Responsible Tourism Policy
“Leave only footprints, take only pictures . . .”
Minimizing environmental impact is hugely important to us. We care greatly for the regions through which we travel and for the people that live there and do our best to protect its landscapes, its people and its culture thus helping to retain the natural character and cultural diversity for future generations.
We believe that how we conduct ourselves has a huge impact and as such are committed to fully appreciating South America’s beautiful natural environments and striving to protect them, interacting with the local people, exchanging knowledge and perspectives, and also sharing of wealth; we support local organization and pay a fair price for all services.
We support local charities and are constantly seeking new projects and ways to assist local communities. We firmly believe that as we grow as a company so does our ability to operate and support projects in various areas and we are excited about the possibilities that lay ahead.
Our responsible travel policy acts as a guide line to ourselves, our crew and our passengers in dictating how we behave in regards to the environment and the local cultures with which we will be interacting.
- To promote, support & implement sustainable tourism through long term and day-to-day initiatives at both the administrative and operational levels of the organization.
- To provide guidance and education in best management practices to our employees, clients, suppliers and all other people or organisations that we work with and work with them to ensure these practices are correctly implemented.
- To work closely with local charities and development programs to aid in their success in reaching their desired objectives that are inline with our own objectives.
What is “Sustainable Tourism”?
According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is tourism that leads to the management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems
In order for tourism to be sustainable it must consider three aspects:
1. Environmental – Not harming the natural resource
2. Socio-cultural – Not harming the culture and involving local population as project beneficiaries
3. Economic – Applying sound administrative and financial principals. Providing health and safety.
Below we will learn how we at Viva Expeditions incorporate these three aspects into the operation of our company as a whole and into the day-to-day running of our tours and travel services.
Methods and Practices
• Minimising Waste
In countries where the water is often unsafe to drink straight from the tap a huge amount of waste is generated by the purchase of water in plastic bottles. There are virtually no facilities for recycling plastic and as such discarded water bottles and as such a large proportion of these end up scattered throughout landscapes or washed into the rivers. On board our expedition vehicles we provide clean filtered drinking water with which passengers can fill re-usable bottles, thus decreasing waste.
Waste paper is collected and burnt when we have camp fires in order to reduce waste.
We ask all clients to crush cans or any other large items of rubbish as much as possible to decrease their size. This minimises the volume of waste and decreases the number of waste bags requires. We also do our best to separate different forms of waste such as organic, plastic, glass & paper and recycle as much as possible.
Viva Expedition does not tolerate littering on the part of our crew or our passengers and expect people to refrain from this at all times.
We aim to always leave an area such as a campsite, walking path or lunch stop the way we found it if not cleaner! We ask our clients to help ensure that no waste, no matter how small, is left on the in camp, on paths or any sites we visit along the way.
Food is prepared fresh and purchased in bulk where ever possible reducing packaging. The food is stored in reusable plastic containers as opposed to plastic wraps and disposable containers.
Waste generated is carried to where it can be disposed of in an appropriate manner.
We try to make our passengers aware of specific environmental concerns affecting the areas through which we travel and what they can do to minimise impact. Recognising the problem is the first step to becoming aware how we can work to better it.
• Cleaning Products
Were ever possible we aim to use biodegradable cleaning products. It is important to bear in mind that these are not always available but we do our best to buy in bulk when we come across such products.
Our expedition vehicles are equipped with an onboard chemical toilet. We do our best to used bio-degradable chemicals when available thus minimising pollution. Providing a safe and clean toilet facility for our clients to use such takes away the need to use “natural” toilets when travelling which are unsanitary and result in untreated human waste.
By using a chemical toilet we neutralize the waste and destroy most of the harmful bacteria. We dispose of the waste in safe sewage systems.
• Camp fires
Sitting around the campfire is a memorable experience of any camping holiday however incorrect or irresponsible conduct surrounding campfires can easily destroy the sensitive environments through which we travel.
As such fires will always be kept small and easily controllable, and we ensure they are completely out before leaving them unattended.
When the conditions are not suitable to having a fire or where it is illegal to do so such as when there is a fire ban in place, we will not have any camp fires. We ask that plastics and other toxic material are not thrown into fires to burn.
Respecting the local customs and beliefs of the peoples in the different regions that we travel through is very important.
This covers aspects such as dressing appropriately, respecting religious traditions, taking peoples photos only with their permission. People lifestyles and beliefs may be very different from our own but this does not in any way mean they are wrong.
• Paying fair prices
We pay a fair price to people for goods and services provided and encourage our passengers to do so also. This includes tipping where appropriate.
While it is common place to bargain for goods and services in South America we must try to remember to always be fair to the vendors as their livelihoods depend on it.
• Contributing to the local economy
As we operate within different countries it is important that these countries and the people living there receive the benefits. Ways we help ensure this process include:
- Buying fresh food from local markets as opposed to large supermarkets
- Having equipment made locally. For example tents, beds, bedding.
- We build our expedition vehicles at a coach builder in Ecuador
• Supporting community projects and charities
Viva Expeditions supports many community projects and charities and continuously strives increase our support of these charities and other new projects in the areas we feel need it most. These include:
Pachamama Explorers Porter Project
The local agency that operates our Inca trail to Machu Picchu are in the process of building a safe and comfortable house for their Porters. They feel that they are directly responsible for the wellbeing of their Porters and as such have taken it upon themselves to make sure that their welfare is a No.1 Priority. Most Inca trail Porters are from rural villages and do not always have a place to rest the night before beginning the Inca Trail. Pachamamas Porter House will provide them just that, with a good nights sleep knowing that they are safe and warm. The main structure of the house has already been completed – all that remains to be done is plaster, paint, put the floor down, install windows and even a toilet and shower! Viva Expeditions is a strong supporter of this important project. If you are interested in visiting the house when we are traveling through this region we can arrange for you to be taken there.
Pachamama Explorers Community Children Project
The local agency that operates our Inca trail to Machu Picchu for almost 2 years has been helping a community called CHINCHAYSUYO on the outskirts of Cusco.
They are helping them to rebuild their schoolhouse as the existing one in disrepair and derelict. With over 100 families in this community many of the children are reliant on the schoolhouse as they do not have funds to travel to schools in Cusco.
The school is always in need of donations in the form of old books, old clothes or stationary supplies...so if you are able to bring with you, please do!
Monetary donations are accepted and are used towards equipment for the school. Again if you are interested in visiting the project just let us know and we can arrange a visit. The doors are open to ALL!!
At the end of 2007 our great local agency was delighted to be able to give 2 Chocolatadas (hot chocolate, paneton cake and a toy) to over 350 children! They focused on the communities of thier Porters. One community is an hour from Cusco called Lamay and the other an is 4 houra away called Ocongate. This bought so much joy to the children and with our help we hope that every year can be just as great!
Bolivian Street Childrens Christmas Appeal
Viva Expeditions supports a locally organized charity that provides Christmas presents to thousands of street children in La Paz, Bolivia at Christmas time. Organized by an association of tour guides and supported by kind tourist donations, this group has bought joy to an overwhelming number of children, who without such generosity, would otherwise go without.
We believe this is a very important charity and will continue to provide ongoing support. If at any stage you would like to contribute speak to your tour leader about making a donation.
• Correct Scheduling
Through the central section of our Patagonian tours we provide serviced camps for our clients and transport the camping equipment and fully equipped kitchen on a support vehicle. By using a separate support vehicle we are able to leave it behind for the first and last segments of the tour where we stay only in hotels. This means that overall we conserve a significant amount of fuel. It also means that 1 support vehicle can service 2 expedition vehicles which helps to keep our locally employed cook and camp help in full time employment and conserves resources.
• Health & Safety
Health and safety is very important in order to avoid illness & injury and maintain good health throughout your travels. If you would like to learn more about Health and Safety in South America please contact us for a copy of our Health & Safety policy.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
There are many things you can do to help. . .
Respect local cultures and the natural environment. By showing respect to local people, their culture, customs and belief and respecting their environment people will be more likely to help you and share things with you resulting in a far more rewarding experience.
It is important to respect local customs no matter how different from our own. Modest attire is recommended in most areas in particular remote and rural communities who tend to be more conservative. In the cities dress standards tend to be more relaxed. There is no need at all for flashy jewellery which can be seen as a sign of your affluence.
Water and energy are precious resources – you can help by keeping usage to a minimum.
When on day hikes or longer treks we recommend that passengers carry a small plastic bag for waste. This can then be put with the general waste when you return to the hotel/camp.
We ask our clients to help ensure that no waste, no matter how small, is left on the in camp, on paths or any sites we visit along the way.
Please avoid taking souvenirs from the environment. This includes picking vegetation or taking souvenir pieces such a stones from historic sites or protected ecosystems.
Any clothing or other items of use that our you no longer require can be given to those who will get good use out of them. Your tour leader will collect these from you at any time and pass them on in an appropriate manner to people in need.
Do not buy products made from endangered species, hardwoods, shells and ancient artifacts. In a region rich in ancient cultures and wonderful native flora and fauna it is important that we preserve these as much as possible. It is often possible to purchase ancient pottery or items made from rare woods and even endangered animal species. Say “No” to these items and help preserve this wonderful land for future generations.
Help us support local charities. Donations are always welcomed and accepted and you can be assured we only support legitimate charities. Please talk to your tour leader about making a donation while traveling or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We ask that you avoid giving money to street beggers, especially young children, as this should not be encouraged in local communities especially by foreigners who do not understand when it is appropriate. This leads to dependency on hand-outs and is not a long term solution to poverty.
We also ask that you don’t hand out lollies, pens and other items as this can create a hostile demand for all travelers to do the same and can create problems between those who receive something and those who don’t.
If you want to help support communities and make donations to those less fortunate then ourselves then we recommend helping the local economy by buying local products. There are many great products on sale for you to buy. From lovely woollen clothing and great art work and crafts to day to day items such as local foods and drinks.
Alternatively there are appropriate channels through which donations can be made and distributed in a way that provides long term solutions to communities in need. Talk to your tour leader about how you can help.
Please be respectful when taking photos of people. Many people do not want their photo taken and you must respect their wishes. As such always ask permission before photographing people. In areas where using a flash is forbidden in order to protect the site please be sure you are familiar with your camera and are able to turn your flash off. When photography is prohibited please respect these regulations. If you promise to send a picture to a person of who you have taken a photo please follow through with your intention. Take the persons address and if need be your tour leader can help ensure the photo reaches the person.
We encourage you to bring only biodegradable shampoos and soaps on your tour. We also ask that you avoid washing anything in local rivers or streams. If you want to wash something we suggest you ask you crew for a bowl, collect the water and wash your items atleast 50 meters away from the water source to help prevent pollution.
We also encourage the use of rechargeable batteries in order to minimize waste.
Please always try to consider hygiene when traveling. Always wash you hands well after going to the toilet or before eating. We recommend you carry antiseptic gel or wipes for ease of hand-washing.
Offset your Carbon Emissions
Offsetting means paying someone to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere on your behalf. This is done by planting trees, reducing energy and finding renewable energy sources. Climate care offsets your CO2 by funding projects around the world. For more information visit www.climatecare.org
Together we can make a difference!