For the first time in the 14 years of hosting a Sojourn bike tour showcasing a rail-trail, the Rail-Trails Conservancy has expanded the series to four rides: the first, in Florida, was held in February. The next, on the popular Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania, is scheduled May 6-8, the third is a four-day/three-night North Bend Rail Trail out of Parkersburg, West Virginia (June 19-22 and the last is four-days/three nights from Cleveland to Columbus on the Ohio-to-Erie Trail, Ohio in September (date to be announced).
“The Sojourn Series is much more than just a bike ride. It’s a trail building tool for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and allows us to pull advocacy into participants’ trail use experience.”
The sojourn rides are crafted to weave experiences that go beyond simply riding from point A to point B. Each sojourn aims to transform trail users into advocates and create the economic case for trail networks nationwide.
For example, the West Virginia Sojourn is being held on the North Bend Rail Trail out of Parkersburg WV. It is an incredible trail but does not yet connect to the two communities on either end, Parkersburg and Clarksburg. This ride serves to bring attention to those gaps and advocate for their completion. The corridor is also part of a much larger trail development effort being undertaken by the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition.
“The West Virginia ride will allow you to get on a new trail and take part in some of the advocacy that our organization is known for.”
The May ride is on a 120-mile section of the Great Allegheny Passage, to allow for a short, three-day excursion (a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend). from Meyersdale to Pittsburgh.
The ride features gorgeous mountain vistas and relaxing river scenes, historic bridges and tunnels that showcase the GAP’s railway heritage. Highlights include Historic Pump House (Homestead), Salisbury Viaduct, Casselman River Valley, and Great Allegheny Passage Trail towns: Meyersdale, West Newton, Confluence and Ohiopyle
Repurposed from a rail line, the Great Allegheny Passage is one of the most popular trails, and was the first inductee in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Rail-Trail “Hall of Fame.”
Since 2001, more than 3,000 riders have joined RTC’s sojourns—many of them on the GAP. These rides not only highlight incredible trails, but they also help empower communities to complete trail networks that will benefit the entire region.
Equally importantly, they highlight the economic benefit to communities, particularly those who have seen older industries shut down, along with the rail lines.
RTC’s 2015 Pennsylvania Rail-Trail Sojourn brought visitors from 35 states and had an economic impact of more than $245,000 – something significant for a town like Dunbar, Pennsylvania, which once depended upon mining.
The rail-trail could be an engine for a new economy fueled by lodging, restaurants and gear shops. In fact, RTC estimates that the trail would generate more than $40 million in direct spending from trail users annually.
“The Sojourn Series is a real-world example that show how trails can provide an economic boon to local economies,” says Liz Thorstensen, vice president of trail development for RTC. “By providing these rides, we’re creating more opportunities for people to experience and advocate for these trail networks.”
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with more than 160,000 members and supporters, is the nation’s largest trails organization dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines. Founded in 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s national office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.railstotrails.org.
BOULDER, CO – Steve Mokan is looking to change the way mountain bikers experience the best trails in the Western US. The result is the recent launch of his new mountain bike tour company, Chasing Epic, which aims to raise the bar and set new standards in the mountain biking world. The focus is to offer intermediate and experienced riders fully all-inclusive, locally guided mountain bike trips where those in-the-know most want to bike — the American West – and when everybody has the time – over long weekends. Guests just need to be reasonably experienced and pack a helmet, shoes and appetite for epic single track adventure.
Mokan, a long-time Colorado mountain biker and a veteran of the adventure sports world, has worked with adventure travel companies, outdoor gear manufacturers, and ski resorts across the West as a professional photographer with his other venture, Switchback Photography. Over a 10-year commercial journey he saw a glaring hole in the present mountain bike adventure travel industry.
“Participants on most mountain biking adventures today are being asked to bring too much to the table before the fun even begins,” he says. “Without proper guidance and advice it can be daunting in busy professional and family schedules to follow a checklist of pre-trip preparation, specialized gear and shipment of your own bike (or choosing from a fleet of rentals) before getting on a trail.”
He says Chasing Epic fills that gap and provides a better overall experience for people who love to ride “by anticipating guest needs then partnering with the biggest names in the bike industry to put together the most all-inclusive and rewarding mountain bike vacations in today’s marketplace. With our trips, we take care of absolutely everything- all you have to do is show up and ride!”
Chasing Epic’s adventures include inn and hotel lodging (never camping), hearty meals, high-end demo bikes (an all-carbon demo bike fleet includes Ibis Mojo HD3s, Ibis Ripley LS 29ers, and Niner Jet 9 29ers), local guides conversant with the terrain, customized eight-week pre-trip training programs, best-in-class ride nutrition, shuttles and lift tickets, gratuities and a dedicated on-site trip leader to help control gear mashers and share the stories and laughs with a group of like-minded riders.
The destinations for these adventures are, in Colorado; Crested Butte, Durango, Fruita and Telluride, in Arizona; Sedona, and in Utah; Park City and St. George.
Unlike traditional point-A-to-point-B mountain bike tour companies, Chasing Epic stays in a single town in each destination and dedicates itineraries to daily rides that cover a variety of the most epic singletrack trails (known and unknown) in each area.
“This is possible by working with local guides who have been riding and building trails in these destinations for decades. Each itinerary is unique, you’ll never ride the same set of trails twice with us. We also make sure we’re hitting these locations at the best time of the year: the Desert Southwest in the spring, Crested Butte and Park City in July (wildflowers), and the mountain towns in the fall for the changing aspens,” he underscores.
On pre-set scheduled trips the per person rates are $950 for three days and $1,250 for four days, regardless of location. For private, exclusive customized trips the per person rate is $1,150 for three days and $1,450 for four days based on a group of six or more.
On the premise that “the less you suffer on the climbs, the more you’ll enjoy the descents,” Mokan has engaged coaching platform companies Training Peaks and Through the Wall Training to customize individualized training programs (valued at up to $400) for eight weeks prior to departure.
He emphasizes that these trips aren’t for touring and sightseeing. “At Chasing Epic, we pride ourselves on putting together itineraries of only the best trail systems in each location, and we don’t waste time with sightseeing rides. You’ll be on singletrack from start to finish.”
Travelers will soon be able to see Namibia’s leading conservation efforts and diverse wildlife from two unique perches—the saddle of a bike and the comfort of their private chartered train, the Desert Express. On this Namibia Bike and Train Tour, offered through BikeToursDirect, based in Chattanooga, TN, they’ll also learn first-hand from conservation leaders why the World Wildlife Fund has called Namibia “the greatest wildlife recovery story ever told.”
During the 12-night tour, which departs August 11, 2015, from Nambia’s capital city of Windhoek, travelers will experience the country’s vast beauty while enjoying the highest standards of comfort and service. They will visit the Fish River Canyon (Africa’s longest), traverse the apricot colored dunes of the Namib Desert, and have the chance to see mountain zebras and desert elephants, along with giraffes, rhinos and lions.
“It’s probably the most impressive and memorable setting I’ve cycled in,” says Jim Johnson, president of BikeToursDirect. He recently biked in some of the same areas this tour explores: “The landscapes were breathtaking: vast deserts with some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, remote coastlines, and deep chasms offset by towering mountains.
“And this tour will transcend even that amazing experience. You’ll get to see Namibia’s unique landscapes and extensive wildlife from the unique vantage points of bicycle and train, and it’s a rare opportunity to spend time with many of the individuals responsible for making the country such a conservation success story. It will be the trip of a lifetime.”
After cycling each day, tour participants sleep on the train or in scenic lodges along the route. The train travels the longer distances during the night, making it possible to see more of the country and allowing plenty of time during the day for bike trips.
Two knowledgeable guides accompany the participants aboard the train and on each day’s easy rides, which average less than 25 miles/40 km per day, and a support vehicle is always nearby to shorten the riding or give a helping hand. Participants may also choose to stay aboard the train, a great option for non-cycling companions who sign up for the tour.
Throughout the tour visit, participants will meet many key players behind Namibia’s conservation success story, including John Kasaona, a leader in the drive to reinvent conservation in Namibia by turning former poachers into protectors of endangered species.
Participants will also hear how tourism has made the country’s conservation success possible by generating sustainable income for local communities—and why their travel here helps improve the lives of the nation’s people and save the lives of its wildlife.
The Desert Express holds a maximum of 48 guests in 24 compartments, each accommodating up to three passengers. Each compartment is fully air-conditioned and heated and has a private bathroom. Passengers can also relax in an elegant lounge, a unique bistro bar and a spacious restaurant that will serve the best in Namibian cuisine. Expansive windows throughout the train help travelers experience the full Namibian views.
Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution, and the government gave people living in communal areas the opportunity to manage their natural resources through the creation of communal conservancies. These conservancies – as well as governments, nonprofit organizations and other entities – have restored populations of lions, cheetahs, black rhinos, zebras and other native wildlife to the world’s richest dry land. Through initiatives such as ecotourism, restoration has generated sustainable income for their communities.
BikeToursDirect serves as a central resource for bicycle tours worldwide, representing 125 tour companies with over 500 tours in 71 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas. BikeToursDirect offers a variety of resources to help travelers search for and choose tours and handles the entire booking and payment process. Learn more at http://www.biketours.com.
Bicycle vacation specialist Pure Adventures has just introduced ‘Supported, Self-Directed’ adventures, a new concept in cycling vacations that lets guests enjoy the freedom of a self-guided/independent trip with the sag wagon service and trip leader support of a fully guided tour.
“This supported self-directed concept allows independent cyclists to ride and explore remote destinations where roadside assistance or local services may not exist, essentially creating their own ride complete with all the support needed,” says Loren Siekman, Pure Adventures founder/owner. “The support van and trip leader assigned to transfer guest luggage from one overnight stop to the next also assist with ‘sag’ stops along the route (every 20-25 miles), provide a lift for shorter ride options, help with mechanical matters, and handle any on-road emergencies or questions.
Supported self-directed itineraries require that a minimum of six people sign up for the same fixed departure date and program. However if six friends or family members sign up, then they can choose their own exclusive departure date.
“Even though six or more clients are traveling more or less on the same route, they are under no obligation to fraternize and for all intents and purposes may remain as independent of one another as they like. The only common denominators are that their luggage is in the same van and they’re most probably staying at the same inns,” Siekman said.
Pure Adventure manages all logistics, makes all reservations, and provides all vehicles, trip support leaders, as well as high end bike rentals.
“It’s a perfect middle ground between fully guided and independent/self-guided at a price point more closely resembling a self-guided trip.”
The advantages of supported self-directed travel include lower trip rates, no appointed meal and departure times and the freedom to sightsee at leisure. Riders can tap into the expertise of the company’s leader who knows bike mechanics, supplies fresh water and healthy snacks, advises on caution stops, suggests things to see and do and provides transport to guest-selected restaurants.
“In this format, we may suggest but are not organizing group activities such as museum visits or wine tastings often included in a fully guided trip. And though trip distances on these programs tend to be longer than most of the self-guided trips we offer, shorter ride options exist thanks to this Sag support. It is the perfect option for couples of different abilities,” said Siekman.
New for 2015, Pure Adventures’ Supported Self Directed itineraries include: Death Valley, Bryce & Zion National Parks, Epic Climbs of Arizona, Yosemite to San Francisco and several more County Kerry & Cork in Ireland. Coming later in 2015 will be new and challenging trans-Pyrenees and trans-Alps trips plus other long distance rides with less mountain climbing demands.
The rewards are abundant for those willing to work their two legs to power two wheels between two European capitals on a 1000km Portugal Nature Trails bicycle tour. Featured are two countries, two capitals, 15 major mountains, six days of mountainous riding and two along the sea.
The per person, double, rate is 1499€ for this self-guided Madrid-Lisbon Road Bike tour that concludes with a two-day respite on the Atlantic. For 10 days and nine nights departing July 11, 2015, history, culture and unsurpassed scenery combine with the highs of slow living on the road.
Included in the rate are:
An over 1000 km fully vehicle supported tour
GPS tracking for navigation
Accommodation in quality hotels and inns
All meals (dinner, buffet lunch en route and breakfast)
Transfers from and to the airport (Madrid and Lisbon)
Mechanical assistance for bikes
Participants are welcome to bring their own bike or rent a Carbon bike for 200€. Bikes are not included in the tour price. Cyclists will average 128km per day. Approximately half the route is in Spain; the other half traverses Portugal’s schist (metamorphic rock) mountains.
This epic bicycle tour was designed to meet expectations of modern travelers who have taken to the bike as a way to travel slowly, at a pedal pace through a country and its culture. Guests will follow a mountain route said to be one of Europe’s most beautiful yet challenging. For details see: http://www.portugalnaturetrails.com/madrid-lisbon-road-bike/4587497218
NOTE ON UPCOMING MOUNTAIN BIKE VERSION: Portugal Nature Tours is also offering a fat tire version of the Madrid to Lisbon ride. Madrid Lisbon MTBike, June 13-27, 2015 is one of the biggest mountain biking adventures in Europe. The 17 day / 16 night fully guided tour is priced at 2750€ per person, double. See: http://www.bikemadridlisbon.com/#/mtb/4586591908
Portugal Nature Trails is a premier adventure travel tour company offering guided and self-guided walking, hiking and cycling tours. Guided tours feature the expertise of local guides. All of the tours, guided or not, feature handcrafted itineraries, authentic cuisine, accommodations reflecting locale and an in-depth introduction to local culture. Customized Adventures designed for personalized small-group travel are available
Dolomite Mountains, a leading Italian company specializing in guided mountain travel, is offering an opportunity for amateur and avid cyclists alike to join an exclusive bike race in Italy’s Dolomites in July 2015.
National Geographic described this Italian Granfondo as “one of the biggest, most passionate, and most chaotic bike races on Earth”.
The July 1-6, 2015, event cycles over breathtaking Dolomite mountain passes while enjoying the camaraderie of 9,000 cyclists from more than 40 nations. The Maratona dles Dolomites is the one of the most popular Granfondo road biking races in Italy. This annual, single-day road bicycle race takes riders across four to eight spectacular mountain passes.
Mass participation cycling events have been popular in Europe for decades and are gaining momentum worldwide. Over time, the Maratona, one of the biggest Italian Granfondo bicycle races, has attracted an increasing number of fans, to become one of the most important amateur cycling events in the whole of Europe.
While the 9,000 places for this race sell out quickly each year, there are guaranteed entries through the Dolomite Mountains program. Rates for participants include the entrance fee and five nights lodging (double room accommodation) at €2.880 per person (single rate € 3,760). If the partner is not participating in the event the rate starts at € 1,650/person. Lodging is at the 5-star Relais & Chateaux Rosa Alpina. (See: http://dolomitemountains.com/en/summer_fall_trips/bike3235.htm).
The package includes a tour briefing with logistics and map, guaranteed race registration, all breakfasts (including pasta breakfast on race day), two dinners at the hotel, an aperitif in the kitchen of Restaurant St. Hubertus, dinner at a Michelin star restaurant, cleaning service for bike gear and services of a bike mechanic for four days, one sport massage, services of a local English speaking Professional Bike Guide for two days (three cyclists per guide), private transfers as per itinerary, local medical and evacuation insurance, local tourist tax and Italian VAT tax. Airport transfers are available upon request at an extra charge.
Warm up rides cum touring and sightseeing before Day 5, race day, are scheduled with guides and technical assistance as needed.
Maratona dles Dolomites starts in La Villa in Alta Badia with three course options: a short course of 55 kilometers (34.1 miles) with four passes to cross; a middle course of 106 kilometers (65.8 miles) crossing six passes; and a long course of 138 kilometers (85.7 miles) climbing over eight passes. The first four passes are the same for all.
At the start of the event, participants are free to select the route best suited to their ability; they may alter their course during the event. All riders complete the four pass Sellaronda course first. After completing this, riders can either choose to finish the race or proceed directly onwards with the Middle course, followed by the Maratona course. The roads are lined with tens of thousands of cheering spectators, and the entire event is broadcast live on Italian national broadcaster RAI. Along the courses, seven refreshment stations are manned by volunteers; riders can strengthen themselves with food and drink. All courses end in Corvara in Badia (end 1,561m / 5,120′). A post event celebration concludes the day.
Dolomite Mountains srl is a local company in the Dolomites which for over 15 years has crafted adventures within one of the most beautiful natural settings on Earth. Types of trips offered include hiking, biking, Via Ferrata, climbing, snowshoeing, photo safari, skiing, self-guided and luxury trips. Customized guided and self guided active trips and luxury and gourmet adventures take travelers off the beaten path for authentic experiences that reveal the real Dolomites. For trip information and reservations call 866-247-4860 or log on: http://dolomitemountains.com/en/home.htm
Explorateur Journeys has launched Chef On Wheels, a trip infused with special experiences of Uruguayan gastronomy, interactions with local chefs, instruction on traditional dishes blended with an active cycling adventure that gets travelers up close and personal with quaint villages and a traditional slice of life.
The journey begins with insider access to a special winery, where guests can bike trough the charming town of Carmelo, tasting along the way and stopping for a home cooked Uruguayan asado. They’ll enjoy dinner one evening with a celebrated local chef who will prepare a “secret menu” for them based on the “La Cuisine Secret” invitation-only nomadic dining concept that’s become popular with local foodies.
As travelers move on through the country, they’ll shop in a fresh farmers market with a local chef and try their hands at local secret recipes that the chefs will dispel in a gorgeous kitchen, paired with a string of exclusive cocktails.
Back in Montevideo, time will be spent cycling along the beach and into small towns, with access to special art exhibitions along the way and more home cooking in a cozy chef’s kitchen.
The journey rounds out with a cycling and canoeing adventure at the Garzon lagoon, where a boat crossing brings guests to a hidden “Lagoon Shack”, where a local chef prepares lunch and provides an opportunity to mix and mingle with village children who attend special cooking classes designed to help educate the local community.
For more information, visit www.explorateurjourneys.com, email [email protected], @theexplorateur, facebook.com/theexplorateur. For more travel features, visit:
Biking is a great way to travel with minimal impact on climate. Now, an organization called Climate Ride, is arranging multi-day biking trips that raise money and awareness to support sustainability, active transportation, and environmental causes.
Climate Ride produces charitable multi-day rides, hikes and a DIY program: Climate Ride NYC-DC, Climate Ride California, Climate Ride Midwest, Climate Hike and Independent Challenges.
Proceeds from the events benefit a collection of environmental and active transportation non-profits. Participants can choose to direct grants to the non-profit of their choice. (Learn more about beneficiaries and read common questions asked by participants in the FAQ.)
Here are some of the cyling trips still to come this year:
The ride begins in the heart of New York City to the tip of Manhattan where a ferry that will carry us off the island and across New York Harbor to New Jersey. From there we travel along country roads passing through Princeton, near valley Forge, into Pennsylvania Amish Country, crossing the Susquehanna River into Maryland Horse Country. After a day of pedaling past farms and silos, we reach Maryland horse country. On the fifth day, riders cycle past the iconic Washington Monument to arrive at the U.S. Capitol. A highlight of the ride is that Climate Ride arranges appointments for every rider to personally meet with her/his Congressional representative. It makes a big impression to pedal 300 miles to meet your Member of Congress.
The Midwest ride spans three states and connects two vibrant cities, while exploring some of the best biking in the country. From the trip start in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we ride past historic lighthouses, blueberry farms, and quaint artist villages. We’ll also visit Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore before pedaling on paved rail-trails to a bicycle path on Lake Michigan that affords stunning views of Chicago’s dramatic skyline. The last 6-mile stretch leads up to Grant Park – know as “Chicago’s Front Yard” – for the ride finale.
On Climate Hike Glacier National Park, spend five days hiking the iconic trails on the ‘Crown of the Continent’. Witness majestic 500-year old cedar forests under threat of wildfires and glaciers in fast retreat. Over five days of hiking, participants build up stamina for an epic 15-mile journey across the park — traversing aretes and high alpine mountain passes. Professional Glacier Guides each day teach about Glacier’s unique ecosystem, so participants can bring this knowledge home to their communities.
Climate Ride California Wine Country, which took place in May, is likely to be repeated next year. The California Wine Country ride begins in San Francisco where we ride across the scenic Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County. From there we travel through quaint Marin cities and the bucolic Nicasio Valley before turning East toward Petaluma. Riders pedal north from here through pastures and rolling hills into Sonoma County for a picnic lunch right on the Russian River near Healdsburg. Continuing on, the scenic Alexander Valley wine growing region awaits before pedaling up the final hill to the top of the famed Napa Valley, considered some of the best cycling in the US. The final day is an exciting ride across California’s Central Valley, with a stop into bike-friendly Davis and the US Bicycling Hall of Fame, to the Golden State’s Capitol in Sacramento.
The Speaker Series
The Expert Speaker Series: Each evening of the rides, expert speakers educate and inspire participants about sustainability, climate, the green economy, and active transportation. “Our participants and the communities we pass through learn that our government, businesses, and each individual American will benefit from a cleaner, healthier planet. This is a unique event — a fundraiser and green conference on wheels.” Learn more about our speakers here.
Advocacy Meetings with Congressmembers
On Climate Ride NYC-DC, riders will have a chance to meet with Congress. The Climate Ride staff schedules hundreds of appointments for riders to meet in person with their senators and representatives when they arrive by bike in Washington DC at the end of Climate Ride NYC-DC.
“Climate Ride is a non-partisan organization and we do not endorse any particular candidates, politicians, or legislation. We’re helping to create a grassroots force of ‘people-powered’ advocates. Participants say this is one of the most powerful parts of the Climate Ride experience – pedaling your bike right to the US Capitol to advocate for change.”
Can’t make it to Climate Ride this year? Have an idea for a great event that you want to create yourself? Or are you already participating in an event that you want to connect to a cause? Climate Ride has created an Independent Challenge program as a way to raise money and awareness of your favorite Climate Ride beneficiaries, no matter what the event. Events might include rides, swims, runs, hikes, weddings, birthdays, memorials, dinner parties.
Climate Ride was created by Geraldine Carter and Caeli Quinn in 2008. A year later Blake Holiday joined as Ride Director. Together, they have a combined experience of more than 25 years of professional, high-end bike trip leading and development. Their expertise ranges from custom trips in far-flung locales to large-scale charitable events. The three have put together a volunteer staff of professional trip leaders and guides.
“We engage in the Climate Ride events to support a collection of beneficiary organizations that are working to engage citizens in the possibility of a green economy, educate the public about the interconnected web of environmental issues related to the climate crisis, mobilize government and businesses to enact sound energy policies that promote renewables, and raise the profile of green transportation. Your fundraising helps these beneficiaries continue to provide the critical services and education needed to address sustainability and active transportation issues. Right now, your fundraising and your effort to raise awareness are more critical than ever.
“We can create communities with cleaner air, where we ride bikes, drive efficient cars and live and work in energy-saving, healthy buildings. If you demand it, our legislators and business community will promote clean energy and smarter transportation systems. By joining the Climate Ride events, you can take a step in this direction.
“So ditch your car and join us for a few days of human powered activity—all for a good cause!”
Travel and tourism has been a boon to communities and cultures around the planet. For example, abandoned factories have been turned into art studios and hotels, providing a new base to support jobs and local economy instead of families having to migrate to find new sources of income. That means the culture and heritage stays intact, and the community has more of an incentive to preserve natural splendors as well.
Over the past couple of decades, as technology and globalization, economic recessions have caused such dramatic impacts on communities, there has also been a quietly growing interest in people traveling to see places before they literally disappear, and to have “authentic” experiences, engaging with local people and the ecology.
And this has given rise to companies that offer “ecotourism,” “green travel,” “sustainable travel” and “responsible travel.”
It came about first with the interest in soft adventure – the trips to sensitive ecologies of the Antarctic and the Galapagos. But with growing interest in visiting these places, there was also increasing threat to destroy those very ecologies.
That sparked a greater sensitivity among the travel providers, themselves. Lars-Eric Lindblad, whose company, Lindblad Travel, was a pioneer in such expeditionary-style travel, voluntarily restricted the number of visitors who could travel, and set a standard for the rest of the industry that has also been taken up by government authorities.
Increasingly, though, there are companies that not only bring travelers to destinations of particular ecological or cultural interest, but that also give back to those communities in order to sustain them.
That’s why they use the monikers “Sustainable” and “Responsible”.
ResponsibleTravel.com, established in 2001, is one of the first and leading online travel agents promoting responsible/ethical/eco/green travel. The company serves as a portal website, marketing a range of holidays on behalf of some 3,000 specialist tour operators, day trip providers and accommodation owners. With over 8,000 holidays worldwide, it claims to be “the world’s largest curated travel site for those seeking a more authentic, more immersive travel experience, as an alternative to the mainstream package tour.
“For us, responsible tourism is tourism that makes places better places to live in, as well as better places to visit. In that order,,” said Sarah Bareham, marketing executive for the company, based in Brighton’s North Laine district, England. “This is not just about reducing energy consumption or recycling – we look at holidays which are beneficial both to local environments, but also crucially to local communities as well. We believe that there is no “one size fits all” solution to responsible tourism – to be successful efforts need to be relevant to the people and place in each specific destination and take into consideration local priorities – and these will be vastly different across the globe.
“Authentic experiences and responsible tourism go hand in hand. If we treat people fairly and look after local environments they are more likely to open their homes, hearts and lives to us – resulting in a much deeper, immersive and authentic holiday experience. We believe in championing the small, local suppliers who know and love where they are, and want to share it with us and make us love it as much as they do. These are also the people that want to keep their places special and protect them for years to come. Travellers wanting authentic, responsible experiences should look for trips which use local guides, locally run accommodations which source local food, experiences which let them get closer to understanding the landscape they are visiting among others.”
“Each of the holidays on our site has been carefully screened to ensure it meets our criteria for responsible tourism – each needing to show compliance with environmental, social and economic criteria relevant to the destination in which it is based, with a focus on grassroots initiatives and local providers.
“As such each holiday offers a much more authentic experience, rooted in local cultures and ways of life and offer the chance to see a place as it really is, rather than just passing through. Additionally we publish honest, open two minute guides to destinations and activities worldwide, which give a bite-sized overview to travellers, and do not shy away from controversial responsible tourism issues or overrated activities.”
Responsible Travel has recently published 2-minute travel guides also contain a section on responsible tourism issues – with tips and advice specific to each destination. Examples include:
The company has also been an activist for change in the tourism industry, raising important issues and bringing them to the attention of the wider tourism industry, consumers and media.
“Last year we removed 42 orphanage volunteering trips from our site following extensive research and concerns, and working with key industry leaders and child protection organisations including Save the Children and Friends International developed a set of guidelines for volunteering trips in settings with vulnerable children, to put child protection back at the heart of these projects,” Bareham said.
“Currently we have an ongoing campaign to ‘Stop the Orca Circus’ calling on the travel industry to stop keeping orcas and dolphins in captivity for public entertainment purposes, in conjunction with the World Cetacean Alliance. Our petition has so far been signed by over 10,000 people, travel companies and animal welfare organisations, and in a recent independent poll commissioned by responsibletravel.com and the Born Free Foundation (UK) we found that 86% of UK holidaymakers surveyed said they ‘would not wish to visit a marine park to see whales and dolphins as part of an overseas holiday’.”
Responsibletravel.com is also the founder and organiser of the World Responsible Tourism Awards, now in its 11th year, and held annually at World Travel Market, London.
‘Six of the Best Cycling Holidays You Never Knew Existed’
In my mind, cycling trips are the ideal for “responsible, sustainable” travel – you are out and about without a window separating you, you are part of the local scene, you travel at a pace where you can really see things and can stop when you want, and you do not burn fossil fuels (beyond calories).
Here are ResponsibleTravel.com’s selection of “6 of the Best Cycling Holidays You Never Knew Existed”:
1. Cycling Safari
Discover the back roads of East Africa on a ride through from the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro to the sparkling seas and white sand beaches of the Indian Ocean, through tucked away villages, lush rainforests and wildlife-filled savannah plains. The 16 day journey cost starts from £3,302 per person excluding flights and local bike hire.
2. Desert Adventures
Unleash your inner-Indiana Jones in Petra and pedal back in time in the deserts of Jordan. Ride along remote desert roads, camp out under the stars with the Bedouin in Wadi Rum and treat yourself to a soak in the salty waters of the Dead Sea. 9 days of desert adventure costs from £1,399 per person including flight, but excluding local bike hire.
3. Head in the Clouds
A tour to quite literally take your breath away, across the top of the world. A 16 day two-wheeled trip across the Tibetan Plateau, taking in the iconic Potala Palace, Everest Base Camp and dramatic Himalayan passes costs from £2,718 per person excluding flights and visas.
4. Your own Tour de France
The competitive with a love for lycra might want to consider a holiday to race your own Tour de France. This 5 day break gives you the chance to participate in the “Etape du Tour”, the very serious, amateur version of the main event. Last minute places available with a £175 discount for the already fit and well-prepared only. From £1,079 per person
5. Coast to Coast across India
From the backwaters of Kerala and the lush Western Ghats, to the vast plains of Tamil Nadu and the beaches of the Bay of Bengal. This 2 week cross-country epic takes you through some of India’s most stunning natural and cultural landscapes from £1240 per person excluding flights.
6. Foodie Finds
Just because a holiday is active doesn’t mean it can’t be indulgent. Your two wheels on this trip allow you to explore more vineyards, restaurants, olive groves, fishing ports and markets than you could on two feet. Spend 8 days cycling and sampling your way round a hidden Costa Brava from just £741 per person excluding flights.