Responsible travel requires constant innovation and dedication; ROW as an entire company applauds organizations that are working to help keep our wild places wild. We are dedicated to sustainable travel and adhere to the highest standards of stewardship for the environment, and the local people and cultures, in the areas where we operate.
Our goal is to connect people in a meaningful and personally relevant way to the places we visit. We work to inspire guests to become actively involved in, and advocates for, the preservation and conservation of the places they visit.
ROW’s Sustainable Travel Practices
One of our core values is respecting and protecting the Earth. We practice this at all levels at ROW, from our office to our field operations, where we try to minimize our footprint through wise energy use, recycling, reducing and reusing.
In the field, as well as in the office, we source as much of our supplies, equipment and food as locally as possible.
On our adventures, we minimize motorized travel, opting to see a small geographic area well, rather than rushing to cover a larger area. Many ROW trips are mostly human-powered; i.e. exploration on foot, bike, kayak, or raft. When we do have to utilize motorized travel, we choose local operators with the most fuel-efficient vehicles (such as on our Antarctica cruise, where the ship uses less than half the fuel of most ships in the area).
We are sensitive to wildlife, but equally important is that we help people understand what they are seeing by illuminating the life history of the plants and animals we observe. Over 75% of our USA-based guides are "Certified Interpretive Guides" through the National Association of
Interpretation, having received training on sharing natural and cultural history in a meaningful and relevant way.
On all of our trips involving camping, we practice "Leave No Trace" techniques, and we have been since our beginning in 1979 (learn more).
Sustainable Travel & Local Communities
Sustainable travel is as much about protecting the Earth as it is about supporting the local communities you visit. At ROW, we take a genuine interest in the people and culture of the places where we travel. We support the communities in many ways, whether it’s hiring local guides, sharing special local businesses with our guests, or helping preserve the areas environment.
How do we give back to the local communities we visit?
One example of our community support is in the Galapagos…
- We employ a number of local guides and fisherman who are transitioning to the tourism-based economy, a goal that is embraced by the Galapagos National Park Service.
- Our land-based Galapagos trips leave a large percentage of total trip revenue in the Galapagos. Because all of our international trips are small group trips (12-16 guests) we are able to use local, independently owned hotels, restaurants and transportation.
- On Isabella Island, we visit and support the Pescado Azul Women’s Association whose principal objective is to increase the quality of life of the fishermen and their families in the community or Puerto Villamil.
- We helped finance the purchase of four-stroke engines for a couple of our local fishing boat operators.
And we can’t forget our own backyard! We support our hometown and regional community as much as we do the communities we visit…
- We purchase supplies and services from many local businesses
- Most of our office staff, Northwest river guides, and River Dance Lodge staff is local to Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana.
- We donate over $15,000 a year in goods and services to various charities in northern Idaho, eastern Washington, and western Montana.
- Since 2008 we have been operating an annual "Raft for the Cure" which raises over $2500 each year for our local chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In 2009 we started an annual "Raft to Remember" as a benefit trip for the Alzheimer's Association that raises over $1000 for our local chapter.
Why We Believe in Hiring Local
We believe hiring local guides adds to the authenticity of our adventures, and provides guests with an inside-view of the country they’re visiting. All of our international guides are bilingual, are certified guides, and most have degrees in natural history-related subjects. Many of our guides, whether based in the Northwest or internationally, are born-and-raised locals, and open doors to the local culture that may otherwise remain closed. Every one of our guides adds immensely to the richness of the ROW travel experience. Part of supporting the communities we visit means supporting their local economy; hiring local guides is one way to do this.
Supporting Conservation Organizations
In addition to our own sustainable practices and community support, we work with other organizations that more directly help protect and conserve our natural world. We do this in a number of ways. Here are some examples:
One example of our international sustainable travel efforts is in the Galapagos Islands. Over the last few years, ROW’s guests have donated more than $35,000 to the International Galapagos Tour Operator’s Association (IGTOA) through a voluntary opt-in donation whenever they book a Galapagos trip.
Another example is our partnership with Idaho Rivers United. We are one of the largest supporters of this organization, and in addition to the time and money we donate, our guests are invited to support IRU’s river conservation efforts through our “pass through” program, which raises significant contributions each year.
We are actively involved with, and financially support, a handful of conservation groups, and we encourage you to visit their websites to learn more about issues facing responsible travel. We appreciate all that our guests do to support both these organizations, and any other conservation organizations they choose. We are all in this together to protect our beautiful planet and leave it fit for generations to come!