At the very start of the company, we at socialtours.com travels and socialtreks.com adventures developed a guideline for travelling responsibly in Nepal. We produced a policy outlining a set of responsible points that we endeavour to adhere too. These early efforts placed us as leaders in the responsible tourism movement within Nepal, something all team members are very proud of.
We cannot claim that we have achieved every point on our policy to our complete satisfaction, but we continue to pursue our goal. We have voluntary allowed our actions to be audited by an external mediator in an attempt to better ourselves in this field.
Download the Responsible Tourism Policy brochure here.
SuppliersServices & Suppliers
We have made the decision not to vertically integrate but to subcontract all services required to local qualified Nepalese companies. This ensures a greater financial spread and channels more money back into the local economy. We also guarantee that all suppliers are paid upfront and/or on time.
We develop long-term partnerships to establish long-lasting economically stable relationships within the local community. Through these relationships we encourage our stakeholders to adopt similar Responsible Tourism practices. By enlisting the help of our clients, we keep a watchful eye to ensure they are not acting irresponsibly.
Tours & TreksDevelopment of Tours & Treks
When developing a tour or trek all environmental, social and economic issues are taken into consideration. We take lengths never to develop a tour or trek that will have a detrimental effect on the environment.
Our tours and treks focus on local practices such as meditation and yoga. We promote local traditions, local food and encourage home stay visits to enhance cultural preservation.
We aim to ensure that our operations do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. We only run small group trips that are within a scale appropriate for local conditions and operate within the limits set by local infrastructure and carrying capacity.
The WordSpreading the Word
We encourage our clients through our team members, guides and literature to act in a responsible way. We aim to educate them in ways to minimise their impact on the environment and local community and to give them an insight and understanding of the host destination.
On TrekOn the Trek
Home stays and small family-run lodges are used in preference over camping to ensures money is invested straight back into the local community.
All food is purchased from the local villages unless this cannot be provided in a sustainable manner.
Our clients are encouraged to support local income generation by using Nepalese owned services and village owned shops, stalls and restaurants.
We ensure all waste is disposed of in the correct manner for the area we are in. For National Parks this is in the provided waste reciprocals and for off-the-beaten track treks it is brought back to the start of the trail.
All staff members are Nepalese and from a range of ethnic backgrounds. We do not discriminate on gender or age.
We provide regular and ongoing training, in the principles and practices of responsible tourism, to both our staff in the office and those employed out of the office.
10% of the company's profits go directly into employee benefits.
All members of the team are treated as equals. Respect for individuals is an important part of the business and this extends to all people who work with us.
Guides & PortersGuides & Porters
Our guides and porters are exceptional people and we do our utmost to protect them from exploitation.
Where possible we hire local guides from the region the where the trek is run in. We discourage clients to trek without guides. Not only can this be unsafe; it also deprives someone of much needed employment.
On the trek
suited and booted
We ensure all our guides have the appropriate clothing for the season and altitude they will be working in. This may mean: windproof jacket and trousers, fleece jacket, long johns, suitable footwear (leather boots in snow), socks, hat, gloves and sunglasses.
During the trek our guides are there to encourage you to trek responsibly. Following their suggestions will help you make the right decisions to limit any negative impacts on the area you are in.
Remember the guide is the most trained person on the trek and is there to make your holiday an enjoyable time so respect his decision at all times.
The Nepalese do not expect a tip but this is a good way to show your appreciation. To avoid any misunderstanding give the tip directly to the person it is intended for.
BE A FAIR BOSS
Our guides are instructed to limit the porter’s load to no more than 20kg and to ensure that they are happy with their load. If your luggage is in excess of 20kg it is your responsibility to either carry the extra weight yourself, leave additional luggage in the office/hotel or hire an additional porter at an extra cost.
Our guides are required to pay the assistant guides and porters promptly and in full. A signed receipt for each member of staff used must be presented at the socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures offices on their return.
We use a core group of guides who are oriented in Responsible Tourism principles. They are dedicated to reinforcing our commitment to the environment, the culture and maximise contributions to the local economy.
compulsory & additional training
All our guides are certified by the government and have completed advanced trainings in first aid, wilderness rescue. They are all encouraged to attend training sessions on the protection of the environment and our culture heritage given by the local NGOs - KEEP and ICIMOD.
Guide wages are always paid up front for a trek. A trek budget is prepared by the socialtours.com travels and socialtreks.com adventures accounts team and the guide is required to sign for this budget to ensure the correct amount of money is received.
Guides & assistant guides are paid the national average and are not reliant on tips to make up the difference.
Unfortunately the abuse of porters is a common occurrence that regularly goes unnoticed. Contrary to popular belief, many porters are farm workers from the lower regions who are ill-equipped for the high altitudes they often find themselves working in. Many lack a formal education and live below the poverty line, making them prime targets for exploitation. It is not uncommon to witness a porter carrying loads in excess of 30kg over 5000+ meters passes wearing nothing more than rubber-soled flip-flops for footwear and a plastic bag for protection from the cold. These perverse conditions lead to the unnecessary deaths of a number of porters each year.
We encourage all our clients to hire porters. This is a great way of funneling money straight back into the local community. Porters’ wages are approximately 400 rupees per day (£3) so what is less than the price of a pint of beer in the UK is a lifeline to these people.
Where possible porters are hired from the local communities that the treks operate in. Not only does this provide employment for local people, it also negates the need for transportation thus reducing the company’s carbon footprint.
ON THE TREK
suited & booted
We ensure all our porters have the appropriate clothing for the season and altitude they will be working in. This may mean: windproof jacket and trousers, fleece jacket, long johns, suitable footwear (leather boots in snow), socks, hat, gloves and sunglasses.
carrying your load
On a typical trek we will provide 1 porter between 2 trekkers. We do not believe in overloading our porters therefore have set a TOTAL MAXIMUM weight limit of 20kg. If you feel that you cannot achieve this please let us know and we will provide you with an additional porter (at your expense).
If possible provided your porter with a comfortable backpack for him to carry your belongings in. This is easily rentable in Nepal for a nominal fee.
Additional luggage can be stowed securely at either the socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventure offices or at your hotel.
food & water
In recent years free food for porters has been phased out on many of the trekking routes. A basic meal of Dal Bhat ranges from 50 to 160 rupees. If you wish to treat your porter to a meal please discuss this with your guide; paying for it yourself will be considerably more expensive.
The Nepalese do not expect a tip but this is a good way to show your appreciation. Porters will not always accompany you back to civilization so take a little extra money on the trek to cover a tip. To avoid any misunderstanding give the tip directly to the person it is intended for.
LOOKING OUT FOR OUR PORTERS
We encourage our guests to ensure no porter suffers maltreatment at the hands of another. We request all incidents of abuse to be reported to a member of staff at head office.
Porters who become ill during a trek should be treated with the exact same standard as any trekker. It is socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures policy not to pay the porter off but to ensure that they are accompanied by someone who understands the issues and speaks their language to reach help.
Our porters are paid promptly by the guides who are required to present a signed receipt by the porter to the socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures office on their return indicating the due wage was paid in full.
OfficeAt the Office
We aim to run our office in an environmentally friendly manner by decorating and furnishing it with fair-trade products and locally produced furniture, using energy saving bulbs, recycling as much waste as possible and keeping water and electricity consumption to a bare minimum.
We do not produce glossy brochures; instead we rely on electronic means to distribute our promotional literature. All business cards & presentation albums are produced from recycled paper.
We constantly remind our staff about environmental practices through verbal and written notices.
We at socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures take our responsibility towards looking after the environment very seriously and as a company we try to run our offices in an environmentally friendly manner as possible.
Some of the energy saving tips below may seem to save insignificant amounts but as the age-old proverb says: “Little drops of water make a mighty ocean”
As a company with a small amount of electrical equipment the easiest way to reduce our electricity consumption is by being diligent with the computer equipment. When a computer goes into standby/sleep mode it uses between 0 and 6 watts of electricity. By setting the computer to automatically go into standby/sleep mode when idle is the most convenient way to save energy used. However, if the computer is not in use for an extended period of time then there is no need for it to be switched on; the same applies for the monitor. Both computer and monitor may still draw energy if plugged into the mains, so switch off at the mains to ensure maximum energy saving. Remember, anything that has a light on is still drawing electricity no matter how little.
Even though we have reduced our energy consumption by replacing all light bulbs with energy saving bulbs we must not become complacent. There is stillroom to reduce this further. We encourage our staff to:
• Always replace blown light bulbs with energy saving light bulbs.
• Turn the lights on only when necessary and only the lights needed.
• Switch off all lights when a room is not in use.
Freshwater is a precious commodity even in the city and should be used sparingly and wisely. Our staff members are reminded of this at all staff meetings and we monitor our water consumption with the aim of reducing it to the absolute minimum.
• Every time the toilet is flush 20 litres of water is used. To reduce water consumption a bucket and cup are provided instead.
• Staff members and clients are asked to report dripping taps and turn all taps off tightly after use.
As a company we aim to reduce the amount of waste generated by socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures and by staff members.
Recycling paper is obviously a good method of reducing wastage but by not generating the waste in the first place is even better. We encourage our staff to:
• Re-use paper: keep scrap paper for jottings rather than using a fresh sheet each time.
• Think before you print: Try to reduce the amount you print and instead work with an electronic filling system on your computer. Not having a hardcopy may feel uncomfortable at first but give it time and you may find it an easier way to work!
• Print double-sided: whenever possible print on both sides of the paper.
• Aspire to a paperless office: This isn’t something that will happen overnight and the reality of a paperless office is incredibly hard to achieve. By taking steps now this goal will be easier to achieve in the future.
Plastic cannot be recycled in Nepal and in some areas it is becoming a serious problem. We encourage our staff to:
• Try to avoid buying products with too much plastic packaging.
• When shopping take your own reusable bag to avoid using a plastic bag.
• Try to avoid the use of plastic bottles by drinking filtered water using a glass or canteen.
• Organic food produced by local farmers is purchased where possible.
• When available fair-trade products are purchased, such as coffee and tea.
As yet we don’t use eco-cleaning products but are looking into it.
We encourage our staff to walk or use public transport where possible and when transport is necessary to use the most environmentally friendly method possible
We provide financial support to local economic, developmental and environmental projects giving back to the community that is supporting our business.
All members of staff are entitled to a specified amount of work time to pursue their own charitable projects.
At socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures we take our impact on the local community very seriously. Almost all personnel are involved in some form of social/charitable work. Time and funding is given to allow them to support these ventures.
NAMASTE NEPAL (NN)
Namaste Nepal, a non-government organisation, was set under the aegis of the Social Welfare Council to support the management and implementation of various charitable projects. The coordinator, Mangal Dangol a social work diploma holder, is currently based in the offices of socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures. By donating his working space and required office supplies helps reduce the running costs of the organisation. socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures also provides their staff members time for various supporting roles within the organisation.
Set up by the private sector of Thamel, Kathmandu, the Joy Foundation specialises in health and social work, in particular eye care. Raj Gyawali, founder of socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures, was awarded honorary life membership after funding and coordinating a free eye-camp in 2006. 500 Euros were donated through socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures school partnership, Namaste Nepal; this resulted in 175 cataract operations being performed.
NEPAL RIVER CONSERVATION TRUST (NRCT)
NRCT, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, mission is to restore, conserve and protect the rivers of Nepal through affirmative action and education, whilst maintaining the cultural integrity of local riverside communities. socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures actively participate in the efforts towards this end and are sponsors of the Bagmati River Festival. The purpose of the festival is to raise awareness among all river users about the need to conserve the river, and develop an economical and environmentally sustainable river tourism industry.
Kinderhilfe-Nepal, a non-profit humanitarian organization, provides the funds to support more than 40 underprivileged children, in order for them to complete their school education. Naresh Shrestha, Account Manager for socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures, facilitates the selection of candidates and the distribution of funds.
NEPAL YOLMO SOCIAL SERVICES ASSOCIATION (NYSSA)
Nima Lama, Managing Director of socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures, is the first vice president of the indigenous lobby group, Nepal Yolmo Social Service Association, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation. The Yolmo are a small mountain-region minority community. The association’s objective is to provide a forum for the Yolmo people to take initiative for the preservation, promotion and enhancement of overall aspects of Yolmo community.
NEPAL FEDERATION OF INDIGENOUS NATIONALITIES (NEFIN)
NEFIN is a self-governing, politically non-bias, national level organisation. Currently the organisation consists of 54 indigenous members widely distributed throughout the Terai, Hills and Himalayas of Nepal. NEFIN was formed with the goal of documenting, preserving and promoting cultures, languages, religion, customs and traditions of the Indigenous Nationalities of Nepal and to assist them in developing and obtaining equal rights. Through his role at NYSSA, Nima Lama became the Foreign Affairs Secretary to NEFIN. This position led him to represent all the indigenous groups of Nepal at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The forum is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.
SETANG YOUTH AWARENESS GROUP (SYAG)
Yolmo Sermathang Tahongsa Ngarku (Setang) Youth Awareness Group is a non-government organisation formed by the youths of Sermathang, Tahongsa and Ngarku villages in Sindhupalchok district. Its aim is to unite all youths of the villages to make a collective force in the development of the villages, making them a better place to live and work.
CARBON OFFSET FOREST
In 2007, Raj Gyawali launched a carbon-offset forest in the small village of Putubiw, Ghana - West Africa. Ten trees are planted for each tourist that passes through the village. The majority of visitors are volunteers provided through the non-profit organisation, United Planet, based in Boston - USA. The Putubiw Students Union (PUSU), who receives USD 1 for every tree planted, does the actual tree planting. The purpose is manifold – the trees help maintain greenery, offset carbon, provide an income (the seedlings are provided free of charge), works on conservation, and also demonstrates that village level organisation can work on a self-help programme. The money from this plantation is used to support other village development work.
Antardristi is a small local NGO, registered with the Social Welfare Council who promote better mental health for the youth of Nepal - the only NGO to do so. Run by an all female group of professionally trained psychologists, Antardristi aims to raise awareness of mental health issues within Nepal, as well as offering psychological counselling to victims of rape, incest and child abuse. Antardristi, based in the same building, have their Internet connection and rent subsidised by socialtours.com travels & socialtreks.com adventures.