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Responsible Tourism Reporting: Tiger Mountain Nepal
By Marcus Cotton, Managing Director, Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge
RT Reporting: Flexible and Customizable Verification Scheme
Tiger Mountain Nepal has been working closely with a research graduate of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT) (Leeds Met University UK), Jenefer Bobbin, who has designed a unique and excellent scheme called Responsible Tourism Reporting. Responsible Tourism Reporting, or RT Reporting, is a method of audit which can be used to validate the claims made by tour operators. This is an important tool, as the terms presently used to describe responsible tourism initiatives: "eco-, responsible, and sustainable," represent a nuance of meanings.
The RT Reporting method can be applied to responsible tourism lodges and service providers in developing countries (where the importance of being responsible cannot be under-estimated). The concept is innovative yet simple, with just a few core "barriers to entry." The system works by validating independent claims made by service providers in regards to their Responsible Tourism Policy. The official RT Reporting website provides links to some initial RT Reports from the UK and Nepal.
RT Report Experience: Tiger Mountain Pokahara Lodge
TIES member Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, has recently completed its first RT Report, which validates our claims to have set some of the highest standards for small hotels in Nepal. Our report and RT Policy can be downloaded from the Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge - Responsible Tourism page. When starting out with RT Reporting a year ago, the process seemed rather daunting and onerous but Jenefer, our consultant, was always there to help and guide us. We gradually refined our RT Policy and defined the quantifiable measurements for each claim. Once we compiled the final RT report, Jenefer was there to verify and audit it on site.
Perhaps the most heartening aspect of the process was the manner in which the staff at the lodge has become increasingly enthusiastic about the new system, and has now become committed to achieving even better results for the next year's RT Report. Ishwar Basnet, the lodge's Administration and Accounting Officer, has volunteered to be the RT Manager responsible for coordinating all aspects of our RT Policy and Reporting. Our staff forum, the Sustainable Action Group, will then work closely with Ishwar in developing improvements to the way we work and account for what we do.
The RT Reporting approach is now being implemented throughout the Tiger Mountain Nepal lodges: Measures to employ the system are now being taken at the famous Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in the plains, as well as by Mountain Travel Nepal in the high Himalaya. We will add Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge and Karnali Lodge to the scheme in 2011, and then move ahead from there with the other elements of the group. Although it is still in the early stages of operation, RT Reporting is gaining wide interest in Nepal and in India. Several travel, wildlife safari, and similar businesses in these regions have inquired about the program and looked into starting the process.
I am confident that this program is "one to watch" and that it could become a major force in the complex world of verification, certification, and similar schemes. The great strength of RT Reporting is that it harnesses the innate human desire to beat targets – even self-imposed ones! Thus, the successful verification of one year leads naturally to the setting of higher goals in the following year. The inherent flexibility of this scheme means each RT Report is entirely tailored to the individual organization, and eliminates the restrictions of the "one size fits all" factors that pose problems in many international certification schemes.