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.

CICERONI Travel and Villa Farnesina in Rome: a partnership of goodwill and gratitude

CICERONI Travel has visited Rome more than any other destination and has shared its extraordinary cultural heritage with our guests over many years. Its visual arts and architecture continue to inspire all that we do, wherever we are in the world.

The Villa Farnesina in the heart of Rome on the Tiber River is a beacon to that end. Built at the beginning of the sixteenth century, it is one of the most elegant statements of the entire Italian Renaissance. Many hands were involved in creating the Villa, including Raphael. Today it is a museum owned by the distinguished Lincean Academy of Rome

In 2019 CICERONI Travel has teamed up with LoveItaly, a Rome-based non-profit organization, dedicated to the preservation and appreciation of Italy’s unique cultural heritage. Our project is to contribute to the cleaning and restoration of the 'Loggia of the Galatea', one of the rooms within the villa and partly frescoed by Raphael.

Via direct support from CICERONI Travel and from our individual guests, we aim to raise about £3000 annually. We will also involve our guests in the project with the aim of securing additional contributions.

It is a small step in ensuring this extraordinary building can be enjoyed by Romans and visitors alike for decades to come. It is for each one of us at Ciceroni a statement of thanks for all the pleasurable visits we have enjoyed to Villa Farnesina and to Rome.

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Rethink your drink

Following a year of selling Water-to-Go filter bottles to passengers with the aim of reducing plastic waste in our destinations JLA has now decided to take this idea further. We now want to focus on a more local scale with this pledge and to finally achieve our 2017 target of selling 500 bottles.

In 2018, we will establish partnerships with two Destination Management Companies (DMC’s) to help reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles given to our clients during transfers and excursions. Firstly, we will assess how many single-use plastic bottles are used before analysing possible solutions (e.g. refillable water stations in their offices and at different stops on route) and then working with the DMC’s to implement the solutions. We currently offer approximately 60 excursions and 140 transfers through these DMCs which could amount to saving hundreds of single-use plastic bottles. We believe that this will also lead to conversations with DMC’s regarding other single use plastic on excursions such as plastic straws, bags and polystyrene boxes.

In addition to this we will continue with the promotion of our branded Water-To-Go bottles. We will now offer them to Bespoke Clients (70% of our customer base), with the aim to sell 350 bottles by March 2019). Furthermore we will develop our Sustainable Travel webpages to provide clients with information on the hotels we work with that have excellent environmental and social policies and with simple guidelines on the actions clients can take to travel responsibly while on holiday.

  • - Work with DMCs to limit their use of single-use plastic in Latin America
  • - Continue to sell our Water-To-Go bottles to our clients
  • - Update our sustainability pages to include hotels that support eco-friendly practices
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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.
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Leading the fight against waste in Greece

Greece is in the blood of the team at Sunvil and GIC The Villa Collection. We have travelled the country, far and wide, since 1969 and are passionate about the culture, history, gastronomy, nature and - above all - the warm and generous people. We care about the islands and the islanders, and we want to preserve their natural and cultural attractions for generations to come.

Over recent years islanders have faced an increasing problem with waste management, exacerbated by a lack of recycling facilities, poor sorting facilities and the closure of landfill sites.

Sunvil and GIC have always strived to mitigate the impacts of our holidays and have used our influence with local businesses and governments to affect change. In 2018 we vow to take our commitment to waste reduction in Greece.

For the 2018 season we have will introduced a waste separation and crushing facility at the Kalami Bay on Corfu, a property exclusive to Sunvil, with the aim to introduce the facility to further 5 units throughout the year. The waste collected will be measured and then transported to the correct facilities and recycled. We will use our figures to educate those in authority and to introduce further facilities for our guests, residents and local businesses. On top of this we will provide reusable bags within a number of our resorts and traveller tips for reducing waste.

  • Join with Sunvil and GIC this year to make a notable difference to those who live and work on our favourite holiday isles.
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Pointless Paper

Distinctive World Travel is committed to the principle of Sustainable Tourism and as such are involved with several charities.

We are also participants in AITO project PROTECT where in 2018 we pledge to reduce the paperwork sent to our clients by 50%.

In order to achieve this we have reformed the pre-travel documentation we send to our clients so that it is not only more informative and visually pleasing but also more concise. As a high volume of our clients travel to rainforest areas it makes sense for Distinctive to help reduce the destruction of trees for paper.

Our previous documentation consisted of 12 pieces of A4 paper including but not limited to a cover letter, itinerary, ticket information and a phrase book. By the end of the year we will have reduced this to just over five pieces of A4 paper by taking out non-essential information and redesigning the documentation.

We have for example, recently installed a scrap paper drawer and we will make notepads and books from the scrap paper. In 2019 will continue our efforts by looking into using biodegradable plastic for our document wallets or products incorporating sustainable palm oil around the office.

By doing this, we will reduce our paper usage and thus our overall carbon footprint. Our customers will be able to book with Distinctive in the knowledge that we are an environmentally conscious tour operator that actively practices sustainability in the office.

  • -Cutting down our paper use by 50%
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Discounted Water Bottles for Oasis Customers to combat Plastic Waste

The majority of Oasis Overland trips travel through areas where temperatures mean that keeping hydrated is an essential requirement. We have always encouraged our travellers to bring sturdy, refillable water bottles on the trip with them but some people still choose to buy bottles of mineral water, contributing to the ever mounting problem of plastic waste and its devastating environmental impact.

In 2018/19 Oasis Overland wants to reduce its traveller’s contribution to this problem by offering them the opportunity to purchase a water bottle with an extremely effective water filtration system at a 15% discount. For every bottle purchased via us another 15% will be donated to one of the projects we support. We feel that there is a natural connection between the water bottle donation and Toilet Twinning and hope to twin at least two toilets by the end of 2019.

We envisage that every customer taking one of these bottles will mean that 10 less single-use water bottles are consumed and discarded on a trip. We hope to reach at least 10% of our travellers (approximately 70 people) in the first year of the pledge by including details in our pre departure information, social media posts and newsletter articles.

We feel that introducing these bottles to our customers is an effective and tangible way of reducing plastic consumption and waste as well as protecting the wonderful environments we travel through. We look forward to seeing the positive effect our pledge has.

  • Aim to reduce single use plastic bottle waste by encouraging our travellers to purchase and use water filtration bottles
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Expert Africa - 2017 Pledge Testimonial

We chose a pledge with an emphasis on animal conservation - it is a topic that resonates with our travellers, & many of them want their trips to focus on wildlife, often the ‘Big 5’.

Narrowing down a specific pledge was challenging, as many of our suppliers already carry out valuable sustainability projects. Our initial plan to work with one initiative unfortunately fell through, but after helpful input from wider members of the team, we chose to support a women’s cooperative in Zambia (Little Ndaba) that crochets toy rhinos, with profits going to Save the Rhino as well as the local community. We’ve previously worked with Save the Rhino and this pledge enabled us to further our collaboration with them.

It was an exciting time when we consolidated our (many!) ideas into a concise pledge, to financially & materially contribute to Little Ndaba. We have been a support network for the very small administration team behind Little Ndaba in terms of the development of their website and brochure materials. We also donated £2,000 to create an updated website and are helping to increase their product exposure by providing our travellers with information about the initiative. “Many thanks again for reaching out to us - what a super Christmas gift!” Charles, Little Ndaba.

We also donated £1,200 to the Tanzanian charity Equality in Tourism (supporting women farmers in rural communities) and $1,050 to Azizi Life (a women’s cooperative in Rwanda, supporting 30 adults to learn how to read and write over 12 months), as part of our commitment to contributing a total of £15,000 to selected charities in Africa throughout the year.
Implementing our pledge has helped us recognise that what may seem like a small commitment from us can make a huge difference to others, and that not only money is required to make a difference, a diverse range of skills can provide invaluable support.

  • We aim to develop our pledge over time, as well as set sustainability and charitable principles in place within Expert Africa that will form a solid basis for the foreseeable future.
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Expert Africa - 2018 Pledge: Showcasing sustainable practices in the safari industry.

For our 2017 pledge we had hoped to partner with, or set up, a grassroots project in Africa. However, as the majority of the suppliers we work with already carry out many worthwhile sustainability projects, we found it challenging to pick just one.

As such, for our 2018 pledge, we aim to get a better understanding of the sustainable practices and initiatives that our suppliers have in place. Working in collaboration with Professor Xavier Font and around 180 undergraduates from the University of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, we will research the sustainability practices of a range of the camps and lodges we offer, across a dozen countries in Africa.

Students are contacting suppliers with the aim to produce a concise case study on an initial 200 properties and their sustainability initiatives over the course of the next year. We have found that our travellers are increasingly more concerned with responsible travel and are looking to book with suppliers leading the field in this respect. We will therefore use the results to add a sustainability section on each lodge on our website highlighting the valuable work they carry out. This will help our travellers make a more informed decision, as well as encouraging an increased focus on sustainable tourism.

We are excited to be supporting these students in their tourism and hospitality management degrees and hope that the opportunity to work with real-world examples will be a valuable addition to the knowledge gained throughout their course.

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    Turning ‘’mottainai’’ (waste) into ‘’arigatou’’ (thanks): supporting food banking in Japan

    Japan is a fascinating country which captures the heart of our clients and staff at InsideJapan Tours. At first sight, however, it’s not apparent that 20 million people in Japan live below the poverty line and struggle to make ends meet.

    For this reason, InsideJapan Tours has been supporting Second Harvest Japan (2HJ) since 2015. 2HJ is an NGO which collects surplus food from manufactures and distributes it to children’s homes, single-mother shelters, centres for the disabled, soup kitchens and individuals in need.

    In 2018 InsideJapan Tours are continuing this partnership by making it easier for our clients donate to 2HJ through administrating a transport card return scheme. We provide our clients with a transport card pre-loaded with credit so they can travel around Japan’s cities with ease, however after their holiday this card is no longer any use to them. From summer 2018 we’ll provide a pre-paid envelope to our clients so they can send their transport cards back to us. We’ll exchange the cards and donate all remaining credit to 2HJ. Over 12 months, we aim to receive 1000 cards and donate £3,000. We will also promote the work of 2HJ and encourage clients to donate extra funds to the charity via an online payment portal.

    This project allows InsideJapan Tours and our clients to work together to make a positive contribution to Japanese society. Japan has enriched our lives so we’d like to return a token of our appreciation to those in need.

    • Giving clients an opportunity to donate the credit on their transport cards to a Second Harvest Japan, food banking charity which runs multiple programs including providing emergency help after natural disasters.
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    Protecting and enhancing wild places in the UK - Our 2018 AITO Protect Pledge

    Absolute Escapes already works closely with the John Muir Trust (, a charity dedicated to protecting and enhancing wild places in the UK. The philosophy of the Trust fits in with our Company ethos about promoting the great outdoors and making it accessible through the walking holidays and self-drive itineraries we create around Scotland.

    In 2018 we pledge to further promote our partnership with the Trust. We will include their logo and information about their activities on our website, social media channels and in all documentation that we send to our clients. This will reach over 150,000 people via our website, and 5,500 people via our social media channels. We will also include a leaflet in every information pack and details on our pledge to approx 1000 clients per year including details on how they can make their own donation.

    We also pledge to arrange two conservation Volunteer Days for our team at Glenlude estate in the Scottish Borders. This will involve planting 200 trees on the estate to assist with rewilding this former sheep farm and conifer plantation into a mosaic of native habitats.

    Finally, we will use the Give as you Live ( website so all stationery and printing purchases we make results in a donation of £150.00 to the Trust.

    Our aim is to help the Trust provide wilder, more beautiful countryside for our customers to enjoy and to demonstrate that we can all contribute in small ways to the restoration of wild land and responsible tourism.

    • We will arrange conservation days at Glenlude estate in the Scottish Borders where we will plant over 200 trees
    • We will promote the Trust in all our communications with our clients
    • We will raise money via an online fundraising platform
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