Unspoiled nature and authentic culture are integral to the many tours that we offer. Hence, it is not surprising that we feel seriously concerned about the future of both.  Today, both pristine nature and authentic culture worldwide are under immense pressure from a multitude of factors that can perhaps be summed up as ‘unbridled economic growth."


Unfortunately, tourism, which is the biggest industry in the world, is responsible for a considerable part of this. To a large extent, the impact of tourism overlaps with the general effects of conventional economic growth, such as depletion of natural resources and space, pollution in the form of waste, water and soil pollution, and emissions of greenhouse gasses. However, a large part is also due to the fact that tourism is found to be most active in the most beautiful places on earth, for instance, in and around the nature reserves, magnificent beaches, or in the 'last' original villages. It is this 'parasitic' nature of tourism that is at the core of this issue.


The answer, we believe, is sustainable tourism, and luckily there is an increasing number of people who agree with us. In a nutshell, sustainable tourism can be defined as a form of tourism in which not only its environmental impact (local and global) is avoided or compensated for as much as possible, but where efforts are made to contribute positively towards the preservation of local nature and culture as well. This may seem ambitious at first thought, but several other organizations have shown that it can be done. We, at JTT, are also in the process of taking our first baby steps on this journey. Given below are a few of the things we do to promote sustainable tourism.


Cooperation with local people/ community-based tourism

Whenever possible, we like to give preference to community-based lodges and/or other forms of community-based tourism. Of course, it goes without saying that if the clients prefer luxury then we try to provide a 3 or 2 star accommodation if available in that area. However, there are many beautiful regions in India that are so remote and ‘undeveloped’ that there might be only one government lodge or CBT accommodation available. In such a case, we are left with no option.


We always try to hire local 'staff' locally, even if their quality is not (yet) very good, and even if it means we have to invest in the training of these people (in Northeast India in many places the case). For instance, on tours through the ‘tribal’ areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland our guests are accompanied by a good ‘general’ local guide, but we regularly hire an additional local guide at small village that we visit. One reason for this is that the area has a huge variety of cultures and languages, and someone from Guwahati does not necessarily understand the language and culture of a remote village near the Tibetan border. Just as important, we feel, is that revenues are generated for these small villages, even though our clients don’t sleep there.


Policy regarding the environment

The main environmental impacts of a trip are linked to transport (air travel and local), accommodations (lodging and food) and activities. In addition, water, especially in India, is an aspect that we like to pay special attention to.


Transportation / CO2 emissions

Global warming due to the greenhouse effect is currently more in the picture than other environmental problems due to its global nature and the fact that the consequences can affect us all. But this is of course part of a much broader range of problems caused by CO2 and other gases (air pollution). Respiratory problems in humans and animals, soil and marine pollution are just some of the other (local) effects, besides of course the dramatic ecological consequences of oil extraction.

The tourism industry, apart from its sustainable part, is, because of its large share in the world economy, by definition, one of the main causes of these problems. Therefore, we advise our clients to compensate their flight emissions. This can be done via GreenSeat.


What we do

  1. All domestic flights are compensated (if this option is available), regardless of whether the customer asks for it.

  2. Efficient use of local transport:

  3. Shortest, most efficient routes always prevail. We don’t like to send our clients on a long day's drive to a nice place and have them come back the next day.

  4. No unnecessary kilometers driven for a can of Coke for a customer or tobacco for a driver.

  5. Basically three people per jeep (no jeeps with 1 person). In Bhutan, we use buses for groups of 7 people and more (less polluting).

  6. To the extent possible, we ensure proper maintenance of the jeeps and buses that we rent (much air pollution in India is caused by poorly maintained engines); smoke-belching jeeps are not accepted.

  7. CO2 emissions from accommodations are often linked to forms of unnecessary luxury such as lavish lighting, unnecessary use of air conditioning and purchasing products from outside the region (transport). We pay attention to these things when choosing accommodations.

  8. We give advice to property owners on waste separation and incineration (smoldering fires and attempts to combustion of hard plastics cause the most pollution, including toxic dioxin).

  9. We advice accommodation holders to use propellant-free refrigerators (not yet standard in India).


Accommodations

We have recently begun to show accommodation owners information on energy consumption, the environmental impact of packaged and imported food, water use and waste production and processing. This is a slow and laborious process, since it depends on the interest of the concerned persons, and is, obviously, entirely voluntary.


Activities (excursions, hikes)

The following list, while not exhaustive, specifies the issues that we' pay attention to when on treks, hikes and other excursions:

  1. Purified or boiled water, or springwater where available is always preferred over bottled water. Customer are informed on this and asked to cooperate.

  2. On treks we basically never use bottled water.

  3. Plastic bottles of mineral water provided on jeep tours are never left behind en route in small places (not even in rubbish bins or in hotels), but taken to the end of the trip and recycled there if possible (NE India, Sikkim and Bhutan) or disposed of at a central garbage dump (landfill) (Ladakh and HP).

  4. On hikes and treks no waste is left other than organic material (90% of which is consumed by the packhorses if they are there, otherwise buried).

  5. On treks we cook with natural gas or paraffin oil (it is called kerosene in India), never on a wood fire; we try to apply this also to cooking for / by porters (treks in Nepal, winter treks in Ladakh) but this remains difficult. On 90% of our treks pack horse are used.

  6. On treks we maintain strict rules to prevent contamination of streams.

  7. Where overgrazing by pack horses is a problem (like the Markha Valley in Ladakh), we try to adjust the halting places and/or buy horse fodder in advance.

  8. See below under CO2 emissions.


Water

Water pollution is a more or less serious problem in many (tourist) places in the world. In India it is relatively more acute than elsewhere, and in Ladakh in particular water scarcity and depletion are a very serious problem. We provide information to guests, guides, cooks and property owners about the choices they can make in this regard. Such as: do not take a shower every day, try the Ladakhi ‘ecotoilet’ (dry, composting toilet) for a change, do the dishes in a basin rather than in the stream itself.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem lies often in the range of facilities. The ‘modern’ Ladakhi accommodations, for example, give the impression that there is no water problem because most accommodations use deep bore wells that produce an impressive amount of water. However, the rapid depletion of aquifers under Leh caused by this is a predictable time bomb that is going to hit locals and the tourist industry hard.


Supporting local initiatives

It is our intention to have 50% of our tours linked to a form of 'charity' by early 2017, in the sense that money is actually going there. This is already happening on tours with an emphasis on wildlife. For group tours a small additional fee is included in the tour price, for individual tours contributions are voluntary. The causes we support are all local, and related to sustainable development or nature conservation. They are both projects addressing ‘direct’ nature/ environmental issues (such as human-wildlife conflict programs or educational programs), as well as social projects (providing livelihoods as an alternative to herding livestock in the park or poaching). See the web page Supported Projects. Concrete examples are also mentioned in the itineraries.


Nature travel and visiting nature reserves

Of course we respect all the rules that apply in parks and other natural areas. Unfortunately, this not common practice in India. Most tour companies leave it to the local tour guide/naturalist or driver of the safari jeep whether the rules are respected. We always give advance instructions to drivers and guides in parks on how to prevent disturbance of animals (e.g. by speeding, yelling, calling (after) animals or imitating their calls). We don’t allow night drives on our tours, and we discourage the use of call recorders (used to attract rare birds).

Education and awareness are considered important elements of true eco-tourism these days. On all tours with an emphasis on wildlife or nature conservation with more than 4 participants additional lectures will be given by JTT staff and/or local specialists on conservation issues and in particular the relationship between nature conservation and socio-economic problems in the area concerned.


Social aspects

In a country where most people have not heard of collective labour contracts, health and invalidity ensurances, it is entirely up to the employer to decide how, and to what extent, he helps his employees with work-related risks.

We do not have permanent staff, all our staff are either self-employed/ freelancer or working for another company. Still, we do try to provide the best possible working conditions for the people who work for us, at least by local standards. We do this by paying attention to the following:

  1. Reasonable compensation. We pay a guide, horseman, cook or driver according to local rates (at the very least at an intermediate level), we inform our customers about this and advise them to tip accordingly (in India an essential part of the ‘wages’). Travelling time to reach the customer (hotel, trekking point) and periods in between jobs that are too short to go home is paid for.

  2. While, for example, insurance for horsemen and guides in remote areas does not exist, we try to aid as well as possible when (professional) accidents occur. These can be physical injury, the loss of a packhorse or (uninsured) damage to the car of an independent driver.

  3. We do not cancel guesthouses or hotels at a late stage, and if that happens nonetheless, the hotel owner has a right to full (3 days in advance) or partial compensation (one week in advance 75%, etc.). But most accommodation providers have themselves nowadays pretty well hedged against cancellation already. Some demand a non-refundable deposit of 50%.


Ecolabels

We find it important to be accredited by an independent body in our sustainability efforts. So we are working on obtaining the status of ‘Partner’ from Travelife (www.travelife.org). Currently we have the status of 'Engaged'.