Travelling the right way: reporting back from Asia
How do you create a trip that changes the world for the better? Our experts reveal why sustainability is not just a watchword for Audley – it’s our mission.
Responsible travel is at the heart of everything we do, no matter what the itinerary. We have a strict policy on animal welfare, refusing to offer captive encounters, elephant rides, or any activity that doesn’t support conservation. We also ensure that our experiences and stays give back to the local communities as much as possible.
Responsible travel in Myanmar
Green Valley Project, Kalaw
At Green Hill Valley in central Myanmar, the day starts early with a feast of papaya, pineapple, and tree bark, served in the quiet shade of the forest. The residents here gently reach for their breakfast, then munch slowly, eyes closed, as if cherishing every morsel.
And maybe they are, because for most of these elephants, Green Hill Valley is their first taste of freedom. After a life of captivity, they’ve finally found sanctuary.
Visiting this pioneering elephant ‘retirement home’ – and feeding these gentle giants – is just one of our conservation and community initiatives in Myanmar.
We have heavily focused on authentic experiences that are endorsed by UNESCO or NGOs. These include genuine encounters with indigenous locals, a moonlit tour of Bagan’s temples, and visiting cooperatives that empower local women.
While you explore, you’re supporting some of Myanmar’s worthiest projects and leaving a legacy that benefits local people and wildlife alike.
“Finding these options was a real passion project,” says Lauren, senior product executive for Japan and Southeast Asia. “These aren’t experiences that you can just find without help.
After spending months talking to our in-country partners and various Myanmar corporations, we sent out a team of six experts to test out every part of the trip and ensure that it has a lasting positive impact.”
You’re already making a positive difference
Lanjia Lodge, Chiang Khong
“Throughout 2018, we worked closely with external authorities to draw up strong guidelines on animal encounters,” says Sophie, senior specialist for Southeast Asia. “And this year we are shining a light on how we work with communities.
Whether you’re visiting a remote village or spending the night in a family-run homestay, we ensure that every experience benefits the local community financially – through payments, donations, or the opportunity to purchase locally made crafts.”
The impact of this approach is already creating positive change. “Many of our northern Thailand itineraries visit a small guest house called Lanjia Lodge, which is run by the local community,” says Lauren.
“When I went there recently, they showed me the new paved road that goes through the village. All of the money to build it had come from tourism, from people who have visited with Audley. It was inspirational to see.”
We are constantly working to make our trips even more eco-friendly, from offering carbon offsets for every flight, to swapping car journeys for lower emission bike tours. Happily, it’s not just the environment that benefits; travelling mindfully provides plenty of opportunities to really connect with your destination. Whether you’re staying in an Amazon eco lodge, taking a walking safari in a Tanzanian wildlife reserve, or dining at an organic cocoa plantation in Belize.
Every action has an impact
Jaya House River Park, Siem Reap
Our hotel partners are also working hard to lessen their effect on the environment. Jaya House in Cambodia, for example, offers refillable bottles of pre-filtered water and supports numerous local charities.
In Thailand’s capital, our guests can stay in the Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok, which has the largest hotel solar power system in the country. Or, The Siam Hotel, which is free from single-use plastics and is certified by the Green Leaf Foundation, a national group of eco-friendly businesses.
We are championing eco-friendly practices closer to home, too, under the watchful eye of Heather Magnussen, our responsible travel and sustainability manager. Together, we’re cutting energy use in all of our offices, encouraging cycling-to-work programs, and recycling every possible item of waste.
Why is sustainability so important to Audley?
It’s simple: we cherish the places and people we visit. “Some children have a piggy bank, saving up to go to Disneyland, but mine was to go to Southeast Asia,” says Lauren. “I’ve cared about these countries for so long and they have always welcomed me with open arms – so I’ll do everything I can to protect them.’’