Koning Aap, Shoestring and YourWay2GO are leading travel organisations that specialise in organising trips to distant holiday destinations. Quality and service combined with the natural environment, cultural heritage and the local people are the starting points for our travels.
As a provider of adventurous tours to far destinations, we find it of great importance to reduce the pressure that tourism exerts on the natural and social environment of our destinations. Our mission is to acquire more and better sustainability in our business. We are a responsible company that is committed to a continuous improvement in the field of sustainability. We put our own products under the microscope on a regular basis and we contribute to projects seeking sustainable solutions.
Sustainable tourism means taking into account the environment, people, nature and culture so that travelling will still be possible in the future. Greater numbers of people travel than ever before and therefore the effects of tourism are increasing and locally palpable. We try to promote the sustainable aspect of travel as much as possible and does its utmost to reduce negative effects. Our partners are selected on this basis. We offer excursions that are justified and have many contracts with accommodations that try to take measures to minimize adverse effects.
Our practical measures and activities in the field of sustainability are regularly evaluated. This environmental statement describes how we currently and in the future will use environmental care in business management and in the tours offered. We have therefore employed a sustainable tourism coordinator and a team that will help to implement the necessary measurements. Sustainability is therefore widely supported!
Thanks to our policies, we have not gone unnoticed in recent years! In 2013, 2015 and again in 2017 (and hopefully in 2019), we were one of the first in the world to receive the Travelife Sustainability Certificate for travel. A great achievement of which we are very proud!
For each of the subjects below you can read about the measures we take and some real examples. This forms the continuation of our environmental statement.
- - Transport
- - Accommodation
- - Entertainment
- - Local agents
- - Projects
- - Voluntary work
- - Partnerships
- - Information to our travellers
- - Tour leaders
- - Students
- - Internal (office) environmental policy
The plane takes you to the most beautiful places on earth but is also a threat to all this beauty due to the emission of harmful gases (including CO2). We want to do something positive in this regard:
- As of 1 January 2018, your journey will become climate neutral by investing in climate projects in Ghana (clean cooking ovens), Taiwan (wind energy) and Thailand (solar energy), in collaboration with South Pole. With this compensation, we support three climate projects that, thanks to the sale of CO2 credits, can reduce or avoid greenhouse gases. By compensating, we not only help the climate but also more than 33,000 people! Read here how this works.
- We jointly purchase CO2 credits with a number of other travel organisations. This group is growing fast! That way we can really make an impact.
- The international flights and land arrangements of Koning Aap, Shoestring, YourWay2GO and Entdeck die Welt will be compensated.
- The international flights for business trips, the study trips of office staff and the international flights of our tour leaders are also compensated in the same way.
- The free flight ticket for staff (up to a maximum of € 575) must, according to the conditions, be compensated in the same way.
- Our websites show how much CO2 you emit with each trip. Clicking further will provide you with more information about the project and how these emissions relate to your daily life.
- If possible, (Berlin / Paris / Frankfurt) preference is given to travelling by train on these routes instead of by plane.
- Some of our Belgian travellers depart from Schiphol (Amsterdam). These customers receive a train ticket to supplement their journey.
- If there is a choice for intercontinental flights, we give preference to airlines that put a lot of emphasis on sustainability. Unfortunately, we are often unable to make high demands on airlines. For long distances, we generally have no choice but to use the plane as the means of transport.
- Review and optimise flight policy.
- A flight module has been developed and fully rolled out for Shoestring. We plan to add the module for the other brands afterwards. The module can show clients the most "green" option (least CO2 emissions) and how the CO2 emissions increase/decrease depending upon the choice made. This should result in more direct flights chosen and less CO2 emissions.
- Sometimes we use public transportation in our trips. This involves (luxury) night buses (long journeys) or train travel. If possible, preference is given over domestic flights.
- Local transportation used during our trips is arranged by our local agents. They make sure the transportation used is environmentally friendly as possible and we regularly inform them of the importance of this.
- Our agent in Thailand has a GPS system that enables drivers to control the speed that the engine is running at.
- All buses that we use on our travels in Sri Lanka are internationally certified and CO² neutral. They are the first fleet in Asia to achieve this.
- All trips offered by our agent in Indonesia are CO2-neutral due to their investing in a tree-planting project.
- Royal Mountain Travel, our local agent in Nepal, are big on sustainability! They have invested in 2 new electric cars AND in the bettering of job opportunities for women by giving the driving positions (to women).
- The local agent in China (Charmission) has donated 4000 trees to the Tengger Desert as part of the China Green Foundation's Million Forest Project.
-Where possible, we use small-scale accommodations during our tours. Restaurants are generally in the hands of the local population. This benefits the local economies.
-We travel individually (= minimum 2 people) or in small groups, which significantly reduces the impact on the environment. Koning Aap have group sizes of up to 18 people and on safari trips in Africa, up to 20 people. Shoestring groups are maximum 24 people or 20 people on the safari trips.
-We encourage and advise our local agents to use accommodations that damage the environment as little as possible. They have received guidelines on the sustainability of accommodations (training manuals, films from Travelife and the Travelfoundation).
- Further conditions for the use of sustainable accommodations can be found in the 'Code of Conduct', signed by the local agents (see below).
- The social component is an important aspect. We generally use small-scale accommodations, often family businesses. These accommodations do not always meet all environmental standards. This sometimes has to do with lack of (financial) resources. From a social point of view, however, we prefer to work with these hotels because one or more families live off the income. Many large hotel chains have a strong environmental policy but are often too expensive for our type of travel or do not fit with the adventurous and local character that we aim to achieve with our travels.
- According to our local agents, many accommodations have already taken sustainable measures, such as the installation of solar panels and the recycling of waste. Furthermore, some of our small-scale accommodations do not have air conditioning or a swimming pool, which considerably reduces environmental damage.
- We do not work in the Pantanal and the Amazon with any hotels discharging untreated sewage into the rivers or groundwater.
- Where the African continent is concerned, we provide advice on our website about the reduction of water use in the accommodations.
- YourWay2GO uses the Selva Bananito Lodge in Costa Rica. This lodge is praised for its commitment to nature conservation, water management and the involvement of local residents in projects so that they too benefit from (eco) tourism. Watch the video of Selva Bananito
Camping and ‘home stays’:
- We have drawn up so called ‘safari rules’ for our camping trips, which can be found on our website. This enables travellers themselves to contribute to the conservation of fragile ecosystems. These rules cover the behaviour of both passengers and drivers during safaris, sanitation and how to be economical with water. Waste is taken from the national parks and left at designated places. We cook on gas, so we limit the use of wood or charcoal. In general, 20-30 liter water tanks are fitted, so that travellers do not have to buy separate bottles of water everywhere. This applies to all our camping trips and overnight camping in India, Southern Africa, East Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia and Madagascar.
In some destinations such as Peru, Cuba, Nepal, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand (during optional trek), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Uzbekistan, one or more nights is spent staying with the locals in their home(s). Not only is the contact with a local family informative and fun, it often provides the people with much needed side income in addition to their regular work. It is important to organise this well so that income is evenly distributed among the community.
Animals and nature:
- Thanks to the animal welfare work group of the ANVR (which we are part of), there is a clear list of 'do's and don'ts' when it comes to excursions involving animals. This list is distributed to agents, tour leaders and staff and is published on our website.
- We stopped actively offering animal unfriendly excursions in 2013. You will no longer find rides on elephants, swimming with dolphins, riding ostriches and visits to tiger and crocodile farms in the tours we offer. Our tour leaders are informed of our policy as well. Other animal unfriendly excursions, such as those involving animals in captivity (animal shows, animal circuses, etc.) we do not actively offer at all.
- In Sri Lanka and Thailand we only visit elephant projects where elephant rides are not offered.
- We recommend not taking helicopter rides at the Iguazu Falls (Brazil/ Argentina). The noise and pollution has a negative effect on the animals and birds in the surrounding jungle.
- During game drives, our local agent will ensure (by providing information to drivers and tour leaders) that the impact on natural ecosystems is minimised.
-‘Sensitive excursions lead to indigenous villages or poor areas (favela tours for example). Everything stands or falls by how things are organised on the spot, and the guidance of the local leader. Our local agents play a major role in this selection. Some of our agents say that they try to limit the negative impact by choosing professional local tour operators. Often travelling has a positive economic impact. This lies in the use of local facilities such as guides, restaurants, shops and accommodations.
- We also sometimes use so-called "Community Based Tourism" initiatives. For example, in Arequipa, Peru.
- We have several examples of sustainable excursions available through YourWay2GO. In Sri Lanka, we offer the Tamarind Gardens project where travellers can spend a day on a farm and the income goes to the local population. In Indonesia, we support a program in Tambanan where people can tell a class about their lives in the Netherlands. These proceeds also go to the local population. Again in Indonesia, we organise surf lessons and the proceeds go to the 'Soul Surf Project', which organises fun surfing days for orphans.
- The certification of our local agents (Travelife, Tourcert or local variation) increases the chance that the content of the product (accommodation and transportation) becomes increasingly sustainable. A travel organisation must meet strict sustainability criteria (in the broadest sense of the word) to obtain certification. After a new inventory in May 2019, it appears that as many as 29 of our local agents are certified, or on the way there!
- The selection of our agents and suppliers will, where possible, also be based on the performance that our partners deliver in the areas of environmental and social responsibility. If we receive too many negative signals about an agent, it might be a reason to terminate the cooperation
- All our agents have signed a new "Code of Conduct”, prepared by DER Touristik Group, in Germany. What "requirements" do we set for our agencies when it comes to sustainability? 1. Compliance with the law, 2. Prohibition of corruption and bribery, 3. Protection of children against sexual exploitation, 4. Respect for human rights and compliance with social standards (i.e. a ban on forced labour / child labour and discrimination), 5. Environmental standards, 6. Animal welfare
- A large number of our agents have followed the local Travelife training. This is a 2-day international training course in the field of sustainability. Our local agents from the following countries attended: Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mongolia, Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, Nicaragua, Colombia, Suriname, Brazil and Bolivia / Peru.
- We make our suppliers and local agents aware of our guidelines for responsible travel. This happens during our biennial agent meeting and throughout the year via the management newsletter. In addition, there is communication about various sustainable topics based on the comments from our clients, our own staff and tour leaders.
We strive for a long and sustainable cooperation with our local agents because in practice, that leads to the best trips.
- Our agent in Madagascar organises team building days for all staff, managament and guides which involve planting trees/ reforestation.
We support a number of projects in cooperation with our local agents.
Since our suppliers play a major role in maintaining and supporting these projects, we are confident that the contributions are well spent. The travellers can visit a few of these projects but this is not the starting point in making the choice. We distribute € 12.500 annually to the following projects:
- New Day Foster Home (China)
- SAFA Senior House (Egypt)
- Karigari Project (India)
- Shree Pancha Kanya School (Nepal)
- Corcovado Foundation (Costa Rica)
- Club Deportivo (Colombia)
- First River Fun Club (South Africa)
- Ibu Harnik Foster Home (Indonesia)
- Tolong Flores Foundation (Indonesia)
- Primate Rescue Center (Vietnam)
- Our Koning Aap and Shoestring travellers can donate to any of our projects. This is now possible via the booking system, on a per project basis. The amount can be chosen (€10,-/€25, - of €50,-). In 2018, a total amount of €7560 was donated. By comparison, in 2017, this amount was only €1505, -!
- On Feeling Responsible, it is clearly indicated where our contributions go for each project and an update is given annually. We support these projects for ethical reasons and not based on political motives.
- Many projects are taking place during our trips. These projects are often a tour leader initiative, sometimes an initiative of the agent or of us. These projects therefore fall outside of the aforementioned projects. Moreover, many of our local agents are also involved (to a greater or lesser extent) in other projects in addition to the aforementioned projects.
We offer two volunteering projects through YourWay2GO, both animal-related:
- Thailand: ElephantsWorld in Kanchanaburi
- Ecuador: Care Centre for monkeys, Puyo – Sacha Yacu
We have become very reticent about volunteering, especially when it comes to volunteering projects concerning children.
We have a number of partnerships with organisations that are committed to sustainability. These organisations are listed below:
- IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). We work together on sustainable tourism by propagating the 'Think!' Campaign. This campaign is an initiative of IFAW meant to keep travellers from purchasing ’bad’’ souvenirs, made from endangered species (among others).
- ECPAT. We support ECPAT in the fight against sexual exploitation of children in tourism destinations and raising awareness of the subject. In 2013 and again in 2017, we signed the ECPAT Child Protection Code.
- TE GAST IN. Part of the provision of the background information that you find about destinations on the Koning Aap site is provided by TE GAST IN. This information allows people to learn more about the local populations and informs about the dos and don’ts.
- TOFT (Travel Operator for Tigers Campaign). TOFT concerns itself with the protection of Tigers (and other animal species) in India and Nepal. We also offer a number of India tours (Koning Aap) that visit parks where tigers are located. For these visits, we give 25 Euros per passenger and this goes directly to TOFT. Furthermore, our local agent in India is also affiliated with TOFT.
- SPOTS FOUNDATION. For the protection of felines in (Southern) Africa and Asia. We support this foundation in their fight.
We participate in working groups, often within the ANVR. Some of these groups have included animal rights and a tour leader training. Furthermore, we are part of the so-called ‘pioneer group’ when it comes to sustainability certification in the Netherlands.
We are part of CARMATOP (Carbon management for tour operators): In 2013, together with 16 other Dutch tour operators and 2 universities of applied sciences, we entered a multi-year project that has set itself the goal of mapping carbon dioxide emissions from travel packages. The aim is to clearly communicate this information to the consumer and to improve travel packages with regard to their emissions. As of 1 April 2017, we have calculated the CO2 emissions from all Koning Aap and Shoestring tours.
INFORMATION FOR OUR TRAVELLERS
Website and brochure:
- Our 'Feeling Responsible' website has been 'up and running' for about a year and a half now! This site shows all the information about the green character of our travels for all brands (Koning Aap, Shoestring and YourWay2GO) in one place. In addition, the blog section of this site is full of interesting articles, facts and information.
- Various 'sustainable' tips (in the broadest sense of the word: fun/ authentic/ different) are mentioned on the Shoestring and Koning Aap websites. We usually highlight 2-3 ‘Green Tips’ in the day to day schedule of each trip.
- The home page of each of our Koning Aap trips refers to pages about CO2 compensation, the projects we support, tips for travellers and Travelife. These links also appear in the day-to-day descriptions. With Shoestring, we have links from the trips to our general policy, the projects and tips for travellers. These links also appear in the day-to-day descriptions. In this way, we raise awareness about sustainability across our websites.
- Specific country information is provided under the heading, 'More travel information'. We also give extra information for particular trips, for example 'Safari tips' when travelling to Africa.
- In the Koning Aap brochure, 2 pages are devoted to sustainability.
- Only Koning Aap and Koning Aap family holidays still have their own brochure. Shoestring and YourWay2GO do not.
- We do not send paper documents to our customers (invoices/ travel documents etc.) This has been the case for many years already. We only use digital files. Our customers receive a personal login code for the so-called 'my site', a personal site where all information (departure letter, e-tickets, hotel lists, tips for the traveller, etc.) can be found.
- Extensive travel information can be found on our websites. We regularly check and update this information and place great focus on the internet as an information center.
Our websites have tips on how travellers can reduce their own 'carbon footprint' during their trip. Furthermore, there is information concerning begging, photographing people, the separation of waste and electricity and water usage in the accommodations and during the trip in general.
- By and large, our travellers are environmentally conscious and committed to the local traditions and values of a country. One of the unique selling points of our travels is the contact with the local population, which is reflected in certain excursions; eating in local restaurants, buying in local shops, using public transport etc ... In short: An important factor in supporting the local economy.
Sustainable linen bags are issued at the travel fairs and information days of Koning Aap and YourWay2GO. No paper or plastic!
- All tour leaders (Dutch and local) are aware of the sustainability training that was developed especially for them in 2016 (by the Travel Foundation UK, ANVR, Sawadee, SNP and Koning Aap/Shoestring), called 'Leading the Way'. It is mandatory for Dutch tour leaders to follow this. Local agents have been informed about the training and it is down to them to stimulate their tour leaders and guides. Quarterly updates are given to the tour leaders that have successfully completed the training. More than 200 tour leaders (Dutch and local) have now followed this training.
- Since 2013, we have put more energy into raising awareness among tour leaders (where necessary!). We have given training locally in Thailand and India (2013), Morocco and South Africa (2014), Cuba (2015), Peru / Bolivia and Sri Lanka (2017), South Africa (2018) and Indonesia and Malaysia (2019). In addition to the 'regular' training, special attention is given to sustainability and a brainstorming session with practical examples takes place. ECPAT also receives the necessary focus.
- During the training days for the Dutch and Belgian Koning Aap tour leaders (usually in March), attention is given to sustainability in the form of a presentation and / or a brainstorming session.
- Many of our tour leaders are aware of the impact that travellers can have and are already doing everything to minimise that. They alert us if they see anything amiss (in terms of excursions and hotels).
- Shoestring and Koning Aap (partly) work with local, English-speaking tour leaders. This gives people the opportunity to really get to know a country. In addition, by doing this, we support the local economy.
- In the event that we work with local (Dutch and English) tour leaders, our local agents often train them. This training will include the subject of sustainability (often through workshops). Handbooks on sustainability are generally available.
- Tour leaders have their own Facebook page where they can have contact with each other and we can communicate all sorts of information (including in the field of sustainability). They also communicate with each other via a chat platform called Slack.com. You only chat with members of your private group, such as your colleagues from other departments. This way you can exchange information and contact each other quickly and effectively.
We regularly collaborate with colleges and universities for both research and internships. For example, in recent years, students from InHolland have studied the experiences of our Koning Aap customers regarding homestays and the visiting of indigenous tribes in Ethiopia during a Shoestring trip. This is in the context of graduation theses. Two students from Wageningen University have measured the financial impact of two Shoestring groups in India. No research is planned for 2019 yet.
- The sustainability team consists of members from different departments within the company (product groups, sales groups, marketing, tour leading and YourWay2GO).
- The team coordinator is in possession of a Travelife diploma, obtained after successful completion of the Travelife sustainability training. She has also completed the ECPAT Leading the Way training & the E-learning and obtained a certificate.
- Our staff are encouraged to come to work by public transport or by bicycle, and the majority do so. The compensation for this is favourable.
- We are convinced that environmental care is important for all our employees. Our staff receive tips on how to operate internally in a sustainable manner. In addition, some presentations have been given in the office (Food Bank / ECPAT / Spots / South Pole). Relevant information about projects, blogs on Feeling Responsible and more, is all communicated by mail.
- Various staff members have completed the ECPAT E-Learning course
- Fruitful Office: twice a week we eat the delicious fruit delivered by Fruitful Office. In doing so, we contribute to a better world by supporting the "Planting Fruit Trees in Africa" campaign.
- Nature Work Day: We have been participating in the Nature Work Day every year since 2013. We keep it close to home! We contribute to the conservation and restoration of nature and landscape in our own country. In 2013 we worked in Middenduin (near Overveen) and since then at the Lange Bretten in Amsterdam.
- Since 2017, we have made annual trips to the area immediately outside the office building to clean up.
- Since 2017, we have gone yearly to the Beach Clean Up day. Here we remove all the plastic between the beaches of IJmuiden and Zandvoort.
- Every 3 weeks we have someone come to the office to give massages. There is also a discount scheme in place for a sports (gym) subscription.
- In 2017, we started showing films with a sustainable theme once a month.
- Christmas package 2018: this was organised by our colleagues in Belgium using locally sought products. More than 25 staff took up the option to donate their packages to charity, this time concerning the protection of natural spaces.
Sustainable purchasing and waste processing
- We try to minimise the use of consumables and disposable items within our office. All paper used is printed on both sides whenever possible and scrap paper is widely used. Our printing paper (at least 90% of our overall paper usage) has the PEFC quality mark. Used paper is separated from residual waste and collected.
- Our staff and visitors to our office drink from glasses and china mugs rather than plastic cups.
- When purchasing goods for internal use, we prefer products with a sustainability label. We bulk purchase at Makro approximately 3 times a year. This saves time, gas costs and packaging material.
- When purchasing furniture, second-hand goods are purchased wherever possible. Few new items are purchased and many are reused internally.
- We separate glass and plastic from the residual waste. Batteries and cartridges are also collected and recycled separately.
Energy and water
- Our office uses 100% green energy since January 2013.
- We have T5 lighting (LED) in our office building. This is energy-efficient lighting, which is switched on and off per block by presence detection (using sensors). We also use "timers" which means the lights go out when a room is not being used. All office lighting is switched off after office hours.
In additoon, smart electric meters are installed allowing us to measure energy consumption per department.
- Employees switch off their computers completely and do not put them on standby. The same applies to the printers. When purchasing new office equipment (monitors, computers, copying equipment, etc.), preference is given to "energy efficient equipment".
- In 2015, we implemented a new system for measuring electricity, gas and water usage (in collaboration with DER Touristik). This instrument means we can now accurately measure and keep track of the exact annual usage and adjust consumption based on this.
Brochure (Koning Aap + family trips only)
- The brochure is printed at a printer that works to strict environmental standards. The printer is in possession of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and uses FSC paper that can (largely) be reused.
- We work with a "demand-driven" distribution policy when it comes to brochures. Customers who have booked a trip within the last 3 years and have indicated that they want to receive a brochure will receive it. Customers can also indicate on our website that they no longer want this. Attention is given to this in the newsletter, where we actively ask whether customers who no longer wish to receive a brochure wish to make this known to us. They are then removed from our database of addresses.