Hopefully we have made a responsible traveler out of you, thereafter we spelled out the differences between a genuine green destination and a green washed one. In the third part of our responsible travel series, we take you through what you should look for in a green tour operator as a continuation from our part 1 and part 2. A green tour operator is really where it all begins and to prove that, here are some pointers in what you should look for in a green tour operator:
1. Find out about the carbon profile of your business, sometimes a less-obvious area of inquiry than ecotourism practices. Make an effort to reduce your carbon footprint by adopting energy-efficient initiatives and using less carbon-intensive modes of transport. If you provide accommodation and food for your guests, research the carbon footprint of those areas of the business. For example, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients incur far less of an emissions burden than those hailing from far away, imported for an ecologically-disconnected menu
Work with the camps and lodges to create alternatives to flying and driving safaris by suggesting nature walks, cultural talks and tours, cycling safaris, boat safaris etc
2. Do you have a relationship with the local community you explore? A less-sustainable tours and travel agency may not funnel much or any of its proceeds toward social issues in its region, while a more conscientious one incorporates locals into its operations and takes the time to give back to the community that draws in its patrons. This touches on sustainability in more ways than one. Locals that feel involved and respected in a tourism venture structured around its familiar landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage are more likely to value those components and make responsible decisions regarding the preservation of natural resources.
Give some of your net profit back to the local community and wildlife projects.
Choose a project that interests your company, such as rhino conservation or village water supplies, and set yourself a goal. Create the timeline with your staff and then inform your clients of your goal. Update everyone involved on your progress throughout the year.
3. Specialize in tours of natural areas. Strike a balance between exposing outsiders to the wonders of a particular ecosystem and protecting that very ecosystem against excessive use and disruption. For example, tours that use baiting to attract animals may be unsustainable. Such activity habituates creatures to human presence and accustoms them to handouts, which alters their normal behavior; thereby decreasing their chances of long-term survival while increasing the likelihood of an antagonistic encounter that could lead to an animal's destruction
4. Read through comments from other travelers, which may give a fuller picture of the tour company's attitude and practices.
5. Give your clients tips on what to purchase i.e. refer your client to a local handicraft shop in the area they will be visiting. When buying gifts for your clients, purchase locally made items.
Set a policy on waste reduction and recycling. Ensure your staff is aware of it. Perhaps you can create a competition for the office staff that uses the least amount of paper or recycles the most paper.
6. What pre-departure environmental information do you provide the traveler?
Create pre-departure information that provides helpful hints on wildlife conservation information and what natural products to buy or not buy when visiting East Africa
7. Encourage your staff to write on eco- travel for magazines, websites and ezines? That’s free publicity for you while educating travelers at the same time!
8. Train your staff to be eco-friendly. Have an eco-policy briefing for your staff.
9. Get involved in regional initiatives to conserve the environment. Start looking for partners that will help you, help themselves and protect the wilderness areas at the same time!