Our Values: Responsible & Sustainable Tourism
In the past few years ‘Responsible Travel’, ‘Sustainable Tourism’ and ‘Eco Tourism’ initiatives have grown hugely across the travel industry. Travellers are now much more aware of their impact on the environment and culture of the places they visit, and tourism is increasingly being used as a tool to generate positive change in communities where it is often desperately needed – something we are all for.
However we do feel that, at times, these labels get thrown about all too easily and sometimes for the wrong reasons, which doesn’t help anyone.
We are therefore trying to distance ourselves from the ‘who’s more responsible than who?’ debate, and simply doing things the way we think any decent traveller would.
Our Approach To Responsible Travel
- Wherever possible, using small scale camp sites, hotels, restaurants, shops and markets owned by locals which directly contribute to the local economy and benefit the community
- Treating the areas we visit with the utmost respect
- Being courteous to local people and respecting their customs and traditions
- Making the effort to learn some of the language(s) of the countries we’re travelling through
- Not littering or using plastic bags. Where possible, recycling cans and plastic bottles by giving them to the local children who have plentiful uses for them
- Burying bio-degradable waste properly if bush camping, or giving it to animals to forage on
As we state in our ethos we can’t claim to be saving the world – we are an overland company after all – but we do care about minimising our impact on the environment, treating everyone with respect, and doing something positive for the communities that we travel through.
We believe that travel and tourism in developing countries can throw up a number of complex issues and ethical questions, and that some of these can result in negative consequences (which are at times unavoidable).
However, there are also many opportunities to use tourism and cultural exchange as a tool for sustainable development and positive change.
With that in mind we have established ongoing relationships with a few projects along our route that focus on grassroots community development.
Projects We Support In West Africa
In Sierra Leone we spend some time on Tiwai Island and also a small village close by. Good friend of Overlanding West Africa Thomas Armitt (from West Africa Discovery) worked in conjunction with The Environmental Foundation For Africa to help promote the existing tourism initiative in place here. It’s a great community tourism project and one we are very happy to support by visiting with our groups twice a year. So far we’ve made donations to the community for money towards a village car and also a new water pump.
In Guinea we support Conakry Refugee School where 26 staff offer an education to 500 students, provide them with a meal each day, and help with safe housing for the vulnerable. Many of the children are orphans from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast and can not afford to go to school. The school is setting up small business initiatives such as catering and soap making and running IT and English classes for the local community so it can subside the education of the poorest. We visit the school on our trips, bring out supplies from the UK and make a financial donation to the project.
There is more information on the Friends of Conakry Refugee School website.
In Ivory Coast we spend a night in a remote village where we get the chance to witness an incredible performance of music and dance, topped off by a traditional Ivorian stilt dancer kicking up the dust!
The money the village receives for this performance, we hope, is used to help improve the school and to buy necessary provisions for the village. We also encourage the passengers to buy school books, pens, geometry sets, and footballs for the village school as a donation.
In Burkina Faso we make available trekking, tours and musical performances in conjunction with the Association Solidarite Djiguiya. This organization returns the profits from tourism into infrastructure in the community, and funds a school and orphanage in Senoufou country, one of the poorest areas in Burkina Faso.
In Ivory Coast we are supporting the Centre de Reinsertion et Education pour les Enfants de la Rue (C.R.E.E.R), which is an organisation that provides a safe house and rehabilitation centre for trafficked children forced to work in the cocoa plantations, gold mines and domestic servitude. We are liaising with them to bring out supplies from the UK and will also lend a hand when we visit and provide some financial help. Please visit the C.R.E.E.R website to find out more.
Throughout our trips in West Africa we always try to use locally owned and small-scale places to stay. In the Casamance region of Senegal, the Fouta Djalon in Guinea, the east of Sierra Leone, the west of Burkina Faso, and north of Togo and Benin we’re happy to say we have sourced locally owned accommodation where, in a number of cases, a percentage of the income generated from tourism is reinvested into the community.
We also shop as much as possible in local markets for food to help support the local economy.
We are always looking out for places to visit on our trips where we could help in a small way, be it through a financial donation or help with supplies.