Terms such as “ecotourism”, “sustainable tourism” and “responsible travel” are commonly heard these days, leaving many consumers confused as to what these terms really mean and perhaps suspicious of their value. In this set of FAQs, we have tried to answer some of the questions our clients sometimes ask regarding Nature Travels’ commitment to ecotourism and the world of responsible travel in general.
What does Nature Travels do?
Nature Travels is the UK specialist for responsible travel to Sweden. We work together with small-scale, locally-owned partner companies in Sweden to offer a wide range of ecotourism experiences, from wilderness canoeing to dog sledding tours to log cabin holidays. All are active members of the Swedish Ecotourism Society, an organisation committed to minimising the impact of tourism on the natural environment, and 17 are independently certified by a body comprising the Swedish Ecotourism Society, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and Visit Sweden, with a quality mark for their high standards of environmental practice and customer service.
What does this certification involve?
Providers must meet and maintain adherence to a strict set of criteria covering all aspects of business operations. Every company is regularly assessed and certification can be removed if a company fails to meet the required criteria. The areas covered include:
- measures to conserve the local environment in which the activities take place
- animal welfare where animals are used during the experience (e.g. on our dog sledding tours)
- waste and resource management
- safety procedures
- use of local goods and services
- control of group sizes and visitor pressure on natural areas
- staff training and customer service
- use of fuel-efficient and sustainable transport alternatives
- ongoing commitment to improving environmental performance
If would like more information about these criteria, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Why do you only sell experiences in Sweden?
Nature Travels specialises exclusively in Sweden because we know the country intimately, and can offer unrivalled advice and assistance for our clients. We are based in the UK, but all our staff are either from Sweden or have lived, worked and travelled extensively in Sweden. We have personally participated in most of the experiences we offer, and have been keen outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists all our lives. We have a very close relationship with our partners in Sweden and we aim to visit them and the areas in which the experiences run regularly.
We focus on Sweden because we know and love the country and believe that it offers a unique range of possibilities as a destination for outdoor experiences which is hard to beat, whether you choose to go hiking in the endless daylight of summer or dog sledding in the deep snows of winter. What’s more, Sweden is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to the support and development of sustainable tourism. Sweden is showing admirable foresight in addressing the challenges of tourism, and its ecotourism quality label system has become an established standard on which other countries are now just beginning to base their own systems.
I’ve heard that Nature Travels offers carbon offsetting. What does that mean and why is it a good thing?
Nature Travels works in partnership with Climate Care to offer our clients the opportunity to offset the CO2 emissions produced by their journey to Sweden. An offset for a UK-Sweden return flight costs just £3.50, effectively making your trip “carbon neutral”.
Climate Care invests this money in global projects designed to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere equivalent to the amount generated by your flight. These projects also bring benefits both to wildlife and local communities, and include reforestation work, provision of fuel efficient technology, and investment in alternative energy. For more information see www.climatecare.org.
While by no means the only solution to the problems of global warming, Nature Travels sees offsetting as an important tool in the fight against climate change which, coupled with more responsible practices in energy use, can bring a significant benefit.
What does Nature Travels do to be eco-friendly in the UK?
Nature Travels makes every effort to conduct its business in an environmentally-responsible manner. We use low energy lighting and appliances throughout the office, leave nothing on standby, and recycle all paper and printer cartridges. Our old printer cartridges and used stamps go towards raising funds for environmental charities.
We aim to minimise paper usage in general by corresponding with our clients via email as much as possible. When you make a booking with us, you can complete your booking form online. If you prefer to send us a paper copy, we do also provide a version of the booking form that you can print off.
Why don’t you publish a brochure?
Every year, around 45 million holidays are taken in the UK. On average, four travel brochures are produced for each holiday sold, making a total of 180 million brochures distributed every year! If you placed these end to end, they would cover the distance from London to Sydney three times!
As an ecotourism company, we do not produce a printed brochure. Instead, we provide comprehensive information on all our tours in downloadable PDF format from our website www.naturetravels.co.uk. Simply click on the “Full Details” button on each experience page to open the full details file.
This not only reduces our paper consumption considerably, but also allows us to update our tour information whenever needed, providing the latest available information on the tours, dates and transport routes. However, if you prefer, we are happy to email details of any particular tours you may be interested in. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries or would like to discuss anything about our experiences and we will be pleased to answer your questions.
Why don’t you sell flights?
We do not sell the flight component of your trip, though we are more than happy to advise you on suitable connections and assist you in finding the best transport alternatives to your destination.
If you are willing to take a little extra time and make the journey part of your holiday experience, you can choose to travel to Sweden without flying, either by ferry to Norway or Denmark then onward by public transport, or by train all the way from the UK. Within Sweden, there is an excellent and affordable network of train and bus connections to take you to even the most remote areas. Some of these services (e.g. mountain buses and airport transfers) can be booked directly through us.
If you do choose to fly, there are a number of low-cost options which would not be open to you if booking a flight-inclusive holiday. Low-cost carriers such as Ryanair operate regular services to major and regional airports within Sweden, and flying in this way can significantly reduce the overall cost of your holiday. For a full list of flight connections between the UK and Sweden, see our interactive map at www.naturetravels.co.uk/holidays-in-sweden.htm. If you do decide to fly, we hope that you will opt to add the small cost of a carbon offset.
Why should I choose an ecotourism holiday or a responsible tour operator?
For the customer, choosing an ecotourism holiday is not only a positive ethical choice, but is also a reassurance that you will be visiting an area where visitor numbers are strictly controlled and the local environment is cared for, enhancing your enjoyment of your visit. Nature Travels clients may choose us because of our environmental and ethical credentials, or they may simply be attracted by our range of exciting and unique outdoor experiences offered in Sweden. Whatever the initial reason for choosing an ecotourism holiday, there are significant benefits both in terms of the environmental impact of your holiday and in your enjoyment of the holiday experience.
The Nature Travels Team