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Elephants in the Masai Mara

Being an ‘eco-friendly’ tour operator

Being an ‘eco-friendly’ tour operator or travel agent is simple. Reviewing your business to determine what makes you ‘green’ and why a potential ecotourist would travel with you to East Africa brings many dividends such as reduced costs, wildlife conservation, cultural understanding and more ecotourists.

Here are some guidelines to consider for a “green” travel agency or tour operator.

Economic policy:

-How much of your net profit is returned to the local community and wildlife projects?

Choose a project that interests your company, such as rhino conservation or village water supplies, and set yourself a goal. Create the timeline with your staff and then inform your clients of your goal. Update everyone involved on your progress throughout the year.

-Do your partners pay the community for their land in either a lease agreement, a per person fee agreement or a profit basis?

If not, why not? Try finding companies that do provide an income to local peoples, or set up a project of your own in that area.

-How do you support local camps and villagers that provide the traveler with local gifts?

Do you give your clients tips on what to purchase? Do you purchase local gifts to give to your clients? Do the lodges and camps you use have a local handicraft shop?

Environmental policy:

-What pre-departure environmental information do you provide the traveler?

Create pre-departure information that provides helpful hints on wildlife conservation information and what natural products to buy or not buy when visiting East Africa.

-How do you reduce paper waste, power consumption and water consumption?

Set a policy and ensure your staff is aware of it. Perhaps you can create a competition for the office that uses the least amount of paper or has the lowest water bill.

-How does your office protect the environment?

Consider such ideas as building water catching facilities, planting indigenous trees or shrubs in the compound and installing solar panels.

-What articles has your company written on eco- travel for magazines, websites and ezines?

Almost all ezines and websites look for free, original content for their readers. It’s free publicity for you while educating travelers at the same time!

-How do you offer local, environmental insights for your travelers?

Do you give your clients the Kenya Wildlife Service Park Regulations, a great guide to the ‘dos and don’ts’ of wildlife watching?

-How do you reduce vehicle pollution?

Do you share vehicles? Does your staff have a car pool system? Do you encourage your clients to enjoy game walks instead of game drives where possible?

-How do you reduce environmental impact with your tours?

How do you ensure that your drivers don’t drive off the road in national parks? Explain to your clients the potential damage of off-road driving and ask them to help protect the parks by not asking the driver to do so.

-Is your staff trained to be eco-friendly?

Do you have an eco-policy briefing for new staff? If not, ask one of your staff to mentor new staff on your company’s eco-policies.

-How involved are you in regional initiatives to conserve the environment?

Start looking for partners that will help you, help themselves and protect the wilderness areas at the same time!

Social responsibility:

-What pre-departure cultural information do you provide the traveler?

Create pre-departure information that provides helpful hints on how to visit local cultures Give background information on cultural ‘dos and don’ts’ for each area your client is visiting.

-How do you introduce the local culture to your travelers?

Do you work with the camps and lodges to create cultural talks and tours? Do you allow the clients to spend time with the local tribes while traveling?

-How many of your company’s staff are local citizens?

Working with local citizens gives you the local information that you and your clients need.

Copyright Anne Loehr of www.eco-resorts.com

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