Jelena Gayk review 19 Dec 2018
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Getting to know Cuba by bike and to have good conversations with our tour guide.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Bring saddle protection.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
I felt we supported local people but that's all. We didnt learn much about responsible traveling. We produced a lot of plastic waste! Everyone could bring
their own cup or lunch box and use it more often. We could have learned more spanish phrases in order to ask for less plastic in restaurants. The bus was
so huge and went all the way with us. It didn't make a difference if I ride the hole way on my bike or if I sat in the bus, because it was nearly the same gas
mileage. Before I booked the trip I decided to spend more money on the operator, because it said it was a responsible travel vacation. This more money I spent in comparison to other trips wasn't worth it.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
I enjoyed riding the bike, spending time with my group and the people who worked for us. I learnt a lot about Cuba and had great fun. But I didn't feel like I travelled responsibly.
Read the operator's response here:
Firstly thanks for bringing this to our attention, and being so passionate about the world we live in. It is a passion we share! It is feedback like this that gives us a true insight into where we are being successful, and where we need to work harder to protect our planet and the cultures we travel through.
For us the most important part of traveling responsibly is to ensure you have meaningful contact with local people, especially in a country as frequently misunderstood as Cuba, and we’re glad to hear that you were able to do that.
Conversely, due to a mixture of tourist regulations and the existing infrastructure in the country, traveling in Cuba is a challenge for any company wanting to travel responsibly. We absolutely recognise that certain aspects such as pollution and recycling are a ‘work in progress’ and, while we alone cannot change the laws and restrictions in the country, we are actively working with our local Cuban-owned supplier to make the lowest impact on the environment we can.
On the issue of plastic the challenge is significant. While recycling has been part of Cuban law since 1975, and everyday Cubans are truly amazing in their ability to reutilise any number of common items such as soft drink cans and plastic bottles, there is no formal recycling infrastructure in Cuba.
The use of single-use plastic is an issue we take very seriously, and it is something we are working on with our local team to try and ensure we keep this use to an absolute minimum. As part of their training we teach our local leaders about the importance of minimising our impact where possible. We also try and work with the local home owners and businesses we use along the way to help educate them, while respecting their culture and opinions – it is admittedly a delicate balance but not one we shy away from. We will certainly be following up to get a better understanding of why this did not appear to happen on your trip.
On the specific issue around the size of the support vehicle we wholeheartedly agree that – by Western standards – it is simply too large. Like many things in Cuba, the vehicles we use are controlled by the Cuban tourist authorities. For small groups we try to use a smaller ‘minibus’ type support vehicle to minimise the impact, but also ensuring we have vehicle that is suitable for our travelers’ needs (i.e. fits all travelers and crew, their bikes and their luggage. It’s a recognised problem and one we are actively working towards trying to resolve going forwards.
In short traveling responsibly in Cuba presents a huge challenge but we honestly believe that tourism is part of the long term solution if done correctly. We accept that we are unlikely to change the government’s policy or indeed the current infrastructure but through continuing education of our local staff and suppliers, and likeminded people such as yourself, we can help change the views of the people we encounter along the way.