Tour Sustainability and Performance Planby ExperiencePlus! - Friday, August 27, 2010
As countries around the world contemplate their sustainability policy and performance plan, we here at ExperiencePlus! are doing the same. Our company culture and policies have always tried to consider the environment and social impact of what we do and we thought we’d share what that means to you, our travelers.
Our Fort Collins office has been a part of the city’s Climate Wise program since 2007 and through that program we’ve measured and set goals to improve our use of things like: kwatts (from wind powered energy); Mbtus; (and much easier to understand) we reward employees for commuting to work by bike or on foot. In both Italy and Fort Collins we’ve significantly reduced our use of paper; use green cleaning products; Energy Star lighting choices, composting and recycling. Italy takes it further by growing a garden to supplement communal lunches and by telecommuting during the off season.
Our sustainability statement for our tours is as follows:
At ExperiencePlus! we strive to provide travel experiences that increase cultural engagement and support local economies while minimizing the miles traveled in vehicles and maximizing the miles traveled by bicycle.
We have utilized Sustainable Travel International’s categories to outline our policies on our bicycle tours.
- Traveling by bicycle saves green house gas emissions. For example, on our trip from Venice to Florence, we have on average of 10 – 14 people traveling 220 miles by bicycle.
- Minimal shuttling required on tour. 95% of our routes are designed without group shuttles or transfers required, so we are able to use one 9-passenger van for trips of 18, plus 3 tour leaders.
- When we design our itineraries we look for family run hotels that are located in the center of town so that all attractions are within walking distance and our cyclists can experience the sites without having to get in a van.
- A focus on authentic, local cuisine. Just as we try and purchase food locally at home we do the same with our food choices on our tours.
- Moving to organically grown t-shirts and offering the option to donate to Bicycles for Humanity as our tour gift choices.
- We seek to create as much interaction between locals and our customers by providing an interactive means of transportation (a bicycle!) and by hiring local tour leaders, stopping at farms, visiting artisan workshops and staying in locally owned and operated hotels.
- We encourage customers to stop at local bakeries, cafés and restaurants for lunch. Basic language lessons on tour means our travelers can order their own lunch and get a gelato the size and flavor they prefer. These simple interactions are some of the most enjoyable our customers have on tour.
- We mark our daily bicycling routes with chalk dust arrows that give customers confidence that they know where they are going so they can keep their focus on the environment and people around them.
- We work with local guides and/or touring companies when we lack insider’s knowledge of an area to develop the best cycling itineraries possible.
- We try to avoid chains, be it hotels or restaurants we feel that family run is best and locally owned is the icing on the cake.
Innovative Best Practices
- We began a program called the cycling hat “cambio” on all our European tours. This started when a customer in the early 1990s brought caps for everyone on tour and asked them to trade it with a local for something of equal or lesser value. The stories and encounters that happened were priceless so we created our own cycling caps and have given them to our customers on trips in Europe to exchange ever since. A few examples of great trades – wine, a shirt, pictures, pasta and even cycling jerseys.
At ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours we believe that the very nature of our business promotes sustainable tourism and sustainable practices that act positively on the environment and participants’ health. And so the small things we do in our offices complement our business of helping people travel by bicycle around the world!