AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

Explore Sustainability


Our sustainable Tourism Vision

Responsible tourism is - and always has been - one of the driving principles of Explore. We care deeply about travelling in a way that positively impacts the people and places we visit:
- We ensure people who work for Explore are treated fairly and paid a fair wage.
- We learn about and respect the customs and culture of the country we are visiting so that we do not offend local people.
- We ensure that local people benefit economically by employing them as leaders, guides and drivers - and by eating in local restaurants and using locally owned hotels where possible.
- We minimise our impact on the environment by travelling in small groups,
offsetting our carbon emissions, reducing waste and supporting conservation projects.

Sustainable Tourism Projects from Explore

Supporting the start of sustainable businesses around the world (2019)

In 2019 Explore pledged to support three sustainable and self-sufficient businesses through our Start-up-Fund programme. £2,000 was available which was raised by commission from the sale of 367 Water-to-Go filtered bottles to our customers. Although we did not hit our goal of £3,000 we are still pleased to be able to support three commendable projects.

After an initially slow take up we received 15 applications for funds from our local ground agents around the world. Members of Explore’s Responsible Business Forum whittled these down to two excellent projects. The winners were announced to customers in a blog, giving them the opportunity to visit the project in China and hopefully the one in Albania in the future.

The runner up, receiving £500, is a women’s cooperative in the Sanjiang Dong village (China). The funds will be used to buy more cotton and fix their loom, enabling them to continue with their traditional weaving methods and provide the women of the village with an income to help them maintain their independence. The cooperative “is really pleased. Thank you for helping the local community to keep their traditions going”.

This year's winner, receiving £1,000, is a Guest House Museum in Pellumbas village (Albania). They will use the money to set up a cultural centre that will open in 2020 and showcas traditional Albanian life. The benefactors “are very happy and thank you for supporting this genuine project of local preservation”.

We decided to donate the remaining funds to the Somerset West Village Community Garden project in South Africa. The project is an inspiring ‘employment scheme’ whereby homeless people receive training and work in the garden in exchange for tokens, which can be redeemed for food and clothing.

We are delighted to be able to continue with the Start-up-Fund programme in 2020. Drawing on our experiences from previous years we hope to encourage better take up by giving our local agents longer to find suitable projects, informing them of the opportunity in January and giving them six months to come up with a business proposal.

Continuing to increase awareness and opportunities for females in Explore leader training (2018)

We increased the number of females again in 2018, pledging to train 16 new female leaders in Asia. Frustratingly, we only managed to train 13, partly due to the personal circumstances of many women in these countries and training schedules changing in the office. This is, however, still double the number we trained in 2017 and if we were to look on a wider scale we have actually trained a total of 32 female leaders from 19 different countries around the world in 2018.

In 2017, Explore trained Isanka from Sri Lanka; the only female attending the Explore leader training in the country. We asked her about her experience as a female leader and it’s clear that Isanka feels that the training has affected her learning and behaviour positively. She is a person who likes to be different from others and admirably does not feel uncomfortable being the only female on the course. She has had positive reactions from the communities she visits during our trips and many say that it’s the first time they have seen a female guide. There are still barriers with local men, including drivers who can try to control women but Isanka takes this positively and sees it as a challenge to try and change their attitudes. Isanka’s advice to other women who would like to become a leader “Be positive. Take the challenge. Also maintain the values of a traditional Sri Lankan woman.”

We have achieved a lot in the last year. Everyone who works for or with Explore now knows that our pledge is an important part of our training. The feedback from the tour leaders themselves is also wonderful – it’s amazing to see these changes being made around the world. As more people begin to understand gender quality and the importance it has on tourism, we’re seeing more women are being recruited in the industry.

  • At Explore we will continue to improve employment opportunities for women through our Leader training.

Improving employment opportunities for women with Explore Leader training (2017)

Here at Explore we know that our leaders have a huge impact on our customers’ experiences and really help to make their trips memorable. We currently have a lot more male leaders than we do female. We asked our local agents and female leaders in Burma and Vietnam what obstacles they face in becoming a leader or employing female leaders.
Explore want to break the stereotype that women cannot become tour leaders, we want to challenge the status quo by empowering and encouraging women in tour leader roles. Our goal by the end of 2017 is to have at least 9 females attend Explore training altogether in India, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, to help improve awareness and equality. We will do this by building on our strong relationships with our local agents and engaging with local stakeholders.
Last year Explore trained 282 new leaders and of those only 88 were female. We want women to know that they have equal rights in the tourism industry and especially within Explore; they will have the same pay, the same training and the same support which male leaders receive.
An increase in female trainees will change the way women are perceived by our male leader trainees. This in turn will influence local guides and drivers to show more equality. Our customers will be able to witness and benefit from this positive shift when they travel with us on these tours in the future. They will be proud to travel with tour operator who is helping to promote equal opportunity.

  • Last year Explore trained 282 new leaders and of those only 88 were female.
  • Our goal by the end of 2017 is to have at least 9 females attend Explore training altogether in India, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.