Responsible tourism: Burkina Faso small group cultural tour
On this tour we visit remote villages of Leo, Gaoua and Banfora, which rarely see Western visitors. We make a point of ensuring that we do not leave any permanent trace of our stay behind, making sure we take all litter with us. We work with our local suppliers to highlight best practice in terms of environmental issues.
We visit the mysterious ruins of Loropeni, which is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Our visit to this site helps to support local projects to conserve the area's cultural and geographical heritage.
Our clients also have the opportunity to see the traditional houses of some of Burkina Faso's remote tribes. Clients and guides are briefed on local customs and general courtesy (such as asking permission before taking photographs/dress-codes/conduct in places of worship etc.) and behave appropriately.
Our groups average only six clients, and many of our tours operate on a private basis with just two travelers. This has much less impact when traveling through rural areas, reducing our environmental and social affects. Finally to emphasise our commitment to Responsible Tourism all clients will receive a copy of our Travelers Code of Conduct with their travel documents.
This tours travels through some very remote areas where we are privileged to spend time in the company of local communities. We visit the Kassena people and the Gan Dynasty who are welcoming towards visitors. Clients and guides are briefed on local customs and general courtesy (such as asking permission before taking photographs/dress-codes/conduct in places of worship etc.) and behave appropriately. We feel that it is important not to intrude upon the lives of these people and so will only stop at settlements that we know are happy to receive visitors.
When visiting villages and settlements we make use of local guides from that region, who are able to explain to us the cultures and customs of the people and ensure that we do not unwittingly offend our hosts. This is especially important with some of the groups that we visit, in particular the Lobi, who are traditionally wary of outsiders. This also helps to provide employment and income for rural communities.
In Banfora we support a local community based initiative at Tengrela Lake, where the villagers work have instigated a project to allow travelers to take boat trips onto the lake to see the hippopotamus that inhabit it. This not only provides income to a remote community and allows them to gain from tourism, but discourages them from harming the wildlife.
Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned suppliers, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within such suppliers means that your experience will be enhanced. We also try to engage with our suppliers on an equal basis getting the lowest possible price usually isnt the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our suppliers fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an ongoing relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved.
We believe that tourism is a double edged sword that needs to be wielded very carefully. Our philosophy is to have a limited amount of departures usually between one and three a year - for each of our itineraries. By limiting our presence in areas where local culture can be quite fragile, we hope to avoid as much as possible the phenomenon whereby an area changes in character due to repeated and prolonged exposure to tourism. We want to visit an area as friends, not intruders and to ensure that what we see will also be there for others to enjoy for many years to come.
We only employ local staff and unlike many operators we believe that to send a foreign Tour Leader along to accompany your trip is an unnecessary burden on your wallet and our carbon footprint. We believe that locals know best. Our local operators only use locally owned accommodation. This means your money stays in the area to benefit the local community. When possible we use local transport, (i.e. rail or bus) and we always use local restaurants, markets and shops and encourage our clients to interact both financially and socially with the communities that they are passing through. In doing this your travels are supporting and encouraging the development of local services.
We only work with operators who are as committed as we are to putting something back into the communities we visit. This may include giving a percentage of the profits from each tour to a foundation to help street children or local conservation projects. Furthermore, in order to allow our clients to make an informed decision on where a greater proportion of their money should be spent, we avoid including pre-paid full board meals where possible. Local restaurants and cafes then benefit.