AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

Experience Travel Group Sustainability

Sustainable Tourism Projects from Experience Travel Group

Supporting Social Enterprise in Asia One Meal At A Time (2018)

Experience Travel Group is proud to say that we have achieved our 2018 pledge. We pledged to send at least 200 clients to one of six social enterprise restaurants in Asia and at the end of the year, we reached that total (201). We estimate that this generated $4000 worth of revenue for the restaurants which will go directly back into vocational training for disadvantaged young people.

From the experience of our first year of this pledge (2017), we were confident of the positive local impact these restaurants have and of the way in which they enhance our clients’ experience of their destination. This encouraged us to expand the pledge in 2018 to incorporate a restaurant in Luang Prabang (Laos), Kolkata (India) and Ubud (Bali) into our signature excursions there.

We were particularly delighted to exceed our target despite delays to the launch of our new Kolkata programme which meant that we have not yet been able to make any bookings at a restaurant there. However, the need for a social enterprise element is now firmly part of our planning of new programmes.

As well as working towards our target number of bookings, we also focused on communicating the benefits of visiting a social enterprise restaurant to a wider audience. We did this at a conference for our in-country partners; in our first ST-themed client e-newsletter and with an article in our new brochure. This raised the profile of sustainable travel in our organisation and amongst our 60,000-strong database. This year we also actively sought feedback from clients who visited the restaurants, all of which was extremely positive: “It’s really nice to know that while you’re having a lovely meal you’re also (making) a big difference to other people’s lives,” and “we loved everything about it and bought their cookbook!”

Next steps include identifying a social enterprise initiative to incorporate into our Sri Lanka and India programmes and collaborating with one of the restaurants to create recipe cards for clients that will highlight how simply eating a tasty meal can contribute to an important sustainability project with powerful social impact.

Supporting Social Enterprise in Asia One Meal At A Time (2017)

Experience Travel Group is proud to say that we have achieved our 2017 pledge. We pledged to send 150 bookings to one of three social enterprise restaurants: Inle Heritage in Myanmar, Streets in Vietnam and Friends in Cambodia. Our total at the end of the year was 157. We estimate that this brought in $3140* worth of revenue to the restaurants which will go directly back into the hospitality training programmes.

As experiential holiday specialists, we felt it was imperative to put an immersive, insightful experience at heart of our pledge. Earlier in the year, 2 colleagues had visited Inle Heritage on a research trip and were struck by the fact that simply stopping for a delicious lunch contributed to an important sustainability project.

Some of our clients were already visiting the restaurants. We knew, however, that we could do better. By including each of the restaurants in our Signature Experience for Lake Inle (Myanmar), Hoi An (Vietnam) and Siem Reap (Cambodia) we could ensure that almost all our clients who visited these locations enjoyed at least one meal at these social enterprises.

We faced several challenges along the way. Tracking the number of client visits proved more difficult than we hoped. Next year we will work more closely with our Destination Management Companies to get regular updates throughout the year. Furthermore, while the UK sales team were supportive, more structured feedback would have been beneficial.

Certain challenges were beyond our control. Bookings to Myanmar fell dramatically in the latter half of 2017 due to the UK media coverage of their difficult political situation. Realising we had met the target of our pledge despite such obstacles was perhaps the most exciting part of the journey.

*157 clients, spending average $20pp, $3140 revenue