5 Responsible Tour Operator Practices

How to find a tour that prioritizes sustainable travel initiatives.
traveler

Entrusting your trip to a tour operator comes with certain expectations. When considering sustainability, it’s best to seek travel companies that have responsible practices built into their business model and create trips with the welfare of the local community and environment in mind.

Here are five qualities to look for to help you choose a tour that values your experience, as well as the welfare of the place you are visiting and nature.

They Give Back to the Destination

Travel has evolved beyond the idea of simply visiting a place, enjoying its beauty and pleasures and leaving without contributing positively. Thankfully, the industry has embraced a more forward-thinking model that not only sustains popular and under-the-radar destinations alike, but supports the advancement of economic development, education and environmental protection.

A great example of this is AAA’s Member Choice Vacations South Africa Impact Tour. On this excursion, travelers will spend the day at a school funded by the Knysna Education Trust and the Collette Foundation. The experience includes meeting the local children and taking part in a reading activity, assisting with a lesson plan or helping the kids with a craft. There are also options to help paint a mural to brighten up the classrooms or maintain one of the gardens the children depend on for fresh, healthy food. 

elephants

They Invest in Responsible Wildlife Tourism 

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of animal welfare and protection. This is an amazing win for biodiversity, particularly in regions where there are many endangered species. But there is still work to be done.

One way that responsible tour operators are fighting inhumane practices is excluding the use of wild animals for human entertainment, while also supporting wildlife initiatives. This means no elephant rides, photo ops with exotic animals or visits to phony sanctuaries.

AAA says that one of the best ways to see animals in their natural habitat is on safari. Seeing an exotic animal in the wild is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll remember forever. If you want to try it for yourself, Club Adventures by AAA offers a small group safari across East Africa, where you can see magnificent wildlife in their natural habitat and contribute to the local economy.

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Dining Experiences That Incorporate Local Produce and Culture

Incredible food experiences can bolster a great trip to an ethereal level. Nothing quite compares to tasting ingredients freshly plucked from an organic farm or garden and prepared using local cultural traditions. These are the kind of unique experiences that traveling with the right tour operator can provide.

For example, AAA Member Choice Vacations offers a home-hosted Kiwi dinner with a family in New Zealand. Sharing a home-cooked meal creates the opportunity to truly understand the cultural roots of a place, not to mention the warmth, kindness and food will enjoy in a relaxed atmosphere.

Local Guides

In many ways, local guides are the key to creating trips that incorporate history and education, natural wonders, memorable food experiences and authentic cultural attractions. AAA takes it one step further with Club Adventures, employing local leaders that live in the communities you visit.

Small Group Experiences and Efficient Transportation Options

Small group travel tours offer many wonderful opportunities to get closer to nature and your tour mates, creating a more balanced approach to exploration that incorporates both planned experiences and the freedom to venture off on your own. This type of travel is more sustainable on several levels, but especially when it comes to transportation options.

Club Adventures specializes in small group travel and incorporates eco-friendly ways of getting around. Their Cycle Sonoma and the Napa Valley tour “combines wine, rugged coastline and the best Northern California has to offer as you cycle from stunning wine country to epic redwood forests and on to the rugged Pacific Ocean coast.”

Hiking, kayaking, canoeing and walking are at the center of other Club Adventure tours. When there is a need for motorized transportation, trains and public buses are often utilized, as noted in the Classic Walks of Scotland tour. 

To find a responsible tour operator for your next trip, contact a AAA travel advisor.

Author Bio: AAA’s sustainable travel series is written in partnership with Kind Traveler, a women-and-veteran-owned sustainable travel platform empowering travelers to make a positive impact in local communities, and contributing writer, Maria Russo.

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