Experience Travel Group: Sustainable Travel Policy

Last revised: December 2015

Revised by Sustainability Officer: Philly Baines

Mission Statement:

We recognize that the travel industry has the potential to generate both environmental and cultural impacts and we are committed to minimizing these negative impacts and improving the environment of both our UK base and in our destination countries. We are committed to maximizing the positive impacts of monetary and cross-cultural exchanges between our clients and the local communities in our destination countries.

Vision:

Become industry leaders in our destination countries with regards to ethical and environmental issues including wildlife and cultural ‘experiences’, hotels, modes of transport and other extras provided to clients both pre-travel and during.

Current Position:

A ‘Responsible Travel’ policy is already in place at Experience Travel Group, outlining the following commitments: 

  • Encourage guests to fully explore the country, gain a genuine appreciation of the country and its people and foster cross cultural communication through knowledgeable pre-departure planning and organization of small group, tailor-made tours.
  • Ensure our guests are well informed travelers through the provision of comprehensive pre-departure information on tipping, begging, cultural norms etc., as well as an in-country welcome pack with information on major sites, activities, local eating, shopping and basic language.
  • Ensure wealth is spread around the community and not concentrated on small sections and interest groups by avoiding taking shopping/food commissions, doing our best to ensure drivers do not pressure guests to use particular shops where they can earn commissions, and encouraging a tipping policy to encourage excellent service and discourage over-reliance on commissions.
  • Ensure our travel partners are treated equitably and fairly and share our commitment to sustainable travel principles by ensuring they sign and pledge to support our ‘Sustainable Travel Policy for Experience Travel’s Partners’.
  • Ensure we contribute towards the country and community in a fair and open way by paying local taxes in full, endeavoring to work only with legally registered and tax-compliant suppliers, and encouraging our clients to patronize not-for-profit groups such as Sewa Lanka.

Targets:

In line with our mission statement and vision, we commit in the long term to:

  • Comply with all relevant legislation and regulatory requirements.
  • Run a self-awareness campaign with relation to energy consumption and sustainability within our UK office.
  • Reduce energy consumption within our UK office by 30% over the next6 months
  • Embed sustainable development principles into the core business practices throughout Experience Travel Group, both in the UK office and in the offices of our ground handlers.
  • Work with all parties affected by our business, including clients, colleagues, suppliers, industry partners and local communities, to ensure that the experiences we offer cause minimal disturbance whilst providing the utmost enjoyment for the client.
  • Increase focus of sustainable options throughout our destination countries.
  • Encourage suppliers to improve their product with regards to making it more sustainable.

Achievements:

  • Taken a stand against ethically dubious elephant experiences such as the Pinawella Elephant Orphange in Sri Lanka. 

Plan of Action:

Comply with all relevant legislation and regulatory requirements:

 Time frame: Ongoing

The sustainable travel officers will keep up to date with all relevant legislation and regulatory requirements, ensuring that actions to comply with any new changes are implemented either directly or by the relevant department.

Run a self-awareness campaign with relation to energy consumption and sustainability within our UK office:

Time frame: Next 6 months

The CEO, Sam Clark and the Sustainability Officer will share the environmental policy and green actions with the remainder of staff over a staff meeting. Stickers will be used to remind staff to turn off lights, taps, radiators etc.

Reduce energy consumption within our UK office by 30% over the next year:

Steps will be taken to reduce energy loss through draft proofing of our Clapham office, and through an awareness campaign amongst staff to switch off lights, taps and radiators when not needed. The individual closing the office at the end of each working day should ensure that all PC monitors, printers and lights are switched off, and no machine is left on standby unless expressly authorized.

Embed sustainable development principles into the core business practices throughout Experience Travel Group, both in the UK office and in the offices of our ground handlers:

Time frame: Ongoing

This target will be implemented through continued education of both the UK-based and overseas team members with regards to ongoing ethical and environmental issues. Product will be revised throughout the year, with quarterly meetings to ensure all team members are up to date. Company-wide (including local ground handlers) training will be implemented to encourage and educate with regards to implementing sustainable travel policies.

Work with all parties affected by our business, including clients, colleagues, suppliers, industry partners and local communities, to ensure that the experience we offer cause minimal disturbance whilst providing the utmost enjoyment for the client:

Time frame: Ongoing

Through continued correspondence with all parties involved, product will be developed accordingly in an effort to ensure that not only the experiences provided to the client are authentic and enjoyable, but that the impacts caused by such experiences do not negatively affect the local communities or environment. Local community perceptions will be periodically garnered via a community survey, to receive information from communities on how we can work more effectively and positively for them. Wildlife and nature product will be continuously reviewed based on the latest information in the press and scientific literature to ensure not only the experience is enjoyable for the client but that it is not negatively affecting the wildlife involved and that the practice is not encouraging unethical/illegal activities such as poaching. Feedback will be provided to ground handlers with improvements to be made, or aspects done well, which will then be filtered down to hotels, suppliers and guides.

Increase focus of sustainable options throughout our destination countries:

Time frame: In one years’ time we aim to resolve all current ethically ambiguous experiences by either removing them entirely or providing a more sustainable alternative. This will need to then be continued as new issues arise.

By continuously reviewing our product we will work to resolve issues and sustainability questions regarding our experiences offered to clients. This has already begun with the removal of excursions to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage and continues to develop through the review of elephant riding activities throughout our destination countries.

This will move forward through a review of safari drive operators and the production of guidelines for all safari drive operators used by Experience Travel Group. We also aim to review the experiences offered with regards to tribal trekking, particularly in relation to the tourist heavy areas of Sapa in northern Vietnam, and Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, and the employment practices of hotels and ground handlers.

Encourage suppliers to improve their product with regards to making it more sustainable:

Time frame: Ongoing

An accommodation audit is to be implemented on inspecting hotels and feedback will be submitted to managers for scope to improve on energy use and waste disposal where appropriate. 

Child Protection Policy:

Experience Travel Group is committed to child protection – both those we take on holiday and those living in our destination countries. We strongly condemn the exploitation of children, abuse of a child’s human rights and dignity, and we reserve the right to terminate business with any person or supplier that is engaged or associated with any form of child exploitation.

Animal Welfare Policy:

Experience Travel Group is committed to animal welfare, both for captive animals and those you observe in a wild environment. We commit to continuously work with suppliers to ensure compliance with relevant national and international welfare legislation and best practice.

Wildlife-viewing opportunities are often in high demand by our clients when on holiday, and so we are committed to working to enhance and ensure enjoyment for both our clients and the environment and wildlife involved. We appreciate the role that tourism has to play in wildlife conservation through the raising of funds which can be put back into conservation practices and the increased awareness of wildlife gained by first hand experiences. We also recognize that these activities have a socio-economic benefit, providing employment for the local community.

We are committed to upholding and enhancing the minimum standards of welfare for animals whose lives are impacted by tourism, and to protecting animals from exploitation, neglect and cruelty at the hands of the tourism industry. We commit to abiding by the Five Freedoms adopted by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as a benchmark for an animal’s physical and mental well-being. These are: 

  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst: nutritious food and clean water
  • Freedom from Discomfort: a suitable living environment that provides shelter, opportunities to rest and considers the species-specific needs of wild animals
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease: preventative and curative health care
  • Freedom to express Normal Behaviour: living space that encourages natural behaviour
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress: appropriate areas to seek privacy and limit human contact

As a member of ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) and AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators), we work closely with these groups as well as animal welfare NGO’s worldwide in order to better understand and identify practices which may pose a risk to animal welfare and our client’s health and safety in our destination countries. We provide the following guidelines to clients for responsible wildlife viewing: 

  • Do not feed wild animals – this can have severe consequences for an animal’s welfare as well as your own personal safety
  • Do not touch wild animals – you can unwittingly pass on diseases that the animal has no immunity against, as well as placing yourself at risk.
  • Do not smoke when close to animals
  • Do not tease or provoke animals
  • Do not shout of make loud noises when close to animals
  • Do not drop litter – please dispose of it responsibly
  • Do not support the use of animals as photographic props
  • Do not support animal performances where animals are trained to perform tasks that have no basis in their natural behavior – for example riding bikes, cleaning teeth, elephants doing headstands. These behaviours are unnatural and may involve adverse training techniques which can have serious animal welfare implications.
  • Do not purchase souvenirs made out of wildlife products or other threatened natural materials e.g. coral, shells, starfish. Wildlife products may include but are not limited to: skin (handbags, belts, and drums), ivory, bush-meat, bones, feathers, quills, teeth etc., traditional medicines, good luck charms, tortoise shell or plant parts.

 We are committed to providing our clients with information on animal welfare issues as they arise through our blog, and employ customer feedback mechanisms to provide our clients with a platform to inform us of new issues.

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