Developing a Responsible Travel Policy
To assist in developing an effective Responsible Travel Policy that is suited to your specific business we recommend that you consult as many relevant stakeholders as possible. The list could include your staff, local communities, suppliers, conservationalists and experts in the relevant areas of operation. Look at other company's policies, all members of Responsible Travel have their policy displayed on the site. These can be viewed by clicking on the members list, (home page bottom left hand corner) then onto a particular member.
What constitutes a Responsible Travel Policy?
To reduce the negative and increase the positive impacts your company's operational practices have on the social and physical environment within the areas of your operation.
To inform and demonstrate to your staff, suppliers and travelers your commitment to social and environmental best practice.
To differentiate your product from other operators and 'add value' to the quality product you already offer.
To show how your company meets / exceeds the minimum standards set in order to join Responsible Travel AND to create better travel experiences for your customers - real vacations
Your Responsible Travel Policy should cover the following areas: a Travelers Code of Conduct, environmental impacts, economic impacts and social impacts. Responsible Tourism can be part of your strategy to differentiate product and to secure new and repeat business. The emphasis of your policy will depend on your area of operation with different products requiring different forms of responsibility. A traveler might reasonably expect a wildlife company to place more emphasis on ecological and environmental sustainability than a company organising city breaks.
Travelers Code of Conduct
Examples of the type of information that your Travelers Code of Conduct should contain:
- Provide accurate pre-trip information concerning the destination countries specific to a particular trip including the social and political situation.
- Inform travelers how and why purchasing locally produced goods and services - souvenirs, crafts, meals and guides (all of which can enhance the travelers' experience) from locally owned establishments has beneficial effect - communicate a sense of the significance of this to local communities.
- Suggest measures that can reduce water consumption in the destination and why it is important.
- Provide travelers with relevant suggestions to minimise damage to the environment, wildlife and marine ecosystems
- Suggest ways to minimise negative impacts on local cultures and consider whether or not you are giving the best possible advice about bargaining.
- Suggest destination visits to appropriate local social projects with direct or indirect benefits to the host community
- Evidence of one office based initiative - paper reusing and recycling, energy efficiency measures, printer cartridge recycling, car share scheme, reducing the use of printed brochures.
- Evidence that travelers are provided with suggestions for how to reduce water use in their destinations - see Travelers Codes
- Evidence that travelers are provided with relevant suggestions to minimise damage to the environment, wildlife and marine ecosystems - see Travelers Codes
- Evidence that the company provides suggestions for destination visits to appropriate local projects with direct or indirect environmental benefits. This is an essential requirement for all trips published on Responsible Travel
*Tour operators may suggest alternative social projects
- You need to be able to demonstrate that your company is actively seeking to employ local guides to accompany groups visiting local communities. This may well be in addition to the guide or courier who is looking after the group. The employment of a guide from the particular local community being visited will enhance the visitor's experience and should be arranged so that the local community is more genuinely hosting the visit.
- You will need to communicate in your policy in what specific ways you are encouraging local suppliers to employ local people, you may be encouraging and/or contributing to training or exercising a preference (other things being equal) for local agents and accommodation which does employ local people.
- Again you will need to communicate how (and why) you are encouraging local sourcing of food, drinks, soft furnishing, guiding etc
- Evidence that travelers are provided with accurate pre-trip information on the social and political situation in each destination
- Evidence that travelers are provided with suggestions of ways to minimise negative impacts on local cultures - see Travelers Codes
- Evidence that the company policy requests destination suppliers to ensure that a local guide accompanies all group visits to local communities
- Evidence that the company provides suggestions for destination visits to appropriate local social projects with direct or indirect benefits to the host community. This is an essential requirement for all trips published on Responsible Travel
*Tour operators may suggest alternative environmental projects
- The completed policy should be distributed to all staff members, destination suppliers and be available to travelers.
- A procedure should be in place to respond to a complaint made by a traveler that concerns the Responsible Travel Policy or your Travelers Code of Conduct
Recommended operational practices
- Monitor and record the levels of operational impacts, set realistically achievable objectives and goals concerning operational practices E.g. The percentage of local guides employed, head office energy consumption levels, the percentage of accommodations you use that have been accredited by an independent verification organisation.
- Having a Responsible Travel Policy that sets achievable and realistic targets will enable you to continually reduce the negative impacts and increase the positive effects your companies operational practices have on the social and physical environment.
- You may wish to ask suppliers to sign up to this agreement enabling it to be used as a management tool that will assist in ensuring suppliers implement the parts applicable to their area of operation.
- Use your policy to enhance your reputation by displaying and promoting your policy - be proud of your actions. Be careful not to overstate your actions and ensure you are in a position where you can back up your claims.