Destination Himalaya

Sanjay Saxena Conde Nast Top Travel Specialist for India, Nepal, Tibet, Sri LankaIndia, Tibet, Nepal & Sri Lanka

Sustainable Tourism

Long before the global notion of Sustainable Tourism arose, Destination Himalaya understood the sometimes fragile qualities of the landscapes and cultures of Southern Asia.  We have always treated our host environments with the greatest respect and care.  Our ethos has been to leave no trace, other than positive human interaction. 

We strongly emphasize waste reduction; all non-biodegradable items are carried out and biodegradable items are buried.  We purify our own water to avoid the purchase and discarding of plastic bottles, and liquid fuel is used in lieu of firewood.  Company materials (including our glossy 4-color brochure) are printed locally on recycled paper, using soy-based ink, and we carefully choose hotels with environmentally sensitive policies.

An ongoing dialogue with our partner offices in Asia allows us to exchange ideas about sustainable tourism and ecologically sound practices.  We feel it is mutually beneficial to share perspectives, and do not wish to simply foist modern Western concepts on ancient non-Western communities.  Our goal is to establish lasting Sustainable Tourism practices.  This means we take into consideration the traditions of other cultures in our approach, and work patiently towards an all-encompassing global outlook on responsible tourism.  At home, we educate each and every client about our practices prior to departure. 

Conscious of our impact on indigenous economies, we hire and purchase in the “local” marketplace, as opposed to bringing in crews and equipment from the “outside.”  In doing so, we infuse the local economies with much-needed income.  In Tibet, for example, we hire Tibetan crews, as opposed to bringing in Nepali crews, which is the industry norm. 

Hotels are selected based on a number of criteria.  Of utmost importance to us is the environmental track record of the hotel.  On our excursions we attempt to transcend “industry-best practices,” and we constantly aim to improve our operations.  For instance, in the backwaters of Kerala, our clients now enjoy the Sauvar Nagam, touted as Kerala’s first eco-friendly houseboat as it is outfitted with solar panels for power and hot water, and it boasts a state-of-the-art septic system to prevent wastewater leakage.

Several of our most popular itineraries are “Cultural Tours”, which seek to promote and preserve the cultural heritage of the lands we visit through exploration and education.  Our tours actively support and promote traditional arts, crafts, music and dance.  We have also developed “Adventure Tours” and, more recently, “Service Tours”, which incorporate activities and service projects that allow our clients to fully experience their host cultures.  On these journeys, our clients develop an in-depth understanding and awareness that cannot be obtained through simple tourism.

The small size of Destination Himalaya travel groups means we create less impact on our destinations and are better able to monitor our impact.  Our guides are highly educated.  They are individuals who are both knowledgeable about the historical and cultural context of sites, and are trained in the concepts of Sustainable Tourism.   They are mindful of every approach – from verbal communication, to physical touch, to photography – and help clients to tread carefully.   We never disturb prayer or rituals, yet we are always open to communicating.  As an organization, we enter each situation with a willingness to learn and a desire to share our own ways in a respectful manner.

Destination Himalaya, and our partners in India and Tibet, feel that the tenets of Sustainable Tourism necessitate interaction with the people and traditions of our host countries.  Our clients taste indigenous cuisine, experience traditional dance and music, and revel in the glorious art and architecture that permeates the South Asian lands.  We recognize that with this opportunity comes responsibility.  As guides and travelers, we are in a position to share what we have witnessed - be it the deteriorating condition of a monument, the disappearance of traditional life due to harmful incursions of modernity, or the endangerment of an ecology. Our clients become empowered through our trips, and we encourage them to communicate what they have seen and learned to others at home. 

We also encourage our clients to “give back," financially and materially when appropriate.  Thoughtful environmental and cultural exposure allows individuals to take a place and its inhabitants into their hearts, which is why we believe that sustainable tourism carries the potential to change the world for the better.

Click here to learn about Destination Himalaya's Voluntourism Trips.

Click here to read more about Destination Himalaya's involvement with local communities.

"The truth is that I only realized what a great travel agent you are when we were actually traveling in India and I saw everything that you told me that would happen unfold.”
- Mark Lakin, NY

Tibetan monks at prayer

Visiting remote monasteries

 Detail of Padmasambhava statue
On elephant safari
Photo: Gillian Marshall

Shopping at local bazaar
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