Here at The Dragon Trip, we are committed to making sure our adventures and group tours are not only excellent for our Dragons but for the places we visit too.
The Dragon Trip is all about being open-minded, meeting new people, sharing genuine experiences and living life like the locals. These are the values that we live by. Everything we do – from researching trips to running them – aims to give our ‘Dragons’ a truly authentic taste of the eye-opening places we visit. From camping under the stars on the Great Wall of China to becoming sushi-making experts in Tokyo’s fish market.
What responsible travel means to us
There are many ways we can all make a positive impact and be a force for good. As a business, we wanted to make sure our goals aligned with the protection of the places and people that make our adventures and group tours so unique which is why we are focussing our efforts on the local people and businesses we support.
Why we care
Did you know that the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) states that for the average holiday, for every $100 spent by a tourist, only $5 stays within the local community? This is truly shocking and can’t carry on.
We believe that the more money we give to local businesses we work with, the better these beautiful landscapes will be protected. This gives our Dragons not just the pride in reducing inequality but also access to what really happens behind the typical tourist traps, to see and do what the locals experience.
We are not perfect but we aim to be, that is why year on year we aim to increase the proportion of local businesses we work with as well as reduce the average carbon footprint of all of our group tour adventures. We do this by measuring our performance and making small but positive changes to how we operate.
Our Responsibility to the Planet
All our Adventure Leaders are locally employed and in China, a tour will have several Adventure Leaders with each one being a specialist in their home town. This allows us to support many more local people. Alongside this, we provide employment and leadership opportunities for local people in the destinations where we run tours.
Our Dragons regularly enjoy real local experiences which invests economically in local communities. These include meals in local people’s homes and visiting small businesses and restaurants.
No meals are included on The Dragon Trip which allows Dragons to try the local foods and new experiences. This gives Dragons more flexibility to spend what they can afford and benefit the local economy.
We only use locally owned hostels which are run or managed by local people.
In 2019, we partnered with One Tree Planted. For every Dragon who books with us to travel in South East Asia, India or Indonesia, we donate for the cost of planting one new tree in those countries.
“The Justin Shapiro Internship and Travel Scholarship” – Justin Shapiro joined The Dragon Trip as CFO in December 2013 and moved on to join CRCC Asia, in December 2015. After leaving CRCC Asia, Justin travelled the world for a year before starting his MBA at the University of Austin in Texas over the summer. On 22nd September 2017, Justin was cycling home in Austin when he was hit by a car, and tragically passed away on 28th September.
In honour of our good friend and colleague, we launched The Justin Shapiro Internship and Travel Scholarship in partnership with CRCC Asia. The programme will allow a number of young people, who may not otherwise have a chance to do so, to experience working and travelling in China. The scholarship is open to anyone over 18 years old, it includes a month-long internship in China with accommodation and work placement, a 21-day adventure tour of China after the internship has ended, and return flights to and from China.
“We are at a unique stage in our history. Never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and never before have we had the power to do something about that. Surely we all have a responsibility to care for our Blue Planet. The future of humanity and indeed, all life on earth, now depends on us.”
Once on tour, our groups use public transport, or walking, wherever possible. We also use overnight trains or buses rather than internal flights where possible. In China, the Adventure Leader does not join the groups when travelling between destinations. Instead, one will drop the group at the train station and another Adventure Leader will pick the group up at the next destination. This reduces the carbon footprint on this tour as less people are travelling.
We consider the environment by sending all of our pre-departure booking packs by email instead of through the post. For our “Little Books” – our on-the-trip companion guides for customers – we have stopped printing physical copies, in favour of electronic PDF files sent in advance.
Many of our popular destinations have now banned plastic bags and some other single use plastics – Thailand and Bali being two of them. Alongside this, all Dragons are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles with them on their tours and many of our hostels provide free refills to limit plastic use. Our Adventure Leaders are trained to encourage our travellers to travel in an environmentally responsible way, picking up trash on hikes and beaches and minimising damage to the environment.
As of 2020 we are a paperless office and everyone is encouraged to recycle – we have also recently switched to glass milk bottles rather than plastic. To reduce paper usage for our Dragons, we also do not print brochures, instead opting to print a small number of flyers on an annual basis. Cycling to work is also encouraged with bicycle storage facilities and showers available for those who choose to do so.
As a sign of respect, we think that it is important for travellers to learn a few key words or phrases in the native language, so we offer language lessons in China, India and South Korea and a written language guide in Japan. We also offer classes to learn about the local culture including a calligraphy class in Japan and a lesson in kung-fu in China.
All of our Dragons interactions are with local suppliers, and we promote integration between travellers and local people through our “unmissable” included activities and our optional activities, and opportunities for authentic cultural immersion.
Our Adventure Leaders are trained in ensuring that customers are aware of local customs and traditions, educating them on when it is appropriate to take photos and/or videos.
Our blog contains a huge wealth of information on how to navigate the different cultures and minimise their impact on the local people. Our Adventure Leaders are also trained in communicating any major differences with our customers and they do so in the pre-departure meeting.
We send over detailed booking packs to our all Dragons. These booking packs provide our travellers with an overview of what to expect on the tour as well as a much more detailed look at their itinerary. We also offer links to our destination guides which gives a sense of the history, geography and culture of the locations that we visit. These booking packs are sent a few weeks before travel and are updated to reflect the latest developments. In addition to this, Dragons are given a pre-tour briefing on arrival where they are given instructions about cultural sensitivities and more information about the nature of the places that we visit.
All our group tours are locally guided. We worked with a sustainable consultant who assessed how much of our trips were putting money and resources back into the local community and we scored very highly here. We do visit local communities and we have a local guide who goes with them. For example, in China- we visit one of our local guide’s villages and she takes them there. This type of activity puts money right back into the local community. The Dragon Trip has also contributed to an orphanage in Xi’an and a Kung fu centre. We watch a kung fu show in Shaolin and have made consistent contributions back to this community.
Local visit to village in Yangshuo, China which directly puts money back into the local community. We also arrange a beach clean-up in Cambodia which has a tangible impact on the local community.
What can you do?
Pack a reusable water bottle
Buying individual bottles of water every day can soon add up. It not only eats into the travel budget but leaving a small trail of plastic behind you is not good for the environment. Many of the hostels on our tours now offer filtered water, which can be accessed for a small fee. It’s a great way of keeping costs down and reducing your plastic waste.
Say ‘no’ to single use plastics
Many of our most popular destinations have now banned plastic bags and other single-use plastics – Thailand and Bali being two of them. But there is so much more that we can do. Say no to plastic bags when shopping for souvenirs or snacks to try to travel as sustainably as possible.
Pick up as you travel
Whether that is by organising your own beach clean up or picking up trash when hiking in the rainforest, every little bit helps. Our Adventure Leaders will encourage you to fill any plastic bags you find with any surrounding rubbish to clean up our planet as much as possible.
Donate some time
While travelling, we understand that every moment counts. We have partnered with small local businesses to allow you to do something good, even if it is just for a few hours. On our group tours, you can visit wildlife centres, local charities and spend the night at homestays.
In 2019 we partnered with ‘One Tree Planted’. For every Dragon we take to South East Asia, India or Indonesia, we donate towards planting of new trees. By doing this we help to rebuild entire ecosystems, provide clean drinking water and create valuable job opportunities for local communities.
Eat & shop local
We love to support local businesses and give our Dragons a ‘live like a local’ experience. Food is at the heart of this and our Adventure Leaders know the best small local places to find the best authentic eats. Shopping and eating in these places puts local currency straight into the hands of those who need it most.
Epic Adventure Leaders
We only hire the best Adventure Leaders and each one is a proud member of our family. Our Adventure Leaders are born and raised in the places that you’ll be visiting and are passionate about their home, lifestyle and culture.