Diwali festival holiday in India

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2019: 24 Oct
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Diwali festival holiday in India

Environment

We have won numerous awards for our approach to community tourism. We work with our partner communities in many ways to promote sustainable environmental practices, providing training and, where necessary, funding to help them. We have a network of regional coordinators who help local communities and ensure that training is relevant and fulfilling. We encourage all guesthouses to use green energy supplies, by installing solar panels for water heating and using solar lamps inside. We ask guests to use water filtered by their hosts to avoid bringing in unnecessary plastic bottles. We train local guides to identify local birds and animals, and encourage communities to see wildlife as a precious asset rather than a nuisance. Evidence is growing in Binsar that wildlife numbers are increasing, and the leopard is now seen far more frequently than in the past. We have also encouraged communities to dispose of household rubbish in sustainable ways, and guides have been into local schools to promote this.

Our itineraries include travel by rail as much as possible, with connecting journeys using local taxi services.

Community

Our style of community tourism is a true partnership with the host communities, and led to our winning Best for the Local Economy in the 2013 World Responsible Tourism Awards. Together with the communities, we build the guesthouses and the necessary infrastructure to provide memorable guest experiences. We train local people to be guides or cooks, and ensure that a village committee is formed to administer the enterprise and to ensure equitable distribution of income. We have brought over voluntary language teachers to teach English and, more recently, French. We encourage villages to give financial assistance throughout the communities according to need, and we make sure that anyone working for the enterprises is paid a fair wage. We are also instituting a system of independent audit to monitor the enterprises and the benefits they bring. Guests are seen as bringing real benefits, and so are welcomed warmly. We provide our guests with comprehensive background information that helps them to understand the communities and appreciate their cultures. Our local guides are encouraged to take guests to local artisans and markets, something which is much appreciated.

We also have a Charitable Trust, which has worked with the communities on projects such as bag and soap making; this has brought in vital extra income, and helped stem outward migration from villages to cities.

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