As part of its on-going commitment to designing and operating innovative, responsible travel programs and services throughout the Central Andes, ATTA member La Paz on Foot has been awarded TourCert Check status by TourCert, one of the world’s pre-eminent responsible travel certification bodies. TourCert “Check” status is the first step towards full certification, which is currently not available in Bolivia where locally-owned and operated La Paz on Foot is based.
The TourCert Check status, actually awarded to Sendas Altas, the La Paz on Foot’s mother company, through a series of activities that ranged from all Sendas Altas employees participating in a TourCert-developed on-line course reviewing the basic principles of responsible travel, a self–evaluation that assesses the current degree of social, economic and environmental responsibility practiced by the company and finally the identification of specific areas of the company that owners, managers and employees are committed to improving.
According to Sendas Altas co-owner and Director of Programs and Sales, Stephen Taranto, the process was something that he and his business partner Tomas Sivila have been wanting to pursue for many years and that they finally felt they were ready to take on after more than a decade of developing their company and fine-tuning their operations, marketing and sales departments.
“Like many small, local, independent companies,” explained Taranto, “we’ve been so focused on just getting our internal systems and structures to function that certification was easy to set aside. But now that we are better consolidated, we wanted to have the opportunity to reflect on how we do things from the inside out and see what we could do to make our practices more sustainable.”
The reflection permitted by the Tour Cert Check process was easier than expected, according to Sivila, especially because “one of the key lessons that came out of the on-line course put together by TourCert is that truly responsible tourism is not only about working in landscapes eco-systems and communities in a responsible way but also about how we work internally – how much water, energy and paper we use on a daily basis, for example.”
Together with their team, Taranto and Sivila identified three areas to improve – use of paper, use of energy and use of disposable plastic bottles during travel programs – and then proceeded to hire a local consultant to conduct a simple diagnosis of each area and propose improvement measures that would be easy to implement and that take into consideration how employees work and how they might be best encouraged to make changes in their day-to-day work habits and operations procedures.
Will it work? “It is too soon to say,” explained Taranto, “because we have only just started to implement the recommendations. But we are hopeful and we know how much it means to our clients and our employees to know that we are doing our best to act responsibly. In the end it depends on clear expectations and agreements between our team members and our partners in the field. The will is here and now we need to get to work and tweak our systems in favor of a more sustainable way of doing business.”
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