All of our itineraries are conducted in conjunction with a carefully selected local partner that has been rigorously vetted to ensure that they operate in a responsible manner. Although there may sometimes be ‘westerners’ employed in some positions within the company, one of our key requirements is that our local partners are primarily staffed by local people. We feel that this not only helps to ensure that tourism wealth is retained within each country, but also that this enables us to create better itineraries.
Where possible we also ensure that local partners are owned by local people rather than by foreigners. In the small number of cases where this has not been possible the foreign owner permanently resides in the country concerned and therefore we feel that the tourism wealth is still primarily being retained.
The vast majority of our itineraries utilise tourist guides to take families around important sites. These guides are always local, without exception. Our experience is that families greatly enjoy the insight into the local culture and way of life that can be provided by a local guide.
We also find that local guides are particularly good at providing families with guidelines on how to behave in certain places and situations – for example ensuring that they remove their shoes before entering temples, not pointing the soles of the feet at people, not patting children on the head etc.
When selecting hotels we generally look for smaller establishments that are locally owned, rather than large international chain hotels. This not only ensures that money stays within the local community but also usually provides a better experience for our clients. Smaller establishments are often particularly well suited to families and provide a level of service that is not often replicated in larger properties.
In addition the staff and suppliers for smaller locally owned hotels are almost always from within the country concerned which retains tourist wealth.
Note that in some instances we have no alternative but to use larger hotels but this is kept to a minimum.
One of the main issues in many of the countries in which we operate is the excess of plastic bottles used by tourists which are not recycled. This is a difficult problem to address as clearly visitors are often unable to drink local water for health reasons. However, where a family are using the same transport for a number of days (for example on our tours in Sri Lanka) we will advise them to buy a large jerry can sized water canister which they can then use to refill their smaller bottles on a daily basis.
On treks in Nepal and Morocco we advise people to take water purification tablets with them which can be used to purify local water and again keep plastic waste to a minimum.
Our primary focus is on social rather than environmental projects as these are more prevalent in the destinations that are most popular with Stubborn Mule (the Far East). However, as we develop our programmes in other areas, particularly Africa, we intend to introduce visits to environmental projects where possible.
Behaving Responsibly in the UK:
Our office is run in an extremely environmentally responsible manner. We operate an almost exclusively paper free office, the only exceptions being areas beyond our control such as paper bank statements, registration documents etc.
This paper free philosophy also extends to our promotional material which is almost exclusively online. We do not produce a brochure and the only printed material we produce is a small flyer for distribution at travel shows.
Our intention is to provide travellers with an in-depth insight into the country in which they are travelling. One of the best ways to achieve this is to arrange a visit to a local family or community and, in particular, a homestay. This is something that we recommend to all families that travel with us. The visit can be relatively short, for example a lunch with a local family, or it can involve spending the night with a local family in their home, eating meals with them and joining in family activities.
When selecting an appropriate destination for a visit we try to ensure that the money that is spent will benefit the whole community. For example, homestays on Amantani Island in Peru are ideal as the community itself ensures that visitors are ‘shared around’ amongst different families in the host community, thus ensuring that everyone gets a turn.
As another example, when arranging visits to Nepal we recommend a number of community owned lodges for accommodation in the Annapurnas. These lodges bring benefit to the whole community rather than concentrating it amongst a small minority.
We also frequently try to arrange visits to local schools. As most of our travellers are family groups, this is often of great interest as it enables the children to get a sense of what life (and education) is like in the country in which they are travelling. For example in Burma we have a link with a school in Bagan which does not see a lot of tourists, but which welcomes occasional visits from families.
Please note that we do not always mention these school visits in our pre-departure literature as we cannot always guarantee that a visit will take place – the guide will always check with the school prior to visiting and if it is not convenient, the family will not be taken there.
Prior to travel we send all clients a set of detailed trip notes which not only include an in depth overview of their holiday but which also give responsible travel guidelines that are specifically tailored to the country to which they are travelling. For example if a family are travelling to the Middle East there will be a section giving advice on appropriate behaviour and clothing. If they are trekking in Morocco there will be a section on how to behave whilst trekking through remote mountain communities.
The notes also gives advice on issues such as giving out pens and sweets, something which we still find some travellers are keen to do. We advise against this and suggest that if travellers wish to contribute to local communities, that they should select an appropriate local charity instead. We provide recommendations if requested.
Whilst on tour our local guides are on hand to provide relevant advice on how to behave in an appropriate and responsible manner.