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Our India travel specialist, Sarah Williams, discusses travel to India on BBC Radio Surrey. Listen on iPlayer.
Rugby stars Lewis Moody and Josh Lewsey will cycle from Saigon to Angkor Wat on a G&M expedition in Dec 2016.
It is estimated that more than one billion people will take an overseas holiday each year (source: UNWTO). The impact of tourism has already been immense and it will certainly increase. The travel industry can bring many benefits to local communities, including an injection of cash and employment for local people, preservation of native habitats and indigenous wildlife, and cultural exchange. However, without care, tourism can also have a negative impact: destruction of natural habitats; diversion of scarce resources; disturbance of wildlife; and the violation of tribal peoples' rights.
THE OBJECTIVE OF THIS POLICY
This responsible tourism policy is at the heart of any action or project undertaken by Gane & Marshall and is used to educate our staff, ground handlers, agents and suppliers on the importance of responsible tourism. Our management team has designated a responsible official within the company to ensure that these guidelines are adhered to throughout our business operations, both on tours and incentives overseas and at our head office in London.
Comments from client feedback forms are passed back to the relevant ground handlers we use in country and where appropriate, positive changes are implemented. In addition, we have recently implemented a series of environmental audits which are carried out in country by our ground handlers and which allow us to keep focused on what is really happening on the ground. We try to ensure that every tour or incentive group we operate benefits the local community. We aim to minimise our impact in the local community environment, and aim to make sure that any impression left is a positive one for all concerned. The social, economic and environmental impact of our tours and incentives groups are considered at every stage of planning the event.
WHAT DOES GANE & MARSHALL DO?
Gane & Marshall aim to do the following on all of our tours and holidays:
Use locally owned transport, accommodation, tour guide services and restaurants in the host countries.
Ensure local communities benefit financially where we use their land or services.
Minimise our environmental and social impact by limiting group size to an average of 15-20 participants in all tour groups.
Assist with the education of local tour guides on sustainable tourism practices.
Follow local and international guidelines about environmental protection.
Ensure every staff member on tour or incentive events gets a fair wage.
Follow the guidelines set out by the International Porters Protection Group for the treatment and rights of porters on all our trekking excursions.
Encourage participants to learn about and integrate with the local communities in a meaningful way, and to have respect for local customs and cultures.
Offset the greenhouse gases produced by our UK operations and from staff air travel.
Ensure that all staff at home and abroad operate within our guidelines for responsible tourism, and are fully informed about out responsible tourism policy, and share this knowledge with appointed destination management companies, tour operators or incentive / event management companies.
Gane & Marshall supports The Carbon Neutral Company and Climate Care, two environmental organisations that aim to empower individuals to take action against climate change. Through the Carbon Neutral Company we fund a tree-planting programme called “Trees for Life”; and this offsets emissions caused by all staff flights. Furthermore for each traveller with Gane and Marshall we shall make a donation of £5 to Climate Care.
Gane & Marshall supports the charity Community Projects Africa and several of their projects are funded by Gane and Marshall travellers and the company.
WHAT YOU CAN DO PRE - TOUR OR INCENTIVE GROUP DEPARTURE
You have a very important role to play in ensuring our guidelines for responsible tourism are carried out during your tour. Participants are encouraged to enter into the spirit of adventure, but to do so with respect for the places and people you visit. For the truly responsible traveller this starts at home. We acknowledge that it is our duty as a responsible tailor-made tour operator to ensure that we do all we can to make the experience for you as our client, and for the countries we visit, as positive as possible.
Remove all unnecessary packaging - Many countries do not have the same refuse disposal systems as you are used to. A tour group can cause a surprising amount of waste. We ask that you all do as much as possible to minimise this, and to see that rubbish is disposed of responsibly. Be particularly aware of the problems of disposing of batteries; if in doubt bring them home with you.
Read about the destination you are going to in advance - Knowledge of the local culture and environmental issues will help you become a more sensitive traveller. See the tour or incentive event Fact File for more information.
Learn a few words of the local language - A few well-chosen words will go a long way. If you are able to communicate even at a very modest level you will feel more comfortable in the environment you are in. Basic words are included in the standard tour / incentive information packs.
Raise money for a local charity - If you would like to raise money for a charity we have our own charity called Community Projects Africa that you may wish to support. CPA is a non-profit charity, with all donated funds being channeled directly to a local community in Africa who benefit tremendously from donations. Visit our website www.communityprojectsafrica.org for further information.
Help reduce global warming - Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are one of the main causes of global warming. We all produce CO2 with almost everything we do, from cooking a meal to driving to work; however CO2 emissions from travel, especially flying, are particularly high. But you don't have to stay at home to reduce the effect your trip has on the environment. To see how you can offset the negative effects of your flight, please visit Climate Care, www.climatecare.org. Please note that Gane and Marshall already make a yearly contribution to Climate Care to partially offset the environment impact of your flights.
WHAT YOU CAN DO WHILST ON TOUR
It is during your tour that you will have the biggest effect on the environment, so this is your chance to minimise the negative impact and to make it as positive as possible for all involved. You should try to:
Be conservative with water - In many places, water is a scarce resource and without careful use local people and wildlife suffer. Be conscious of your water use. We always provide a generous amount of clean drinking water on our tours, so you do not need to continually buy bottles of water, which generates a huge amount of waste in the form of used plastic bottles.
Don't leave rubbish behind - Please take all rubbish with you. Your rubbish is not often biodegradable, is always unsightly, and may take years to biodegrade especially in desert or mountain environments. In some instances rubbish can cause great harm to wildlife. It may appear to be the case that local communities have little regard for their environment and contribute heavily to the problem of rubbish, but waste disposal facilities are often very limited. Please don’t let our presence add to these problems. Please carry your rubbish with you and dispose of it at the next town you come to. Try and leave the area as you would want to find it. Try to use the same water bottle without buying new ones each time yours has run out. In Africa, waste almost invariably ends up in landfill.
Noise - Noise should be kept to a minimum while on safari so as not to disturb the animals, or any other game watchers. Animals should not be touched, goaded, fed or disturbed in any way. Don’t try to approach animals as this may cause them to panic and injure themselves as they run away. On tours where animals are used for transportation we aim to ensure that animals are well looked after, are fed well and given realistic loads to carry.
Damage - Try not to damage any plant life that you come across. This includes not picking flowers, which may be rare. When trekking, follow your guides and keep to the path. Going off the beaten track could result in damaging sensitive soil and vegetation. Removing coral damages the marine ecosystem and is nearly always unsustainable. If you are near coral, please bear in mind it is made up of tiny animals and takes centuries to grow. Treading on coral can cause severe long-term damage.
Gifts - If you wish to take gifts of books or pens for use in schools, please ask your tour leader or co-ordinator how this can be done in a fair and responsible way. It may be possible to visit a school at some point in the tour that Gane & Marshall supports through its own charity (Community Projects Africa). Buying products made from endangered species threatens their existence. Remember, in most cases it is illegal to import into the UK products from elephant ivory, rhino horn, furs, endangered tree species, butterflies, orchids, cacti, coral, sea turtle products, snake skin and wild game meat. Similarly, when on the beach, don't buy shells because that encourages the seashell trade. Be aware that some goods may have been manufactured through child labour.
Accommodation - Most tours begin and end in a hotel. Please turn off air conditioning and lights when you are not in the room.
Toilets - As many of our tours will take you off-the-beaten track you will not always have access to proper toilet facilities. On treks it is unlikely you will have a flushing toilet. Instead a toilet tent will be erected and a pit dug. The pit should be dug at least 30m away from any water sources, and any paper rubbish should be collected and burnt, not buried. If you are out for the day and no toilet is available please ask your tour guide what the appropriate action is and ensure you don’t leave any paper waste behind.
Social impact - As well as impacting upon the physical environment, tourism can have a huge and lasting impact on the people and culture of the country you are visiting. By following local guidelines and by being respectful of culture and traditions, you will gain as much out of the tour as possible and hopefully leave behind a positive impression.
You may be confronted by extremes of wealth and poverty - Unfortunately, beggars are a fact of life. Whether you give money or gifts is a personal matter. If you give anything to any local people, we urge you not to be 'condescending', e.g. don't throw pens out of the vehicle to children as you pass a village. Don’t give sweets to children. Although it may seem as though you are giving them a treat, many countries we visit have little or no dental care, and by giving sweets you are contributing to their tooth decay! Try not to show off your relative wealth, with displays of money and material goods such as camera equipment or jewellery. It not only makes you a potential target to robbers, it also highlights the poverty gap that may exist between yourselves and those in the host country.
Tipping - Tipping is perfectly acceptable and can form the base of the local economy, with some relying mainly on tips. Your tour leader will advise you on tour when and how much is appropriate. Please feel free to take with you pens, books, pencils etc but please give them to your expedition leader to distribute and not directly to children or communities you meet as this may build expectations and can create problems for future travellers.
Bargaining - Prices are generally low due to low wages and poor working conditions. Only start to bargain if you intend to buy, as it’s not fair to knowingly mislead a hardworking vendor. When bargaining for goods, please bear in mind that 10 cents is nothing to you, but might be a lot to the vendor. Always have a figure in mind that you think is fair to pay and don’t feel aggrieved if you find the same product for less. Do not get angry or aggressive when bargaining; remember the vendor is just trying to make a living, even though it may be at your expense.
Locally made goods - Do not buy endangered plants, animal skins, or anything made from cacti, coral, shells, starfish, ivory, fur or feathers. We encourage you, however, to buy locally made goods and crafts and seek out shops or markets that work as co-operatives. This means that a fair amount is paid to the producers and discourages mass-production. You may also be able to buy more unique goods and souvenirs. When in markets or busy areas, avoid public displays of wealth such as watches, rings, jewelry and ipods. The golden rule of traveling is if you don’t need it, don’t take it - this is especially true for jewellery.
Respect - Respect local customs and follow high standards of courtesy. It is generally wise to treat images of the heads of state with respect. Be aware of the differences in social behaviour and behave appropriately. Standards of acceptable behaviour vary greatly from place to place, and people of developing countries can often be easily shocked by 'western' behaviour. Displays of intimacy are often considered unsuitable in public. Don’t make promises you can’t keep; if you say you are going to write, do. Learn some words in the local language to help make contact and conversation.
Photography - Ask permission before taking someone's photo. Many people don’t like having their photos taken and there may be religious reasons for this. Be cautious when taking photos of bridges, official buildings, persons in uniform, planes and airports, or religious buildings and ceremonies. Ask your tour leader for advice if unsure.
Physical contact - Acceptable physical contact and body language varies in different destinations. Knowing the social norms in the destinations you are travelling through will help you to avoid embarrassing situations and enhance your chances of meeting the locals.
Local dress code - Observe the local dress code in the areas in which you are travelling, e.g. cover up in holy places. Local people can feel deeply offended when visitors do not observe the dress code and this can also cause unwanted attention. Respect property and their surroundings. Leave places you visit as you found them, or even better. Ensure you know the appropriate behaviour for the situation you are in; for instance, ask your tour leader if it is essential to remove your shoes before entering a building.
Treat local staff with respect and humility - No matter what their role is on your tour. We aim to ensure every person involved in the trip has a fair wage and has the right to work in safe conditions. As members of Tourism Concern, we aim to ensure the porters we use are treated in an acceptable way and paid fairly.
Don’t have any involvement with drugs or prostitution - Not only are both illegal in most countries we visit, but the trade presents real dangers for the people involved, many of whom are forced to do so against their will.
WHAT YOU CAN DO POST-TOUR
If you promise to send photos back to someone, please ensure that you do so. This is an excellent way of sharing a positive interaction and many locals love to see themselves in print. If you have any suggestions of how we can improve the way in which we operate our tours, please do let us know. There is always more we can do to make the experience of tourism more positive for all concerned, and we are keen to do so. Please send your comments to email@example.com