Burma holiday, rivers & railways

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Burma holiday, rivers & railways

Environment

Our ground agents are dedicated to reducing their environmental impact in all their Asian destinations. Where the scheme exists they support a social enterprise called Naga Biofuel which collects used cooking oil from hotels to recycle into biodiesel and bio degreaser for engines of all sorts before selling it at lower prices to environmental NGOs. In the regional offices staff are asked to reduce the air-conditioning to actual temperature instead of having it on max (which tends to be the norm in Asia!) regardless of the weather. They are also asked to completely turn off all computers and printers at the end of each day (there was a tendency to leave them on standby) resulting in a huge saving of energy. Drivers are asked not to leave vehicles idling while waiting for clients.

Our ground agents are in the process of establishing a carbon offset programme in place to allow clients to offset their carbon usage. This is being done through an organisation called GERES, a not-for-profit organisation with over 40yrs experience in the field which aims to help preserve the environment, limit climate change and its consequences, reduce fuel poverty and improve living conditions.

This holiday stays in the Villa Inle Resort & Spa which is a new addition to Inle Lake and has worked hard to create a hotel which fits harmoniously into the environment. During the construction phase the hotel planted a huge number of indigenous trees including 1,000 banana trees, 500 lime trees, 500 mango trees and 2,000 teak trees. Not only do these help the environment they also provide an important source of produce for the hotel kitchens. The gardens are also all organic thereby avoiding adding unnecessary pesticides and herbicides into the natural environment. Recycling of most materials including paper, plastic, cans and glass is practiced in the resort and used cooking oil is used to make candles. The hotel is staffed by 90% locals thereby keeping the majority of staff salaries in the local economy.

Community

Our local Burma agent has been operating socially responsible trips to the country for many years and has a wealth of experience and expertise in the region. They have a strong responsible travel ethos and, in the wake of their exceptional efforts raising nearly $200,000 towards the Nargis Cyclone Relief Effort in Burma (which was used to help rebuild schools, clinics and houses), they established their own charitable foundation. With a realisation that tourism can change local lives for better and for worse, our agents have established a responsible travel ethos creating authentic travel experiences which mutually benefit locals and visitors.

The village of Ah Lett Chaung is located on the banks of the Yangon River and was one of the villages heavily affected by the cyclone seeing the destruction of many homes, farms and gardens and the pollution of drinking water supplies causing the spread of many diseases. With the aid of our agents, the village clinic was re-built and is still in operation treating 70-80 patients per week for a minimal fee. Clinic staff also regularly visit neighbouring villages where no clinic exists.
Since 2011, our ground agents have taken over the provision of salaries to the doctors, nurses and a security guard and a representative visits regularly to oversee the allocations of funds. The next goal is to improve the provision of safer drinking water to the village.
For all bookings made through us a donation is made which covers one field visit or training session to surrounding villages on aspects of sanitation and hygiene, an important factor in helping avoid the spread of disease in rural communities.

Our ground agents also support a community library in a village near Ngapali Beach, Burma. The community has 2,500 inhabitants and very remotely located with limited school facilities available. With their understanding that education is important for the village children the villagers set about establishing a small library through donations but lacked the further vital funding to be able to stock and maintain it. After visiting the village, our ground agents offered to support the project and funded the purchase of 800 books as well as tables, chairs and shelves and the training and ongoing paying of 2 villagers to manage the facility. Visiting to read the books and journals is free to all but a small fee is chargeable to borrow an item with the funds going back to the library.

Other projects undertaken by our local agents to encourage responsible and sustainable tourism in Burma include tree planting in Bagan and fund raising to build schools in remote rural areas such as Inle Lake, providing the funding for children to attend school longer or even go to university. In addition to clean, hygienic and well-constructed classrooms, our agents aim to ensure clean drinking water and sanitation facilities are available in order to help improve the health of local children.

Fair salaries are paid to all employees and regular training is provided to support future career development. Only local guides who are aware of local customs and cultures are employed which not only keeps the funds paid to staff within the local community but also helps avoid any potential cultural clashes between visitors and locals. All guides are also required to sign an agreement with our ground agents agreeing not to take visitors in their charge to unplanned sites such as schools, orphanages etc or to ask for donations or tips. Guides are required to turn off vehicles when idling to minimise unnecessary emissions.

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