Responsible travel is a term used a lot in travel these days. Many companies label themselves responsible travel providers. How do you know whether a travel company REALLY is committed to responsible travel? We thought a basic primer on responsible travel principles would be helpful.
As a traveler, when you decide on an international travel company to work with, vote with your dollars to make sure that they follow responsible travel principles and support local economies. Here are a few basic responsible travel principles to get you started. Choose companies who:
1. Work with local partner companies that employ people from the region where you want to travel.
2. Support local tour operators in training and professional development of local guides.
3. Provide educational training for further job skill development of local guides – i.e. bike mechanic seminars, first aid training, etc.
4. Support local tour operators in the development of innovative itineraries that highlight the traditional culture, food, agriculture and religion in remote areas.
5. Choose accommodation that is locally owned and operated.
6. Purchase goods and supplies that are sustainable and locally produced.
7. Support sustainable local handicraft enterprises.
8. Pay a fair price for goods and services.
9. Assist in the proper distribution of traveler donations to legitimate organizations.
Selected Guide to Responsible Travel Companies
Some travel companies have been recognized by industry peers for taking responsible travel initiatives. While the list below compiled by Green By Design is not completely exhaustive, it provides a snapshot of the progressive thinking and workings at some of the travel companies worldwide.
Intrepid Travel, the Australia-based tour company, pledged to become a carbon-neutral company by 2010. Intrepid is committed to environmentally, culturally, and socially responsible travel. Volunteer opportunities offered by Intrepid include building, education and youth development projects.
Micato Safari, through its nonprofit foundation, AmericaShare, provides education, food, clothing and shelter to thousands of children living in Nairobi. In addition, this luxury tour company’s Lend a Helping Hand on Safari program gives travelers an opportunity to donate time and resources.
Cambodia-based Journeys Within offers a Give and Take Tour in which participants may spend a week volunteering at its language schools.
GoPhilanthropic is a socially conscious travel company committed to helping individuals and small groups create meaningful life experiences through Travel Philanthropy.
Jaringan Ekowisata Desa (JED) is a village ecotourism network on the Indonesian island of Bali. Launched in 2002, it is owned by the communities of four Balinese villages. Local guides, local foods, community designed and managed, JED sees that all its profits contribute to community development and conservation activities in the villages. Visitors have the opportunity to participate in ceremonial activities and work alongside villagers on day or overnight itineraries.
In addition, the following U.S.-based non-profit organizations lead work/study/charitable tours in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
The mission of Village Enterprise Fund, a grant-making NGO based in San Carlos, CA, is to break the cycle of poverty in East Africa through training, seed capital, and mentoring for income-generating small businesses. Travelers on one of VEF’s summer vision trips may learn more about is mission and see the impact of its grant-making first hand.
The American Jewish World Service provides opportunities to study, work, serve and travel in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Volunteers partner with grassroots community-based groups.
Before booking with any travel company, ask the questions. Any company committed to responsible travel will be more than willing to share their business philosophy and practice with you.