Responsible Travel FAQs

We don’t mind questions. In fact, we welcome them. We believe in constantly questioning everything so that we can continually innovate and improve our commitment and actions to being a Responsible Travel tour operator.

If you don’t see the answer to one of your questions which you would like to answer, ask your Travel Consultant or email us on responsibletravel@enchantingtravels.com.

Is Responsible Travel just a marketing strategy of Enchanting Travels or are you actually doing something on the ground?

We’ve always been a responsible travel company with values at the heart of why we established ourselves, even though we never really talked about it earlier. In fact, we’ve always done our best to be responsible – both as an employer, and as a decision-maker each time we offer new destinations, accommodation and experiences. The best indicators that we have achieved this is the growth of our company in the last decade, while still having loyal guests who repeatedly travel with us and a large number of staff who have been with us since the beginning and are still working with us today. Responsible Travel is in our DNA. We don’t claim to be perfect, but we sure do try our best. As you read this right now we’re sure there will be several team members around the world, passionately discussing responsible travel initiatives being organized locally, as well as guests exploring destinations in a way that is different from the norm.

What is Responsible Travel? Why don’t you just call it sustainable tourism / travel?

We’ve chosen to use Responsible Travel as our way of defining our commitment to a better way of doing business as we feel that Responsible Travel better incorporates the ethical as well as environmental factors of sustainability. Responsible Travel should ultimately improve a destination across a multitude of areas: not just economically or environmentally but at a societal and social level.

Unlike sustainable tourism/travel, which usually considers just one set of criteria, we include business values that are deeply ingrained in our founding company’s vision and philosophy, business success, cultural heritage, local communities and their traditions, wealth generation, living wages, opportunity and staff treatment. We believe that true Responsible Travel involves local communities in the decision-making process as welcoming guests into a region will have always have an impact. For example the additional infrastructure to support visitors needs to be considered, and some areas may need to remain sacred for the community.

How are you different from from other companies who label themselves 'Responsible'?

We’re not on a mission to show that we are more responsible than others. We simply wish to be transparent about what we are doing, as it’s common to be asked about our ethos. We believe that in general, the travel industry needs to be more responsible, and so we always encourage and appreciate all companies trying to make a difference. We are specialists in private, tailor-made travel experiences. Other companies offer group tours, extreme adventure tours or beach vacations. The industry is so varied that there really is room for everybody.

How do you make decisions on what destinations and activities to offer?

Until 2018, there was no explicit sustainability criteria, however as a company it has always been in our DNA. We are guided by our company values, guest requests, and our on-the-ground expertise. We have always sought out partners who truly care about the environment and community, and are passionate about their destination. We feel that over the years, because of our partner policies and agreements that we have by and large, we have successfully avoided accommodation and activities that only exist to make a profit and/or are to the detriment of a destination.

Read more in our section on Supporting Sustainable Partners

How do you select partners?

We have created our own evaluation system that considers multiple factors including guest feedback, ease of working, sustainability, alignment of our values and philosophy, and independent accreditation and accolades. Read more about how we select our partners and products, and the impact our evaluation system has on our decision-making process in our section on Supporting Sustainable Partners.

How can you verify an eco lodge or hotel really is 'Responsible'?

We have always adopted a tried and tested approach and developed a system of receiving and analyzing continuous feedback to verify our accommodations. If we find our accommodation partner does not meet our high standards then we discontinue our relationship with them or change our descriptions accordingly.

Read some examples of our most responsible travel accommodation partners here.

Do you offer visits to slums or townships? Is that ethical?

The inclusion of visits to neighborhoods of extreme poverty, such as slums in India, favelas in South America and the townships in South Africa, are a grey area. Such visits tend to be at a special request from our guests, and we work hard to provide ample information to ensure our guests are fully prepared about what to expect so as not to be disrespectful. When we do include such visits in your itinerary, we work with partners who employ members of the communities that have the respect and agreement of their neighbors to act as guides. We ask that the number of individuals visiting are limited to small groups, and prefer to organize a completely private experience of no more than two people.

We believe that offering visits to poor neighborhoods can be a way of sharing compassion and kinship with people you may not otherwise meet. However, it is inappropriate and uncomfortable to actively show pity, so we recommend that guests who are emotionally sensitive avoid such experiences. Yet, we will always remind you that these are people’s homes, and you should consider how you would feel if you were being observed in a similar manner.

We request that you refrain from taking photos unless your host and the individuals have requested or specifically given you their consent. It is our goal that such visits should only be included if there is a clear and direct positive benefit to the community and if it provides a livelihood. While you may pay for this experience since your guide is dedicating time for it, we discourage the act of handing out money to people whose homes you visit as it can cause dependency. Instead, we always encourage you to give through more formal, trustworthy channels such as a local NGOs, or through purchasing goods produced by the community.

Is it ethical to photograph impoverished individuals?

When taking pictures of people, ask yourself the purpose of the photo, and whether it stems from a place of mutual trust and respect. Are you invading someone’s privacy? Could offence be caused?

We ask that you always get permission from the person or people you wish to photograph, at least verbally, and you can ask your guide to act as your interpreter. You might want to consider finding a way to share your photographs with the individuals, like we have done through our partnership with the Memory Foundation. Sometimes this can be as simple as showing the display screen on your digital camera. You might want to take their details, like many of our guests do, so that you can mail or email then when you get back from your vacation with the photo. This gesture, while small to you, is often hugely appreciated to those who might not have photos of themselves.

Some individuals are proud of showcasing themselves and sharing their culture with you. Others may not, and so it is important that you respect their decision if you receive a ‘no’ and continue to interact with the individual as you would with a friend. Similarly, we urge you not to take photos of children without their parent or guardian’s permission. Also ask yourself if you need to be the artist. You might find that the professional photo you wish to take of a little smiling school girl is already available as a postcard in a local shop that will provide direct income to the community.

What’s your opinion on animal rides? Do you offer them?

There are always many considerations when looking at animal-based experiences, and we prefer to distinguish between domestic and wild animals. Our opinion on animal rides depend on the destination and the specific details. As a rule of thumb, we do not support any organizations that have domesticated wild animals for commercial gain or any activities that exploit or harm animals. Horseback riding is very popular in Argentina and Chile and is very much part of the culture, so we do offer this activity, and our local partners take great care of the horses. Read more about our opinion on wildlife activities in our section Protecting the Wild in Wildlife.

Do you feel it right to decorate elephants?

Decorating elephants has been a popular part of Asian culture for centuries, when royalty would highlight their position by sitting atop of one during public parades and festivals, embracing the strength and power of these gentle giants. Elephants are considered sacred creatures and are believed to often personify deities, such as the Hindu elephant god Ganesha. You will likely see elephants decorated during festivals in India, as this is part of the cultural fanfare. Elephants are now being decorated solely for the benefit of tourists and we feel that this is an individual decision as to whether is it appropriate or not.

What’s your opinion on cultural festivals that contribute to pollution?

Interestingly, when you research most cultural festivals around the world, you will find that they usually exist as a means to celebrate the beauty of life through religious worship, harvest times, the seasons and the natural earth, and even as a means to inject morals into a society through oral storytelling and performance. Traditionally, most festivals were therefore a celebration of the natural way of life. Even today, you will find that it is usually colorful flowers and fruits that are used as symbolism and decoration.

As the world ever evolves, many of these festivals are losing their cultural roots and creating a negative impact on the environment, be it through noise pollution, littering, and an overstretched infrastructure due to the mass movement of individuals who wish to join in the celebrations, including foreign visitors. For example, there has been an uproar in India due to the noise and air pollution and even injury that is caused during the period around Diwali, the Festival of Lights, as neighborhoods light thousands of fireworks and firecrackers; or during Holi, the Festival of Color, much furor has been raised about throwing artificial colors into streets that cause unsightly graffiti for months to come, and over-consuming water, when it could be put to better use. Local environmental groups and individuals within the communities are now advocating for more thoughtful use of natural resources and children are being educated in schools, teaching the elder generations a thing or two about sustainability and thoughtful citizenship!

There is a great deal to be learned from the cultural and social implications of any festival, so we encourage you to research beforehand. Ask our team for guidance and educate yourself so that you can be a more informed and responsible festival-goer. Who knows, you might even leave a legacy of responsibility of your own!

Can I visit schools and interact with the children?

In some destinations, we can arrange visits to schools where you have the opportunity to interact with children. We welcome guests who can offer something to the children, such as giving an inspiring talk, or teaching a specific class. We particularly enjoy arranging experiences for educators who wish to learn about different teaching methods. School visits cannot be guaranteed: we always ask for permission from the local schools and ensure that they do not interfere with the primary aim of education. School visits are also subject to holidays and local festivals, some of which vary from year to year.

Is cultural insensitivity irresponsible tourism?

For us, cultural insensitivity can be irresponsible. Sometimes it is completely unintentional due to a fleeting comment or action, however sometimes it is more deep-rooted than that. There’s a fine line between cultural insensitivity and being offensive. Sometime it can even come across as racism or slanderous. We’re such a multicultural team ourselves and have had so many guests travel with us over the years that we know how easy it is to accidentally say something or make a judgement about a country’s culture just because it is different. Slip ups can happen. Sometimes they are even funny.

If you think before you speak, and try to put yourselves in the shoes of your hosts, we generally find that cultural insensitivity is limited. The way in which you speak your mind or ask questions can make a big difference to how your words are received. We are also big believers in clarification. If in doubt, ask! If you aren’t sure whether your actions or comments could cause offence, ask for guidance.

We’d love to hear how you would answer this question! We would also love to hear your thoughts on how tourism negatively interferes with cultures, and what you think we can do to counteract this. We don’t have all the answers.

You offer carbon offsetting. Isn’t that just green wash?

Humans will always leave a footprint, but we can tread lighter by the way in which we choose to move around. When it comes to carbon emissions caused by airplanes and the benefits of offsetting our team believe that any action is better than no action but that it is a personal choice. We have spent time researching and selecting a partner who does much more than plant trees to offset emissions and we feel can make a significant difference, which is backed with a CDM Gold Standard.

If you want to find out more, we recommend that you read our in-depth opinion piece about carbon offsetting in our section on Climate Considerations.

Why doesn’t Enchanting Travels just set up a charitable foundation?

There are companies who highlight their charitable donations or foundation but these may be solely because they are easy and look good or have some tax benefits. We don’t believe in just giving donations or setting up a foundation for the sake of it – for us, that is like sticking a plaster on a problem rather than looking at what caused the wound in the first place. We believe that the best way to make a difference is not through charity but through business. That is not to say we do not support the concept of charity – far from it in fact!

There are some wonderful NGOs that deserve attention and support in ensuring their objectives are achieved, and it is better to support these local experts in their specialized fields rather than doubling up on effort and unduly wasting resources. We have spent time establishing many individual, local charitable partnerships that we believe are doing great work within the destinations we offer. We do as much as we can to support them, through both financial and emotional support and raising awareness about their efforts and success stories with our guests and team members.

Do you hold any sustainability accreditations or accolades?

Since we were established in 2004, we have spent a considerable amount of time focusing on establishing a network of trustworthy partnerships, delivering the guest experience we promise, and building our business success so that we ourselves can be sustainable. Having said that, we have always had a number of accreditations that highlight our commitment to delivering on our promises. Some of these are specific sustainable accreditations or have a direct impact on sustainability efforts, such as Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT) and KATO, which is focused primarily on positive conduct in wildlife safari tours.

Are elephant treks/ safaris / tiger tours / whale watching responsible?

We take great thought in what we offer, and spend time researching, trying an experience for ourselves, and listening to our guests before making a final decision. When conducted well, for the right reason and in the right destination with a caring partner, all the above activities can be responsible. We have been known to change our stance in the past too depending on ecological and ethical considerations.

For our more detailed opinion, we recommend you read our section Protecting the Wild in Wildlife.

Do any of your profits go back into charitable or community projects?

Yes, although we cannot give you a specific percentage. This is because all our community and local charitable work has always been a part of our company values and done through assessing social rather than monetary impact.

What if guests ask for a specific activity that would not typically fall under Responsible Travel? Would you turn them away?

As a company committed to travel being a force for good there are certain lines that we will never cross. For example, we have never and would never arrange a hunting trip or activity, and our fishing experiences are usually catch and release. We are aware that, because of the nature of creating truly tailor-made and private trips, there have been times that at the request of our guests we have included an activity that has an environmental impact. This could be including multiple flights for convenience, or offering a helicopter ride in a national park or quad biking in sand dunes. These are always individual experiences that are not part of our standard collection and are included on a case-by-case basis.

Can you arrange visits to NGOs that I am involved with but have never visited before?

Absolutely, as your trip is private and tailor-made, we can help facilitate and arrange visits to NGOs. We have done this several times in the past for guests across many destinations, and at times offered volunteering experiences, as long as they are considerate to an organization’s beneficiaries and objectives.

What’s your opinion about tourism boycotts?

In general we do not feel they have much benefit as previous examples often prevent meaningful dialogues from taking place. We believe boycotts tend to harm not governments but instead the local people who rely on tourism as their livelihood.

What’s your opinion on over-tourism?

As more people travel, we feel have an obligation as a responsible travel operator to ensure we are not contributing to tourism that has a negative impact on a local community or environment, through educating our staff, partners and guests. We prefer to recommend destinations that are grateful for the economic gains and infrastructure that more visitors would bring.

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