Our Commitment to Sustainability
Andaman Discoveries supports community-led development through education, conservation, and cultural empowerment projects and by serving as a bridge to respectful visitors and volunteers.
Andaman Discoveries strives to maintain quality, sincerity, respect and personal service to our guests and community partners. By seeing the value of each individual we aim to create meaningful, educational and memorable experiences for both the guest and the host.
To be a small, high-quality organization with a fair distribution of profit between our business, communities, the environment, and partner groups in the North Andaman region.
We work towards addressing global issues such as climate change, human rights, nature conservation and sustainable development through the grass roots level. Our programs are created in collaboration with the communities in which we work and use local resources to have a positive social, environmental and financial impact. We facilitate community-based, innovative projects to help foster knowledge sharing, environmental stewardship, and cultural exchange.
Ensuring Continued Sustainability
In order to gain a comprehensive overview of our contribution to sustainable development, and identify areas of improvement, Andaman Discoveries (AD) collaborated with a graduate student from Duke University. From June to August 2013, the researcher assessed environmental, economic, and social impacts of AD programs, as perceived by locals and tourists, in six villages and three volunteer centers.
The full report is available online through the Duke University Libraries’ collection of Nicholas School Master’s Projects. Results indicate that, overall, AD has extensive positive impact on local communities. What few negative impacts exist are more than offset by the beneficial impacts. Andaman Discoveries is the rare enterprise truly providing ecotourism as defined by the International Ecotourism Society: “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” (TIES, 1990)
To progress sustainable AD pledges the following:
- Give 50% of AD’s profit to North Andaman Network Foundation (NAN Foundation) which was established to serve communities in the area by empowering them through conservation and development projects.
- Send an AD staff member to at least one village community-based tourism meeting per month. Meeting attendance will help ensure AD maintains close ties with villages, and keeps village interests at the forefront of AD’s agenda. Community members also requested increased staff attendance at meetings, because our staff can act as moderators and facilitators.
- Utilize written codes of conduct for guests, volunteers, interns, and researchers. Codes will ensure everyone is aware village cultural and environmental expectations, help maintain healthy relationships with local communities, and avoid inequitable interactions.
- Partner with Travel Life to ensure there is a third-party supervising organizational sustainability, and pursue full ecotourism certification when there is an appropriate certification available for their unique and complex community tourism model.
None of the locals interviewed believed there was any negative impact from tourism, although they could foresee potential problems. Locals identified both direct and indirect positive impacts from tourism. Direct positive impacts included tourists participating in conservation projects. Local children could also attend environmental education classes funded by tourism income.
Indirect positive impacts were mainly attitudinal changes. Local people pay attention to how tourists act. Seeing tourists appreciate natural beauty, or disapprove of litter and illegal hunting makes an impression. Villages working with AD demonstrate an emerging anti-littering norm that is unusual across most of Asia. This observation is a double-edged sword, though, as less environmentally and socially conscious guests could cause serious issues in villages.
Locals recognize the potential for negative environmental impacts from tourism too. If tourism grows too quickly, or is not managed well by community groups and AD, the environment could suffer.
Culture was included in the social category for this study. As AD’s currently operates there is no detrimental cultural impact. In fact, several villagers mentioned how explaining local traditions to tourists improved villager knowledge of their own heritage. Tourism from AD is also flexible, so traditional livelihoods are maintained alongside tourism work.
Villagers want to maintain local social and cultural norms. Due to AD’s thorough pre-departure guides and briefings, visitors from AD respect local expectations regarding attire and behavior. One village, citing their experience with a different tour operator, was able to say decisively that AD guests were more respectful, and fun too!
Tourism also fostered community development. The process of deciding upon local rules, procedures, and prices helped villages come together. Well-organized communities are better able to manage their environment, so this could also have positive environmental ramifications.
Some social conflict does exist, partly perpetuated by tourism. Most conflict arose from monetary disputes. However, these disputes are generally minor, and the community strengthening effect of tourism, as well as the mechanisms of tourism management group, enables villages to settle disputes internally with minimal strife.
BENEFITS TO PARTNERS
Village Experiences: The villagers – the guides, host families, handicraft cooperatives – receive fair wages as stipulated by the community-based tourism committee. We ensure that a majority of the money from each trip goes directly to the villagers and contributes to the community fund. This creates jobs to help families stay together instead of working in towns far away, and, through the community fund, supports scholarships, youth activities, and other initiatives.
Regional Tours: Andaman Discoveries partners share our commitment to responsible travel. Our accommodation and destination partners have been assessed in detail, and have demonstrated their respect for both the environment and local culture.
Volunteer and Service Placements: Volunteer time, effort, and attention are of great value to the villages, schools, and children’s homes that we serve. We also provide our partners with financial support as they rely on limited government funding and/or donations. A project donation to the volunteering location is included in the program.