A. Introduction

As a travel company that engages various stakeholders in tourism, namely consumers, tour guides, travel agencies, hotels, transport companies, restaurants, and attractions, and also as a member of the Association of Bhutan Tour Operators (ABTO) in Bhutan, understand our key role and influence. As such our Policy and Procedures manual has been framed to promote the sustainable development of tourism. We aim to follow, implement and promote good sustainability practices to maximize positive impacts and minimize negative impacts on tourism from our operations and to influence our clients and partners to do the same.

This Sustainability policy shall apply to matters relating to the employer and employees of the Druk Siddhi Tours, and how we conduct with other stakeholders.

B. Mission

Our mission is to become a Socially-sustainable tourism enterprise in Bhutan through cooperation and coordination with relevant partners. We aim to achieve this by fulfilling the traveler’s needs while at the same time benefiting the local community and environment through our honest, transparent, and impartial values.

C. Overall Policies

  • We will always be guided by the Bhutan Government’s policy of “High value and Low impact”.

  • It is the aspiration of Druk Siddhi Tours to accomplish the travel needs of our guests, benefit the local community and help in environmental conservation.

  • We will always strive to maintain an honest, impartial, and transparent relationship with our guests, local community, partners, and ourselves.

  • We are committed to working in line with the eco-tourism principle and benefiting the local community and environment while meeting our guest’s needs.

  • We will always be complying with the different Acts and Rules of the government, and shall always keep abreast of the developments.

  • We will reinforce the Royal Government of Bhutan’s effort to create employment opportunities to the youths of Bhutan while contributing to the development efforts of the government.

D. Procedures

  • Provide services of the utmost quality corresponding with the quality level booked by the tourist and/or agent

  • Respect the visitors’ personal integrity, privacy, and personality,

  • Highlight the tourist’s safety and abstain from any activity involving unpredictable risk or harm for the visitor,

  • Represent Bhutan in full accordance with the Tsa-Wa-sum and the constitution

  • Calculate fair prices for the product within an acceptable value-for-money ratio

  • Use only services of enterprises legally licensed for the respective task

  • Submit the tourism services according to the agreed packages, altering parts hereof if needed only in consent with the tourist and the agent, except in cases of force majeure

  • Develop a good and incorruptible spirit of cooperation with partners/agents abroad and service providers within Bhutan,

  • Observe the specific rules of professional ethics provided in detail for tourist guides and other staff directly exposed to contact with the tourist,

  • Observe a proper appearance following the rules and cultural traditions of Bhutan whenever on duty,

  • Familiarise with the main tourism policies of the Kingdom and bringing them to life in all professional endeavors,

  • Respect the religious beliefs of the tourists and the religious heritage of Bhutan,

  • Contribute to the understanding of all parties concerned for the protection of the environment, nature, and cultural heritage,

  • Abstain from smoking, gambling, inappropriate consumption of alcohol while on duty,

  • Act as Bhutan’s ambassadors of tourism to the world and all individuals developing an affinity to the Kingdom, conveying to them the message of peace, tolerance and harmony based on the principles of Gross National Happiness.

1. Sustainability Policy

There are specific sections ns on sustainability policy which are divided into 9 themes. Each theme consists of a set of principles and practical actions accordingly:

1.1 Sustainability Management & Legal Compliance

We commit to sustainable management by practicing the following actions:
  • To have a designated employee who is responsible for sustainability coordinator tasks;

  • To have a sustainability mission statement that is published on our website and communicated to customers, partners, and suppliers;

  • To have a written sustainability policy that aims for a reduction of the negative social, cultural, economic, and environmental impacts of the company’s activities; and includes employee-related health and safety aspects that are publicly accessible;

  • To have a sustainability action plan with clear targets, actions, measures, responsibilities, and time planning;

  • To publish our sustainability report at least every two years;

  • To ensure that our customers, partners, and suppliers, are respecting and safeguarding the rights of children by:

  • Forbidding and engaging stakeholders in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children;

  • Having a clause in contracts throughout the value chain stating a common repudiation and zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children;

  • We commit to comply with all national legislation, regulations, and codes of practice.

1.2 Internal management: social policy & human rights

We commit to sustainable internal management by having a clear written and well-communicated social policy that includes the following principles:
  • To grant employees the freedom of employment and contract termination with notice (ideally a minimum of one month) and without penalty.

  • To include labor conditions according to the Bhutan Regulations on working conditions, 2012, and the Labour and Employment Act, 2007

  • The wage rate is to be mentioned in the contract and equals or above the national legal wage;

  • To determine and compensate for overtime working hours based on agreement;

  • To provide medical and liability insurance according to Bhutanese law;

  • To grant employees fixed paid yearly holiday and sick leave and unpaid annual leave allowance;

  • To have a health and safety policy for employees that complies with national legal standards;

  • Have first aid kits and trained staff available at all relevant locations;

  • To obey national law concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment;

  • To have effective documented procedures in place for employees to voice out their complaints and expectations;

  • To provide periodic guidance and training for employees on roles, rights, and responsibilities regarding health and safety issues. This includes fire and relevant natural disasters.

We commit to practicing human rights by ensuring the enforcement of the following practices:
  • To declare not to hinder trade union membership, collective labor negotiations, and representation of members by trade unions;

  • To participate and comply with a (sector-wide) collective labor condition negotiation structure (if locally existing);

  • To prohibit discrimination, with regard to recruitment, conditions of employment, access to training and senior positions, or promotion in terms of gender, race, age, disability, ethnicity, religion/beliefs or sexual orientation.

1.3 Internal Management: Environment and community relations

We commit to practicing environmental protection and enhancing community relations by ensuring the enforcement of the following practices:
1.3 (i)Procurement
  • Actively reduce the use of disposable and consumer goods;

  • Favor the purchase of sustainable goods and services, whenever these are available and of sufficient quality;

  • Utilize office paper use (internal and administrative use) with sustainability credentials (recycled, FSC or sustainably produced), when such options are locally available;

  • Set copy and printing machines and all equipment by default to double-sided printing or other forms of paper-saving modes;

1.3 (ii) Energy
  • Have an active commitment to measure, monitor, and reduce energy consumption;

  • Purchase green energy and efficient lighting for all areas, when available;

  • Switch off Lights and equipment when not in use;

  • Prefer low-energy equipment when buying new items, including considerations of cost and quality;

  • Set all equipment by default to the energy-saving mode;

1.3 (iii) Water
  • Have an active policy to reduce water consumption, implemented and monitored on a monthly or yearly basis for benchmark purposes;

  • Use sustainable water sourcing, which does not adversely affect environmental flows;

  • Measure the office water use on a monthly or yearly basis for benchmark purposes, and water meters are regularly read to track potential leaks;

1.3 (iv) Waste Management
  • Comply with the national legislation concerning waste disposal;

  • Develop and implement a solid waste reduction and recycling policy, with quantitative goals;

  • Take action to reduce the amount of (non-refillable) plastic bottles of drinking water for office use;

  • Separate all materials which can be recycled and organize the collection and proper disposal;

  • Recycle or properly dispose of batteries;

1.3 (v) Reducing Pollution
  • Comply with the national legislation of wastewater treatment, which should be reused or released safely;

  • Minimize and substitute the use of harmful substances and manage properly the storage, handling, and disposal of chemicals;

1.3 (vi) Mobility
  • Maintain and properly check motorized company vehicles, to reduce emissions and energy use and make sure they comply with the legal emission standards;

1.3 (vii) Sustainability training and awareness raising
  • Provide periodic guidance, training, and/or information to all staff members, about their roles and responsibilities with respect to internal environmental practices;

1.3 (viii) Land use and community relations
  • Comply with land use, zoning and protected or heritage area laws and regulations; when planning, designing, constructing, renovating, operating or demolishing company buildings and infrastructure;

  • Take into account the capacity and integrity of protected and sensitive natural and cultural heritage when planning and designing newly constructed company buildings;

  • Adopt locally appropriate and sustainable practices and materials in planning, design, and construction of new buildings or renovations;

1.4 Transport

We try to ensure that vehicles used on tours do not cause more than average pollution. We believe that transport is an important aspect of sustainable tourism, and we do our best to decrease the average pollution level.
We commit to this by;
  • Considering and giving preference to more sustainable alternatives when selecting transport options for transfers and excursions in the destination, taking into account price, comfort, and practical considerations;

  • Transport providers are provided with codes of conduct and guidance regarding sustainable driving techniques;

1.5 Accommodations

We try to achieve a tourism supply chain that is fully sustainable. The partner accommodations play an important role in achieving this and are stimulated and motivated to adopt sustainable practices.
We commit to this by;
  • Giving clear preference to accommodations that work with internationally acknowledged (e.g. GSTC recognised) and/or Travelife certification; and selecting accommodations that comply with sustainability and quality standards with a special focus on the following items : Water saving program – Waste management program – Energy saving program – Energy reduction system – Child protection policy – Trainings to employees in Health & Safety – Sustainable supply chain – CSR activities.

  • Motivating and encouraging partner accommodations to become sustainably certified;

  • Preference and selecting accommodations that are locally owned and managed;
  • Encouraging accommodations to fill in the sustainability self-assessment to gain insight into their practices;

  • Clearly and actively communicating our sustainability objectives and requirements regarding accommodations to contracted and other relevant accommodations;

  • Offering incentives to accommodations that are actively engaging in sustainability;

  • Ensuring that through our accommodation supply chain, the rights of children are respected and safeguarded by having a sustainability contract in place that requests an accommodation to comply with :

A zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children;
  • Having a clause dedicated to this aspect in their contract that enables the travel company to end the contractual agreement prematurely if the accommodation supplier does not take adequate measures to prevent sexual exploitation of children;

  • Training employees in children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases;

  • Working with accommodations and restaurants that incorporate elements of local art, architecture, or cultural heritage; while respecting the intellectual property rights of local communities;

  • Contracted accommodations are expected to limit their negative impact on local and global biodiversity, wherever feasible (e.g. not to offer red-listed species on the menu or advise on illegal souvenirs).

  • Terminating cooperation with accommodation in case of clear evidence that contracted accommodations jeopardize the provision of integrity of basic services such as food, water, energy, healthcare, or soil to the neighbouring companies.;

1.6  Excursions and activities

We value animal and community welfare extremely highly and aim that tours leave little to no footprint. We are safeguarding the authenticity of the communities and the natural environment, and are strongly against harming wildlife and polluting the environment.
We commit to this by;
1.6 (i) Local Communities (Indigenous people):
  • Advising guests on behavior standards during excursions and activities with a focus on respecting the local culture, nature, and environment;

  • Communicating our sustainability objectives and requirements to contract and other relevant excursion providers by distributing this information via code of conduct, representative agents, social media, email, discussions, and/or meetings, to minimize negative visitor impact and maximize enjoyment.

  • Sexual exploitation of local people are not allowed in any form

1.6 (ii) Visit to schools:
  • The rights of children are respected and safeguarded

  • Sexual exploitation of children are not allowed in any form;

  • Training employees in children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation, and how to report suspected cases.

1.6 (iii) Environmental Conservation:
  • Not offering any excursions that harm humans, animals, plants, or natural resources such as water and energy, or which are socially and culturally unacceptable;

  • Not offering any excursions in which wildlife is held captive, except for properly regulated activities in compliance with local, national, and international law;

  • Not being involved with companies that harvest, consume, display, sell, or trade wildlife species unless it is part of a regulated activity that ensures that their utilization is sustainable and in compliance with local, national, and international law.

1.6 (iv) Animal activities (Welfare of animals)
If animals namely horses and yaks have to be used for transporting goods (where road facilities are absent) the animal’s welfare will not be compromised:
  • Animals won’t be subjected to carrying loads beyond permissible limits;

  • Animals will be provided enough resting time;

  • The owner has to ensure that animals are fed properly

  • The proper health and safety of the animals are ensured.

1.7  Tour leaders, local representatives, and guides

We aim at involving as many locals as possible by employing them in the tourism business. We stand for a fair and safe working environment that supports and respects local communities.
We commit to this by;
  • Preferring to work with local tour leaders, local representatives, local tour guides, porters, drivers, cooks, and other local staff in case of equal ability, and provide training as required;

  • Ensuring that tour leaders, representatives, guides, and other locally active staff, contracted by us, understand the terms and conditions of their employment, including remuneration.

  • Paying tour leaders, local representatives, guides, porters, and other local staff contracted by us at least a living wage that is equal to or above the legal minimum or relevant industry standard;

  • Ensuring that our tour guides, hosts, and other employees under contract are qualified and trained regularly;

  • Ensuring that our local guides are informed on relevant aspects of our sustainability policy and comply with it, by newsletters, references, or supplements to contracts, emails, or training and information sessions;

  • Ensuring that the trekking staff has the appropriate clothing and other equipment related to the excursions as listed in the Trekking Guideline prescribed by Tourism Council Bhutan (TCB) and ensuring the national standard on trekking weight;

  • Having our tour leaders, local representatives and guides inform clients on relevant sustainability matters in the destination (e.g. protection of flora, fauna, and cultural heritage, resource use), social norms and values (e.g. tips, dressing code, and photography) and human rights (e.g. sexual exploitation);

  • Training our employed tour leaders and local representatives on the avoidance of sexual exploitation of children. This will include training on how to check the requirements concerning the exclusion of child abuse;

1.8 Destination

We aim to maximize positive impacts and minimize negative impacts at the destination to ensure the sustainable development of the places where we operate in.
We commit to this by:
  • Considering sustainability aspects in the selection process of new destinations and offering an alternative, non-mainstream destinations where necessary;

  • Not selecting destinations in which tourism leads to negative structural, local effects, (unless the company’s involvement results in clear counterbalancing effects);

  • Comply with legally based spatial planning, protected areas, and heritage regulations. Also with destination management strategies of local, regional, and national authorities;

  • Not promote souvenirs that contain threatened flora and fauna species as indicated in the CITES treaty and the IUCN ‘Red List’; or historic and archaeological artefacts indicated in the Tourism Rules & Regulations 2017 of Bhutan, and Penal Code 2016 Section 24 (except as permitted by law);

1.9 Customer communication and protection

Customer welfare and information are very important to us. All ABTO members ensure clear and constant communication and high protection to our clients.
Prior to booking, we commit to this by:
  • Ensure that customer privacy is not compromised;

  • Comply with relevant standards and voluntary codes of conduct in marketing and advertising messages, and not promise more than is delivered;

  • Make product and price information clear, complete and accurate, with regard to the company and its products and services, including sustainability claims;

  • Provide destination information, including sustainability aspects, which is factually correct, balanced and complete;

  • Clearly inform (potential) direct customers, about sustainability commitments and actions;

After booking and during holidays, we commit to this by:
  • Provide Information to consumers about the natural surroundings, local culture, and cultural heritage in the holiday destination;

  • Inform consumers about key sustainability aspects and issues in the destination and receive recommendations on how to make a positive contribution;

  • Inform customers about risks and precautions related to health and safety matters in the destination;

  • Keep a contact person and a telephone number permanently available for emergency situations;

  • Train personnel and keep guidelines available, on how to deal with emergency situations;

  • Provide clients with documented guidelines and/or codes of conduct for sensitive excursions and activities, to minimize negative visitor impact and maximize enjoyment. When possible, guidelines are developed in collaboration with relevant NGO’s and the affected community;

  • Inform clients about applicable legislation concerning the purchasing, sales, import and export of historic or religious artifacts and articles containing materials of threatened flora and/or fauna in the destination as ensured by Tourism Rules & Regulations 2017;

  • Motivate clients to use local restaurants and shops (where appropriate);

  • Inform clients on sustainable transport options in destinations, when feasible;

  • Encourage clients to donate to a local charities and sustainable initiatives;

After the holidays, we commit to this by:
  • Measure systematically client satisfaction and take into account the results, for service and product improvements;

  • Have clear procedures in handling complaints from clients;

2. Provision on Specific Policies has been separately framed for the following;

  • Dress Code Policy
  • Tobacco Free (including doma free) Workplace Policy
  • Drug-Free Workplace Policy
  • Weapon-Free Workplace Policy
  • Computer and Internet Policy
  • Social Media Policy
  • Policy Against Workplace Harassment
  • Safety Policies and Procedures