Responsible tourism: Belarus, Ukraine & Moldova small group tour
We spend time walking in pristine environments such as the Carpathian Mountains and Belovezaskaya National Park, and our guides are careful to brief travellers on appropriate behaviour and the importance of taking all rubbish with us. Belarus contains some of the last wilderness areas within Europe and is home to rare wildlife that cannot easily be found elsewhere, and as such the fees that we pay for visiting the park contribute towards conservation measures aimed at maintaining this important habitat. Many of Moldova's historic monuments do not receive the care and attention that they would in countries with higher visitor numbers. The entrance fees that we pay to enter such sites contribute to their ongoing maintenance.
This trip takes advantage of the good rail network that exists within Ukraine, and instead of using private transport where possible we make use of trains, thus reducing the carbon footprint of our travellers. Where appropriate and feasible we will always incorporate walking tours of cities rather than being reliant on private transportation - not only reducing our carbon footprint but we believe leading to a more enjoyable and intimate experience for our clients.
Ukraine and Moldova do not see the same numbers of visitors that many other countries experience and as such some practices which we take for granted in other parts of the world may not be found here. We work closely with our suppliers to introduce concepts of environmental responsibility to the communities that we travel through. This can include asking hotels to implement practices such as asking guests if they need fresh cleaned towels each day, and reminding guests to turn off lights when they leave the room small things that are standard practice in many places in the western world but not necessarily elsewhere. Most of the places that we stay in on this tour will take advantage of the excellent local produce, not only sustaining traditional communities but ensuring that unnecessary food miles are not made. We work with our local suppliers to highlight best practice in terms of environmental issues, an important effort in a country where the environment is often taken for granted and green thinking is largely absent.
We only work with operators who are as committed as we are to putting something back into the communities we visit. This may include giving a percentage of the profits from each tour to a foundation to help street children or local conservation projects. Furthermore, in order to allow our clients to make an informed decision on where a greater proportion of their money should be spent, we avoid including pre-paid full board meals where possible. Local restaurants and cafes then benefit.
Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned suppliers, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within such suppliers means that your experience will be enhanced. We also try to engage with our suppliers on an equal basis getting the lowest possible price usually isnt the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our suppliers fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an ongoing relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved.
This trip spends several nights staying as guests of a family in a local farmstead where you will have the opportunity to sample home cooked Belarusian dishes and experience national music and dance, as well as later spending the night in a local pension. We believe that staying in small village guesthouses and family homes not only gives travellers an authentic and very special insight into the lives of local people, but brings tangible benefits to small communities that may otherwise be overlooked by the tourism industry. Spending time with local hosts enables far more cultural interaction than travellers would experience when staying in large hotels. We visit local restaurants, wineries, markets and arts venues throughout this trip helping to pump money into the local economy where it is needed most.
We believe that tourism is a double edged sword that needs to be wielded very carefully. Our philosophy is to have a limited amount of departures usually between one and three a year - for each of our itineraries. By limiting our presence in areas where local culture can be quite fragile, we hope to avoid as much as possible the phenomenon whereby an area changes in character due to repeated and prolonged exposure to tourism. We want to visit an area as friends, not intruders and to ensure that what we see will also be there for others to enjoy for many years to come.
We only employ local staff and unlike many operators we believe that to send a foreign Tour Leader along to accompany your trip is an unnecessary burden on your wallet and our carbon footprint. We believe that locals know best. Our local operators only use locally owned accommodation. This means your money stays in the area to benefit the local community. When possible we use local transport, (i.e. rail or bus) and we always use local restaurants, markets and shops and encourage our clients to interact both financially and socially with the communities that they are passing through. In doing this your travels are supporting and encouraging the development of local services.
Our groups average only six clients, and many tours operate on a private basis with just two travellers. This has much less impact when travelling through rural areas, reducing our environmental and social affects. Finally to emphasis our commitment to Responsible Tourism all clients will receive a copy of our Travellers Code of Conduct with their travel documents.