Tag Archives: sustainable travel

Devastating Hurricane Dorian Reminds of Vital Link Between Climate Action, Tourism & Sustainable Economy

Tourism creates jobs, provides a sustainable economy that preserves heritage and environment © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On World Tourism Day 2019, Patricia Affonso-Dass, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association offered this message:

The theme of this year’s World Tourism Day, “Tourism and Jobs: A better future for all”, is particularly relevant for the Caribbean because no other sector creates more jobs or more opportunities in a wider variety of professions and skills. 

In addition to the 2.5 million people employed directly, many more benefit indirectly from the industry’s contributions to Caribbean health, wealth, education and the environment. Our infrastructure, schools, hospitals, public services, and parks and recreation facilities are all helped by this dynamic and growing industry – already the world’s largest sector but also its fastest growing.

The 2017 hurricanes and Hurricane Dorian that devastated some of our destinations reinforced the indispensable role of tourism in our lives. They remind us that for each tourism employee unable to work because of the storms, many members of their families were also affected.

Initiatives such as “Tourism Jobs for Bahamians”, just launched by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) together with the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), are finding interim jobs for displaced industry professionals.

There will be more jobs as tourism recovers from the hurricanes and the industry resumes its healthy growth trend, and our task is to spread the benefits more equitably to a wider cross section of our people. We want to ensure women, youth, minorities, and the differently abled have open gateways to employment, ownership and leadership within the industry. There are over 1,000 different job and career paths in the industry, a fifth of which are at supervisory and management levels. Increasing diversity always strengthens companies and organizations, especially in tourism. Our visitors come from a wide range of backgrounds, so our people who welcome visitors to our shores should also reflect the full spectrum of our rich human diversity.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, with the support of many of the region’s local associations and our members, is earnest about its mandate to develop our industry’s human resources. Well over 500 Caribbean nationals have received higher education scholarships through the CHTA Education Foundation. More than 1,000 chefs and several hundred bartenders have honed their skills through professional development opportunities that CHTA and the industry have provided through our Taste of the Caribbean initiative. 

Thousands of employees have benefited from industry-sponsored professional development training, including over 500 who attended “diversity in the workplace” courses over the past year. Earlier this year, CHTA launched its Young Leaders Initiative, in which dozens of young people are developing their leadership skills and their understanding of the industry and the opportunities it offers. 

This does not include the additional investments that independent hotels, resort brands, airlines, tour operators, attractions, taxi and transportation providers, vendors and other industry stakeholders, with their human resource professionals and employees, are making every day to deliver exceptional hospitality. 

Building upon a rich foundation, we have the responsibility to make more opportunities to develop our people and our industry, anticipating technological and consumer demand-driven changes which are now a constant. The recent collapse of the world’s oldest travel agency offers more lessons. While never losing sight of the fundamentals of hospitality, the dynamics of our industry demands our adaptability and responsiveness to change if we are not to face a similar fate.

Tourism can benefit every corner of our region and so on this World Tourism Day, we celebrate the importance of the industry and the employment and entrepreneurial opportunities it represents. We resolve individually and collectively, as businesses, governments and education and training institutions, to continue to invest in our people. 

In the Caribbean, “Tourism is Everyone’s Business”.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is the Caribbean’s leading association representing the interests of national hotel and tourism associations. For more than 50 years, CHTA has been the backbone of the Caribbean hospitality industry. Working with some 1,000 hotel and allied members, and 33 National Hotel Associations, CHTA is shaping the Caribbean’s future and helping members to grow their businesses. Whether helping to navigate critical issues in sales and marketing, sustainability, legislative issues, emerging technologies, climate change, data and intelligence or, looking for avenues and ideas to better market and manage businesses, CHTA is helping members on issues which matter most.

For further information, visit www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com.

US Tour Operators and Educational Travel Organizations Urge State Department to Lift Punitive Travel Advisory Against Cuba

John McAuliff, Executive Director & Founder of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, fields questions from interested travelers at the Cuba-US People to People Partnership booth at the New York Times Travel Show. © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 1, 2018 — A group of 28 leading U.S. tour operators and organizations specializing in educational travel and exchanges with Cuba is calling on the U.S. State Department to re-staff its Embassy in Havana and change Cuba’s travel advisory from a Level 3 (“reconsider travel”) to at least a less intimidating Level 2 (“exercise increased caution”). The request comes on the eve of the State Department’s decision about whether or not to return the U.S. diplomats to the Embassy, expected to be announced on March 4.

(The US State Department said it would not restore the diplomats.)

Beginning in late September 2017, after reports that 24 U.S. Embassy employees in Havana had suffered unexplained health ailments, the Trump Administration withdrew 60 percent of its Embassy staff from Havana, issued a Travel Warning urging Americans not travel to Cuba, and expelled 15 diplomats from Cuba’s Embassy in Washington, D.C. In January 2018, the State Department issued a new global travel advisory system, which ranks Cuba as Level 3.

“A Level 3 rating is not justified for Cuba since there are no confirmed causes of private citizens or travelers contracting symptoms similar to the diplomats,” says Andrea Holbrook, President and CEO of Holbrook Travel, one of the companies that signed the petition. (The list of signatories is provided below). “This inappropriate travel warning has caused fear and confusion and has sharply reduced the number of U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba,” Holbrook adds. “It has also affected travel businesses in the States and in Cuba, including those small businesses, like B&Bs and home restaurants, which depend so heavily on American tourists.”

survey of 42 tour operators and educational travel organizations conducted in late January 2018 by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) found that not one of their travelers reported suffering from health issues similar to those of the Embassy employees. Collectively, those surveyed sent more than 42,000 U.S. travelers to Cuba in 2016 and 2017. In addition, there have been no confirmed cases of similar illness among the estimated 700,000 private U.S. citizens who visited the island nation in 2017.

A lengthy ProPublica article, published February 14, 2018, provides the first detailed chronology of the diplomats’ afflictions and the subsequent official — but, to date, inconclusive — investigations by the United States, Cuba, and Canada, and makes clear that the general public is not threatened. In fact, in January 2018, Cuba was voted the safest place to travel at the International Travel Fair in Madrid.

During a meeting on January 12 with State Department officials, a group of American tour operators, travel associations, and Cuba experts were told that a Level 3 rating is automatically triggered by a “drawdown” of U.S. Embassy personnel as a result of the “No Double Standard” policy articulated in the Foreign Affairs Manual.

According to the State Department, this policy originated after the terrorist bombing of a passenger airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, in the interest of sharing information publicly about potential threats against U.S. citizens. That policy, however, also states it is “not intended to prevent the limited distribution of information about threats to specific U.S. citizens/nationals or U.S. organizations.”

“The ‘No Double Standard’ policy leaves the option for the State Department to report threats only to those parties that might be affected by similar incidents,” says Kate Simpson, President of Academic Travel Abroad, Inc, a Washington, D.C.-based educational travel company. “So why was this more limited approach not employed in the case of Cuba, given that the affected group consists only of diplomats, many of whom are known to be intelligence officers and their families?”

Simpson adds, “The fallout from the State Department’s actions has negatively impacted not only U.S. companies and institutions sending travelers to Cuba for educational purposes, but the lack of Embassy staff in Havana has also made it extremely difficult for Cuban citizens to attain visas for visits to the United States.”

On March 4, the State Department faces a mandatory deadline requiring that, six months after an Embassy drawdown, staff must either be reassigned or sent back to their original post. The draw down in Havana began in early September 2017 as Hurricane Irma hit the island and was increased to 60 percent of staff later in the month, in the wake of media revelations about afflictions to the two dozen U.S. diplomats and a handful of staff in the Canadian Embassy. Canada has launched an investigation but has not downsized its Embassy or issued any travel warning to its citizens.

The 28 tour operators and organizations specializing in educational travel to Cuba are calling for the State Department to return more consular officers to the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, President of the American Foreign Service Association, the union that represents U.S. foreign-service officers, and some diplomats who were interviewed for the ProPublica article indicated that this is also their wish — to return U.S. diplomats to Cuba. This would, the group hopes, eliminate the trigger that has categorized the country as a Level 3.

The group further questions how Cuba can be rated as a Level 3 while countries with known security risks — such as Israel, Egypt, Algeria, Mexico, and Ethiopia — are rated as Level 2. In addition, the State Department advisories for some countries include alerts pertaining to particularly dangerous parts of their countries. Mexico, for instance, while rated Level 2 overall, is given ratings of Levels 3 and 4 (“do not travel”) for certain states.

“While the new travel advisory system is a welcome improvement, in terms of clarity and organization,” says Ms. Simpson, “it is disappointing to have the Cuba rating starkly reveal political bias, undermining the credibility of the State Department’s consular services.”

A more acceptable alternative, Simpson and the other signers suggest, would be to rate Cuba at least Level 2 overall and designate the parts of Havana where the health incidents took place as Level 3. “Until it’s discovered what caused these ailments, a Level 2 rating, at least, would more accurately reflect the situation in Cuba,” explains Ms. Holbrook. “And it would help encourage those considering traveling to Cuba to do so.”

To read the full petition, click here. The list of tour operators and educational travel organizations who have signed the petition are:


Johann Besserer, Executive Director, Intercultural Outreach Initiative

Reid Callanan, Director, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops

Karin Eckhard, CEO & Co-founder, Espíritu Travel, LLC

Michael Eizenberg, President, Educational Travel Alliance

Malia Everette, CEO, AltruVistas

Michele Gran. Co-founder and Senior Vice President, Global Volunteers

Bob Guild, Co-coordinator, Responsible and Ethical Cuba Travel (RESPECT)

Kendra Guild, Director, Marazul Charters, Inc.

John Haffner, President, Cuba Trade and Travel

Marcel Hatch, President,Cuba Explorer Tours

Richard Hobbs, Esq., Executive Director, Human Agenda

Andrea Holbrook, President and CEO, Holbrook Travel, Inc.

Martha Honey, Ph.D., Cofounder & Executive Director, Center for Responsible Travel (CREST)

Adriana Isaza-Mohring, Founder, Elite Tennis Travel

Tor D. Jensen, President, Jensen World Travel, Ltd.

Gabrielle Jorgensen, Director of Public Policy, Engage Cuba

Collin Laverty, President, Cuba Educational Travel

Lee Marona & Aja C. Napolis, President & Administrative Coordinator, Vaya Sojourns, Inc.

John McAuliff, Executive Director & Founder, The Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Janet Moore, President, Distant Horizons

Tom Popper, President, insightCuba

Bill Robison, Director of Expedition Development, Lindblad Expeditions

Melisa Riviere, Ph.D., President, Son Dos Alas: Cultural and Educational Travel

Peter Sanchez, CEO, Cuba Tours and Travel

Kate Simpson, President, Academic Travel Abroad, Inc.

Mark J. Spalding, President, The Ocean Foundation

Ned Sublette, Founder & President, Postmambo Studies

Kristen Tripp, Program Director – Cuba, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) is a policy-oriented research organization dedicated to increasing the positive global impact of responsible tourism. CREST assists governments, policy makers, tourism businesses, nonprofit organizations, and international agencies with finding solutions to critical issues confronting tourism, the world’s largest service industry.

See also:

New York Times Travel Show: Despite Trump Policy, Americans CAN Travel to Cuba!

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Austin Adventures Adds Wilderness Glamping in Costa Rica To Growing Lineup of Upscale Multisport Tours

Costa Rica: Chiquita Glamping & Pacuare River Raft vacation is the latest of over 30 “online-only” trips featured on Austin Adventures’ award-winning website.

BILLINGS, MT –The best of all worlds, including creature comforts while glamping in the wilderness, come seamlessly together on Austin Adventures’ new 8 day/7 night Costa Rica: Chiquita Glamping & Pacuare River Raft vacation. This is the latest of over 30 “online-only” trips featured on its award-winning website: https://www.austinadventures.com/.
With its newest Costa Rica program, year-round departures are flexible and may be arranged when it best fits participant’s own schedule, on a space-available basis. The per person double rate (based on a party of four or more) is from $3,998 for the core experience. Options exist to customize the itinerary to the guests’ wishes.

This luxury trip, without a lofty price tag, brings curious travelers to a country on the forefront of land and wildlife conservation. Over 25 percent of the country has been protected by the establishment of preserves, sanctuaries, refuges, and national parks. Costa Rica also offers one of the most biodiverse places in the world, Carara National Park located in the transition zone between Costa Rica’s wet southeast and hotter, drier northwest. The adventure begins here as guests explore the river basin of the River Tárcoles, which hosts one of the largest remaining populations of wild scarlet macaws in the country.

Guests then journey by boat to Isla Chiquita Glamping Resort, far off the usual tourist track. Home for three pampered nights, each large platform tent accommodation is equipped with a king bed, day bed lounger, private shower and bathroom with double sinks, and spacious lounging deck with stunning ocean views.  From this isolated island, guests visit Curú National Wildlife Refuge with pristine beaches and abundant wildlife while gliding through the still waters of a protected bay in a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard, watching tropical birds soar overhead. One morning guests transfer to Tortuga Island where white sands contrast with brilliant Caribbean blue waters. Snorkeling is popular here, as guests marvel at surprisingly colorful crabs and lobsters as well as vibrant tropical fish.

A local flight back to mainland beckons guests to engage in the premier whitewater rafting adventure in Costa Rica – on the Pacuare River (rated by National Geographic as one of the Top 10 river trips in the world).  Here they visit the Cabecar Indian village and meet with the largest indigenous tribe in Costa Rica. A family of the community shares traditions they have used for centuries.  After zip lining comes more rafting, leading to the deluxe, eco-sensitive Pacuare Lodge, accessible only by whitewater raft. Located at the center of a series of over 1.2 million acres of wildlife reserves, the lodge is both secluded and beautiful. Guests may opt to dine 60 feet above the forest floor in a platform built on the branches of a century-old Kapok tree. This lodge enjoys National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World status.

After two nights at the lodge and a final morning on the river, guests are transferred back to San José for a last overnight at Hotel Grano de Oro, a “Tropical Victorian” house which features a world-class restaurant. Airport transfers are offered the next morning.

For more information please see https://www.austinadventures.com/packages/costa-rica-isla-chiquita-pacuare-lodge/.

This is one of multiple programs Austin Adventures offers in Costa Rica where it has enjoyed relationships with top tourism purveyors for over 15 years.

“Costa Rica has always been our top selling international destination,” says Dan Austin, Founder and President of Austin Adventures. “We’re always on the lookout and open to what our well-established in-country contacts have to share when it comes to new, unusual and cutting-edge adventure opportunities. Together, we look for experiences away from the usual tourist track and crowds. The key is developing tour itineraries that appeal and captivate our brand of intrepid travelers.”

In the print version of its catalog, Austin Adventures features 65 separate destinations representing over 100 published tour options with over 40 also offered as a Family-Focused version. The website also showcases over 30 additional trips and destinations (not included in the catalog) outlining core itineraries that can be customized upon customer request. These online-only programs include, in addition to the Costa Rica vacation:

To help plan, Austin Adventures’ 2018 catalog is available upon request. Order ONLINE or call 800-575-1540 or email [email protected] For a full roster of 2018 trips that is frequently updated visit http://www.austinadventures.com.


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Wildland Adventures ‘Pays it Forward’ with Fundraising for Tanzanian School, Joins Opt Out Black Friday Movement

wildland-black fri


SEATTLE, WA, Nov. 18, 2015 – Experiential travel leader Wildland Adventures — along with one of the country’s best-known outdoor retailers, REI – is closing its doors on Black Friday this Thanksgiving holiday and encouraging its staff, friends and family to enjoy the great outdoors for the day while also thinking of others less fortunate.

This year Wildland Adventures is also giving thanks to an alumni traveler and an incredible cause that she has embraced.  The company is advocating a Thanksgiving “pay it forward” to assist the fundraising effort of a young Wildland client, Jamie Eisner, age 12, who is half-way toward a $6,500 goal that will help build a well for a school she recently visited on a family safari in Tanzania.

From now until the end of Black Friday (Nov. 28), for every adventure photo posted and tagged, Wildland Adventures will donate $10 – up to $500 — to building the fresh water well for the Mikocheni Primary School. Submissions should be tagged on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with #OptOutside and #Wildland.

Those who are Interested can also donate directly to the cause by visiting: https://www.gofundme.com/mpswell/donate

“Before I visited Tanzania, I took for granted that I have easy access to water whenever I want, air conditioning, plenty of food, medicine, a great education, and so much more. The children at Mikocheni have none of this, but we can give them something that would change their lives,” explains Jamie. “With the well, the kids will do better in school because they’ll be less tired and less dehydrated. If they are doing better in school, then they will be more successful when they grow up, and live a better life.”

(See the Go Fund Me page with project and fundraiser info: https://www.gofundme.com/mpswell)

Approaching its 30th anniversary year, Wildland Adventures has a lot to give thanks for, and when better than at Thanksgiving, said Kurt Kutay, CEO/President, who founded the company with Anne Kutay, Vice President, in 1986. As active managing directors they are continuously refining and evolving their Wild Style of travel.

“The ‘Wild Style’ is based on an ethic of sincerity, compassion and understanding that breaks down barriers of separation to build lasting intercultural, interpersonal, and environmental bonds designed to enhance rather than exploit the people and places where they travel. By fostering genuine connections to create personalized experiences their travelers, Wildland fosters a growing and vibrant community of enlightened and compassionate travelers.”

Rated by National Geographic Adventure as the #1 Best ‘Doitall’ Outfitter on Earth and Fodor’s as one of the Worlds Best Tour Specialists, Wildland Adventures offers more than 150 itineraries on 6 continents in 37 countries. 

Follow Wildland Adventures
Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/wildlandadventures
Twitter:          https://twitter.com/WildTravel
YouTube:      https://www.youtube.com/wildtravel
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+wildlandadventures
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Rivers Fiji is Finalist for 2015 Tourism for Tomorrow Award for Sustainability


Rivers Fiji’s mission is to enhance visitors’ and indigenous peoples' appreciation for the culture and environment through socially responsible and environmentally sensitive interaction with the people, landscape and ecosystems that make the Fijian Highlands so distinct and unique.
Rivers Fiji’s mission is to enhance visitors’ and indigenous peoples’ appreciation for the culture and environment through socially responsible and environmentally sensitive interaction with the people, landscape and ecosystems that make the Fijian Highlands so distinct and unique.

Rivers Fiji, part of the O.A.R.S. Family of Companies, has been selected by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) as one of 15 finalists for its 2015 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. Considered the highest accolade for sustainability in the global travel and tourism industry, Rivers Fiji is one of only three companies in the Environment category being considered for the prestigious awards.

According to the WTTC, Rivers Fiji was selected for “protecting threatened forests and river systems” by running a low-impact commercial rafting operation in the Fijian Highlands of Viti Levu.  And though the economic support given to the region is an important aspect of Rivers Fiji’s work—they’ve created jobs and given more than $1 million back to local communities in the last 15 years—it’s the unique conservation model the company helped foster that demonstrates the full extent of their commitment to sustainable tourism.

In 1998, Rivers Fiji, with the support of O.A.R.S. president and founder, George Wendt, and a group of local entities including two villages, nine mataqali (land-owning clans), a logging company and a government organization banded together to create the Upper Navua Conservation Area (UNCA). This unlikely public-private partnership included a 25-year land lease that has protected the area’s natural assets from logging, road building or mining in the fragile river corridor.  Instead of quick money from resource extraction, the arrangement created long-term sustainability through tourism and one-day rafting trips year-round on the Upper Navua River.

Rivers Fiji also pioneered the establishment of Fiji’s first Ramsar site in 2006, which recognizes the UNCA as a wetland of international importance.  Beyond these efforts, the company has developed outreach programs in partnership with local NGO Nature Fiji to provide educational river trips that enable local communities to experience first-hand the economic, environmental, and cultural importance of where they live. By supporting both community development and environmental conservation, Rivers Fiji programs strive to set the bar for ecotourism.

“The Upper Navua is a very special place which encapsulates the possibility of what ecotourism can achieve, to actively contribute to conservation and affect positive change,” said Wendt. “In cooperation with the team at Rivers Fiji and the commitment of local community partners, this is a wonderful honor and tribute to all those who have committed their time and vision to Rivers Fiji.”

The 2015 Tourism for Tomorrow winners will be announced during the 15th WTTC Global Summit in Madrid, Spain in April 2015.

Rivers Fiji’s mission is to enhance visitors’ and indigenous peoples’ awareness of, and appreciation for the culture and environment by providing activities that promote conservation and preservation through socially responsible and environmentally sensitive interaction with the people, landscape and ecosystems that make the Fijian Highlands so distinct and unique. To learn more, visit www.riversfiji.com and watch River of Eden, a short film by National Geographic Filmmaker & Freshwater Hero, Pete McBride at www.riverofeden.com.

O.A.R.S. has been providing whitewater rafting and nature-based vacations since 1969. Over the decades the company has set the standard in first-class rafting, sea kayaking and multi-sport adventures, with destinations and unparalleled experiences on over 35 rivers and coastlines around the world. In 2013 Outside, America’s leading multimedia active-lifestyle brand, named O.A.R.S. one of the top two outfitters in the world in its annual Active Travel Awards recognition program.

For more information on Rivers Fiji and O.A.R.S., trip availability, reservations or a copy of our 2015 Adventures catalog call 209-736-4677 or 800-346-6277, email [email protected], or visit: http://www.oars.com/.

Follow O.A.R.S.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/oars_rafting
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OARS.rafting
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/oarsweb
Blog: http://www.oars.com/blog/
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New: Moral Compass: Great Places to Go Where the Going Does Good


Check out our newest travel site for special deals, insiders’ tips at tidbitts.com: www.tidbitts.com/karen-rubin/where-in-the-world

Jim Kane, Founder of Culture Xplorers, Joins Board of World Food Travel Association

Food is a natural bridge-builder and point of connection between cultures, says Jim Kane, founder of Culture Xplorers, a travel company whose signature is delving as deeply as possible into other cultures.
Food is a natural bridge-builder and point of connection between cultures, says Jim Kane, founder of Culture Xplorers, a travel company whose signature is delving as deeply as possible into other cultures.

Food is a natural bridge-builder and point of connection between cultures, says Jim Kane, founder of Culture Xplorers, a travel company whose signature is delving as deeply as possible into other cultures.

“There is an exciting movement afoot that is opening up new frontiers of food travel” Kane explained. “Around the world, visionary farmers, producers and chefs are changing the way we think about our relationship with food and with each other.”

“In a similar vein, there is a revolution taking place in the way food travel is being interpreted and experienced. The new frontier of food travel is physically active, intellectually engaged, emotionally connected and truly transformative. It leverages the power of food to affect positive social changes and fosters genuine bonds that endure long after the trip ends,” said Kane.

Kane recently accepted a two-year appointment to serve on the board of directors of the World Food Travel Association (WFTA).

“I am looking forward to the privilege of helping to solidify the Association’s position as the world’s leading authority on culinary tourism,” said Kane.

Founded in 2003 by Association Executive Director Erik Wolf, the WFTA’s mission is to grow and professionalize the food and drink tourism industry as the central hub that supports the creation of successful, profitable businesses and the protection and promotion of local culinary cultures world-wide.

“We’re excited to have Jim join our Board of Directors,” said Wolf. “Jim has a wide range of experience with other industry trade associations and an interesting view that he can bring to bear in his service with the World Food Travel Association.”

Kane happily shares what he sees as three developing trends in the future of food travel:

#1 Adventure Foraging: “Autumn is a great season for foraging in Cataluña, Spain, where you can easily travel from the Pyrenees to the coast in the same day. One of my favorite adventures here is to accompany a seasoned botanist — alongside plenty of local ‘boletaires’ (mushroom hunters) — on a quest for highly prized, seasonal wild mushrooms in the forested foothills of the Pyrenees. Then switch gears and kayak along the Catalan coast in search of edible seaweed and aromatic herbs.”

#2 Trekking & Terroir: “This form of connecting with the land and local producers is already in full bloom in many places around the world. One of my favorite recent experiences is shadowing a Basque shepherd on an engaging variation of his morning rounds. First we try our hand at milking one of the indigenous Latxa breed of sheep which produce the region’s famed Idiazabal cheese. We make and chill ‘cuajada’ (fresh cheese curd) and taste some of the farmhouse cheese washed down with a bottle of refreshing, txakoli (sparkling) wine. A 90-minute walk through rolling hills and pine-covered trails works back our appetite just in time for lunch! “

#3 Food for Social Change: “This is a budding movement which is particularly strong in Latin America. One of my favorite regional projects is the Pachacútec Culinary Institute (ICP) just north of Lima.  Peruvian super chef Gastón Acurio partnered with the Fundación Pachacútec to create a top notch culinary school along the coastal desert in Pachacútec. It recruits students from some of Lima’s poorest communities and costs a tenth the tuition of a private institute, offering life-changing opportunities to its graduates. As part of Culture Xplorers’ unique partnership with the ICP, we bring travelers for a cooking lesson side-by-side with the students, who then share this meal with the visitors.”

Culture Xplorers (http://www.culturexplorers.com/), a leader in sustainable travel, offers handcrafted journeys that deepen understanding and foster connection between travelers and local communities around the world.

Culture Xplorers trips are created from the ground up, built on three founding pillars: people, traditions and impact. Their travelers meet the people of the places they visit, engaging in the living traditions that make each destination unique, and in doing so, create a lasting, positive impact through tourism. Genuine connections with people and place are formed farm-to-fork and around the table, via participation in local celebrations and through authentic exchange with community leaders and members.

Countries where cultural exchanges are fostered are Peru, Guatemala, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Portugal and Cuba. The Culture Xplorers Foundation was founded in 2007 to help foster the sustainability of local culture in at risk communities worldwide. Its positive impact partnerships focus on sustaining endangered traditions, strengthening education, fostering community-based travel and breaking the cycle of poverty through the support of comprehensive micro-loan and education programs.  See: http://www.cxfoundation.org/

For 2014-2015 season information, tours, availability and reservations contact Culture Xplorers at 215-870-3585 or email: [email protected].


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Center for Responsible Travel Takes Stand on Animal Welfare and Tourism

The dolphin Winter, made famous for the breakthrough rehabilitative work that Clearwater Aquarium did to create a prosthetic tail that saved the dolphin's life, here in 2008 getting her prosthetic tail on, also saved the aquarium and its important work © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The dolphin Winter, made famous for the breakthrough rehabilitative work that Clearwater Aquarium did to create a prosthetic tail that saved the dolphin’s life, here in 2008 getting her prosthetic tail on, also saved the aquarium and its important work © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Responsible Travel industry is turning its sights on animal welfare.

This issue will figure into the keynote address by Dr. Martha Honey, CREST Co-Director, at TBEX North America, which will be held September 11 – 13, 2014, in Cancun, Mexico.

In advance of her speech she has been asked to comment on an ongoing debate about captive dolphin tours in Cancun. Here is how CREST views the issue:

“Respecting animal welfare is an essential component of responsible travel. CREST believes that when at all possible, wildlife should live in their natural habitats.”

If wild animals are held in captivity, they should be guaranteed, at minimum, the following ‘Five Freedoms’:

Sufficient and good quality food and water

A suitable living environment

An opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors

Protection from fear and distress

Good health

(Check out Born Free UK’s Guide to the 5 Freedoms, which discusses the Five Freedoms in detail in the context of captive wild animals.)

Dolphins are socially complex and self-aware creatures, and we agree with World Animal Protection in that these animals “deserve to live a life free from captivity, where they can properly fulfill their social and behavioral needs.” A tank simply cannot provide them with the space, environment, and social freedom they need to thrive as they would in the wild.

The tour operator Intrepid Travel, a highly respected leader in responsible travel, has set a guideline that it is best to view wildlife where it belongs, but if a zoo or aquarium is ever visited, a visitor should make sure the facility adheres to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Code of Ethics before entering.

Also, interactions with wild animals should never involve physical contact with people, feeding, or other actions that disturb or alter their natural behavior. These actions often cause extreme distress for the animal and are health risks for both parties.

On the issue of captive marine animals, President Mark Spalding says, “We have admirable facilities that rescue and when possible rehabilitate and release marine mammals, sea birds and sea turtles. Some of these allow the public to visit and volunteer. And, many have advanced our knowledge of marine wildlife through research during their recovery.

“But like hospitals for humans, this is not where we want wild animals to spend their entire lives. We prefer to see them in the wild where they thrive.”

CREST works frequently in close collaboration and partnership with The Ocean Foundation.

For more information about CREST, visit www.responsibletravel.org. Connect with CREST on Twitter and Facebook.

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Galapagos Small-Ship Cruise Operator Ecoventura To Launch the Islands’ Newest Premium Class Vessel

Ecoventura is now taking bookings for MV Origin’s inaugural cruise Jan. 3, 2016.
Ecoventura is now taking bookings for MV Origin’s inaugural cruise Jan. 3, 2016.

Ecoventura, which operates an environmentally friendly fleet of small expedition yachts in the Galapagos Islands, plans to debut the region’s newest ship in early 2016.

Construction of the 20-passenger motor vessel is underway at the shipyard in Guayaquil, Ecuador but Ecoventura has begun taking bookings for MV Origin’s inaugural cruise Jan. 3, 2016. When launched she will be the newest and most comfortable 20-passenger yacht operating in Galapagos.

The vessel’s owner, Ecoventura, has more than two decades experience in sustainable tourism.

“We are exploring ways to make the Origin the most comfortable and environmentally efficient yacht in Galapagos,” Ecoventura founder and owner Santiago Dunn. “Our first goal is to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 45 percent (from 1800 gallons to 1000 gallons per week),” he explains. “This is no simple achievement when you consider our plans to sail at 12 knots on two engines so that guests can spend as much time as possible at each visitor site.”

MV Origin, designed for guests with a highly evolved lifestyle, will combine modern sophistication and a high level of comfort and service, with quality guided land excursions in small groups, gastronomical experiences, exciting physical activities and a dose of intellectual science for a life enriching experience. A veteran crew supervised by a master-level captain, two expert naturalist guides and a concierge will be at the beck and call of guests. Social areas offer private moments on board with a library, boutique, computer station, lounge areas, dining room, bar, Jacuzzi, sun deck, recliners and wet bar.

Guests aboard Origin will enjoy locally sourced, healthy, gourmet-style menus designed by top local chefs and creatively prepared by Ecoventura’s culinary school trained chefs. Some lunches will be served al fresco on deck. Passengers will have an open bar policy, including wine and local beer.

The vessel will feature 10 deluxe staterooms all located on the main deck with panoramic windows and private bathroom. Each stateroom is 140 square feet, with two twin beds that convert to a king, two connecting cabins, two triples, fine linens, bathrobes, and satellite TV.

Guests wishing to stay in shape will enjoy a fitness center with cardio equipment. The services of a professional masseuse can also be arranged at an additional charge on private charters only. Twice daily cabin cleanings are provided. Laundry service is also available. Guide lectures, cooking demonstrations and yoga will be part of the on-ship activities.
Ecoventura’s Director of Sales & Marketing, Doris Welsh, explained that MV Origin rates reflecting a premium class vessel will be higher than those on its three existing first class vessels, the Eric, Flamingo and Letty.  A per person double rate for an eight-day all-inclusive cruise will be $6,500. Rates include cabin accommodation, all meals and snacks, all beverages including open bar, Captain’s welcome and farewell party, guided shore excursions, services of a concierge, use of wet suits, snorkelling equipment, stand-up paddle boards and sea kayaks, and transfers in the islands between the airport and dock.

There are two distinct itineraries on weekly (Sundays), year-round departures from the island of San Cristobal. The tours visit the most spectacular visitor sites of the archipelago; western/northern and central/southern.

Ecoventura is a family-owned company based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with sales offices in Quito and Miami. In operation since 1990, the cruise company transports 4,000+ passengers annually aboard its fleet of at present three identical, 20-passenger first-class motor yachts, Eric, Flamingo and Letty, and the 16-passenger luxury dive live-aboard the MV Galapagos Sky. Departures are every Sunday from San Cristobal offering two unique seven-night itineraries.

Contact Ecoventura, at 800.633.7972, or e-mail [email protected]. To access current rates, schedules and itineraries log on to www.ecoventura.com.


© 2014 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/eclectic-traveler-in-long-island/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-national/karen-rubin and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.

ResponsibleTravel.com Is Portal to World of Experiences That Benefit Traveler, Locals Alike

Pedal back in time in the deserts of Jordan (photo credit: Exodus Travel)
Pedal back in time in the deserts of Jordan (photo credit: Exodus Travel)

by Karen Rubin

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.”

Many companies have hijacked the “green,” “ecotourism.” “sustainable” labels. Some good tips on how to choose one that helps, and doesn’t exploit, can be found at: www.responsibletravel.com/copy/tips-for-responsible-travel 

and at: www.responsibletravel.com/copy/tourism-greenwashing-ecotourism-greenwashing.

“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 Inca Trail


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’.”

(More information on this can be found at: www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/whale-watching/travel-guide/say-no-to-orca-circuses).

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.

For more unique cycling experiences visit www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/cycling.


© 2014 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/eclectic-traveler-in-long-island/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-national/karen-rubin and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.