Codes of Conduct for Tour Operators

Guidelines for tour operators working in environmentally-sensitive areas:

1. Make Tourism and Conservation Compatible

  • Develop a positive relationship with organizations and people that play a role in conservation, particularly in the areas that you will visit with your clients.
  • Encourage your clients to become members of conservation organizations.
  • Encourage governments and businesses to support projects such as new nature reserves through writing letters or personal contacts.
  • Contribute time and money to conservation organizations and projects.
  • Plan tourism activities so that they do not conflict with conservation efforts. Obtain permission before visiting nature reserves or other areas where access is restricted. When visiting these areas, be sure that your activities comply with the rules of the park or reserve.
  • Know the laws and regulations that apply to the import and export of products made from wildlife, and make sure that your clients understand and follow these laws. Encourage your clients to buy products made by local people, so long as these products are not made from endangered species and their sale does not violate the law.
  • Develop an environmental plan for your daily operations. If you are an operator employing more than 20 people, have a written environmental plan that states your company's commitment to conservation, to using resources in a sustainable way and to the principles itemized in these Codes of Conduct. Include specific procedures that your company uses in its daily operations to prevent and minimize detrimental environmental impacts. Make the plan available to your clients.
  • Use post-trip evaluations to confirm that your tour was environmentally sound. Feedback from clients is a good way to find out if your tour met their expectations. In your post-trip evaluations, ask your clients whether or not they felt the tour avoided unnecessary negative environmental impacts, and if the tour operator demonstrated consideration of the natural and cultural environment. Written post-trip evaluation forms are preferable, although oral evaluations are acceptable, especially for smaller operations.

2. Support the Preservation of Wilderness and Biodiversity

  • Promote the maintenance of large, undeveloped areas. The undeveloped regions of the Arctic, for example, have a unique value, and are one of the primary reasons why tourists come to the Arctic. This unique value is undermined by roads, pipelines and other kinds of unsightly large-scale development that fragments the environment.
  • Support wildlife conservation programs and projects. Make your clients aware of these efforts and ensure that they do not hunt or fish protected or threatened species, enter sensitive wildlife habitats, or buy products made from protected species.

3. Use Natural Resources in a Sustainable Way

  • Where laws permit hunting and fishing, follow all rules and take only what you can use. Ensure that your clients obey the laws and regulations and do not contribute to the over-depletion of local wildlife stocks. Cooperate with community and indigenous hunters' associations.
  • Make sure that your clients use only appropriate and well-maintained hunting equipment that they know how to use correctly.
  • When determining the number of clients that will visit an area, consider area specifics (wildlife, nesting birds, fragile vegetation, etc.) and any special vulnerability of the site. Inform other operators in the region of your plans in order to avoid over-visitation of a site.
  • Use only established trails and existing campsites to avoid creating new ones.
  • Avoid disturbing wildlife. Instruct your clients on local wildlife behavior, and make sure that they view it from an appropriate distance.

4. Minimize Consumption, Waste and Pollution

  • Your choice of products and the amount that you and your clients consume makes a difference.
  • Whether you bring supplies with you or buy them, choose biodegradable or recyclable products with minimal packaging.
  • Compress garbage and take it with you.
  • Recycle where possible and encourage the communities that you visit to develop recycling programs if they do not have them already. If feasible, provide financial support to encourage the development of these programs, and show your commitment to the communities you and your clients visit.
  • Limit energy use, including your use of heat and warm water. Keep records of your water and energy consumption, and recycling and waste-reduction efforts.
  • The transportation you choose for your clients makes a difference. Opt for the means of transport that has the least environmental impact. Minimize the use of fossil fuels and try to use non-motorized transport whenever possible. Where motorized transportation is necessary, choose the technology that causes the least environmental damage and minimal noise (four-stroke instead of two-stroke engines, for example). Do not use motorized transport such as snowmobiles and helicopters unnecessarily; these should only be used to get from one area to another or for seeing specific sites.
  • Choose accommodations compatible with local traditions and that minimize negative environmental impacts. Choose lodging that has effective waste treatment systems, recycles and disposes of non-recyclable garbage appropriately.
  • Support efforts to clean up waste and polluted areas by providing money, lobbying governments and businesses, contributing your time and that of your staff, and by encouraging your clients to support these efforts as well. Ensure that no trace of your visit remains behind.
  • Follow responsible practices for camping and tours, including those that concern waste disposal.
  • Retain all plastic for proper disposal, and compact all wood products, glass, and metal for a disposal facility. Ensure that any incinerators you use function properly.

5. Respect Local Cultures

  • Coordinate with the communities that you visit to ensure that you are welcome, and that your visit is not disruptive.
  • Arrange visits to communities well in advance, and avoid visits that are not pre-arranged.
  • Reconfirm your visit, preferably 24 hours in advance, and be prepared to pay the community for costs associated with cancelled visits.
  • Arrange what you and your clients will do during your visit with the community beforehand. Be sure you have permission to visit and to undertake the activities you have planned.
  • Find out what size of group the community prefers for the planned activities.
  • Keep away from sites where people are working, including hunting and fishing sites, unless you have specific agreements with locals.
  • Be aware of the laws and regulations in the area or waters in which you are operating, and obtain the necessary permits.
  • Respect the culture and customs of the people whose communities you visit, and make sure that your clients do so as well.
  • Give all visitors a thorough cultural briefing before visiting local communities. Where possible, hire local lecturers to conduct these briefings. Include information on local customs and traditions and on appropriate behavior for tourists in the area. Use local "Codes for Visitors" if available.
  • Ask permission to photograph or videotape.
  • Ensure that your clients respect religious grounds, churches, cemeteries and other sites with religious or cultural significance, and that they do not remove any artifacts.

6. Respect Historic and Scientific Sites

  • Respect historic sites and markers, and make sure that your clients do not remove any artifacts. If access to historic or archaeological sites is restricted, obtain permission before visiting. Ensure that your clients behave respectfully, particularly if a site has religious significance.
  • Respect the work of scientists. Do not enter scientific installations or work sites without making prior arrangements. Do not disturb scientists while they are working, and do not disturb their work sites.

7. Communities Should Benefit from Tourism

  • Whenever possible, hire local staff and contract local businesses. Train and hire local people for your operations. Where local people lack the training you require, provide it. Use locally-owned businesses as subcontractors. Develop long-term partnerships with local operators, businesses and suppliers. A local connection most often means a better tourism experience.
  • Operate in ways that benefit the communities you visit, particularly with respect to supplies. If feasible, buy supplies and services locally. Ask communities what supplies you should bring with you so that your visit and use of supplies does not cause hardship to local people. Encourage your clients to buy locally-made handicrafts and products.
  • Where possible, choose accommodations owned, built and staffed by local people.

8. Educate Staff

  • Hire a professional team.
  • Hire only knowledgeable, environmentally and culturally aware staff, or train your existing staff in these areas. Provide training in how to avoid negative environmental impacts, in safety and in providing service. Evaluate the performance of your staff, at least annually.
  • If you are a ship-based tour operator, hire lecturers and conservation-oriented naturalists who will not only talk about wildlife, environmental protection, history, geology and local cultures, but who can guide passengers ashore and who are familiar with safety and local conservation requirements.

9. Make Your Trip an Opportunity to Learn

  • Provide your clients with information about the environment and conservation. Provide lectures and written materials about the environment, its special characteristics and its global significance. Include information about conservation in general, specific conservation efforts in the areas that you will visit, and specific ways -- financial and otherwise -- that your clients can support these conservation efforts.
  • Provide your clients with specific information about the regions they will visit. Include information about climate, wildlife species and habitats, as well as appropriate behavior for these areas.

10. Follow Safety Rules

  • Provide local authorities with your itinerary. This is both for safety reasons and to be sure you are complying with local regulations.
  • Brief all clients and staff on the dangers of wildlife encounters.
  • Have at least one staff member who is responsible for co-coordinating safety and avoiding dangerous encounters with wildlife.

Source: WWF International Arctic Programme

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