How we operate
Environmentally responsible travel has never been as important as it is now and it’s at the very heart of our philosophy. From our inception, we have ensured that our responsible travel philosophy permeates everything we do, both at home and abroad.
More than having a neutral impact on host environments and indigenous human communities, we strive to have a positive one.
The money cascade & creating local jobs
Venture Co deal directly with local people: the food and accommodation that you will use throughout your itinerary is locally owned and purchased locally, in local currency. Where an itinerary requires mountain bikes, or white-water rafts, or mules or camels for a trek, we contract a local person and we pay them directly, rather than using middle-men.
On all our treks we employ a local guide. This is not because our leaders don’t know the way! It’s because we want a local person to lead a trek through their own back-yard and to tell you about the folklore and local stories of the area. Local guides are of course paid, so once again, money is passing directly to grassroots level.
A large proportion of the money you pay us is spent in-country. There are no middlemen, no European holding companies and no expatriate shareholders involved. This means that the flow of funds goes to host communities, where it’s desperately needed, rather than western bank accounts. Compare and contrast this to the standard package holiday!
Horse Welfare and Responsible Travel
I am frequently asked how we select our partner stables, and we do indeed have an Assessment Document that runs to a dozen-plus pages. But actually it’s usually a pretty immediate task and your nose leads the way! A ramshackle stable building with uneven flagstones doesn’t necessarily mean bad husbandry; it means a restricted budget. What counts more is how the place smells! There is no excuse for that whiff of ammonia and there is a direct relationship between the smell of a stable and the quality of horse husbandry. Get the basics right and the foundation is set.
It’s fair to say that the Welfare Department of the BHS is the worldwide standard bearer for equine welfare. Venture Co has worked with BHS Welfare since 2002 and the better we come to know them the more impressed we are with their valuable work.
We arrange 3 or 4 “BHS Challenge Rides” each year which are fundraising rides for the BHS.
Environment and Community – an intimate relationship.
“Leave only footprints; take only pictures” is a well-used sentence, but one we adhere to, particularly on trips where so much time is spent in areas not usually visited by tourists. There is no more environmentally-friendly means of transport than the horse: they are quiet and gentle on the environment and a natural part of the habitat – especially so because we use indigenous breeds – horses for courses.
Over the centuries there has been dilution of many breed standards and we search for in-country stables that support their local breed, where feasible. Joining a ride and using the local breed puts income directly into the right hands to achieve this aim.
On the trail:
• We remove all waste from camps: recycle what can be recycled, compost or burn the rest.
• We provide a toilet tent in camp and dispose of waste in a sanitary manner.
• We provide sterilize water every day which eliminates the use of plastic water bottles.
• The Guide is working in “his own back yard” and will uphold this policy diligently.
• Riders are fully briefed on appropriate/responsible behaviour whilst in wilderness areas.
The power of tourism.
We appreciate that taking riders through remote regions will be either positive or negative: it’s unlikely to have zero impact. We are acutely aware of the economic, ecological and ethical impact tourism should have on indigenous communities and fragile environments. Our leaders, guides and entire company is committed to handle trips in a nuanced manner so that all stake-holders – including grooms, stable-boys, cooks, drivers, local suppliers of food and facilities, as well as the guides you interact with directly on a daily basis, and of course the habitats we pass through – all benefit. Having a zero impact isn’t good enough, we must leave everything slightly better than we find it.
• Money is spent locally: shopping, fresh veg, horses and the hundred-and-one other things we need, are all procured at grassroots level, not via an ex-pat agency.
• Local employment: an off-shoot of the above point is that local employment, of local people, is stimulated. Local people benefit from the paid employment and you benefit from the opportunity of chewing the fat with all sorts of locals you wouldn’t normally cross paths with.
• Group size is 12 max which enables us to keep things friendly and personal.
• Not only do we not leave rubbish, but we clean-up sites of wind or wave-borne rubbish discarded by others.
• This is a minor point, but a significant one: where practical we include brief encounters with women’s co-operative groups. These kinds of organisations are sprouting up all over the world and they are remarkable and modest place to visit. Purchases made link you directly to the hands that perform the tasks and “turn the quern-stones” putting ForEx directly into the pockets of the right people.
Language: the guides and stable-folk all speak a different language to English; and it’s a Big Ask to expect you to learn Berber, Quechua or any of the many other languages you may encounter! However, most of us can manage a few words of French, or Spanish or something appropriate and it would be a gracious gesture if each person can spend a moment to learn the local greetings as a minimum! You’ll be amazed at the effect it’ll have!