Oyster Worldwide and Responsible Travel
Oyster Worldwide is committed to providing travel projects which enrich all aspects of the local communities they are based in as well as the people taking part. As the far corners of the world become ever more accessible it is important that every care is taken to maximise the positive effects that responsible travel can have.
Responsible travel projects run by Oyster always strive to have the most positive impact possible on the local communities, whether that is on the local economy, culture or environment. We are fortunate that the local communities involved in our projects have been generous enough to allow volunteers to live and work with them and we take that responsibility very seriously.
Our aim is to continue building projects in cities, towns and villages around the world which will last long into the future as the positive effects are experienced by both the volunteers and the local people alike. Sustainable tourism is an essential element if we are to continue enjoying the hospitality of the fantastic people and places which host our projects.
As a responsible travel organisation we operate under a strict set of guidelines, taking into account our impact on the environment, society and the economy. These allow us to provide the best responsible travel and ecotourism projects around the world without negatively impacting the destination.
- Minimising the impact on the environment that we make is vital to Oyster and as part of this we are working towards becoming ‘carbon neutral’. Oyster believes in the policy of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In the UK, our office recycles paper and paper that has been wrongly printed is reused. Our headed paper now comes from a recyclable source. Our offsetting scheme will minimize the impact on the environment as a whole as it will reduce the carbon in the atmosphere.
- Participants are advised to use hand wash gel that does not require water. We also advise, during our pre departure course, to take care with water. In many of our destinations, water is precious and expensive. The environment cannot afford the waste.
- Participants are given advice for going trekking. This involves keeping to marked footpaths so as to prevent further erosion of the landscape. Participants are also informed about correctly disposing of waste and to not litter.
- Oyster has teamed up with TREE AID who not only plant trees but TREE AID’s mission is to tackle poverty and improve the environment in Africa’s dry lands. The cost of offsetting varies dependent on where you are travelling to. For most of our destinations we recommend a donation of £15.
Oyster believes in providing a valuable experience for our participants but most importantly doing so in a way that does not damage the destination country.
- We send people in small groups (no more than 15-20) at a time per country. This minimises the environmental and social impact that the participants have on the destination. Once in country, the groups are usually split down further into 2 or 3 people in a village. We do this to enhance the integration of our participants into the culture and for the local people to not feel too overwhelmed and apprehensive of them. Our participants become fully immersed and integrated into the community.
- Where specific training is required, our participants attend at least a 1 day pre departure briefing roughly 10 weeks before departure (this can be given over the phone for international participants). In addition to specific project training, this covers topics on how to be culturally sensitive, how to best look after the environment when in country and how to stay safe as well as up to date information on the political situation. They are also briefed on how to dispose of waste properly and where possible, to avoid using plastic water bottles as these are not easy to dispose of environmentally.
- All of our participants receive Joining Instructions a month before departure. This is a document designed to confirm all of the project details and also remind people of how to stay safe, culturally sensitive and be a responsible traveller.
- When in country, all participants take part in an orientation course which is designed to remind them to be culturally sensitive and to minimise their negative effect on the country. This course is run by our in-country Representatives. During this course participants are also given language lessons so that they can communicate at a basic level with the local people in their own language. These lessons are run by local people and so are helping the local economy.
- In all of our destinations, the work our participants do is beneficial to the host country. Be it in teaching the local community, caring for orphans or working in hotels. Participants are genuinely needed in the projects that they work in.
- Oyster has a very good channel for feedback from both our participants and our overseas representatives. Returned participants fill in a post placement questionnaire where they can comment on the placement and make any suggestions they feel are necessary. The UK office is in constant contact by phone and email with the overseas representatives and their opinions and comments are valued by the company.
Oyster is an active member of the Year Out Group and so adheres to its Code of Practice.
- We believe that everyone should do something worthwhile on their Gap Year. For those that can demonstrate financial hardship, Oyster does have a limited fund to assist them.
- We employ local drivers and bus companies to transport our participants to their destination once in country. We also use local people to teach participants the basics of the countries language.
- Returned participants are invited back to give advice to participants about where to eat, where to visit and what shops to use, as well as answering their questions. During the Pre departure briefing, participants are given a kit list of things to take. At the same time they are encouraged to buy things locally when in country in order to support the local economy.
We believe that by following these guidelines, we can continue to offer fantastic projects to volunteers where they can have the experience of a lifetime, whilst positively impacting the people and places where our projects are situated.
If you’re interested in having the experience of a lifetime on one of Oyster’s responsible travel projects, then get in touch and we’d be delighted to give you some more information.
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