Responsible Tibet Tourism with Tibetan-Owned Companies
The Tibet Ecotravel Collective is a group of local Tibetan tour operators who share the common goal of creating a more socially and environmentally responsible tourism industry in Tibet.
The initiative is part of the Tibet Eco Tourism Program by Columbia University New York and aims to promote those local tourism enterprises who are committed to becoming environmentally, economically and culturally sustainable, and whose business activities benefit local communities.
Applying international eco tourism standards to tourism operators in Tibet is not yet realistic as the industry is young and has a long way to go before being on a par with more developed ecotourism destinations. The website aims to support local Tibetan tour operators and encourage local Tibetan entrepreneurs to commit to achieving higher professional standards and higher levels of sustainability and ethical responsibility within their local community.
Education and Resources for Travelers to Tibet
The purpose of this website is also to educate travelers on eco tourism in Tibet, and to connect travelers with local Tibetan tour operators. The Tibet Ecotravel Collective would love to see more satisfied tourists in Tibet and more economic benefit going to local communities, without negatively impacting the delicate natural environment on the plateau.
This website has been created with input and materials from the local Tibetan businesses promoted on this site and developed by international ecotourism professionals with a passion for Tibet.
How are businesses selected to be listed on this site?
To be listed on this website, local companies must prove they are committed to working towards achieving the basic principles of the commonly accepted Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. They must have undertaken ecotourism training courses and made a genuine effort to improve their business opertions.
Businesses will be assessed by the Collective and if no efforts are made towards achieving these goals or too many customer complaints are received they will be removed from this site.
We don’t expect local Tibet businesses to meet international standards right away – so we adapted the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria to fit the Tibetan context, while still ensuring a high standard of goals are set. The following criteria are used to assess businesses before they can be listed on this site:
- Demonstrate effective sustainable management.
- Does your company have a long-term business plan?
- Does your company comply with all relevant local and national laws including company registration, staff contracting and guide licensing?
- Does your company provide staff training in protection of the environment and conservation of cultural heritage? Does your company also give health and safety trainings (like first aid and hygiene training)?
- Does your company request customer feedback and respond to complaints?
- Is your company marketing honest and realistic about your ecotourism practices?
- Maximize social and economic benefits to the local community and minimize negative impacts.
- Does your company actively support local Tibetan community development (for example education, health, and/or sanitation projects)?
- Does your company hire local residents, including women and minorities for all job positions including management positions?
- Does your company use local services, promote small businesses, and buy local products whenever possible?
- Maximize benefits to conserve cultural and linguistic heritage and minimize negative impacts.
- Does your company provide clients with extensive information on conservation of cultural heritage?
- Does your company promote culturally appropriate behavior by staff and clients?
- Does your company actively contribute to protection of local historical and cultural heritage?
- Does your company ensure that guides who speak local languages accompany all trips and can translate and interpret positive interactions with local communities?
- Maximize benefits to the environment and minimize negative impacts..
- Does your company provide information and promote environmentally responsible behavior amongst staff and clients?
- Does your company actively support environmental organizations and/or initiatives?
- Does your company try to minimize use of fuel, gas and/or electricity (such as using green energy systems and energy saving transport)
- Does your company have a waste management plan (with recycling and appropriate disposal)?
- Does your company monitor its own environmental performance and adjust if necessary (using for example client feedback and checking if your company’s environmental policies are working)?
Purpose of the Tibet Ecotravel Collective
For years, many of us working in the Tibet sustainable tourism field have been frustrated by the lack of a clear directory of locally owned and operated businesses. One of the most common questions asked on Tibet travel forums is “How can I find a reputable local Tibetan-owned business where I know my money is going to the local Tibetan community and I am going to get a local Tibetan guide on my trip to Tibet?” The vision for this website grew out of this demand.
Good local Tibetan companies have existed for many years in Tibet, but in the last few years the number of tour operators selling trips to Tibet has exploded. A quick google search will reveal hundreds of tour companies. Many of these companies know very little about Tibet and are certainly not local Tibetan-owned operators. These days there are so many websites out there making dubious promises about the level of service and standard of trip you’re likely to get when booking online. We are working to provide a directory of reputable Tibet owned tour operators so that travelers can reduce the risk of being disappointed when they arrive in Tibet and ensure that your travel genuinely contributes to strengthening local Tibetan communities in Tibet.
The Tibet Ecotravel Collective also aims to help educate Tibet travelers about places to go within Tibet. Many people don’t realize that there is far more to the Tibetan plateau than just Lhasa and Mt Everest. The eastern regions of Amdo and Kham have incredible culture and environment and plenty to offer the adventurous traveler. We hope our site helps connect you with an incredible experience in Tibet.
Tashi Delek and safe travels…
The Tibet Ecotravel Collective website team