As a global tour operator, we are committed to operating every one of our trips in a way that respects and benefits local people, their culture and economy, while minimising our impact on the natural environment.
We travel in small groups and wherever possible we use local transport, stay in locally-owned accommodation or homestays, eat at authentic local restaurants, support traditional artisans and small-scale businesses, and provide opportunities for travelers to interact with local people.
On this food-focused short break in Thailand, we travel with a maximum group of 12 passengers, which means that we can visit small-scale restaurants, street stalls and markets without overwhelming them. In Bangkok we take a food crawl where we eat each course in a different restaurant, which means we spread income around a number of businesses. We visit one of the more authentic floating markets, which stocks seasonal produce grown in local orchards and we eat in many other markets while in Chiang Mai.
There is a homestay experience in a traditional rural community, which includes cooking our own traditional Khantohk meal from ingredients we purchase from local markets, farms and producers. During dinner, we are entertained with traditional music and dancing and the whole experience gives a unique cultural insight and enables us to support small, rural businesses. The accommodation there is basic, but the welcome is warm!
During the trip, we travel by a variety of means of local transport Ė including tuk-tuks, songthaews (pick-up trucks converted into shared taxis) and overnight sleeper train.
We operate this trip on a carbon neutral basis, by offsetting 146kg of C02 emissions for each passenger. After a three-year process, we were proud to become a carbon neutral company in 2010 and we have an ongoing programme to measure, reduce and offset the carbon emissions from our offices, stores and trips. We also offer passengers who book their flight through us the option to offset those emissions. To date, we have offset more than 45,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by investing in a range of internationally accredited renewable energy projects in destinations where we travel.
As well as a Responsible Travel Code of Conduct which we adhere to as a company, we expect our staff and travelers to demonstrate the principles of responsible travel and provide a number of responsible travel tips to facilitate this, for example advice on what clothing is appropriate and respectful. In Asia, where dress standards are conservative we recommend modest clothing which covers the shoulders and knees, particularly when we are at the homestay which is in a traditional, rural community. We also recommended that travelers do not ride elephants or watch them perform, as we believe this practice fuels the demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive bred.
As a tour company, our responsibilities donít stop when our tours end. In 2002, we established a charitable foundation so that our passengers and staff could support grassroots community projects around the world. In Thailand, we support Friends of the Asian Elephant, which aims to protect and conserve the welfare of both domesticated and wild elephants, for example with free medical care and transportation, and an orphanage and community relief centre for children and destitute women, called Baan Unrak (House of Happiness).
To date, our foundation has donated over £2million to over 75 projects around the world which are involved with health care, education, human rights, child welfare, sustainable development, and environmental and wildlife protection. We match every donation made by passengers and pay the administration costs, so every penny that is donated goes to a good cause.