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We have been focused on responsible tourism from the very beginning when we first set up 'The Activity Travel Company' (our parent company).

This policy puts down in writing exactly what we have been doing for years.

Our responsible tourism policy is constantly re evaluated and amended in line with best practice. We do our very best (and we know there is still more to do) with the resources we have to ensure that all of our operations, both at home and abroad are as responsible as possible.

This policy is available to our clients and is issued to all of our suppliers in order to ensure that the core principles are adhered to and upheld throughout our supply chain and that our clients are aware of our stance on certain practices etc.

This policy is divided into three primary sections: social, economic and environmental responsibility.

Firstly it is appropriate to mention the general approach which The White Circle takes to responsible tourism. This can best be described by the theory of the triple bottom line, a phrase coined by John Elkington in the 1990's and one which features heavily in sustainable policies today. Basically the triple bottom line is where the profitability of the company and the positive economic impact of our holidays to a destination is as equally valued as the company's environmental and social performance. Where many tour operators may well simply quote Elkington as a tick box in a policy we endeavor to provide tangible evidence that we are putting this into action. Responsible tourism is at the core of what we do.

We are independent and therefore have the luxury of being able to determine our own priorities and our own bench marks for success and have the ability to ensure that this ethos is central to everything we do.

Social Responsibility

Firstly we ensure that wherever possible we use local guides, local transport providers, locally owned accommodation providers. This obviously means that we do not need to send people from the UK to destinations and so lowers our carbon footprint. This gives our clients a much more intimate relationship with the destination in which they are visiting, provides local people with employment and ensures that wherever possible the economic benefits of the tourists' visits are received in the local communities. We do not want this money to act as compensation to the communities for our clients' visits, but as payment for excellent services provided.

We also feel very strongly that the local guides in particular are better qualified than anyone to talk about the destinations in which they work and to operate within a region which they know like the back of their hands. This both enables them to take pride in the area they work as well as improving safety levels in many of the activities as the guides generally have years of experience rather than weeks. In some destinations our clients will meet expatriate Brits who run some of our weeks. These people have lived and invested heavily in their new homes and are providing unique services in an area.
We ensure that across the board anyone involved in a White Circle holiday abroad:

 

Has a safe and clean environment in which to work

Is paid fairly for their work

Is not given an unreasonable amount of work

Is treated with respect and equality by all clients and members of staff

Is not discriminated against for reasons of colour, race, gender, religion or disability

Economic Responsibility

We always utilize locally owned accommodation and activity providers wherever possible. In the areas in which we choose to operate they are generally the only main accommodation choice. We like to stay off the beaten track and provide a more unique experience for clients so this all goes hand in hand. We do not use hotel chains where money does not remain in the local community but is leaked to foreign owners. The areas in which we operate tend to be rural and so employment opportunities more limited than in larger towns. A local hotel can provide a vital source of employment in a town and help stem the flow of people from these communities to urban environments. In turn this helps to sustain the economies of small rural towns. We ensure that wherever possible our accommodation providers and activity guides source produce locally when meals are included and if not then we recommend local restaurants to clients. We want to utilize the tourism multiplier effect wherever possible in order to widen the economic benefit of our presence.

When it comes to souvenirs we inform clients of some of the locally produced handicrafts to look out for and try and encourage them to purchase goods from the region if they wish to take something home. We also ensure that we discourage the removal of natural souvenirs such as shells etc. Our clients are informed about souvenir trades that may be detrimental to the environment or that perhaps do not provide their workers with appropriate working conditions.

In some countries we feature, bargaining for goods is the local custom and we give guidelines to clients to help them negotiate prices which are both fair to them and the seller. We discourage any form of aggressive haggling.

By ensuring that the economic benefits (wherever possible) are felt by the people in the areas in which our holidays operate then we improve our relationships and show our commitment to a destination. This in turn enables us to improve the experiences in a destination as this mutual cooperation fosters excellent working relationships.

Environmental Responsibilities

This is the section that most people will associate most strongly with responsible tourism and it certainly is the most high profile area.

Tourism and the environment must be managed and the relationship monitored. It is something which we take into account throughout the planning of a holiday, the operation of a holiday and the evaluation of a holiday.

Firstly we are a niche operator; we do not send hundreds of clients into one destination during a week. It is not the way in which we operate and nor will it ever be. Large groups are not conducive to successful and high quality activity holidays and so we limit our group size and vary it depending on the destination – our holidays can all be classed as small groups. The group size is always made appropriate with regards to the nature of the environment and the proximity of our guests with the local population. We do not want local people to feel they have been invaded!

We work in remote areas and in many places which can only be described as pristine wildernesses. The impact of unmanaged tourism in these areas can be wholly detrimental. The basis in most of these destinations is that if the environment is damaged then for future clients and generations the word pristine or wilderness might be removed from the descriptions and this would be tragic.

Working with local people obviously provides us with a huge advantage in this respect. Our guides' pride in the regions is always tangible and they ensure that the 'leave no trace' ethos is continually expressed to clients and visibly implemented during the activities.

When we plan our holidays we do so with the environment in mind. We deliberately leave out certain activities if we feel that their impact on the environment is to its detriment. The group sizes which we offer are designed with the client's experience in mind as well as the likely impact on a natural area if large groups are continually bombarding it.

We assess a hotel's facilities with regards to the environment and have developed an audit which we are introducing to enable us to document the processes and facilities in places in each of our hotels with greater accuracy and in order to help provide our clients with further information.

Where possible we always include group transportation. Not only is this obviously more economical but it reduces emissions. We also ask clients to consider the use of public transport such as trains and buses on their free days (when available).

When planning hotels we ensure that we familiarize ourselves with all means of arriving in a destination, whether by train, sea or by road. When flights are involved we encourage clients to off set the emissions caused – in fact we encourage this for all methods of transport.

We dedicate additional time and money to ensuring that the impacts of our holidays are positive and that the environments we operate in remain unspoiled by our presence.