Vietnam & Cambodia holiday via Sapa, small group

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Vietnam & Cambodia holiday via Sapa, small group

Environment

On this tour:

• We issue all our travellers in Cambodia and Vietnam with a 'tread lightly' guide that is filled with information about how best to limit their environmental impact. Topics covered include how to shop in a responsible manner like avoiding certain materials and produce, trying to shop in local provinces and from local markets, as well as how to barter with locals, often a point of contention with travellers. It also includes tips in reducing plastic consumption which, as Cambodia has little in the way of recycling facilities, is of increasing salience. It also covers more subtle ways to travel responsibly. A great way to help protects the local way of life is to eat locally, in local restaurants but also by eating local produce. this can include rice dishes, curries, soups and salads opposed to steak, pizza and other ingredients that incur high costs to import.

What else we do:


• On all of our private and small group journeys our local guides and Western tour leaders are on hand to help clients reduce their impact on the local environment. As with almost all travel it is the little things which really help the local environment.

• In Laos we work with the NGO Elephant Asia and currently pay for the production of specialist ‘Elephant First Aid Kits'.

• In northern Thailand we work with the Himmappan Project. In this case we've purchased a plot of land in the very north of Thailand dedicated to reforestation.

• We now offer carbon offset on 12 of our best-selling journeys in Asia, including Vietnam and Cambodia. With this program we will offset the carbon emissions for every passenger on every departure.


• We aim to use environmentally conscious hotels and homestays, like Topas Eco Lodge in Sapa (featured on this journey) as well as home-stays in the Mekong Delta and Mai Chau.

Travellers want to be responsible and do what they can to limit their local impact, our local guides and tour leaders are always on hand to guide our travelers choices on the ground. As well as offering guidance their local knowledge is an invaluable resource that our travellers regularly call-on when they are exploring Asia.

• They advise on how to shop ethically, like avoiding rare produce or goods that may have been sourced from endangered or at risk environments.

• In more rural areas we can guard against any potentially damaging actions like hiking in delicate areas, littering and avoiding certain shops/industries as well as avoiding irresponsible practices like street-zoo's.

• Give guidance on preserving the local built environment like the temples of Angkor, the citadel in Hue or the Great Wall of China.

We work with Cleaner Climate carbon consultants to fully offset emissions from our Australia and UK offices. The funds from the offsets support clean energy projects in Thailand, India, and China. Moreover, as a local and international operator we are in a unique position that allows us to better mitigate our effects on the local environment. Examples include using modern vehicles that reduce carbon emissions, avoiding poorly run hotels and educating our local guides on environmental issues.

Community

Community:

On this journey you will visits some of the NGOs we support and work with:

• Streets International. This NGO has a training restaurant in Hoi An that recruits young people from the local community and trains them in practical skills in hospitality (from chef to front of house). Almost all of our journeys that include Hoi An feature a visit to Streets International and out travellers (often in pairs) are taken to a little-visited market by one of the students (supervised by a teacher). This gives our travellers a great insight into local life as well as helping the students gain credits towards a recognised qualification. We also offer clients the chance to dine at the restaurant, where all proceeds are donated to the NGO.

• Spiral Foundation. The Spiral Foundation runs the Healing the Wounded Heart workshop in Hue. Disabled artisans produce crafts from recycled materials and are able to generate an income. All proceeds go towards fair salaries for the disabled employees and towards funding heart surgeries for poor children in Hue. Most of our journeys that go to Hue visit the workshop and guests can meet the workers and make their own souvenirs to take home. SPIRAL are able to pay for around 100 open heart operations per year across Vietnam.

• Creativity for Humanity. Our reusable cloth shopping bags given to Small Group Journey travellers in Vietnam are made by underprivileged and disadvantaged Vietnamese artisans who work with Creativity for Humanity.

• On this journey you will visits the Child Safe Network in Phnom Penh. Dedicated to the elimination of child exploitation, and travellers receive a useful guide on how to help protect children in Cambodia.

Other regional project we support and work with:

• Loreto operates a number of projects aimed at assisting disadvantaged, poor, and disabled children through the medium of education. Over the years, we have funded school kits, a library, and travel costs for teacher trainers to come from Australia.

• Makphet. In Laos we support Makphet Restaurant (part of Friends International). A social enterprise project, Makphet takes in disadvantaged youths from Vientiane and trains them in various aspects of hospitality as well as providing a formal education, housing, food, clothing and support. As well as introducing our clients to the restaurant we also sponsor a student at the restaurant.

• Big Brother Mouse. We have paid for the publication of three books designed to encourage an interest in reading, increase literacy, and/or help educate about key rural health issues in Laos. Many of our travellers also purchase books for ‘drop off’ to schools or villages during their trip. We also run fundraisers throughout the year to support the project.

• Over a number of years, Travel Indochina has paid for the training and employment of a nurse at this Siem Reap hospital, the latest is nurse Soy. AHT provides much needed healthcare to children from across Cambodia, with a focus on primary intervention and on the training. We also undertake numerous ad-hoc donations throughout the year.

• Purkal Youth Development society. We support this centre for educational and personal development of disadvantaged youth in Northern India by sponsoring school uniforms, a library, and a school-wide drama and performing arts program.

• In Laos we support the interactive COPE visitor’s centre which confronts to very real issue of UXOs and unexploded ordinance. During the visit we also show our travellers what they can do to help.

• Ad hoc support. We also offer support in many of our destinations on an ad hoc basis. In Vietnam we have offered logistical support for victims of flooding, we financially support a rural school in southern Vietnam and also run annual fundraising events in our offices in Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as in in our offices in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Other things we do:

As always, it is the little things that really help.

• We try and dine away from large hotels, instead frequenting smaller family-owned or charity run restaurants. This is a great way for travellers to experience authentic cuisine and support local business.

• We identify and encourage our clients to use social enterprise projects like the KOTO restaurants in Vietnam and Romdeng in Cambodia.

• Our guides and Western tour leaders are always on hand to assist with travellers equations around responsible travel and can help travellers avoid common pitfalls (like begging, child labour) that do little and often encourage irresponsible practices.

• Although sincere, many attempts at responsible travel can breed dependence (an increasingly disturbing and typical example is the rise of 'orphanage tourism') and are not always as they seem. By working through NGO's and local groups we are able to avoid such pitfalls.

• As well as having offices in Australia, the United Kingdom and North America, we have offices in several cities in Indochina. Our direct presence in Asia means that we are much better able to control the content of our itineraries, the actions of our suppliers, and the style of our Small Group Journey and tailor-made travel arrangements. In short, our offices in Asia give us leverage in implementing our responsible travel policy.

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