As a global tour operator, we are committed to operating every one of our trips in a way that respects and benefits local people, their culture and economy, while minimising our impact on the natural environment.
We travel in small groups – on this trip the maximum group size is 12 passengers – which means we can stay in small, locally-owned or family-run hotels and in Lisbon we spend two nights in a pension (guesthouse). Every journey is made by public transport, to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum. Mostly we travel on public buses, but we also take trains from Granada to Seville, Santiago de Compostela to Burgos, and Burgos to Barcelona. We get about within cities by metro or on foot wherever possible.
So that you have flexibility over where you eat, very few meals are included as part of the tour. Your tour leader will suggest authentic, local restaurants, bars, markets and other eating places where you can sample local produce and regional specialities. Southern Spain is famed for its tapas, so in Seville and Granada we are likely to eat a series of small dishes in different bars which is a good way to support a number of small businesses. When in the Algarve, we enjoy a picnic of local produce when we take a coastal walk, and in Porto we indulge in a tasting of the locally-fortified wine for which the region is renowned. There are opportunities to visit markets, such as La Boqueria in Barcelona which offers a wealth of fresh produce.
One of the stops on this tour is Santiago de Compostela, which is the finish point for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Although some undertake this for non-religious reasons, the city has a religious significance for many and when visiting the cathedral and other religious sites we request that passengers dress respectfully, covering their shoulders and ensuring they don’t wear skimpy tops or shorts. This is just one of the responsible travel guidelines that we expect our passengers to follow, along with recycling where possible and minimising the use of plastic bottles.
We operate this trip on a carbon neutral basis, by offsetting 184kg of C02 emissions for each passenger. After a three-year process, we were proud to become a carbon neutral company in 2010 and we have an ongoing programme to measure, reduce and offset the carbon emissions from our offices, stores and trips. We also offer passengers who book their flight through us the option to offset those emissions. To date, we have offset more than 45,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by investing in a range of internationally accredited renewable energy projects in destinations where we travel.
As a tour company, our responsibilities don’t stop when our tours end. In 2002, we established a charitable foundation so that our passengers and staff could support grassroots community projects around the world. To date, it has raised over £2million for over 75 projects involved with health care, education, human rights, child welfare, sustainable development, and environmental and wildlife protection. We match every donation made by passengers and pay the administration costs, so every penny that is donated goes to a good cause.