Responsible travel is a guiding principle that underpins everything we do here at Rila. We are dedicated to ensuring we adopt a sustainable and responsible attitude to the areas we travel through. Our key aim is to maximize the positive benefits tourism can deliver whilst minimizing the impact of any potentially damaging social, cultural or environmental consequences.
We are committed to trying to reduce, re-use and recycle as much waste as is possible, wherever we are in the world. We review and update our responsible travel policies on a regular basis because we know there’s always more we could be doing – but this policy forms the basis of the minimum standards we aim to achieve both in our office and out on the tour.
Daily Sustainable Responsibilities – at Operational Level
- All paper products we use in the office are recycled, from paper to envelopes.
- We print on both sides of the paper whenever it is appropriate.
- We try to reduce what we print by using email and online media for internal and external communication wherever possible.
- We recycle as much as we can, from paper to plastics, glass, cardboard, oils and metal.
- We calculate our brochure production carefully to avoid excessive print runs, and encourage using our online brochure.
- We communicate with our crew online – reducing postage and printing.
- We bury our bio-degradable waste or give it to local people as feed for livestock.
- Our crew encourages travelers to minimize plastic drinks bottle consumption.
- Where possible we turn off our lights, computers, printers and other electrical equipment, particularly at night.
- We minimize our energy consumption in whatever way we can, e.g. using energy efficient light bulbs and minimizing water usage.
- Our office toilets use reduced water cisterns for flushing.
- When cooking whilst camping, we generally use gas instead of wood. It’s a cleaner fuel and this way we don’t deplete valuable local natural resources.
- We do sometimes indulge in a campfire, but only where resources are plentiful and we would not be in competition with local people for supplies.
- All vehicles are regularly serviced and maintained to ensure it runs as efficiently as possible.
Beginning July 2018 – as part of our CSR initiative – all our guests visiting Bhutan through Bhutan Rila Expeditions will Plant “Happiness Tree” one by each visitor at the KuenselPhodrang Happiness Garden to promote our natural environment and to offset some of the carbon emissions from your travels while having fun.
Social Responsibility: Code of Conduct
- We use locally-owned infrastructure for accommodation where possible.
- We aim to spread the financial benefits amongst local people and operators as much as is feasible.
- We respect local customs and culture and abide by the laws and etiquette of each region.
- We aim to educate travelers and our staff about how and why we choose to travel this way.
- We aim to limit the negative impact of our presence on the daily lifestyles of local people and the environments and eco-systems of the areas we travel through.
- We provide support to organizations and local communities visited by our tour groups.
- We aim to do everything possible to provide fun, enjoyable and safe trips for all our guests and staff.
- We provide a duty of care and support to all our guests and staff, individually and as a group.
- We aim to provide opportunities for our guests to interact with local people in a natural and non-contrived manner.
- We explicitly forbid any participation in or endorsement of commercial sexual activities or illegal drug use on our tours, from staff or guests.
- We strongly discourage the participation of our guests in activities which exploit animals – wild or domestic.
- We use local personnel that adhere to Rila’s Responsible Travel philosophies and provide the best possible service to tour guests and staff.
- We work to prevent the exploitation of children in tourism.We support and encourage fair employment practices.
As a Responsible Traveler, we request you to keep the following in mind
Be mindful of the local citizens, and seek understanding through shared experiences. Consider their customs and values while in their homeland, and when in doubt, ask your guide for advice.
Be mindful of the local environment, and act with conservation and sustainability in mind. Follow local guidelines, as recommended by your guide, and make proactive decisions on your own.
When travelling to other cultures, remember that not everyone’s customs are the same as yours at home. Be respectful, and be mindful of openly questioning a customary practice, even if you disagree with it. Try to understand from their perspective. You may learn something! Your guide will be an excellent point of reference here, so check with them if you’re unsure.
Make every effort to use local businesses and put your tourism dollars in the right (local) pocket. We use local vendors and businesses, and your guide will be able to advise you on the best ways to support the local economy.
Top 12 Responsible Travel Tips
Wherever we go in the world, we take a responsible attitude with us. That means travelling in a way which both respects and benefits local people, their culture, their economy, and their environment. If you’re not familiar with it, sometimes it’s hard to know what people mean by the words ‘responsible tourism’. So, to give you a bit of a step in the right direction, here are 12 tips to help you to be a more responsible traveller on your next trip.
- 1. Educate yourself
Before leaving home, learn as much as possible about the countries you are visiting – the religion, culture, and the local rules and values.
- 2. Get down with the Local Lingo
Learn some of the local language and don’t be afraid to use it – simple pleasantries will help break the ice. Keep practicing, and show the locals that you are making a special effort to learn their language. They’ll appreciate it!
- 3. Know your customs
Learn what’s appropriate behavior and body language in the country you’re visiting.
- 4. Go local in everything you do
Support locally owned businesses, hotels, restaurants, and other services. Eat local food and drink local brands and brews. Use public transport, hire a bike, or walk where convenient – you’ll meet local people and get to know the place.
- 5. Know what you’re supporting
Think first. It’s best not to eat in restaurants, shop in stores, or visit local shows, markets, or zoos that promote cruelty or exploitation of endangered species. Always be aware of where your money is going as you travel.
- 6. Shop smart
Shop from traditional artisans for locally made products, helping keep traditional crafts alive, and favour local products over imported items. Bargain if that is a local practice, but bear in mind that a small amount to you could be extremely important to the seller.
- 7. Dress appropriately
Dress respectfully with an awareness of local standards. Dress modestly at religious sites and check what swimwear is suitable for pools and the beach.
- 8. Always ask permission for photos
Always ask first before photographing or videoing sacred monasteries, temples and people. If you want to go that extra mile, send them back copies of photos to help make it a two-way exchange.
- 9. Support the local community responsibly
Be wary of giving gifts or money to beggars, children, and people you have just met. Supporting the community through a local school, clinic, or development project may be more constructive.
- 10. Leave only footprints…
Take care of the environment as you would your own home. Use alternatives to plastic and say no to plastic bags, recycle wherever possible, and try to keep your waste as low as possible.
- 11. Help from home
After returning home, think about how you can support programs and organizations that are working to protect the welfare, culture, and environment of the places you’ve visited.
- 12. Smile!
The traveler who wishes to have a happy and successful trip should keep as calm, cheerful, and friendly as possible. A smile is an international sign of warmth and friendship,so if in doubt, smile!