Travel Mai Chau practices a thorough, realistic Responsible Travel Policy. We believe that travel should entail an exchange of knowledge and perspectives, a sharing of wealth, and a genuine appreciation of Vietnam 's beautiful natural environments. This philosophy underpins the heart and soul of our style of travel. It drives all that we strive to deliver to our travellers, and shapes the contact we have with our supplier colleagues in Vietnam . We recognise that poorly planned itineraries or poorly informed tourists contribute less to cross-cultural understanding and less to the livelihoods of local people. We also recognise that we work in a developing country of the world. Political and social factors sometimes impede the the implementation of our responsible travel initiatives, so we aspire to short or medium term implementation of our policies where this is realistic and to incremental change where there are constraints of a governmental or cultural nature.
Our Responsible Travel Policy
Travel Mai Chau has had a Responsible Travel policy from its inception five years ago. We have gained respect from the locals because of it and are privileged to work with them so that you can visit some of Vietnam 's most remote regions. As a traveller, you also have a role to play in continuing Travel Mai Chau's efforts on your trip. These guidelines aren't intended to be overbearing, but informative, so that your travel experience is beneficial for you and the places you visit.
Social - our Travel Mai Chau staff
"Our Responsible Travel Policy begins with a mention of our staff, integral to our Responsible Travel Policy and a key to its implementation."
- We firmly believe that the most valuable assets in our organisation are our staff, and endeavour to train, treat and remunerate staff in accordance with this belief.
- We staff our Travel Mai Chau offices with local people, wherever possible.
- Our offices have a long term aim of filling management roles with competent local staff.
- We train our Travel Mai Chau local staff in internationally-useful skills, which provide a base for meaningful and life-long careers.
- We implement cross-cultural local staff exchange across our Vietnam offices.
- We provide staff in our Travel Mai Chau offices with above industry-standard remuneration packages, often including social insurance.
- We employ local tour leaders who live and work in Vietnam , and who are embracing and learning about the country to which they belong.
- We train our tour leaders and local guides to share their knowledge of cultural and other local issues in a balanced, informative way.
- Our nationwide offices endeavour to increase the number of contracted female guides.
Social - our operations
"Our offices put us in the special position of being able to implement most effectively our Responsible Travel Policy."
- Our Travel Mai Chau offices operate legally and comply fully with local tax, labour, and tourism laws and regulations.
- Our office bases in Vietnam make it easier for us to lobby local authorities and the tourism industry on matters pertaining to responsible tourism.
- Our bases in Vietnam make it more practical for us to demand that suppliers act in accordance with responsible travel principles. We have a history of demanding responsible behaviour from our suppliers and of working with our suppliers to develop standards in the tourism industry.
- We do not knowingly work with suppliers who flagrantly breach local laws or regulations or who act unethically.
- We practice a formal process for booking and providing services to people who are disabled or who have special needs.
Social - our style of travel
"The Travel Mai Chau philosophy is premised on a belief that Group Journey and tailored travel arrangements allow for more genuine experiences with local people and their environments, and allow us to avoid the offensive traits of mass tourism."
We firmly believe that our emphasis on Group Journey and tailored travel with a focus on local experiences allows for opportunities for cultural exchange and the dissemination of information between travellers and local people.
- Our Group Journeys comprise people of varied nationalities and walks of life, allowing for cross cultural learning within groups.
- We intentionally avoid the trappings of mass tourism such as organised shopping stops, dining exclusively at hotel restaurants, and sightseeing from large buses only.
- We do not plan tours to destinations which cannot cope with the presence of our travellers.
- A number of our Vietnam itineraries include home stay experiences, allowing for opportunities for social interaction and the sharing of ideas across people from different backgrounds.
- Our tour leaders and local guides and our city guides advise on appropriate dress code and behaviour in culturally important places.
"Travel Mai Chau is committed to reducing and recycling waste in its own offices and to working with suppliers on a long term basis in the implementation of environmentally responsible initiatives."
- Our Vietnamese office staffs practice double-sided printing, and recycle printer cartridges, whenever possible.
- Our stand alone offices turn off air-conditioning units when they are not required, and turn off lights and PCs when offices are not staffed.
- We have fitted-out our offices with minimum use of hard wood timber.
- We schedule environmentally friendly cyclo tours in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city (drivers tend to be socio-economically disadvantaged, and so this measure also realises social and economic benefits).
"Travel Mai Chau is a significant employer of people in the areas in which we operate. Our growth is directly linked to the livelihoods of people who help us to provide ground services, and is indirectly linked to the livelihoods of many more people."
- The overwhelming majority of our suppliers (hotels, vehicle providers, guide and other suppliers) are staffed predominately with local people.
- We endeavour to work with legally registered and tax compliant suppliers.
- Many of our group and tailored itineraries take people to the provinces, so tourist expenditure benefits broader geographic areas, rather than cities alone.
- Our tour leaders and local guides encourage travellers to purchase water from local vendors (rather than from hotel mini-bars) and to eat at local restaurants.
- We promulgate a tipping policy for local guides and drivers which rewards excellent service.
Our Guide to Responsible Travel
While we hope that your holiday in Vietnam will be stimulating, relaxing and even exciting, we also hope that you will get more out of your stay in this wonderful land of the world than rest and recreation. As part of our Vietnam Spirit Travel Responsible Travel Policy, we've prepared some pointers which we hope will make for more informed, more 'responsible' holidays.
Learn about your holiday destination before you get on the plane. Read widely and read critically about the history, culture and peoples of Vietnam . Arriving in Vietnam with some understanding about the background the country you are visiting will help you get more out of your travels and your encounters with local people and sites. You will suffer less culture shock on arrival, be less likely to make cultural faux pas, and you will be more equipped to deal with the vagaries and vicissitudes that go with being in a vastly 'different' part of the world!
Learn a lengua.
Pick up a phrase book, ask your tour leader or local guide, or mix with the locals. Learn a few key phrases and a passage of smiles and fun will open up. You will shop smarter, gain a better insight into cultural nuances, and enjoy more enriching experiences with local people.
Minimise your shower time so that water resources are used sparingly, and do not bath. Although much of Vietnam is subject to an annual monsoon downpour, it is not unusual for rains to fall locally, inundating some parts of a county with water while leaving nearby areas parched dry and in drought. In tourist boom cities the sheer volume of tourist arrivals is creating unprecedented demand on water and other resources. There are other things you can do to save water - consider using one plate only at buffet meals so that use of washing water (and detergent) is minimised.
Towel for tomorrow.
Keep your use of towels and linen to a minimum. Speak to your tour leader or local guide to request that linen is not changed daily by hotel housekeeping services. This will not only help to reduce the amount of water used during your visit but will also reduce use of detergent.
Leave off the lights.
Turn off lights when not in the room, and turn off the TV when no one is watching it. Air-conditioning is a huge energy user, so - most importantly - do not use air-conditioning unless you need to.
Bargain, but banter. Bargaining is a cultural norm in Vietnam , and our advice is to approach your shopping with a measure of good humour and fun. A fair deal is one in which you are happy with the price you paid, and the seller is happy with the price received. There is no' right or wrong' price when bargaining. Bargain with a little compassion, and aim to leave any shopping experience with smiles all round.
Keep your use of plastic bags and packaging to a minimum. Undeveloped Vietnam does not have the facilities or the capacity to engage in mass recycling, so this means that plastic waste is usually buried. Without light, buried plastic can take literally hundreds of years to break down. Consider shopping with a cotton carry bag, or re-use a plastic bag. Say no to plastic straws in drinks (and learn how to say this in the local language!)
Purchase in provinces.
Spread your shopping across your holiday destination, outside the usual shopping meccas, as well as in places rightly famous for their shopping opportunities. Spending in villages and the provinces will help spread the direct benefits of tourism across wider geographic areas.
Be friendly to forests.
Don't purchase hard wood furniture manufactured from illegally felled lumber or made from lumber of unknown origin. Hard wood deforestation has scarred vast tracts of Vietnam in recent decades and has profound social, economic and environmental consequences for local populations. Arguably, it also accelerates the rate of global warming.
Respect the protected.
Do not buy sea shells, coral, or animal parts (tiger teeth, bear claws) which are likely to have been obtained illegally, or which are sold illegally. Don't buy captive animals or birds in order to set them free, as this perpetuates demand for an unnecessary, cruel practice. Do not take photographs of captured or performing wildlife.
Wherever possible, shop in outlets that support community groups such as women's projects, disabled groups or similar. Ask your tour leader or local guide to tell you where these places can be found.
Avoid continual eating in hotels.
Eat outside at good local restaurants. Doing so will help spread your tourist dollar directly to local, smaller scale enterprises and often rewards you with a better, more authentic meal experience! Purchase your water from local restaurants or street vendors rather than from hotel mini-bars. Do not use wooden disposable chopsticks (in Japan alone it is estimated that 120 million sets are used daily).
Stick to staples.
Many restaurants in Vietnam serve animals which are protected species. Shy away from the novelty appeal that goes with ordering an exotic food. Do not order wild animal species from restaurant menus; consume instead meats and fish which are farmed sustainably.
Care for culture. Travel with respect to locally practised customs and beliefs. Accept alternate ways of thinking and of doing things; embrace and find intrigue in the differences that define a culture. After all, the world would be a boring place if we all did things and thought the same way. Remember . you are travelling precisely in order to seek out new sites and sounds. In Vietnam you will need patience, you will need to understand the concept of 'face', and you will never get anywhere by losing your cool. Your tour leader or local guide will provide you with information on cultural norms specific to your holiday destination. Be particularly aware that drunkeness, swearing or public displays or affection are viewed as inappropriate and offensive by many Vietnamese people.
Dress to impress.
People in Vietnam generally dress conservatively. Women tend not to wear revealing tops nor skirts or pants that show their knees and even men will usually prefer long pants to shorts (smart knee-length shorts are fine). 'Follow suit' and dress with a sense of decorum. As well as showing respect to local dress norms you may also find that you are afforded better all round reception from local people, and better service in shops. First impressions count for a lot in Vietnam , and your dress style presents a visible and prominent façade to everyone you come in contact with.
Snap with sensitivity.
A camera can be used as a fun social ice breaker, but to some people it can also be an invasive and offensive tool. Try to be discreet, ask permission before taking a photo of someone, and respect the wishes of people who clearly do not want to be photographed. Consider sending photos back to your subjects (through your tour leader) but do not go back on your word when you do this. Think very carefully about the implications - for your subject and for future travellers - before paying for a photo.
Offer only alms.
Do not give money, presents or candy to children on the street, at home, or in village communities. Gift giving creates inequality within communities and encourages children to start begging. Giving money (even to children who offer to act as guides) can also make children the primary income earners in their family, resulting in long-term school truancy. Giving money to adult beggars is a slightly different proposition, and is more often socially normal in Vietnam . The appropriateness of giving money to adults is often situation-specific, so defer to the advice of your tour leader or local guide. Gifts such as text books and pencils are best given to organisations (such as schools or clinics) rather than to individuals, as distribution through a community channel is more likely to occur equitably, and with dignity.
Ride a cyclo.
In your free time, consider getting around by man-powered cyclo. As well as being environmentally friendly modes of transport, the drivers of these distinctively Vietnamese vehicles are often from the poorer stratum of society and can benefit economically from the patronage you give them.
Chip in for a charity.
Travel Mai Chau supports the work of a number of charitable organisations working in Vietnam , all of whom would be enormously grateful for any financial donation you could make. Speak to your tour leader or local guide for specific information on how to donate to organisations which would appreciate your assistance.
When snorkelling, diving, or observing marine mammals such as turtles, observe environmental guidelines. Never touch or break living coral! Never touch or feed any marine animal or fish.