local guides provide unmatched insights into local cultures, they are also mindful of local customs.

  6. What have you done to help protect the environment and support conservation? Find out which conservation projects your travel company is involved in and whether they work with any local environmental charities. To make a difference, we all need to work together.

  7. What is the percentage of produce and services that are sourced from within 25km (approx 16 miles) of the hotel or lodge? Using local suppliers, rather than flying goods and services in, further supports the local economy.

  8. How do you treat waste water? How do you heat your buildings? A tropical resort that pumps effluents out to sea is destroying the marine habitat that you travelled so far to see. An eco-friendly lodge that is using firewood from unsustainable sources rather than solar panels, for example, is lending a hand to deforestation.

  9. Do you encourage travel by public transport, by bike or on foot where possible? Traveling in this way rather than hopping in a taxi or an air-conditioned private coach is a great way to meet local people on their terms and reduce pollution and carbon emissions.

  10. How much of the fee charged for your holiday actually remains in the destination? This is usually a good indicator of how responsible they are.

When you get back from your holiday, don't forget to send your tour operator or hotel any comments and suggestions for reducing environmental impacts and increasing benefits to local communities. Not sure where to start? Take a look at one or more of the independent holiday reviews submitted to responsibletravel.com travellers just like you. Check out the Responsible Travel Criteria to find out how responsibletravel.com evaluates operators and accommodations.

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