Responsible tourism: Family holiday to China, Beijing to Shanghai
Our local partner is a driving force in sustainable development and responsible tourism. Their vision is to protect the regionís unique natural and cultural heritage seriously for the long term success of tourism in the region. On this tour, after exploring the hutongs of Beijing by rickshaw, we take the overnight train to Xian, where other tour operators take domestic flights. The sleeper train is not only a more environmentally way to travel, but is an experience in itself, a meeting place of the Chinese, snacking on instant noodles and sunflower seeds, playing cards and drinking baijiu, the countryís rice liquor. We explore xian by bike, avoiding adding to the cities congestion and by-passing the crowds.
We explore the beautiful landscape and crystal-clear river of Bifengxia on foot and take a picnic en-route, making our way to the Panda Centre. We have a strict policy to leave no trace of our visit, so all rubbish is taken away with us from the area to be disposed of correctly.
The Panda Breeding centre is one of the top 500 environmental conservation entities and is committed to conservation and education through the breeding of the endangered giant panda. The establishment has taking the lead in providing a genuine volunteer experience for visitors who can help with preparing food and cleaning their enclosures, depending on the priorities of the day.
Our local partner set up a not-for-profit organization using tourism to make destinations better places to both visit and live. As well as the promotion of responsible tourism and sustainable projects in the area, since its creation in 1993 it has been supporting other charities on an ad-hoc basis, such as raising funds for emergency relief after the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Burma where funds were used for distributing food, and rebuilding houses and schools. Having lived and worked in the area for over 20 years, the foundation carefully selects projects that will be of most benefit to the environment and community depending on the areas politicial, economic and social contexts.
On tour, local guides are employed, not only to ensure that money generated by tourism benefits the local community, but also because these people know the area well. In Yangshuo, we visit the market, to select local ingredients before joining a group cookery lesson followed by lunch. We learn to cook several authentic dishes. Where possible, we explore the cities and villages by modes of transport such as cycling, rickshaws and on foot, instead of from behind the glass windows of a vehicle, to really experience being part of the surroundings, rather than an observer.