Peter Sommer Travels is committed to offering tours in a responsible fashion. The whole reasoning behind what we do is borne out of a genuine love and respect for the countries we visit. We believe that our small group cultural tours in Turkey, Greece and Italy are a positive force, enlightening our customers and bringing economic benefits to local people. We try to provide tours that are above all educational tours – holidays with a cultural purpose. At the same time we try to minimize our impact on the environment, and to continually improve our Responsible Tourism policy.
• We strive to respect and benefit local people. Our tours provide important employment and income. In the countries we tour, we employ local crew on the boats we use, local accredited guides and location managers, and local drivers. In Turkey we have used the same locally owned ground-handling agent, employing Turkish staff, since 1996. This ensures that money goes directly into the pockets of local people, so it is the local community that benefits.
• We prefer to use and recommend hotels, pansiyons, and restaurants that are small, locally owned, and family run, rather than large international chains.
• We try to ensure that local people working on our tours have a reasonable workload, are paid a fair wage and are treated well. We give advice to our customers about appropriate levels of tipping.
• We recommend our customers use locally owned shops and businesses so, again, money is directed straight into the pockets of local people. In additional to small local shops we recommend our customers buy from local stall-holders, artisans, and village craftspeople. When it comes to bartering, which is almost expected in Turkey, we emphasise the difference between haggling in an expensive carpet shop in a big city and bargaining over small handicrafts in rural villages where people’s livelihoods depend on this interaction and income. We therefore recommend that our customers do not haggle aggressively in such circumstances.
• We always respect the local culture of the countries we visit and ensure our customers respect as far as possible local dress codes and traditions.
• We provide customers with an information guide on the historical, political, social, and economic background of the country they are visiting. We also inform our customers about local customs, eating habits, dress codes, religion, traditions and body language to avoid causing offence.
• We aim to foster cultural exchange, interaction, and mutual understanding i.e. – to meet and speak with local people, rather than simply look at them. Where possible we have lunch with the guardians of archaeological sites we visit, promoting a better understanding of different worlds and cultures, while at the same time giving vital income to families often living in very rural situations. In a number of cases we have been visiting the same local families and paying for them to prepare local traditional food for our groups for over 10 years.
• We always aim to treat local people, whether working for us or not, as equals.
• We aim to minimise our impact on the environment as best we can.
• At our main office we use green electricity and aim to use as little as possible. We reuse and recycle materials (such as paper, cardboard, glass, tins and food waste) whenever feasible.
• We try to keep our paper waste to a minimum. We regularly clean our database to reduce the numbers of brochures we print and send out. All our printing is done using recycled paper and/or on paper approved by the FSC, the Forestry Stewardship Council. Most of our communication is carried out by email, and our brochure is available online to reduce the amount of brochures we need to print and send.
• Where feasible, we try to use local boats that can sail rather than just motor, and so use less fuel.
• On the boats we use we encourage customers to turn off lights etc. when not in active use. The use of air conditioning is strictly controlled aboard our gulets.
• When staying in hotels we encourage customers to turn off lights, TV’s, fans, air conditioning etc. when not in active use. TV’s and other electrical appliances should be switched off and not left on stand-by as this uses a significant amount of electricity.
• We try to avoid wasting water. Most of our tours are by boat. By virtue of being on board a boat, water needs to be used sparingly as the amount available is limited. Only showers are provided, not baths, and we advise customers to reduce their use of water by taking short showers, not turning on the tap when brushing teeth etc.
• We reduce the amount of plastic wasted in the form of water bottles, by using and refilling large water bottles (and canisters that customers bring with them) where possible, rather than using and having to dispose of many more small plastic bottles. We are researching ways in which we can reduce plastic wastage further.
• We encourage our customers to remove packaging before arrival in a country to reduce the amount of waste brought to local destinations that may have more difficulties in recycling it.
• We keep our group sizes small (maximum 16) to minimize our impact on the environment.
• We discourage the picking of indigenous flowers and plants, and recommend customers keep to designated footpaths.
• If we discover litter and detritus on a beach, path, etc. we pick it up, or encourage our guests to pick it up, and then dispose of it properly. On our boat trips we regularly organise litter picking parties to tidy up beaches and help keep the coasts of Turkey and Greece and the Mediterranean beautiful and free from detritus.
• Where possible we try to use hotels that have their own environmental policy i.e. aiming to reduce electricity usage, reuse towels etc.
• We respect the archaeology and heritage of the countries we visit. We make it very clear to our customers that archaeological and historic remains must be treated with care and attention.
• We advise customers not to remove artefacts from sites, however small. Taking antiquities out of countries is illegal. We make clear that archaeological objects should not be bought, since it encourages illegal looting and plundering.
• We advise customers not to walk on the edges of excavation trenches as this can damage their stratigraphy.
Ways in which our customers can help us in these aims
• Treat local people fairly, socially and economically
• Be aware of local traditions, dress codes, etc.
• Learn a bit of the language – even a little engenders goodwill
• Help us to keep our database clean with up-to-date contact details and use email wherever possible
• Be mindful with water whether for drinking or washing
• Remove packaging before travelling
• Don’t pick local flowers or plants, and stay on marked paths
• Be mindful of how you dispose of rubbish and pick up litter on the ground
• Do not remove or buy archaeological artefacts
• Learn as much about the country as you can!
Find out about the escorted European tours in Turkey, Greece and Italy that we offer.