RESPONSIBLE TOURISM POLICY – Cuba
Espíritu Travel is a specialist tour operator with a broad focus on responsible travel.
Our vision is to develop and promote authentic and unique travel experiences which will bring the greatest possible benefit to travelers, the local communities and especially the entrepreneurs with whom we work. In addition, we try to minimize our environmental impact and respect the special way of life in Cuba.
Responsible Tourism is twofold, first it requires that travel companies, hotels, governments, and local people take responsibility for the negative impacts that tourism can have and try to mitigate those impacts, taking a more holistic and inclusive approach to the development of tourism. Second, it’s about the traveler, traveling responsibly, doing what one can, enjoying a new destination like normal but being more aware of tourism’s impact. and making adjustments to the way in which one travels in order to reduce those negative impact.
Why is responsible tourism important?
Tourism is one of the most important and largest industries on the planet, it accounts for 11% of the world’s GDP and it employs more people worldwide than any other. It is hard to imagine but your vacation is significantly important to a lot people. Our type of small group trips (no more than 6 people) have been created so they contribute to the entrepreneurs in Cuba therefore the money goes straight to local people and communities., not to mention you get a better price too. The local guides and businesses in our network redistribute income from
tourism to create decent jobs, long-lasting solutions to the problems they face. For people in Cuba, tourism can be the only source of income that they have to improve not only their standard of living but their families.
- Work almost exclusively with privately owned businesses, these include casas particulares,
paladares and small shops in addition to working with independent licensed guides.
- Work in partnerships with privately owned businesses, rather than state owned.
- Provide employment and leadership opportunities for our guides and tour leaders.
- Are safe, fun, and enjoyable for our travelers and the opportunity to interact with local people.
- Limit the negative impacts to daily lifestyles of local people.
- Actively discourage the participation of our groups in activities which exploit animals – wild or
domestic. This includes zoos, aquariums, breeding farms (i.e. crocodile farm) as well as horse
taxis and carriage rides. We strongly recommend alternatives, such as pedal taxis.
- Do not promote visits to any dolphinariums, swim with dolphins, or the National Acuario in Havana.
- Educate travelers about responsible tourism.
- Help us to donate to the charity that we support.
- Provide travelers with water filtration bottles in order to reduce the quantity of bottled water
that must be purchased.
We encourage travelers to:
- Fly less and stay longer.
- Avoid resorts and support locally owned guest houses (casas particulares) and homestays.
- Respect people’s privacy while taking photographs. Ask for prior permission before taking a
- Not to remove native flora and fauna, whether in the form of shells or coral.
- Seek out and support locally owned businesses, to ensure maximum community benefit from
- Respect native marine life and encourage the use of coral safe sunscreen.
- Carefully choose activities that are animal friendly and do not encourage or support
mistreatment of animals.
- Encourage others to become responsible travelers.
We are aware that wherever we go we are having an impact on the environment so we endeavor to minimize these impacts and, where possible, engage in activities that not only contribute to the environment sustainable but contribute to improving it.
We run our office in a responsible manner by using fair trade products, reducing our energy usage, as well as recycling. By developing electronic literature, we limit the amount of paper materials we produce. In fact all paper is used on both sides in our office.
Sustainable waste management works with three objectives: reduce, reuse and recycle. We try to produce as little waste as possible, and separate glass, paper, toner/ink and batteries so it can be recycled.
100% of lightning is energy efficient. All equipment is switched off after office hours (not on ‘standby’).
The mobility of the employees consists of the travel between home and work and for business purposes. We encourage our employees to use public transport or a bicycle to get to work. We all work at home on Fridays.
Use of Transport
Public transport is not an option in Cuba. So private vehicles are the only manner of transport available. We discourage and never book domestic flights during our trips.
Espíritu Travel in Cuba
We know that the travel industry can have both positive and negative impacts on communities and the natural environment, depending on how these impacts are managed. We are committed to learning more about how our trips can benefit local livelihoods and protect the environment – putting these insights into practice. This is fundamental to preserving the quality of the destination in years to come.
Espíritu Travel has a wide range of suppliers throughout the island of Cuba. Our challenge is to extend the reach of our influence to all suppliers and to help them progress as much as possible in Cuba with its very limited resources and ability to adopt such practices. All our trips support private owned businesses and independent guides. In addition, we actively look for interesting and innovative projects that we travelers can visit during their trip.
We encourage responsible travel
We have been proactive in raising awareness about traveling responsible in Cuba. We provide our travelers with information on how they can reduce their negative impact and make positive contributions to the communities they will visit in Cuba.
The issue of animals in captivity is a sensitive one our travelers and for our company. The situation for domestic animals in Cuba is often appalling which is why we have taken it on as our main cause. Horse taxis and scenic rides. We do not recommend these activities as nostalgic as they may seem, many of these horses are in poor condition. In addition, the majority of them work extremely long hours, often times in extreme heat and humidity with poor tack that leaves open wounds on their bodies. Horses around the country have borne the brunt of the transportation crisis in the country especially outside of Havana. While there are animal welfare laws, they are not enforced and it is obvious the suffering they endure horses. There are plenty of bicycles taxis to get you around the cities and towns. In places where horseback riding excursions are part of the itinerary, we have carefully selected the stable in which we work ensuring the highest standards are met for the welfare of the horses.
Our guides are not permitted to take clients to places where animals are used as entertainment or are kept in poor conditions, such the crocodile farm in Peninsula Zápata.
In Cuba, solid waste pollution is a problem all over the island and in particular in the cities and towns. Waste disposal systems are just not adequate on the island and with a rapid increase in tourism this year alone, the problem could get worse. We suggestion the following to our travelers.
Say no to plastic bags, instead canvas bags for carry items. We suggest bringing canvas carrier bags so that you can use them for when you purchase water or souvenirs rather than the oneuse plastic bags. Also, remove packaging from items before you leave home, Drinking bottle water is a must when in Cuba since the water supply is not reliably safe.
However, as you can imagine this exacerbates an already over taxed and inadequate waste disposable system. There is an alternate to bottle water which is both good for the environment and good for your budget and that is water filtration bottles that have purification systems so you are able to refill them with tap water and you have safe water to drink.
Cigarette buts should not be dropped on streets or behind bushes but put in a trash bin or in a pocket until a trash bin is available. We recommend smokers carry a receptacle to collect their butts. Plastic film cases are excellent for this and reduce the smell!
As an island nation, Cuba depends largely on rainfall for its water supply. But the past years has been one of record drought but this is only half the problem, the situation is exacerbated but a crumbling water delivery infrastructure and treatment facilities. You will see in Old Havana, in particular that water tankers bring potable water to residents. Try be aware of your water usage and take steps to minimize it when possible. If you would like to read more about it, a recent article in the Havana Times, Extreme Drought in Cuba, Many are Unaware.
We also suggest, eco friendly toiletries especially coral safe sunscreen. A common ingredient found in chemical sunscreen is toxic to coral. We recommend mineral based sunscreen, with titanium oxide or zinc oxide which has been found not to harm reefs. Not only are these types of sunscreens better for the marine environment but they are better for your skin! Let’s help keep Cuba’s coral reefs healthy.