How the minimum criteria of the responsible travel standard was met...
- All our guides are truly local to the area they work in and we employ minority village guides where possible, ensuring money reaches the communities and travellers benefit from local knowledge.
- Whilst trekking, guides source supplies locally, often daily, rather than carry it in from bigger towns. Local villagers are paid for work required at home stay camps, ensuring vital money reaches the villages.
- Many of our itineraries include visits to NGOs and charity operations. We visit ‘kindness restaurants’, staffed by ex-street children - allowing them to gain valuable work experience and break away from life on the streets. We encourage donations to charities that really make a difference such as Elefant Asia and SOS Childrens Villages.
One Bottle at a Time. Tap water in Asia is not always reliable, and bottled water is the common solution, but it does result in a lot of plastic waste. We undertook to reduce our plastic water bottle waste in Asia by 50%* in 2018 (and more as time goes on) through our One Bottle at a Time programme, which tackles our two main sources of plastic bottles - the drinking water that clients obtain for themselves whilst on holiday, and the water we provide in our vehicles.
We reduce the number of plastic drinking water bottles that clients are supplied by replacing them with refillable aluminium drinking bottles. This is no simple undertaking, as we supply safe drinking water at every stage of the journey.
We have worked with our local partners to roll out a scheme which allows our clients to refill their reusable bottles from water stations at key partner hotels and portable water canisters, which are carried in the vehicles we use.
We are also collaborating with two local NGOs (Refill Not Landfill & Exo Foundation) who are focused on the specific topic of water bottle waste reduction in Asia. Both of these organizations have existing frameworks in place in certain countries in Asia which we can utilize as part of this initiative, and we believe that we can further our mutual goals by sharing knowledge and best practice.
Water-to-Go bottles. We recommend our clients travel with a reusable water bottle - the best we have tried and tested is the ‘Water-to-Go’ bottle. The filter has been independently tested against internationally recognised standards by industry specialists in the USA, Europe and India; all have confirmed that the filters eliminate over 99.9% of harmful contaminants in water, meaning that you can safely fill your water bottle with any water source (apart from salt water) and drink safe water everywhere you go.
The Selective Asia team have been using the bottles throughout Asia, and every client who books with us receives 15% discount off any Water-to-Go bottle. We also donate a further 15% of the cost of the bottle to Water.org, a charity dedicated to bringing clean drinking water and sanitation to communities around the world.
Leopard Guardians. With the help of wildlife experts Jonathan and Angela Scott, we are supporting ‘Leopard Guardians', a programme designed to help safeguard leopards in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka - one of the best places in the world to see leopard.
Selective Earth Programme with the World Land Trust. We believe that for ‘carbon offsetting’ to be effective, it needs to be implemented as part of a broader set of responsible actions, otherwise it distracts from the real impact of flying, on both the developing country and the developed country. In order to truly contribute towards a healthier planet, we believe that putting our efforts into travelling responsibly and donating towards conservation projects is a more responsible action than simply offsetting, which is why we’ve put together the Selective Earth Programme, which offers all our clients the opportunity to not only reduce their carbon footprint when flying, but also contribute towards conservation projects in Asia.
To do this, we have teamed up with World Land Trust (WLT), an international conservation charity who we believe offer a correctly priced and effective solution to reducing the carbon impact of flights, through actively conserving rainforest whilst supporting local communities. We work closely with the Trust to identify which project needs the most funding at what time, to ensure our donations are making a difference. We are currently contributing towards the conservation of the Khe Nuoc Trong forest, in Vietnam, as well as planting fruit trees in the surrounding communities, with £25,000 pledged in total.
Our wildlife policies. We believe that tourism - when controlled, operated and managed responsibly - plays an essential role in the preservation of the Asian elephant and other endangered species. We only offer wildlife camps and experiences when we’re entirely satisfied with their management and operational procedures, and we stringently monitor them. We know that responsible, well-run camps play an important part in wildlife conservation and education, and we believe ethical camps have a vital role to play in supporting local communities.
In many parts of the world, you simply can’t separate animals from people – often they are linked by thousands of years of expertise, knowledge and understanding. As an example, Laos has always been known as the Land of a Million Elephants, thanks to its people’s longstanding reverence for and relationship with the creatures. But research suggests that there are now fewer than 2,500 elephants in Laos (both wild and captive). Allowing visitors to experience elephants within a semi-wild environment which adheres to international husbandry standards, where the operation is fully transparent, and where the animals are always humanely treated and never used merely as ‘entertainment’, can be an extremely powerful in tool in terms of promoting education, awareness and understanding, amongst both visitors and locals.
We regularly (usually once a year) carry out an extensive audit of our wildlife programmes. This typically involves the experience of our staff whilst ‘on the ground’, our local partners, and comments we receive from clients. This enables us to make any changes to the programme and, crucially, identify camps and experiences with which we would never do business. If we’re not one hundred percent confident a wildlife experience adheres to the highest ethical standards we simply won’t include it in our programme. If appropriate, we would also report anything of concern that comes to our attention to the necessary authorities.
Our vehicles. We use well maintained and suitably sized vehicles - for example, we don’t drive large 50-seater vehicles, but instead use vehicles that are suitable for the size of each privately-guided party.
Social enterprises. There are a number of inspiring social enterprises across Asia that we’re able to include visits to in our itineraries. For example, some of the most interesting eateries we include in our trips are vocational training restaurants, such as the Friends restaurant in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and The Passport in Mae Sot (Thailand), which offer training to locals from disadvantaged backgrounds and arm them with skills for work in the hospitality industry.
Remote minority groups. We are of the staunch opinion that minorities aren’t tourist attractions, any more than children are. All our holidays that take place in and around minority communities - often found in our more adventurous programmes - are set up with the locals’ best interests at heart. We work with partners who do everything possible to ensure that the entire community benefits from our visits.
Heritage Friendly Campaign of Cambodia. We are very proud to have been awarded Silver Status by the Heritage Friendly Campaign of Cambodia. We believe that it is essential to care and respect the destinations we work in, and this award reflects the efforts we have made within Cambodia. It certifies that, amongst other things, we:
1. Educate our clients on the importance of protecting Cambodia's heritage.
2. Ensure all our employees are educated about heritage preservation.
3. Actively promote good tourism practice, imparting information to guests that is beneficial to the environment, heritage, arts and culture.
4. Support social development programs such as sports activities for the youth, education and literacy programs as well as other projects helping underprivileged Cambodians.
5. Are involved with community projects providing support for underprivileged Cambodians.
6. Promote new Cambodian destinations, helping to ensure income from tourism reaches the areas that need it most.
Client education. Before clients travel, they are given access to the Departure Lounge section of our website as well as receiving travel packs, both of which contain comprehensive information about etiquette, appropriate behaviour especially in temples and culturally sensitive environments, adequate and appropriate tipping, appropriate clothing and so forth.