People and society

Local people giving a canoe tour in Botswana

We believe that the most special trips are planned with the help of someone who lives locally. Someone who loves sharing little-known places you may never have discovered, and top travel tips you didn’t know you needed.

At TravelLocal, we carefully select experts from all over the world who are passionate about using their local knowledge to tailor extraordinary, authentic trips. Unlike many travel companies, we put you in direct contact with these local partners, so as well as getting a better trip, more of your money goes to local economies and communities too.

Where we began

United by the same ethos of connecting travelers with local experts directly, German travel platform trip.me (est. 2013) and UK-based TravelLocal (est. 2016) merged in 2021. With our combined knowledge, contacts and experience, the new and improved merged TravelLocal continues to go from strength to strength.

Choose the local option


Our holidays revolve around local people and businesses – as we believe all holidays should. This principle is very important to us and is the key ethical foundation stone of TravelLocal.

We encourage our local travel partners to ensure, wherever they can, that your holiday directly benefits the local economy of your destination. One of the main ways that happens is when local suppliers of a service are chosen over international suppliers.

As you would expect our local travel partners prefer locally-owned accommodation and choose local businesses when and where possible, so long as they meet their standards and fit your requirements. Choosing local establishments and outlets rather than big name chains is something we very much encourage, so if you are presented with a choice, choose the local option.

Example: If a meal is included in your itinerary our local travel partners try to ensure that it is with a locally-owned restaurant. Travellers generally underestimate the economic impact of choices like these – it is a highly effective way to put money straight into local hands, and supports local entrepreneurs (who, in many countries, need all the encouragement they can get).

Local working policy


Almost all of our local travel partners are locally-owned (for us this means they are registered and pay taxes in your destination and employ mostly locals on the ground). Indeed this is where our name originally came from – “Travel with Local Companies Worldwide” – shortened to TravelLocal.

There are a small number of exceptions to this – made deliberately by us because there are mitigating factors. For example there are a few countries where registering locally might result in undue financial pressure or corruption from the local government. Registering outside of a specific destination is sometimes the difference between having a viable business or not – and in those situations we choose to support that local travel partner.

Another exception is where the choice of possible local travel partners is not quite right for us, but where companies in adjacent destinations regularly operate there and employ local people on the ground.

Example: Namibia has an unusual tourism economy for a business like ours – there are rather fewer local travel partners to choose from, and many of them wouldn’t be quite right for us. We therefore have a mixture of Namibian and South African local travel partners here.

There are also destinations you may wish to visit where the local partner is based in a neighbouring country. We allow this when destination countries are often combined – it ensures a single point of contact and operational control of a holiday.

In some countries there are very few labour laws, or the laws they do have are weak, or not enforced. We try to work with local travel partners who strive for fair employment standards within their own workplace (this is built into our contracts with each partner), including having policies surrounding fair payment and hours, health and safety, dismissal, child labour and discrimination.

Interacting with indigenous peoples


A negative experience with indigenous peoples can feel exploitative, voyeuristic or false. Our aim is to only offer local community excursions that benefit the people visited, and create a genuine intention to share and appreciate cultural differences, rather than a contrived or potentially damaging “transaction” between tourist and ‘human spectacle’.

At TravelLocal we strive to work with trusted local travel partners who have the same ethos as us with regards to the fair treatment of indigenous peoples. Over time what is regarded as genuine or false may change – so please tell us where we or our local travel partners have made a mistake.

Orphanages


We don’t offer trips to orphanages and would ask you not to visit them while travelling. There are numerous instances of false “orphanages” being used to draw in tourists. However the children they theoretically serve are, in many cases, mistreated and some may have been trafficked or kidnapped in order to draw the sympathy – and donations – of well-meaning visitors. You can visit the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) for more details.

"Dark tourism"


So-called “Dark Tourism” is visiting sights primarily associated with death or tragedy. There are many such places and it is not unusual to visit them, and indeed is often welcomed as an opportunity to learn. Getting a visit to a sight like this right is about our own conduct – behaving appropriately and respectfully, with the right intentions. We would generally encourage any such visit to be with a local guide who can explain local feelings about the place, and give essential context on why the specific tragedy happened.

Societal beliefs and differences in culture


To understand the world’s variety is a prime motivation for all travel. However, different or unfamiliar cultural beliefs can be challenging for visitors to navigate. How locals react to differences in gender, ethnicity, religious belief, sexuality, and disability all need to be taken into account when planning a trip. Indeed this is one of the key benefits of travelling with our local travel partners – they actually know the local people and culture, and can communicate that understanding to you when you need it most.

We as travellers can research the ways in which common societal beliefs may affect us before choosing a destination. By carrying an open mind towards the local community when we travel, regardless of difference, we can navigate cultural norms and traditions more easily, with a lesser chance of unpleasant or unexpected scenarios.

Politics


Political upheaval in a destination raises all kinds of questions over whether you should travel there, and whether we should offer that particular country to customers. Though we understand the purpose of boycotting, at TravelLocal we believe that such an absolute decision isn’t always the answer. The locals who depend on tourism for their livelihoods end up severely affected by economic devastation outside of their control, and the lack of outside influence that follows a boycott can lead to an isolationist environment – counterproductive to change.

It is never simple to decide where the line of boycott lies. That said, we take each scenario on a case by case basis. These issues are always complex and there is no ‘one rule fits all’.

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Collaboration

Let's reimagine travel, together

Sustainability and ethics in travel is complex and there are often no easy solutions, but we are committed to learning and improving in collaboration with our local partners and you, our customers, to offer you the best possible travel experience.

If you have any topics or questions you’d like to raise, please get in touch:

sustainability@travellocal.com