Responsible Travel membership criteria


WHAT IS A RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL POLICY?
At Responsible travel we operate a two-step Responsible Travel screening process – firstly at application stage where we screen companies and their responsible travel policies and secondly, if accepted onto the site, where we screen how their trips make a difference.

When applying to join our site, we ask that each prospective member submit to us a company Responsible Travel policy that sets out the ways in which they:
  • reduce the negative and increase the positive impacts their company's operational practices have on the social and physical environment within the areas of their operation.
  • inform and demonstrate to their staff, suppliers and travelers their commitment to social and environmental best practice.
  • differentiate their product from other operators and 'add value' to the quality product they already offer i.e. show how their company meets / exceeds the minimum standards set in order to join Responsible Travel AND to create better travel experiences for their customers - real vacations.

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.

DEVELOPING YOUR RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL POLICY
If your company does not have an existing Responsible Travel policy, we encourage you before submitting your application to have a look at our responsible travel minimum standards and think about how they fit with your specific business operations. We recommend that you consult as many relevant stakeholders as possible. The list could include your staff, local communities, suppliers, conservationists 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.

OUR SCREENING PROCESS
Prospective members need to demonstrate that their policy and practices meet the Responsible Travel minimum standards. These are designed to be relevant to the entire industry - from B&B's to large hotels, from small owner run tour operators to very large multi-national operators. All members are encouraged to celebrate additional programmes and activities beyond the minimum requirements.

We ask that each prospective member provides us with the following (policy requirements can be built into a single document representing the companies responsible travel policy for staff and suppliers):

  1. Policy & Procedure
    1. A copy of your company’s responsible travel policy
    2. Written confirmation that the company policy has been provided to staff, destination suppliers and travelers
    3. Written confirmation that the company has a procedure for responding to traveler’s complaints & suggestions concerning responsible travel practices

  2. Environmental Policy
    1. Evidence of 1 office-based initiative to reduce waste, and evidence that the company policy requests waste management practice of suppliers (reduce-reuse-recycle)
    2. Evidence that travelers are provided with suggestions for how to reduce water use in their destinations
    3. Evidence that travelers are provided with relevant suggestions to minimise damage to the environment, wildlife and marine ecosystems
    4. * 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 responsibletravel.com
    * Tour operators may suggest alternative environmental projects - section 2.iv

  3. Social Policy
    1. Evidence that travelers are provided with accurate pre-trip information on the social and political situation in each destination
    2. Evidence that travelers are provided with suggestions of ways to minimise negative impacts on local cultures
    3. Evidence that the company policy requests destination suppliers to ensure that a local guide accompanies all group visits to local communities
    4. * 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 responsibletravel.com
    * Tour operators may suggest alternative social projects - section 3.iv

  4. Economic Policy
    1. Evidence that the company policy requests destination suppliers to employ local people wherever possible
    2. Evidence that the company policy requests destination suppliers, where local standards permit, to make use of local produce, manufacturers and other services
    3. Evidence that travelers are provided with pre-trip suggestions of local services that provide local community benefits (e.g. restaurants, guides, shops, craft markets)

OPERATION
  • 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 company’s 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.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Registration Terms
Tour Operators who have satisfied the minimum requirements for pre-registration will be admitted as members of Responsible Travel upon agreement to the following:

Tour operator policy and practice, as provided for pre-registration, will be published by Responsible Travel to demonstrate how the company meets responsible travel standards. Members will also be encouraged to provide additional stories for publication on the site, to celebrate best practice and to differentiate their own products from those of other operators.

Responsible Travel will publish travelers' feedback on the site. In the case of negative feedback, Responsible Travel will contact the operator prior to publication so that the operator can write a reply for simultaneous publication. Travelers' feedback will remain anonymous.

In the event of a member tour operator being found to have misrepresented their responsible travel practices, they will be provided with the opportunity to correct this. Should they fail to do so, they will be removed from the site and their membership fees returned. Should the member disagree with such an action, Responsible Travel will refer the decision to an arbitration committee consisting of a director of Responsible Travel, an elected tour operator member and an external arbitrator. The decision of the arbitration committee will be final.

Tour operators will respond to enquiries generated by Responsible Travel within 2 days. In the event of Responsible Travel receiving information from travelers of inadequate response time, members will be given the opportunity to rectify the situation. Should they fail to do so, they will be removed from the site and their membership fees returned. Should the member disagree with such an action, Responsible Travel will refer the decision to its arbitration committee.

Admission
Tour operators meeting the pre-registration criteria and agreeing to the registration terms will be admitted to the Responsible Travel site. All information to be published will be made privately available to the tour operator member before it goes live.

Membership will be reviewed annually except in the event of circumstances as detailed in the registration terms given above. Responsible Travel reserves the right to improve and evolve the standard criteria of responsible travel based on feedback from members and travelers

Use of the Responsible Travel logo
Tour operators who have passed the minimum Responsible Travel criteria and have been accepted as members are encouraged to use the Responsible Travel logo in the marketing of their responsible travel products. The logo may only be used in the format provided by Responsible Travel and only in association with products that meet all the designated criteria. Tour operators may not use the logo as a general endorsement of their company or products.
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