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Travel doesn’t just have to benefit those doing the travelling and at EXO, we place communities and the environment in which we operate at the forefront of our operations. 

One of the ways we ensure how we walk the talk is by making it easy and transparent for agents to identify tours that are responsible. With our destination product teams on the ground scouting experiences that make a difference, our EXO sustainability team have created five categories to assess our short tours and experiences from a responsible travel perspective, including

Carbon Friendly

Cultural Interaction

Social Impacts

Local Benefits

Make a Difference

Below we take a look at just some of the experiences and tours that are deemed exceptionally responsible, making a positive impact on the people and places visited. 

Carbon Friendly

Tours under this category involve walking, trekking, cycling or alternative forms of transportation that avoid or minimise carbon emissions, and where private motorised vehicles are used, CO2 compensation is given.

Cycling from Southern Vietnam to Angkor Wat, Cambodia — There’s nothing more carbon-friendly than relying on your own body power to get around. A 12-day cycling adventure from Saigon to Angkor Wat will provide for some experiences that most tourists miss out on.  Follow the Mekong River upstream from the heart of the delta along narrow paths, past fields of sugar cane, fruit plantations, and lush green rice paddy fields, and enjoy watching the activities of the locals and soaking in the atmosphere as you pedal along the waterways. Cycle down roads lined with Khmer temples and fascinating river scenes. Spend some time on the coast before visiting Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh and moving north to Tonlé Sap and finally Siem Reap and the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. 

Vintage bike tour of Shanghai, China — Carbon friendly doesn’t have to mean challenging though. For a less epic cycle adventure, see Shanghai at a slower pace on a half-day cycle tour.  Travel beyond the modern skyline of Shanghai and discover the city’s rich, exotic traditions by exploring quiet labyrinthine alleys by vintage bike and witness daily life at every turn. Pedal through hidden neighborhoods and become immersed in the local culture for one morning.

Rail and Ride – Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand — Many visitors to Thailand fly straight from Bangkok northwards up to Chiang Mai.  However for a more carbon-friendly approach take things at a slower pace by using train travel – and see the ancient Siamese capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai along the way, on fascinating walking and cycling tours.  Board an overnight train to Chiang Mai feeling good about your carbon emissions and having gained an insight into Thai history. 

Cultural Interaction

Tours in this category include opportunities for genuine discussion between travellers and  local people, experts and families who, in turn, benefit directly from visits by guests.

Circus and dinner experience, Siem Reap, Cambodia — Make a positive impact on a local community whilst taking in a different side of Cambodian culture – and be enchanted by an evening at Phare Cambodian Circus Show. Set up by refugees of the Khmer Rouge era, Phare promotes performing arts as a way to cope with trauma. Over the years they have not only helped hundreds of Cambodians but also helped to promote traditional Khmer culture. The hour-long show tells stories of modern life in Cambodia through a rich spectacle of song, dance and acrobatics. The performers combine traditional Khmer theatre with modern influences resulting in an entertaining and enthralling show.  The evening also includes a delicious dinner of traditional Cambodian dishes, and a chance to meet and chat with the show’s cast afterwards.

Social Impacts

Tours under this category provide direct benefits to social businesses, training centres or other institutions deemed beneficial to local communities and people, through travellers buying local products or services.

Make a difference in Myanmar — A 16-day trip around Myanmar covers some iconic as well as lesser-known sites while leaving a positive impact on local communities and the environment. Visit traditional villages and markets and support community based tourism and projects that directly benefit the locals.  Visit a responsible elephant camp in Shan State, and for a truly unique experience visit the Burmese Star Tortoise Conservation Centre between Bagan and Mandalay. Discover the lesser-known sites of Bagan on an e-scooter, zipping past ancient ruins, traditional villages and age-old trades in an eco-friendly way, and enjoy a hands-on cooking class there. Travel by rail from Kalaw to Inle Lake and enjoy the gentle pace of travelling by train through the countryside of Myanmar. Leave the lightest carbon footprints with eco-friendly transportation where possible, and stay at responsible hotels. This is an amazing way to travel Myanmar with a heart.

Local Benefits

At least 30% of the cost of these tours goes back to local people for the improvement of their living conditions, with only EXO self-operated experiences included, as the exact amount to accrue back is known.

Orou Sapulot community adventure, Borneo, Malaysia — Discover the lesser-known side of Sabah on a community adventure, staying in Labang village in Sapulot, with the indigenous ethnic group of the Murut tribe. Sapulot is Sabah’s best kept secret and is perfect for discovering local life, villages, nature and culture. Experience the warm hospitality and partake in an adventure in the natural environment of rivers, jungles and caves that they call home. See the amazing Pungiton Caves and a multi-levelled hidden waterfall. Experience the livelihoods of the Murut tribe, and learn about the projects and initiatives to help educate and support the Murut people, driven purely by local villages. 

Making a Difference

The price of tours in this category include a donation to a non-profit organisation, which will support wildlife and biodiversity conservation, promote local arts and culture, or aid disadvantaged people. 

Sustainable Laos — Support sustainable tourism initiatives and interact with locals to understand their culture on a 9-day ‘Sustainable Laos’ experience. From Vientiane to Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang, cultural tours are blended with activities designed to preserve Laos’ heritage. See family-run weaving workshops and pottery making, and support local Lao traditions by enjoying a performance of traditional dance.  Enjoy browsing for handicrafts at local markets to understand Lao culture. Visit an association working to help landmine victims and gain an in-depth understanding of the history of the Vietnam War and the lasting impact of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the area, as well as the efforts underway to clear them. Join socially-responsible activities by donating books and other items to a rural village in need. Take a trek to promote conservation of Laos’ natural wonders. The tour also minimizes the environmental impact of tourism by including treks, bike rides and and using local boats where possible to get around.

For more information on EXO’s work on sustainable tourism visit the EXO Foundation here, or to start planning and maximising the positive impacts of your travels, contact us below! Reduce your carbon footprint – and travel with a heart!

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