That is why the core of all our activities is and has always been minimizing negative impact on the culturally and ecologically sensitive areas where we work in. To that effect, apart from making ourselves directly responsible, we also encourage our guests to support and supplement our initiatives in this regard.
This, however, is one part of how we think, believe and operate. At Questrails we also carefully plan and implement initiatives that make a positive contribution towards securing the future of local communities, environment and economy.
Here are some of the ways in which we work.
We make it a point to hire as much local staff as possible and support their personal and professional development with training on various aspects in hospitality. This works two-fold; not only does this boost the local economy but our ‘trained’ local staff are encouraged and empowered to support local community welfare as well.
Most of our food, materials and general supplies are sourced locally. Every dollar spent by a foreign guest means that as much as 45 cents remains within the local economy, supporting local crafts and occupations. In the process, we honour our commitment to support the local economy by generating direct income for the villagers without compromising their way of living. In other words, there is no pressure on the local economy to produce high volumes to feed high impact tourism that might endanger its environment and degrade the prevalent way of life.
Depending on where we set up camps or halt for a while, we either build new buildings that leave only the lightest of footprints on the natural setting or infuse new life into existing and traditional village structures. Not just that. We have even adopted local building techniques and styles for our camps. For instance, with the help of the experienced local Gujjar craftsmen we have incorporated the traditional “mud wall” into the design of our camps.
We depend completely on sustainable sources (principally solar) of energy for all our electricity needs in the camps. And though we draw power from the local electric supply, we do use solar lamps, and candles as well.
Unfortunately, there is no recycling infrastructure in most of the areas that we operate in but, where available, we make full use of it. Otherwise, we abide by some very simple rules of cleanliness and respect for the environment; all waste is separated from food waste to be used as animal feed in the locality and a very strict ‘no-litter’ policy is made applicable for staff and guests alike. Moreover, we personally work with villagers to reduce litter. At Camp RapidFire – our camp on the River Ganges – we make sure that the garbage is sent to Rishikesh town where it is collected by the local MCD.
Supporting the Local Culture
The areas in which we operate are rich in cultural traditions, that of song and dance in particular. We have actively helped to keep these traditions alive by including live performances in all our guest activities and with financial support for costumes, training and transportation. We include a performance in all our trips and this has helped to sustain the local skill, as well as train the younger artists in the making.
We prefer to operate on a small scale; this not only ensures we are able to attend to each guest individually and in detail, we also don’t impose ourselves too much on our surroundings, the local communities and resources. Our approach is designed to balance the benefits of local tourism with the ability of guests to experience the very remote and unusual locations we take them to.