Sustainable Tourism Policy Guidelines

INTRODUCTION: HIGHLANDER AND SUSTAINABILITY TOURISM

Highlander has been one of the pioneers in promoting ethical and responsible tourism in Nepal.

From the very start, we have promoted and followed the concept of sustainable, eco and responsible tourism. Our team comprises of well-trained professionals, climbers, guide and porters who are not only experienced in carrying out expeditions and leading trekking and tour packages but are also well-trained on environmental issues. 

Nepal possesses a huge potential in the tourism sector and contributes tremendously to the overall national economy. To ensure sustainability of the sector and preserve it for the future generation, Highlander is committed to responsible tourism, supporting the local community as well as contributing to the overall economy.

Highlander engages with a wide range of stakeholders, domestically as well as internationally, such as consumers, tour guides, travel agencies, hotels, transport companies, restaurants, tour operators, etc. In this context, Highlander has been striving to play an influencing role in promoting sustainability in tourism industry.

We aim to follow, implement and promote good sustainability practices to maximize positive impacts and minimize negative impacts on tourism of our operations and to influence our clients and partners to do the same.

Our sustainability policy is guided by our experience in the sector, local context as well as international best practices. We urge all our employees, partners and stakeholders to follow the sustainability policy guidelines as explained below:

LEGAL AND MORAL COMPLIANCE

We are guided by the following principals and actions to ensure that our company is committed to sustainability:

  • Ensuring a designated employee to promote sustainability related activities, including communication, coordination, learning exchanges.
  • Ensuring formulation and dissemination of sustainability policy along with guidelines and monitoring mechanisms to reiterate our commitment to the issue.
  • Having a recruitment policy that values candidates with commitment to environmental issues, along with respecting diversity and inclusion as well as mitigating negative economic, socio-cultural effects of the company’s activities in the communities.
  • Taking into consideration social safeguard issues of the communities in the locations where company is engaged.
  • Taking necessary steps to put in place workplace safety.
  • Collaborating with wider stakeholders for collective action towards sustainable tourism.
  • Engaging in liaison and advocacy to encourage partners in undertaking activities to promote and adopt sustainable tourism.
  • Preparing a sustainability action plan with clear targets, actions, measures, responsibilities, and time planning
  • Placing a dedicated human resource for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the sustainability policy, objectives, and targets
  • Communicating with the staff, public and partners about sustainability steps undertaken by the company
  • Having a feedback mechanism in place to continually improve upon sustainability targets and action.

We commit to complying with all national legislation, regulations, and codes of practice.

SOCIAL POLICY & HUMAN RIGHTS

Highlander has been one of the leaders in the sector in terms of advocating for the labor rights, including fair and standard pay. Some of our key internal social policies include:

  • Providing opportunities to decent employment, especially for the deprived and marginalized, as well as in the communities where the company works.
  • Ensuring fair and decent salaries- on a higher scale than average.
  • Providing staffs with full medical insurance coverage.
  • Providing capacity building trainings and orientation on key environmental issues.
  • Granting employees freedom of employment and contract termination with notice (ideally minimum one month) and without penalty.
  • Complying with national labor legislation and policies and following stipulated guidelines.
  • Complying with national legal standards on health and safety policy as well as sick leave and annual leave allowance.
  • Having first aid sets and trained staff available during the trips and expeditions.
  • Zero tolerance policy towards child labor, including that of the partners.
  • Having functioning grievance redressal mechanism in place.
  • Organizing periodic staff meeting for feedback, guidance, training, and personal development.
  • Encouraging employment opportunities for women, disadvantaged communities, and persons with special needs.
  • Acknowledging trade union membership, collective labor negotiations and representation of members by trade unions.
  • Having an anti-sexual harassment at work policy in place, clearly communicated to all staffs.
  • Prohibiting discriminations, regard to recruitment, conditions of employment, access to training and senior positions, or promotion in terms of gender, race, age, disability, ethnicity, religion/beliefs, or sexual orientation.

ENVIRONMENT SUSTAINABILITY AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

We commit to practice environmental protection and enhance community relations by ensuring the enforcement of following practices:

  • Reducing waste, recycling, and reusing to the extent possible.
  • Instead of plastic bags, using reusable bags and Tupperware during treks.
  • Prioritizing local products using locally available resources.
  • Purchase products in bulk, to reduce the amount of packaging materials.
  • Going paperless as much as possible and if need to print, then print double-sided printing to save paper.
  • Use biodegradable materials, especially those certified with an eco-label.
  • Print brochures on recycled papers and choose vendors committed to environment protection.
  • Have an active commitment to measure, monitor and reduce energy consumption.
  • Purchase green energy and energy efficient lighting for all areas, when available.
  • Switch off Lights and equipment when not in use, use automatic switch on/off system with timers or movement sensors and set equipment by default in the energy saving mode, where this is feasible.
  • Have an active policy to reduce water consumption, implemented and monitored on a monthly or yearly basis for benchmark purposes.
  • Comply with the national legislation concerning waste disposal, water conservation and wildlife protection.
  • Create a compost bin and use it for food scraps.
  • Provide periodic guidance, training and/or information to all staff members, about their roles and responsibilities with respect to internal environmental practices.
  • Contribute to the protection and preservation of local historical, archaeological, culturally, and spiritually important properties and sites.

PARTNER AGENCY

Our policy aims to work with partners committed to sustainability as well as improve sustainability practices of existing partner agencies.

We commit to this by;

  • Keeping a list of the sustainability practices of partner accommodations and agents.
  • Only working with organizations who are truly implementing sustainability in their tourism policy;
  • Selecting partners working for porter’s welfare as well as committed to local benefits of communities.
  • Raising awareness among key partners on sustainable consumption during discussions and consultations.
  • Informing key partners about our sustainability policy and that they are expected to acknowledge and comply with it.
  • Including a clause in the contract regarding sustainability with partner agencies, including policy against child labor.
  • Ensuring that partner companies comply with all relevant national laws protecting the rights of employees.

TRANSPORT AND ACCOMMODATION

We try to reduce Co2 emissions through transport pollution and as well as create a sustainable tourism supply chain by committing to the following:

  • Improving efficiency on airport departure and pick-up to reduce unnecessary commute.
  • Selecting the most sustainable options considering price and comfort when selecting transport options to the destination.
  • Considering and giving preference to more sustainable alternatives when selecting transport options for transfers and excursions in the destination, taking into account price, comfort, and practical considerations.
  • Integrating and/or promoting one or more sustainable holiday products/packages based on a recognized methodology, including sustainable transport, sustainable accommodations, and sustainable activities.
  • Selecting accommodations that adhere to sustainability with respect to trees conservation, wildlife protection, water conservation, waste management, combating plastic pollution, child protection and so on.
  • Motivating and encouraging partner accommodations to become sustainably certified.
  • Preferring and selecting accommodations that are locally owned and managed.
  • Selecting accommodations that employ local communities.
  • Encouraging accommodations to follow best practices/trainings on responsible tourism.
  • Clearly and actively communicating our sustainability objectives and requirements regarding accommodations to contracted and other relevant accommodations.
  • Working with accommodations and restaurants that incorporate elements of local art, architecture, or cultural heritage.
  • Terminating cooperation with transport companies and accommodation service providers in case of clear evidence of breach related to quality food, water, energy and healthcare.

JUNGLE SAFARI, EXCURSION, SIGHTSEEING

We value animal and community welfare, and cultural heritage preservation extremely high and aims at tours that only leave a minor footprint. We are safeguarding the authenticity of the communities and the natural environment and are strongly against harming wildlife and polluting the environment.

We commit to this by;

  • Undertaking only environmentally or culturally sensitive excursions and sightseeing.
  • Advising guests on behavior standards during excursions and activities with a focus on respecting the local culture, nature, and environment.
  • Communicating our sustainability objectives and requirements to contracted and other relevant excursion providers by distributing this information via code of conducts, representative agents, social media, email, discussions, and/or meetings, to minimize negative visitor impact and maximize enjoyment.
  • Not offering any excursions that harm humans, animals, plants, natural resources such as water and energy, or which are socially and culturally unacceptable.
  • Not offering any excursions in which wildlife is held captive, except for properly regulated activities in compliance with local, national, and international law.
  • Not being involved with companies that harvest, consume, display, sell, or trade wildlife species unless it is part of a regulated activity that ensures that their utilization is sustainable and in compliance with local, national, and international law.
  • Having skilled and/or certified guides to guide our guests in sensitive cultural sites, heritage sites, or ecologically sensitive destinations.
  • Promoting and advise our guests on excursions and activities which directly involve and support local communities by purchasing services or goods, traditional crafts and local (food) production methods, or visiting social projects.
  • Promoting and advising our guests on excursions and activities which support local environment and biodiversity such as visiting protected areas or environmental protection projects.

TOUR LEADERS, LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES AND GUIDES

We aim at involving as many locals as possible by employing them in the tourism business. We stand for a fair and safe working environment that supports and respects local communities.

We commit to this by;

  • Preferring to work with local tour leaders, local representatives, local tour guides, porters, drivers, cooks, and other local staff in case of equal ability, and provide training as required.
  • Ensuring that our local partners comply with all applicable international, national, and local laws and regulations, industry minimum standards, and any other relevant statutory requirements whichever requirements are more stringent.
  • Paying tour leaders, local representatives, guides, porters, and other local staff contracted by us at least a living wage that is equal to or above the legal minimum or relevant industry standard.
  • Ensuring that our tour guides, hosts, and other employees under contract are qualified and trained regularly.
  • Ensuring that our local employees are informed on relevant aspects of our sustainability policy and comply with it through orientation, training and information sessions.
  • Having our tour leaders, local representatives and guides inform clients on relevant sustainability matters in the destination (e.g. protection of flora, fauna, and cultural heritage, resource use), social norms and values (e.g. tips, dressing code and photography) and human rights (e.g. sexual exploitation);
  • Training our employed tour leaders and local representatives on the avoidance of sexual exploitation of children.

DESTINATION SELECTION

We aim to maximize positive impacts and minimize negative impacts at destination to ensure the sustainable development of the places that we operate in.

We commit to this by:

  • Consider sustainability aspects in the selection process of new destinations, trekking routes and to the extent possible offer alternative, non-mainstream destinations and promote new routes that support local economy.
  • Not selecting destinations which leads to negative impact on the environment as well as to the local community.
  • Comply with protected areas policies and heritage regulations.
  • Engage in social activities that support local development such as building schools, water supply, toilets and so on.
  • Influence and support local government (when possible, together with other travel companies and stakeholders) concerning sustainability, destination planning and management, use of natural resources and socio-cultural issues.
  • Support biodiversity conservation, including protected areas and areas of high biodiversity, through   financial contribution, political support, and integration in product offers.

CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION AND PROTECTION

Customers welfare and clear communication and information dissemination are very important to us. Highlander practices the following to ensure that customers are well informed regarding the destination and code of conduct prior to the booking:

  • Ensure that customer privacy is not compromised.
  • Refund guaranteed for trips unable to organize and underperformance.
  • Make product and price information clear, complete and accurate, with regard to the company and its products and services, including sustainability claims communicated through emails, brochures and website.
  • Provide destination information, including sustainability aspects, which is factually correct, balanced and complete.
  • Promote (Certified) sustainable accommodations, excursions, packages and/or transport options, with logos or other messages; ensuring they are recognizable to consumer and presented as the “better” option.
  • Clearly inform (potential) direct customers, about sustainability commitments and actions.

After booking and during holidays, we commit to this by:

  • Provide Information to consumers about the natural surroundings, local culture, and cultural heritage in the holiday destination.
  • Inform consumers about key sustainability aspects and issues in the destination and receive recommendations on how to make a positive contribution.
  • Inform customers about risks and precautions related to health and safety matters in the destination.
  • Keep a contact person and a telephone number permanently available for emergency situations.
  • Train personnel and keep guidelines available, on how to deal with emergency situations.
  • Provide clients with documented guidelines and/or codes of conduct for sensitive excursions and activities, to minimize negative visitor impact and maximize enjoyment. When possible, guidelines are developed in collaboration with relevant NGO's and the affected community.
  • Inform clients about applicable legislation concerning the purchasing, sales, import and export of historic or religious artefacts and articles containing materials of threatened flora and/or fauna in the destination.
  • Motivate clients to use local restaurants and shops (where appropriate).
  • Inform clients on sustainable transport options in destinations, when feasible.
  • Encourage clients to donate to local charity and sustainable initiatives.

After holidays, we commit to this by:

  • Measure systematically client satisfaction and take into account the results, for service and product improvements.
  • Include sustainability as an integral part of the research into client satisfaction.
  • Have clear procedures in case of complaints from clients.

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