AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

Members Practising Sustainable Tourism

Members Practising Sustainable Tourism
You can view each members' sustainable tourism projects under their own company listing. Here is an overview of some of the fantastic work going on in the UK and abroad by our members.

Fundraising from our clients to pay hardship money to our trek crews following cancellation of Spring, Summer and Autumn 2020 seasons due to Covid 19 pandemic (2020)

On March 13th 2020 we announced the cancellation of our Spring 2020 season in Nepal and Bhutan due to the Covid 19 pandemic. We knew that the lack of work would financially impact our trek crews so we immediately launched a fundraising campaign to help them out. We also relaunched fundraisers after cancelling our Summer 2020 season in Pakistan and our Autumn 2020 season in Nepal and Bhutan.

Our clients have been incredibly generous and we would like to thank them for their kindness. During 2020 we raised £11,990 for our trek crew hardship fund and we also have £2,480 available from our Project Protect 2019 where we sold Buff scarves.

The first tranche of the hardship fund was paid out on April 28th, 2020 to 23 of our trek crew in Nepal and 11 of our trek crew in Bhutan. We will pay out a second tranche to our offices in Nepal and Bhutan in September 2020 to compensate them for the cancellation of Autumn 2020 season.

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    Rewilding 12 acres of grassland at Naturetrek HQ

    The Naturetrek office is set amongst 12-acres of grassland, formally used for livestock grazing. Years of agricultural activities have reduced the site’s ecological value. During an uncertain year for travel, our pledge will focus on enhancing our site for wildlife and rebalancing nature. Creating new habitats will encourage the arrival of different species, and considered planting will enhance our site as a carbon sink, offsetting some of our in-house carbon emissions.

    Prior to UK lockdown, we had already begun to enhance an existing pond, creating a wildlife haven with a bog garden and habitat for butterflies. We also uncovered a section of chalk in our field, and will monitor it for the arrival of native chalk grassland species. When we can return to our office, we will undertake a full ecological review of the site, produce a rewilding plan and implement the initiatives detailed within. Some of these include: installing Owl boxes, tree-planting, building a bug hotel, planting native hedging and creating a ‘bat garden’.

    Our clients can explore the site with us during our monthly open days, enjoying the local wildlife and learning about rewilding from our in-house experts. We will provide advice and encouragement on how our clients can implement rewilding initiatives in their own gardens, so that we can work together to build a network of wildlife opportunities across the country. Our own staff can enjoy walking and wildlife watching during lunch breaks, and before and after work, enhancing both physical and mental well-being.

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      Making every ETG trip a force for good through carbon capture (2020)

      At ETG we believe in the economic, societal and environmental benefits of tourism. Our mantra has always been to respect the world as we explore it. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the long haul flights necessary to reach our destinations in Asia increase our individual carbon footprint. We want to make it easier for our staff and clients to minimise the negative and maximise the positive impact of their travel.

      Our pledge is to build a partnership with a carbon positive project (or projects) in one or more of our destinations that will resonate with our clients, in-country partners and staff. And in keeping with ETG’s sustainability ethos, it is important to us that the impact goes beyond simply carbon capture to include wider benefits such as biodiversity protection and nurturing of community-based tourism.

      We will invest £15 (the equivalent to 2 tonnes of CO2 per long haul flight taken by staff and clients. We will choose our partner and put our investment scheme in place in 2020 because we believe that when long haul travel is possible again, it will be even more critical that we travel mindfully and responsibly. ‘Flight shame’ is a growing concern among our clients, and we believe they would be comforted and empowered to know they can take action, without having to forego their passion for travel altogether. Our hope is that this initiative will raise awareness of the fact that travel, done the right way, can be a force for good.

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      Travelife Partner status

      To achieve Travelife Partner status by February 2021.

      • Internationally recognised program
      • Over 100 sustainability criteria
      • Provide staff with training on sustainable tourism
      • Help our suppliers develop sustainable policies
      • Empower our clients to make informed choices
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      Wild Frontiers - Project Protect 2019 Testimonial

      In 2019 Wild Frontiers pledged to empower working women from low-income families in Jaipur, India, through a partnership with local social enterprise, the Pink City Rickshaw Company.

      • £4600 raised
      • Five ladies from low-income families trained
      • Two new electric rickshaws built
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      2019 Testimonial

      In 2019 Tucan Travel pledged to begin to develop robust internal systems and information. Known as our Purpose, this has been a driving force to develop United Nation Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) specific links and understanding in our policies and internal communication.
      This process has enabled us to draw attention to and promote the passion that existed across the company for responsible travel. This has always underpinned our work but has never previously been brought to the fore.

      We believe that it is only by seeing and engaging with different people, cultures and habitats that we can begin to have an understanding of the world around us. It is only through understanding that we can hope to learn how to protect and conserve the world for future generations of all species.

      • Strengthening our communication
      • Understanding our shared values
      • Providing staff support
      • Conducting a policy review
      • Critically reviewing our products
      • Celebrating a culture of learning
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      Protecting Ecuadorian Cloudforest with the World Land Trust and EcoMinga

      In 2019, together with our clients, Naturetrek donated over £53,000 to the World Land Trust, to reduce the carbon impact of our flights by purchasing and protecting 240 acres of critically endangered cloudforest in the Ecuadorian Andes.

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        Mountain Kingdoms Helps You Do Your Bit to Reduce Plastic Waste

        In 2019 Mountain Kingdoms offered most of its clients a free Water to Go filtered water bottle. In 10 months we have given away 367 water bottles which has stopped many thousands of plastic bottles being used just once; helping to reduce plastic production and the subsequent possible litter problem.

        • We now offer clients the choice of a free filtered water bottle on the majority of our trips.
        • This could stop over 20,500 single use 500ml plastic bottles being used by Mountain Kingdoms clients annually.
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        Travelling with Purpose

        Tucan Travel has been committed to the principles of sustainability and environmental and species protection since its inception over 30 years ago. Despite this on-going commitment, we have yet to formalise and make public our approach to sustainable and responsible travel.

        Our involvement in the AITO PROTECT Project is by way of remedying that by explicitly stating our vision and our road map for change.

        We would like to live in a world where our experience of adventure is open to everyone. We are realistic enough to now that as a small independent company there is a limit to what we can achieve. Doing nothing isn't an option, so we act with purpose to do what we can where we are and will guide and trust our tribe of Tucan Travellers to do the same.

        Our goal is to operate in a manner that is responsible to this generation, whoever or wherever they are, without compromising the potential of future generations. This applies to all species. To achieve our goal we must first check that our house is in order. To that end, or 2019/2020 pledge is to critically review our practice and prepare for change wherever it is needed to achieve our goal.

        • By April '20 we will:
        • Update our internal and external communications to reflect our position on sustainable and responsible travel
        • Critically review our tours
        • Plan for change
        • Collaborate with stakeholders re potential change
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        Pintando El Cambio project

        Pintando El Cambio project uses art to lift spirits, preserve traditions and generate much-needed tourism in Santa Catarina, Guatemala. This year Journey Latin America raised funds for six of the 400 houses painted with Mayan traditional designs.

        • This is a project that we could tangibly see was lifting the spirits of a town by using art. We at JLA have a long term and deep rooted affiliation and affection for the people and traditions of Guatemala.
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