Responsible Tourism in Tibet

1- On the legal and statutory plan:
1. Is Tibet travel agent’s license (or the other type of rule) compulsory for the exercise of your profession? More generally, which are the statutory conditions to exercise your profession?
In order to exercise profession of Tibet tourism, Tibet Shambhala Adventure is fully registered with valid license from several different work units of the government of China such as the license of the Commercial work unit of the Tibet Autonomous Region, License of the Taxing work unit of the T.A.R, the license of the Tibet Tourism Bureau and the license of China Central government Tourism Bureau. Besides we are specially licensed to organise out bound tours and one of the four biggest international tour companies in Tibet recognized by the China central government Tourism Bureau in Beijing.

 

In Tibet, the Tibetan travel agencies are divided into two, domestic travel agency & International Travel agency. The domestic Tibetan travel agency is only authorized to operate domestic tourists and it is easier to register. The International travel agency is authorized to operate both domestic and international tourists and you will be able to register the international travel agency through many years of being domestic travel agency with a remarkable result in tourism work without any bad accidents. After working for many years as an International Travel Agent with a big amount of  bank deposit, you can apply the out bound tour to the Central Government Tourism Bureau in Beijing and needs a huge amount of the money to invest to register the international travel agency with out bound tour. We had put 1250000RMB as deposit in the Tibet Tourism Bureau while other Tibetan travel agents are putting deposit of 250000RMB only. Today, the Tibet Shambhala Adventure is one of the leading international travel companies in Tibet so you are very safe to travel with us.


2. For the local Tibet travel agents, Is liability insurance compulsory for the exercise of your profession?
The liability insurance is compulsory. According to the tourism law of the government of China, we have to insure the travel agent annually with a big amount of the money in order to guarantee the evacuation work for our business partners and clients so Tibet Shambhala Adventure not only insures our company annually but also all the transfer vehicles, field staffs etc including their medical insurance, travel accidental and retired insurance.
3. If not, for safety, it is nevertheless possible to sign one in your country or with a foreign insurer?
All our clients are recommended to insure personal insurance from their countries before their Tibet trip is started. Nevertheless we have to insure our staffs from Tibet otherwise it does not work for her or him if we register in a foreign country since there is not any representative offices of foreign country’s insurance companies. The rescue and insurance system in Tibet is not matured yet so the rescue or evacuation work is still quite slow when clients or our field staffs are in trouble , especially in remote area.
4. How the field staffs of Tibet Shambhala Adventure, are they responsible?
All the field staffs are enthusiastic, loyal, honest and hard working in their work. They are not only well co-operated with the related operating teams of the company (Tibet Shambhala Adventure) but also very much flexible and co-operative with the field team and the clients. Eventhough there is not a tour leader in our tour group, another very good characteristic with the TSA guides is they act like a tour leader and are always with the clients when the clients need help. Example, having meals with clients, talking with clients about Tibetan culture, religion, the lives of the local people as much as possible while trekking or traveling in the vehicle.
The Tibetan guides give a brief description to the whole Tibet programs from day 1 just to let the clients know the general information and condition of the whole Tibet trip and detailed description of a next day program to the clients in every evening. All our field staffs are well trained how to protect the environment and they love our beautiful country. The field staffs are trained not to throw garbage or tissue paper during the tour. They are well trained not to spit or sneeze in the public. Not allowed to throw sigarete filters or any type of drinking bottles. They are well trained use the water as less as possible in the hotels.

2) On the environmental and patrimonial plan:
1. The water: is it rare in the zones where you operate?
We hvae the best water resources and the water in Tibet is one of the most purified water all over the world, especially in the country side. Besides, we usually do not have problem of drinking water inside the city like Lhasa, Shigatse etc. We also hardly have problem of drinking water where we operate Tibet tour and Tibet trekking groups unless there is a very heavy rain in the trekking area and because of the rain, the water becomes yellowish for a while but this can be cleaned and return to the normal water after the rain is stopped.
2. The wood: the regions where you operate are they subject to the deforestation or the dead wood is it plentiful?
In some places, It was subject to deforestation before but now the Tibet Autonomous Region has a very strict law to protect the forest and they are paying a very serious attention to protect the forested area and construct a greenery city or town too. However, most part of the Tibet Autonomous Region is a plateau and desert land so the region is still lack of forest or greenery. With our professional Tibet trekking teams, even if our Tibet trekking groups are in the forested area, our team clearly knows that they are not allowed to use the wood for fire so they always use gas for the fire.
3. How is handled the waste (not only those resulting from trekking and tourist journeys):
i. In villages? Most of the waste is reused in the fields as compost but it is becoming more concerned in the villages since people buy lots of things covered by plastic and they throw the plastic cover especially the plastic cover which are used for children’s snacks so in the countrysides, the people need more training and knowledge of how to protect the environment. sometimes, our Tibetan guides urge our Tibet treking tour groups to collect the garbages in the scenic spot just to let others know or study that they should not throw garbage. 
ii. In towns? Garbage is collected by a government or local body & dumped at the selected site. In most of the towns, the town community collect all the garbage unless some of the towns are in remote area. 
iii. In big cities? Garbage is collected by a government or local body & dumped at the selected In cities, all the garbage is collected by the government and recyle all of them. 
Iv. In the Tibet trekking area? All our camping teams including the Tibetan tour guide are very well trained how to manage the garbage. We bring all the garbage back to the cities that are produced during Tibet trekking and the garbage that has been thrown by other Tibet trekking. 

4. Does the tourism activity create a risk for the environment (degradation of the landscapes, the plunder of prehistoric objects)? How could we minimize it?
We as a local Tibetan travel agency fully understand that the tourism activity creates some risk for the environment and monastic lives so we always give training to our local staffs by inviting some NGO from overseas countires on the environmental protection and how to respect to the monastic lives as our priority. We pay more attention on the tourists from Asia, especially our domestic tourist since they are still lack of knowledge on the environmental protection as well as respect to the monastic lives. In order to minimize this kind of problem, it is important to train well our Tibet tour leaders, Tibet tour guides, let them understand well the local culture, religion, environmental protection so that they can lead our clients in a beautiful way without harming to the environment, monuments and traditional culture. Small example, in Tibet, we consider you are very much disrespectful if you wear short pant in the temple or monasteries but some of the tourists still wear this. if we have a well trained knowledgeable Tibetan travel guide and Tibet tour leader.  the tourists will  not wear such clothes since the Tibet tour leader or the Tibetan travel guide would already have given them briefing about how to respect the local culture.

5. In your knowledge, the journeys which you organize, do they create any other risks for the environment and or the deterioration of certain sites or cultural heritages as those evoked above? Which one?
There is always a big challenge for a local based Tibet tour company to assure to protect the Tibetan traditional culture, religion, environment, monuments for hundred percent sure so there are some risks such as from the environmental site, stop the vehicles nearby glaciers for photos, from the Tibetan traditional point of view, stop kissing in front of a monastery or monks, from the monument site, stop taking lots of photos of the gold or other jeweled statues but to prevent those risks, we invite some famous professors from the university or our counter parts who have more experiences and knowledge to give training to the Tibetan team how to avoid from the above activities which is against to the Tibetan tradition . We do this type of training every year and it is very helpful.
3) on the social plan:
1. From what minimum age do the staffs of the teams of ground begin to work?
– As the main Tibet tour team leaders or guides ? They start working from 20 and above
– As assistants of Tibet trekking or cooking team? They start working from 16 and above
2. Is there a minimum wage, a labor-union salary or a salary of usage? If yes, is it usually a fixed amount by the government?
The Tibet Autonomous Region has a minimum wage fixed annually for the office workers which is around 3800RMB per month for a normal staff in a company and for the field workers, as the main Tibet tour leader or Tibet travel guide, the salary is paid by day and a minimum per day salary for Tibetan travel guide is 260RMB and 180RMB for the assistant Tibetan travel guide. Tibet Shambhala Adventure pays double the minimum salary  to our Tibetan travel guides so all our Tibetan travel guides are experienced and knowledgeable staffs because most of them have been working with us for more than 10 years. 
3. Are the staffs of ground directly paid by the inbound agencies or are there intermediaries? What control can you exercise on the intermediaries if they exist?
Since we have our own permanent Tibetan staffs, we pay the salaries directly to our staffs. With some small travel agents, they have intermediaries since they don’t have their own permanent staffs.

4. During Tibet journey, the staffs of ground (including the drivers), are they usually accommodated and fed at the expense of the inbound agencies? In what conditions?
All our Tibetan staffs are fully accommodated by us on our expenses in very good condition except the porters or Yak men. They have their own association to handle their problem. We also buy good insurance to all Tibetan staffs to make sure that they will have good health care and retired bonus. 
5. In case of difficult climatic conditions (cold, rain), are adapted equipments supplied to the staffs?
Needed equipment is always provided to all the field staff of Tibetan travel guide, Tibet trekking cooking team by Tibet Shambhala Adventure in order to protect them from any kinds of bad weather conditions, (this applies only with the reputed companies like us). We spend big amount of money every year to buy and repair equipment for the field staff
For the porters of Tibet trekking, we don’t supply clothing because we rarely use porters but we always give them food  during the camp and keep them in our staff tents when the weather is bad since their tent condition is not very good.
6. Porter age with man’s back: what is the weight by carrier collectively accepted? From what age do they begin to carry?
In Tibet, porters start working from the age of 16 or above and the weight is not fixed by union. Normally they carry 20-30Kg but in Tibet, most of the time, we don’t use porters. We use Yak or horses instead of porters and one Yak carries around 30KG and need to hire one Yak men for three yaks to take care of the Yak.
7. Is there in your country a system of social welfare (disease, old age)? Compulsory? Do the staffs of ground and office benefit from it? Otherwise, are there actually one or several systems of mutual aid or solidarity, and how does it work?
In the Tibet Autonomous region, we do have social welfare such as orphanage schools, handicapped or old retired people welfare home. The TAR government is working very hard and paying more attention to develop more and more social welfare work so I think some of our ground staffs are going to benefit from them too in the future.
8. Does the Tibet tourist activities create important risks of destabilization of the cultures for the local communities? Which one? How?
As Tibet has a very rich unique culture, Tibet tourism surely creates a risk of destabilization of the culture.
Cities like Lhasa which is the centre of the Tibetan religion, culture, are in danger of losing it’s unique form, some examples as below. Too many tourists visit the monasteries or temples in Tibet and many monks become like laborers to clean the temples or monasteries as many religious spots become like commercial areas and disturb to the monks daily practice.
As the Tibet tourism is developed very fast: there are more and more tourists who are traveling into the remote villages or country sides. Eventhough it is a good sign to develop the financial income of the locals and improve their living standard but the local people are losing their beautiful tradition by welcoming others.

 

Decades ago, we don’t see any guest houses in the country side or remote villages and any hotels in Lhasa. When the local Tibetan people or outsiders are traveling from one village to the next, they do not have to carry their blankets or sleeping bags with them nor they have to take any food with them. Wherever you go, you can ask them for a night stay in any of a family and you will be warmly welcomed. At the same time, whatever dinner or breakfast, the family members are having, you are treated together like the same family members. They will not charge a single RMB or $ for it and you will be welcomed the next time but unfortunately this beautiful custom is already disappeared in the cities or towns and it is also influencing to the country sides or villages now because when the tourists visit a village or countrysides, they keep their own habits and begin to pay some money even if they visit a family and gradually it becomes like lodges or guest houses or restaurants where they ask for money without any doubt. People are becoming more and more selfish and ambitious of earning money and slowly losing the beautiful culture.

Another example, in the villages, they never charge the money for Yak or horses before if they hire from each other. The people in the villages always hire to each other on the basis of helping each other but since tourism is developed, they are losing this type of custom and ask for the money even the villagers hire Yak or horses to each other since they get paid from tourists and now they are not accustomed to the old tradition.

In Tibet, We believe it is a very bad character and very much embarrassing if somebody kisses in front of your relatives or parents but since the tourism began, this type of culture is losing too because many western tourists do not mind of kissing each other in the public and they sometimes show off all most all their body like almost in naked which is also a very much embarrassing and disrespectful in Tibetan culture, especially when you pay a visit to temple or monastery in Tibet as a pilgrimage.

9. Is the prostitution in particular childish frequent in your country?
The prostitution in particular childish is quite rare but the prostitution in particular young age in Tibet is frequent which was started since ten years back. Recently, the government is doing very serious strict against to the prostitution so now the prostitution in Tibet is not any more.

To conclude(end):
I like to conclude that globally, tourism has become one of the world’s largest and fastest growing industries and it has become main source of the income for many countries and individuals. Tibet tourism industory is also really important for the improvement of the local’s living standard and the development of the TAR. Besides the tourism has become one of the main leading industries for the development of the economy of the Tibet Autonomous Region. We do have a wonderful resource of Tibet tourism which are really unique that may not be seen or had in many other countries around the world so it is even more important to practice more responsible tourism while we are developing Tibet tourism market. We have to develop the tourism with the protection of the Tibetan culture, religion. Custom etc.

Despite this, tourism has been neglected by some as it tends to impact it’s host country and increasingly negative consequences has drawn attention from the World Tourims Organization as well as individuals. These growing numbers of concerns about the negative impacts of tourism has introduced the practice of Responsible tourism. Responsible tourism aims to achieve the triple- bottom line outcome of sustainable development which are local economic growth, environmental protection and social justice by maximizing the positive impacts and minimizing the negative impacts.

We think it is the nature of the universe that when a thing benefits, it comes along with it’s own negative effects but we have to compare whether it benefits much more instead of the negative impacts. What we would like to say here is although tourism brings some negative effects to our society, especially to our traditional culture, custom, religion as well as the environment, Tibet tourism brings more advantages than the negative impacts for the development of the modern society.

Especially, the Tibet Tourism history is still quiet young, there are still lack of the knowledge to understand so what the responsible tourism so what responsibility does Tibet Shambhala Adventure is practising while we are organising Tibet trekking and Tibet travel tours ?

Tibet Shambhala Adventure often gives special training to our field staff such as Tibetan tour guides, drivers, cook and assistants to let them understand what the real responsible tourism is, how to serve to our beloved guests, how to protect the Tibetan  traditional culture, religion, the environment etc. Regarding on the Tibet travel guides, every year, we invite some famous professors from the Tibetan universities who give training to our field staffs, how to introduce Tibetan culture, religion, lives of the people, how to respect to the custom of the locals, the policy of the government to our clients. A the same time, we also invite  some of the experienced and knowledgeable our oversease partners who are Tibet travel experts to give more training about Tibet adventure tour, how to protect the environment and the resposible tourism. 

Regarding on Tibetan drivers, every year, we train them not to throw smoking filters on the ground, keep their vehicles less polluted by using modern technology etc.

Regarding on Tibetan cooks, they are always asked to pay very much attention on hygiene even when they are over 5000Mts where they are not easy to work, they are trained not to throw any garbage or not allowed to waste any food. They are asked to bring the garbage back to the cities no matter from over 6000Mts or 4000Mts.

Eventhough Tibet tourism is essential to our country, I think to practise responsible tourism is even more important. All our Tibetan travel guides and Tibetan trekking teams must know how to pay a very deep concern on the environmental protection in the places which are very popular to the tourists , where the tourists from both domestic and foreign countries, throwing mineral water bottle , can bottles, tissues in side the temples, monasteries especially in the trekking areas such as Everest trekking routes, Mount Kailash trekking routes, Namtso lake or Yamdrok lake trekking routes etc.

As mentioned earlier that our priority is that all our Tibet tour groups or Tibetan staffs including Tibet travel guides, drivers, cooks or Yak men etc are not allowed to throw even a single piece of paper in the opened air and they always have to bring all the garbage back to Lhasa even all the way from Kailash at the distance of more than 1000Km and our staffs collect the garbage that they find on their way and try to consult the people on the way they met who are throwing the rubbish. We had to provide mineral water during the trek to our clients because our clients are not very convenient to have the filter water and drink it from the bottle but we think it is still not a good idea of providing mineral water eventhough we are bringing those empty bottles back to the city because we are worried if those empy bottles are not being able to be re-cycled after we brought them back so we will slowly advice to our clients to try to use water filter. 

The reason why Tibet Shambhala Adventure is focusing on responsible tourism very widely is not only to protect the beautiful landscape, culture and the environment of Tibet from negative impacts of the tourism but also for the rest of the world. If everybody cares and practices the responsible tourism, we build not only a rich, peaceful, beautiful ,clean Tibet but also the same as around the world since Tibet is the roof of the world and many resources of the world including the water resource of the world depends on Tibet.