What is responsible tourism?
Responsible tourism has the following characteristics (as defined by Cape Town Declaration in 2002):
- Minimises negative economic, environmental and social impacts.
- Generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the wellbeing of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry.
- Involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life changes.
- Makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s diversity.
- Provides enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaninful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
- Provides access for physically challenged people.
- Is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
What does Responsible Tourism mean to Soksabike?
For our team
- We provide local university students vocational training by employing them as tour guides. All our tour guides and our Operations Manager are local university students who study and work part time for Soksabike.
- We provide scholarship to staff for their university studies or foreign language studies.
- Soksabike conducts workshops on responsible tourism, wild life conservation, and environmental protection. It is important that our staff model these practices when giving tours and during their off time.
- In order to facilitate opportunities for staff to advance in their careers or to upgrade their skills, Soksabike does the following: 1) provide training on subjects such as environmental protection, Microsoft Excel, bicycle repair and maintenance, and conflict resolution, 2) arrange job interviews with a larger scale bicycle tour operator, 3) inform them about other job opportunities such as working as a field research assistant, translator, or government-licensed tour guide, 4) sponsor staff to participate in tourism courses run by the Provincial Government and ask them to share what they have learned with the team, 5) sponsor them to compete in cycling competitions so they gain racing experience and become better cyclists, which can help them land jobs as a bike tour guide at a bigger company in the future, 6) sponsor them to join bicycle tours run by our partner bike tour operator, so they can further develop their guiding skills and understand what it might be like to work for a bigger company.
For our guests
- During the pre-departure orientation, the guides brief the guests about Cambodian culture and how to behave respectfully when meeting locals.
- The guests are given a crash course on basic Khmer, the Cambodian language, so they can greet the locals in their language.
- Our tours are designed so that the guests learn the authentic ways of life in the Cambodian countryside.
- Our guides are trained to facilitate interaction between guests and the local people.
- Guests are not encouraged or pressured to buy products from the families we visit during the tour, while they are informed that they can buy the goods if they want to.
- We have articles on our website about our responsible tourism practices, sustainability, regional environmental issues, local and regional news, and social businesses for travelers to learn about these issues.
For the environment
- Our tour is on a bicycle, which is carbon-emission free :o)
- We give re-usable plastic water bottles to the guests at the start of the tour in order to reduce plastic waste.
- We generally run smaller group tour (max 6 pax) so as to minimize the environmental impact and not to disturb the communities we visit. This results in more personal experience to the guests as well.
- We plan to divert the increasing tourist populations in larger geographical areas, some of which rarely receive tourists, by launching new tours. Through this, we aim to reduce our environmental and social impact on each community as well as to increase the number of local families who benefit from our tours.
For the communities we visit during our tour
- We share part of our profit with the families we visit during the tour to compensate for their time and hospitality.
- We conduct impact surveys regularly to receive feedback from the families we visit and to ensure our tour is operated in ways that respects and benefit the communities.
- During the tour development stage, we had conversations with the communities and dully incorporated their feedback on the tour schedule and details.
- We place high value on maintaining good relationships with the families we visit. When the family experiences unexpected suffering, such as major illness, Soksabike extends our support. In the past, we offered care packaged to the family making rice paper as their father had been ill. .
- We support the purchase of locally made products by taking tourists to cottage industries, introducing them to the family owners, explaining the production processes, providing them with the products Soksabike pays for, and providing them with opportunities to purchase more to take home if they so wish. We also serve a home cooked Cambodian lunch and other local drinks and food (such as rice wine, rice paper for spring roles, sugar cane juice, coconut water, dried bananas, bamboo sticky rice cakes) during tours, in order to support local micro- and small- businesses.
- We organized a workshop and a cleanup at a school that stands adjacent to the memorial for Khmer Rouge victims that our tour visits, as many of the school children litter the premise of the memorial. We hope to educate the students the importance of keeping the area clean in order to protect the environment, preserve a historical site, pay respect to the victims and their families, and attract tourists to the site thereby stimulating the local economy.
For a greater Battambang community
- We engage Battambang community and promote cycling and share our love for nature by organizing fun rides on weekends, taking local residents to the countryside on bicycle.
- Making use of our resource and experience as a cultural/educational tour operator, we organize educational tours for local groups such as NGOs. We have organized an educational fun ride for the children supported by an NGO COMPED. We visited Killing Field and Wat Kao, where our guides talked to the children about Khmer Rouge regime and Buddhism/monastic life.
- Soksabike’s administration team offers IT workshops to local university students.
- We work closely with Kinyei Café, a partner social enterprise, by offering Soksabike tour guests one complimentary drink at the Café before or after the tour. Kinyei Café is run and managed by local university students and it trains students in hospitality and management skills. It also provides free workshop/meeting space for Battambang community in the upstairs area.
- To inspire and influence other businesses to adopt responsible tourism measures, Soksabike has presented at National Social Enterprise Conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2014 and Social Enterprise Bootcamp in Siem Reap in 2014, and Soksabike Manager has also acted as a judge for Global Social Venture Competition South East Asia in Phnom Penh in 2015.
- Soksabike has presented to students who study tourism at local universities about our business and responsible tourism practices. We have also organized a workshop and a reading group on the subject of community development and sustainable tourism for local residents and businesses.
What does Responsible Tourism mean to you as a traveler?
Protect the environment and wildlife
- Ride a bicycle. It is the carbon-emission free way to travel. You will take in more scenery because you travel more slowly than cars/motorbikes.
- Use public transportation wherever possible. It will for sure be a more exciting and authentic way to travel.
- Conserve energy and water as you would back home. Hotels and guest houses tend to use more water and electricity per person than ordinary homes. Try sharing accommodation such as Couchsurfing, AirBNB, Trooply , or house swapping.
- When you are travelling and in a new environment, it is easy to lose the habit you practice at home. Just as you would do back home, remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- When going into the nature, do not take anything with you but pictures. Make sure not to change the fauna and flora of the environment.
- Don’t participate in activities that harm animals or treat them in an inhumane way. Support tour operators that have a high standard of wildlife protection. More info on Right Tourism.
- Buying from street children encourages the children to stay on the street and out of school. Give to NGOs or projects that support them more holistically.
- Be conscious when you interact with children. Think about the rights of the children and how your well-intended actions might negatively impact them. Here are some tips you can bear in mind to become a ChildSafe traveler.
Be respectful and stay open minded
- Respect the local traditions and customs. Do some research before you leave for a trip. This applies to dress code, how to behave when visiting religions sites, etc.
- Learn a local language. Try to learn how to say the basic greetings such as hello, thank you, good bye, and excuse me. The locals will appreciate your effort and it will lubricate the communications with them.
- Ask for a permission before you snap a picture of the local people. Not everyone likes to have their pictures taken.
- Stay open minded. You are a guest in a foreign country. The destination country may have cultures that are very different from what you are used to. Keep your eyes and mind open and learn to enjoy and celebrate the differences.
- When in doubt, ask questions. Do not make assumptions as this can lead to misunderstanding. Not sure if you are supposed to take off your shoes when entering a building? Ask the host. Locals will appreciate your being respectful.
- Do not buy counterfeit products or items prohibited by national or international regulations.
Contribute to the local economy
- Buy locally produced products and support local industries. Think about the carbon emission as a result of transporting imported goods from a foreign country.
- Make the most of your time by hiring a local guide and be amazed by how much you will learn from him/her.
- Eat at restaurants owned by locals and taste the real local cuisine.
- Don’t haggle too hard. Haggling in the markets can be fun. But remember that these vendors need to make a living. In some places, they have fixed price and haggling is not appropriate. Have some humor when negotiating prices and think about supporting the local economy.
- Book your tour activities, hotels, and restaurants, directly with these businesses. When you use a tour agency, an intermediary, the local businesses do not benefit as much from your patronage as the tour agencies take commissions.
Support responsible projects and businesses
- Choose tour operators, restaurants, and accommodations that practice responsible tourism.
- Research or ask a local tour operator whether there are any local conservation projects or social projects you can visit or help support.