Standards for Responsible Travel
At this time, there are no universal standards for "ecotourism" certification; nevertheless, we believe that our tours should enrich both the travelers and the local people in the regions we visit. To that end, we strive for the following:
- All tours are, first and foremost, educational. The experience should enrich the traveler with knowledge and appreciation for local birds, habitats, culture, and conservation issues. To accomplish this, we send Mass Audubon staff who are experienced educators, as well as first class naturalists and tour leaders. They partner—in country—with at least one local guide, who can provide additional insight and expertise.
- The tours must not harm wildlife or their habitats. Watching wildlife must be done in a responsible manner. We abide by the "Mass Audubon Standards for Birding Programs and Leaders", travel in small groups, and keep appropriate distances from animals. We chose local guides and operators who also understand the importance of viewing wildlife carefully and in a manner that will not disturb them.
- Our tour operators and hotels must have environmentally sound waste disposal methods. We carry our own litter, dispose of waste appropriately and encourage local establishments to do the same. We only work with cruise companies that commit to a "no dumping" policy.
- We keep our groups small in order to have greater access and connections with local people and wildlife. Small groups also minimize the impact on the areas we visit.
- The tours must make a positive impact in the communities we visit. We strive to support local economies by using locally owned hotels, guides, and drivers. We hire staff that directly benefits the local communities.
- We also take time on our tours to visit some of the cultural highlights in a region. Birds and their protection are tied to their human neighbors, and we try to take time to understand the culture and the people of the region. On some tours, we provide direct contributions to local conservation and community programs. These include:
- Contributing books, supplies, funds, and computers to various schools in Mongolia, Zambia, and East Africa.
- Delivering binoculars, books, and scientific research materials to scientists in Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Belize, etc. Check-out the Birders Exchange for more information.
- Financial donations to World Wildlife staff in Gabon, Mindo Reserve in Ecuador, Programme for Belize, and others.
In addition, traveling on a Mass Audubon tour directly contributes to Mass Audubon's conservation work.