What is Responsible Tourism?
Responsible tourism can apply to any type of holiday, from a luxury beach villa to a volunteering project. Responsible tourism means holidays that care about local communities & culture as well as wildlife conservation & the environment.
At Paragon Holidays we are committed to a company-wide socially responsible policy addressing pressing environmental, educational and public health needs in all the regions where we operate. Our focus is on initiatives that offer the opportunity for Paragon clients to become personally involved. We will not only make a difference in the lives of some around Sri Lanka, but also reinforce the reputation of being the travel provider of choice for people who are committed to learning about the regions they visit and wish to support and assist projects in these regions, giving back to the areas they visit. Please write to us for more information and suggestions.
These are some of the Policies We Follow, in order to be a more Sustainable and Responsible Tour Operator
• Whenever is possible, we try to encourage small groups of tourists (up to 8 persons usually) that have a smaller impact on the environment and on the communities we visit;
• We work on awareness with our drivers to reduce the emissions of the vehicles and – whenever is possible – promote the usage of hybrid vehicles;
• Most of our tours are focused on the discovering of a new culture and interaction with the local people, their villages, their culture and food. We promote unique village experiences off the beaten track, to make you enjoy your holidays as a real local.
• Most of the accommodation options chosen have not many rooms and are built with sustainable architectural criteria. For our Eco, Wildlife and Rural tours we offer a wide range of Ecolodges. Also, our luxury experiences are more focused on small boutique hotels run by locals than big international chains of mainstream tourism;
• At Paragon Holidays we pay our chauffeurs and our guides above average, and we pay them all in advance, which is far more than can be said about most of our competitors.
Between the years 2004 and 2006 Paragon Holidays supported actively in the reconstruction and relief programs after the 2004 Tsunami to the affected villages in the Eastern and Southern Provinces. We believe now that it is time to help the support of long lasting development in the country through their active participation in our tour programs and the donation to project that have a more long term vision and impact. For this, we are strictly in collaboration with local organizations based in different areas that promote the environmental conservation awareness and organic agriculture.
If you wish to visit one of these projects please do let us know in advance and we will be more than happy to show them to you.
We promote - together with other local partners, international and local non profit organizations - unique community and village experiences.
Some of these itineraries are different and will show you the real lifestyle of rural people, their homes and habits.
You will be able to share moments with them and, if you wish, learn to cook traditional food in their kitchen. Once you are there, you might be concerned about the living conditions of some families.
Please AVOID giving money or other materials (such as pens etc. to the children) to the families or individuals, as it is not a sustainable practice (charity vs. development) and it is not good for their self-esteem. We work closely with local and international non profit organizations and farmers societies – of which these families are official members – that know how to manage donations through the community development strategy and benefit the whole local community.
Some of these donations can benefit the following activities:
• Support to organic agriculture and tools, to help the families to be more independent and not be exposed to chemical and dangerous fertilizers and pesticides that are very harmful for their health.
• Provide a microcredit common fund for loans within the community, to improve their houses or to buy agricultural tools, land or to invest on their children education.
Instead of donating, you can also buy some of their products directly from them and take them as a souvenir, such as:
• Organic and traditional Rice;
• Chemical free local Spices from the Kandy and Matale hills;
By purchasing these products, you will support the families and help to increase their income.
Remember that Sri Lanka has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and – differently from other countries of the Asian region - education is a right of every child, guaranteed by the Sri Lankan State. However, funds for specific educational programs are most welcomed, but must be coordinated with institutions dedicated to that.
Our Vision of Community-Based Tourism in Sri Lanka
Paragon Holidays works in close cooperation with the local social enterprises, in the promotion of project itineraries to different European and extra European markets. Tourism, according to our view, has been conceived as an income that integrates their current agricultural activities, and NOT as a form of economy that “kills” the other already existing livelihood activities (agriculture, small trade etc.).
The local community guides and the other village service providers we work with (tuk tuk drivers, families that provide lunch etc.) receive a fair price decided by them. A percentage of their profits goes to the Farmers’ Societies common fund, so that the whole community can benefit from tourism and not only few people from the village. Paragon Holidays does not charge any profit on these activities, but only the guiding costs.
Moreover, Paragon Holidays donates part of its total tour profits to the farmers’ societies involved in that specific tour. This virtual circle favors then not only direct cash support with donations, but also the support of small self-managed microenterprises on a village level, where Paragon Holidays is seen as a same level trade partner on a Fair Price Policy and NOT as a charity organization.
Travelling with Paragon Holidays will ensure you a unique experience: you will know that part of your costs will help to improve the standard of life in the rural areas of this beautiful island.
Travelling to Sri Lanka is rewarding! It is about exploring a unique environment, engaging with cultural splendors, experiencing a different way of life, and building lasting memories.
Follow these useful travel tips to enhance your trip and benefit the World Heritage sites you visit.
1. Before Travelling
FIND OUT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE: The more you know about a World Heritage site before arriving, the more the site will come alive. Look into the site’s history, culture, natural environment, customs, legends, advisory notices and more. UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre is a great starting point. http://whc.unesco.org
LEARN A FEW WORDS IN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE: Making an effort to speak the local language allows you to interact with the people who know the site best. People appreciate your efforts and your interest in learning. Simple words like “Hello,” “Please” and “Thank you” can go a long way.
PACK LIGHT: It is tempting to pack everything you think you might need, but remember to be smart about your necessities. Packaging items like the paper box to your film or the plastic wrapping of your new toothbrush simply consume space in your bag and can create excess trash for the World Heritage site.
LODGING CHOICES: Look for hotels that have a written policy covering their environmental impact, employment and cultural policy. The World Heritage Alliance Principles can serve as guideline criteria while selecting your hotel.
EXPLORE TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS: Remember that traveling affects the environment. Wherever possible, try to minimize your pollution and impact on the environment by looking to alternative transportation and off-setting your carbon emissions.
2. While Travelling
ENGAGE IN LOCAL CULTURE: The saying, “While in Rome do as the Romans” still applies today. Your trip provides a unique opportunity to explore a new culture and to see the world through a different perspective. Remember that eating local foods, shopping in local markets, and attending local festivals are all part of experiencing the culture.
BUY LOCAL PRODUCTS AND SERVICES: Choosing to support locally owned businesses, community tour operators, and artisan’s means that you’ll have a one-of-a-kind experience and your money will go directly to the community. Before purchasing goods, ask about their origin. Avoid buying products made from threatened natural resources and report poaching and other illegal activities to the local authorities.
REFRAIN FROM AGGRESSIVE BARGAINING: It is often difficult to know your limits in bargaining so if you’re not sure, ask your local hotel for tips. Remember that the purchases you make directly affect vendors’ livelihoods, so decide if you really need to hang onto that extra dollar or if it could impact the vendor more.
HIRE LOCAL GUIDES: Enrich your experience by choosing local guides who are knowledgeable about the destination. Ask local tour operators like us and hotels for good recommendations.
TREAD LIGHTLY: These destinations are World Heritage sites because of their exceptional natural or cultural splendor. Do your part to keep them that way by following designated trails, respecting caretakers, and not removing archaeological or biological treasures from sites.
RESPECT THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT: Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Even though you are just visiting and not paying the utility bill, disposing of your garbage properly and minimizing your consumption of water and energy will benefit the overall destination.
THINK OF THE BIG PICTURE: While it is important to support local economy, certain tourist activities and souvenirs can damage a fragile World Heritage site. Say ‘no’ to souvenirs that are a piece of the site itself, and to tourist activities that may be harmful to a site’s longevity (corals, shells, archeological stones etc.)
3. After Travelling
DISTRIBUTE YOUR RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL TIPS: In addition to telling family and friends about the wonderful memories you made, also consider sharing tips on how they too can positively impact the World Heritage sites while having an amazing journey.
SHARE YOUR PHOTOS: Pictures can say a thousand words. Show us and tell us about your experience by sending us your photos.
EXPLORE MORE: Travelling is just the start of learning. Once you return home continue exploring and being involved with the issues or region that captured your attention. Build upon your knowledge and also learn about another destination.
GIVE BACK: Travelling often opens your eyes and heart to something new. You can continue to preserve our inspirational sites for generations to come by making a donation or by spreading the word about the community-based projects that Paragon Holidays is directly supporting through its operations.