Choosing the right tourist agency or tour provider is not as easy as we might think. Tours are perfect to discover the wonders of nature, for going on longer hiking trails or for exploring wildlife on a safari trip. However, many agencies and tour guides entice with tempting offers that turn out to be disappointingly unsustainable afterwards.
In order to ensure you a high-quality travel experience, I collected useful tips to pre-check tour agencies. This list helps you to find out whether a guide or tour operator is trustworthy, provides sustainable eco-friendly traveling and pays fair wages to their employees.
1. Look for a specialist
Before looking for a travel agency, determine what exactly you are looking for. The more specific your travel desires are (such as hiking a specific trail, visiting indigenous communities or going on a safari), the easier you can compare the quality of various offers. A specialised agency can usually provide you a better service. Specialised operators know the local community, further they are aware of environmental constraints. Most often you can costumise your own trip! This way you get the opportunity to act sustainably on your own terms as well.
2. Check offers and references to sustainability
A good start when looking for a tour operator in a foreign country is profound research. Check the different offers and include keywords in your research, such as sustainability, local community, or carbon footprint. Don’t jump towards the best offer. Thoroughly study the web pages and if possible, also social media channels.
- Does the operator mention how animals are being protected during the tour?
- Is the operator explaining how they protect the environment, e.g. waste management and water supplies?
- Can the operator provide benefits to the local community?
- Can you see pictures of tours, itineraries, and employees that certify authenticity?
3.Check reviews and comments
The best way to check the authenticity and truthfulness of a tour operator is to check comments, guest articles, blogs and review pages for experience and reference. You can search for this information online or spontaneously ask other travelers in your hotel or hostel. Check facts on sustainability, read on the tour’s itinerary and compare the overall recommendations of several operators.
4.Don’t fall for the cheapest offer
Sustainable, ecological, and fair tourism has its price. This is just a fact, and cannot be euphemized. Sustainability stands for intelligent waste, electricity, and water management. Particularly sustainable housing and transport are more expensive than unsustainable ones. Hence, the price will automatically be higher.
Safeguarding the environment and looking out for animal welfare is connected to research, medical provisions, and constant awareness, which are all costly factors for tour operators. Lastly, paying employees a fair wage and giving them two days off per week, deserves to be paid accordingly. Therefore, the number one rule is that sustainable traveling is more expensive than cheap tourist traps.
However, it is not the most expensive way of traveling. A sustainable solution does not require luxury goods, large hotel complexes, and individual car service. Even sustainably, you can still travel on a budget. The goal is to look for a fair price for what is offered to you.
What is fair? Look at the country’s minimum wage, check how much you have to pay for a coffee and lunch in a restaurant, and determine the fair price of offers in relation to those standard prices.
5. Ask the right questions
You have chosen a tour operator and you get in contact. If you want to make one hundred percent sure that you made the right choice, just ask the right questions. For example, if tour guides mention benefits to the local community, ask precisely which ones.
- How do you ensure sustainable accommodation?
- What happens to our garbage during the tour?
- Are you allowed to touch animals in the wild (this one should be a NO)
- How does the local community benefit from the tours?
- What mechanisms are in place if tourism exceeds at times?
- Who are your employees and guide knowledgeable and certified?
6. Look for collaboratives, such as the local community, the municipality and NGO’s
The last piece of advice is to look for other references than only tourist recommendations. A tour operator that supports the local community or advocates for sustainable traveling is more likely to collaborate with the local municipality, the local community, or Non-Governmental Organisations. Any joint programs provide another point of reference and take an agency’s trustworthiness to the next level.
Congratulations, you have done your research and chose an agency. Now, all you need to do is lean back and enjoy your trip!
Are you thinking of going without a tour operator?
I do generally recommend anyone interested in fair and sustainable traveling to use the local offers and only go on trips with a certified guide. This way you can ensure your traveling adventure leaves the smallest ecological footprint. There are two other reasons to ask for guidance.
First of all, when traveling in another country, the main purpose of countries to allow you traveling around their wonders is that they can benefit from it. Guided tours ensure that the local community will be least harmed by rising tourist numbers. The money you spend is directly helping people to make a living.
Secondly, by connecting with a local operator you will have the best tour. Guides can teach you about history, culture, tell you interesting stories, and become true friends to you. Going by yourself, you will miss half the information and it can be difficult to make your journey as valuable.