Qyer, the travel in­for­ma­tion web­site has pub­lished guide­lines aimed at help­ing tourists be re­spon­si­ble trav­el­ers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TRAVEL - By XU LIN xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese travel in­for­ma­tion web­site Qyer re­cently un­veiled guide­lines aimed at en­cour­ag­ing tourists to re­spect cul­tural dif­fer­ences and pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment when trav­el­ing.

“As trav­el­ers, we’re merely guests in a des­ti­na­tion. Our travel should be re­spon­si­ble and sus­tain­able,” says Zhang Yi, a co-founder of the web­site.

The guide­lines sug­gest mak­ing friends with lo­cal res­i­dents, and of­fer in­sights on dif­fer­ent cus­toms and taboos in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. They also em­pha­size proper dis­posal of rub­bish when camp­ing and the pro­tec­tion of marine life and wildlife.

“They are like a code of con­duct to help trav­el­ers to avoid im­proper be­hav­ior,” says Zhang.

“Don’t take any­thing away ex­cept your pho­tos, don’t leave any­thing there ex­cept your foot­prints,” is the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple, he says.

The project is sup­ported by the World Wildlife Fund, TRAF­FIC — the wildlife trade mon­i­tor­ing net­work and the For­est Ste­ward­ship Coun­cil.

Wang Lei, for­est pro­gram man­ager at WWF’s Bei­jing of­fice, says the con­ser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion is work­ing closely with tourism op­er­a­tors on pub­lic aware­ness of for­est pro­tec­tion.

Li Chenyang, project man­ager of TRAF­FIC, says: “Sus­tain­able travel is very im­por­tant. Tourists should be in­formed which sou­venirs or wildlife prod­ucts vi­o­late in­ter­na­tional laws and con­trib­ute to the loss of lo­cal species or habi­tats.”

Rais­ing aware­ness

TRAF­FIC has been co­op­er­at­ing with tra­di­tional and on­line travel agen­cies to raise aware­ness among in­bound and out­bound Chi­nese tourists not to pur­chase il­le­gal wildlife prod­ucts such as ivory and Rhino horn or eat pro­tected species.

“Such con­sump­tion leads to poach­ing and fu­els the il­le­gal wildlife trade, and these en­dan­ger species and can even lead to species go­ing ex­tinct,” she says, adding that com­pared with be­fore, though, pub­lic aware­ness about the sit­u­a­tion has greatly im­proved.

Zhang, cited ele­phant at­trac­tions in Thai­land as an ex­am­ple. The com­mon itin­er­ary used to be for tourists who trav­eled to Chi­ang Mai to visit ele­phant camps where they could ride an ele­phant and watch shows in which the ele­phants per­form tricks.

But last year, the web­site’s book­ings for such ele­phant camps dropped by about 90 per­cent be­cause the com­pany has been pro­mot­ing vis­its to ele­phant con­ser­va­tion cen­ters as an al­ter­na­tive.

In 2015, Qyer founded an of­fice named Q-home in Chi­ang Mai and co­op­er­ate with sev­eral ele­phant con­ser­va­tion cen­ters such as Ele­phant Na­ture Park, where tourists can en­joy en­coun­ters with ele­phants in their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and help to feed them and give them baths.

“For decades, the lo­cal ma­houts have made a liv­ing by train­ing ele­phants to do tricks; many tourists have no idea about the cruelty of teach­ing an ele­phant to learn to per­form in this way. We try to per­suade the ma­houts to change their way of op­er­a­tion and at­tract tour- ists in a sus­tain­able way that is not abu­sive to the an­i­mals,” Zhang says.

“It’s not about with­draw­ing all ele­phant rides and shows. But we can in­form tourists of which ele­phant at­trac­tions are the most friendly to the an­i­mals and the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment.”

He says the com­pany in­di­cates on its web­site where the ele­phants might be be­ing abused and di­rects them to the con­ser­va­tion cen­ter’s ac­tiv­i­ties in­stead.

He says, this also meets the de­sires of tourists as they now want more unique ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Chi­nese trav­el­ers used to join group tours for out­bound travel, but now more are trav­el­ing in­de­pen­dently, and they want to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing dif­fer­ent,” Zhang says.

Ac­cord­ing to the China Tourism Academy, 122 mil­lion Chi­nese tourists trav­eled over­seas last year, up 4.3 per­cent from 2015. Their to­tal ex­pen­di­ture was $109.8 bil­lion.

Qyer has printed 2,000 copies of its re­spon­si­ble travel guide­lines us­ing re­cy­cled pa­per and dis­trib­uted them to prac­ti­tion­ers in the tourism in­dus­try. An elec­tronic ver­sion can be down­loaded for free via its of­fi­cial web­site.

Qyer re­cently co­op­er­ated with Bei­jing Utour In­ter­na­tional Travel Ser­vice Co to pro­mote the brochure’s con­tent among the travel agency’s tour guides and tourists. And Qyer has launched the League of Re­spon­si­ble Travel with more than 20 tourism bu­reaus, air­lines and tourism com­pa­nies from home and abroad.

Do re­search be­fore your trip and learn about the lo­cal re­li­gions, cul­ture, taboos and val­ues. Learn and try to speak a few words in the lo­cal lan­guage. If you’re head­ing for a des­ti­na­tion that is cul­tur­ally dif­fer­ent, learn the mean­ings of the hand signs and body lan­guage in that des­ti­na­tion. Sup­port lo­cal busi­nesses, eat lo­cal food and use pub­lic trans- 1 2 3 4 port.

Bear in mind that if you eat pro­tected species or buy sou­venirs made from an­i­mal prod­ucts, your ac­tions will speed up their ex­tinc­tion. Pur­chase lo­cal hand­i­crafts if you want to buy sou­venirs. 5 6

Qyer or­ga­nizes a trip for Chi­nese par­ents and chil­dren to en­counter with ele­phants in Ran-Tong Save and Res­cue Ele­phant Cen­ter, Chi­ang Mai; Chi­nese tourists bathe an ele­phant; Chi­nese chil­dren do­nate money for pen­guins in New Zealand dur­ing a trip or­ga­nized by Qyer; a rhi­noc­eros in Ma­sai Mara Na­tional Re­serve, Kenya.

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