Our partners are an extension of us.
Whether it is ground handlers, accommodation providers, guides or local activity providers, they are often the physical face of our company when our guests arrive. It is with this awareness that we have worked hard to handpick our local partners and create a global network who embrace our philosophy, values and commitment in delivering exceptional travel experiences for our guests. With our commitment to being a force for good at the heart of our business, we request that all our partners are as equally engaged in responsible ethical and sustainable business practices. We have recently developed a three-step approach that allows us to evaluate all our partners, which we can then leverage to make considered and responsible partner and product decisions.
What we do
We are committed to establishing respectful, trusting, fair and mutually beneficial long-term partner relationships, instilling the importance of strong ethical values. We strive to only work with partners who are guided by strong ethical values and sustainable principles.
We aim to achieve this through:
- evaluating our partners on community & conservation support | staff treatment | support for local suppliers | waste management & energy sources
- selecting partners who support community & conservation projects, treat their staff fairly, support local suppliers and minimize their environmental impact
- creating awareness and steering our partners towards sustainable behavior through making our partner selection criteria transparent
- investing in training and constructively sharing feedback with our partners
- creating and maintaining partnerships with smaller local companies where possible, rather than larger or multinational ones
employing local guides rather than foreign tour leaders
- not working with suppliers who we believe have a negative impact on the local environment or treat the local communities or their staff disrespectfully
We assess our impact through the quality of relationships with our partners, partner sustainability evaluation during our regular test & training trips and guest feedback.
Test and Training Trips
Any information given by our partners about their sustainability commitments is additionally checked through our own independent verification or from guests we hold in high regard and share our values. Our commitment to our guest entails that we can vouch for any preferred accommodation or activities we recommend to our guests. Similarly, we have established a preferred panel of handpicked guides and chauffeurs. We now have a clear framework for our test trips to follow in reviewing partners on their sustainability, ethical and ethical commitment. Through this evaluation system, test trip leaders are now held accountable to explain all partner and product decisions.
Whenever we make product decisions, all our management and partner relations team members ensure that a Partner Sustainability Evaluation is completed and considered. This is particularly useful when we are opening up a new destination and we find that several partners score the same on our overall selection criteria, such as experiences, guest feedback and rates. Sustainability now has the ability to become a deciding factor on which partner we select. Sustainability has the power to outweigh other selection criteria. If we cannot find a reputable partner, we might not offer a particular experience to our guests.
We now also use our sustainability evaluation to reconfirm preferred partner choices we have made in the past.
We track how our Partner Sustainability Evaluations have impacted our product decisions. This helps us to keep ourselves accountable and provides tangible examples for to us to convey to our team members, partners and guests that we really do walk the talk and take our Partner Sustainability Evaluations seriously. We ask our partners for information about any environmental, conservation and community projects they support or run, and their local staffing, procurement and energy and waste management decisions and policies. If it also helpful for us to know if guests can be involved in any of their sustainability efforts so that we can offer theses as unique, exemplary experiences.
Partner Policies and Agreements
All our local partners are trained on the expectations we have of our partners with regards to ethical and sustainable business practices. This includes relevant policies, such as how we work together, performance evaluation, a code of conduct on ethical behavior including our no-forced shopping policy, and adhering to our brand values and philosophy.
How Responsible Travel Impacts our Decisions
We trust our team to make the right decisions on the accommodation and experiences we recommend and offer to our guests. We continually listen to what our guests have to say about their experience for additional verification. We have many examples about how our sustainability evaluation has contributed to our product decisions. Here are just a few.
1Treat people the way you expect to be treated
Respect and considerate treatment staff is at the heart of our philosophy and we do not work with accommodations who treat their staff disrespectfully. If we receive feedback from our guests and team that the staff at accommodation in our collection are not treated respectfully, we take steps to raise awareness with our partner and, should that fail, remove them from our collection.
2Provide a safe and fair working environment
In many instances, our guides, chauffeurs and porters require additional equipment to safely conduct each tour, such as the Mount Kilimanjaro climb in Tanzania. In the past, when we have learned that a partner is not provided with adequate clothing or equipment required, we have encouraged dialogue with our partner and failing which, elected to work with an alternative partner who is considerate towards these requirements. We wish to ensure that porters and guides are given a fair living wage, are medically insured, and receive training and growth opportunities as well as adequate clothing and equipment. This also ensures that guests are supported during their climb by a well-trained, experienced and motivated crew. For this reason, we actively seek partners who share in our values of transparency and fairness, and are accredited by respected boards and organizations, such as the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project.
3Supporting a safe space for wildlife
We are committed to the responsible and ethical treatment of wildlife in their natural environment. For our team, guidelines for selecting the right activities to offer to our guests are very clear – in no way can an activity impact the natural life of wildlife. To us, it is very important that our guests are able to view the natural world without impacting the habitat. We conduct guided tours into wildlife-rich areas, be it on the land or underwater, but only with trained naturalists who can ensure that the wildlife remains protected and that the activity is sustainable.
4Utilizing natural resources responsibility
We avoid partnering with those who are not sensitive to the environment. Whenever we have found that accommodations are being irresponsible with energy by keeping air conditioning and lights on around the clock, or the unnecessary use of plastic products, we have discontinued the partnership. We enjoy working with partners who go out of their way to keep the surrounding environment in which they operate clean and pollution-free, such as The Tubkaak Krabi Boutique Resort in Thailand or Kilindi Zanzibar in Tanzania, who both works with the local community to undertake frequent beach cleaning projects.
5Forging community connections
We’ve added many projects that encourage a positive, healthy, and mutually beneficial interaction between guests and the local community. These often include organic farm visits and nature walks, such as an experience we have at Pong Huai Lan in Thailand. We love to support ecologically considerate, community-based lodges such as Lanjia Lodge which helps improve the living conditions of the Hmong, a group of ethnic people.
To really understand a culture, we believe in putting ourselves in the shoes of those we meet. We provide as many hands-on experiences as possible, which generate income for the local people who run them, such as a cooking class in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Spotlight on Dunia Camp in the Serengeti
Every day we work with our hand-picked partners who support a more equitable playing field for men and women within the travel industry.If you wish to see strong women in action, then look no further than Dunia Camp in the Serengeti. This camp is often dubbed “Angels of the Serengeti, as the female manager, Angel Vendeline Namshali, who was born on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, runs the only all-female camp in the region. It was not the intention for the camp to be all-female, it just happened organically. This is particularly impressive as Tanzania has a typically patriarchal and male-dominated culture, as Angel explains.
“They thought that we will be very scared with animals, and we can’t cooperate and work as one – they were not looking to the positive side of a woman! Women can do anything that can be done by any other person in this world. By having an all-woman camp has proved that we have a lot of women out there with the capacity and interest to work, but who lack moral and financial support.”