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FAIRTRADE / RESPONSIBLE TOURISM

As travellers turned travel agents we have seen at first hand the effect tourism has on local communities. Since Marco Polo Travel was established we have always played an active role in the environmental aspects of global tourism, are members of Tourism Concern, The Travel Foundation and are Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society. See press item, 'Taming Tourist Tyrants', published in 1991.

We believe that tourism can and does make a positive impact. Wherever possible, we recommend locally owned hotels and not a multinational conglomerate based outside the country. We feel strongly that local communities should benefit from tourism and at the same time ensure that the environment is not harmed. We encourage visitors to any country to mimimise their impact on the local culture and traditions - when you have booked we will send you our General Approach booklet.

Responsible tourism does not mean that you have to stay in a shack without basic facilities, for example, Beachcomber Hotels in Mauritius offer 3*, 4* and 5* deluxe accommodation and are locally owned and managed so the proceeds benefit the local economy. In 1999 Beachcomber hotels set up FED (Foundation for Hope and Development) where regional committees, staffed by volunteer Beachcomber hotel employees, work with local community groups to channel funds and expertise into social projects. Since it began, just under £1 million has been donated by Beachcomber to various projects including, among others, the development of local crafts and adult literacy.

There are many examples where an enjoyable and rewarding holiday can be had experiencing lifestyles that are unchanged and sustained by the arrival of tourists. One of our favourites is the Ulu Ai Longhouse deep in the rainforest in Sarawak, Borneo where you stay as guests of the Iban tribe and take part in their traditional way of life. Ulu Ai was a runner up in the BA Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. Another winner was the Chumbe Island Lodge, located off Zanzibar. The Chumbe chalets are ingeniously designed to benefit from solar power for lighting and even to heat the rain water which is used for all the needs of the lodge. Any profits from the lodge go into conservation and education. Kasbah du Toubkal, in a stunning mountainous location in Morocco, prefers to be called a Berber Hospitality Centre, strives to maximize the economic trickle-down by buying locally and using local mule transport for goods. Five percent of the profits go to the Village Association.

These are just three admirable examples of how tourism can benefit and sustain the environment and indigenous peoples. Many tour operators now support community projects, such as assisting a reforestation programme in Peru, by including a visit to them in their itineraries and paying fairly for their services.

Responsible tourism is not restricted to the developing world - the Laona Project in Cyprus encourages villagers to stay within the villages rather than move to the towns for work. By renovating old houses for visitors, work is provided for the locals and they can continue to live in their home village thus preserving centuries old traditions and lifestyles.

We give the proceeds from our Travellers' Club to charity and our chosen charity currently is Water Aid.

CALL US ON 0117 929 4123 TO SPEAK TO A TRAVEL ADVISOR
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 0900-1730, Sat 0930-1230 (appointments only)
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