Responsible Tourism

At Selective Asia, we believe in environmentally and culturally responsible tourism. We work hard to ensure that our holidays create as little burden as possible on local communities and the environment, whilst ensuring that both we and all who travel with us are respectful of the people and cultures that welcome us. We do this by adhering to our own Responsible Tourism guidelines, and by providing comprehensive and accurate information to those who travel with us. To us, responsible tourism is not just a buzz word; it’s an essential part of travelling today. We find that reading some simple best-practice guidelines prior to departure can make a big difference while you're away, and you'll find these below. If you want to read our Responsible Travel policy, it's here.

What we can all collectively do: our 1, 2, 3 approach

1. Before you depart

  • Education is at the heart of our approach prior to your travels. We commit to ensuring that within the pages of this website, our Apps and the paperwork you receive, you will find all the necessary information and ideas to ensure that you can travel in a responsible and low or no impact manner. 
  • We actively choose local guides and drivers, and work only with local travel partners. By using local guides we can ensure that any information our clients are given is unbiased, current and genuine.
  • We insist that any travel partners we work with also adhere to our responsible travel policies. Our local partners put responsible tourism at the heart of everything they do. We work collaboratively with them to ensure an ongoing exchange of information, so we can all continue to improve our work around responsible tourism. 
  • We work with a range of fantastic accommodation options in Asia. While we work with many of the finest 5* brands, we also always include locally run properties where possible.
  • There are a number of inspiring social enterprises across Asia that we’re able to include visits to in our itineraries. Some of the most interesting eateries we include in our trips are vocational training restaurants, which offer training to locals from disadvantaged backgrounds and arm them with skills for work in the hospitality industry.
  • All our holidays that include visits to minority groups - often found in our more adventurous programmes - are set up with the locals’ interests at heart. We work with partners who do everything possible to ensure that the entire community benefits from your stay, not just one family.
  • Asia is home to a number of NGOs carrying out valuable work across various sectors including social, environmental and wildlife. We are able to support a select few of these which we believe are working in a positive way within the communities we operate in. Please take a look here for further information on the charities we choose to support.  
  • If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, just ask us and we’ll get it for you. With knowledge comes ability to make informed choices, and with this positive impact.
  • We use well maintained and suitably sized vehicles (we don’t drive large 50-seater vehicles; instead we use vehicles that are suitable for the size of your party).
  • We provide responsible tourism guidelines and suggestions to all our clients.


Take some time to research the destinations you are travelling to before you leave home. Find out about the specifics, these could be ecological, cultural or religious and ensure you understand how best to respect the local sensibilities. A great place to start is in our Departure Lounge section of the website (your password is provided when you make a booking).


When it comes to clothing, plan carefully and think about what may be considered offensive to others. When visiting temples and historical buildings it is essential that you cover your shoulders, sometimes your entire arm, and your knees. In all but the most touristy beach resorts it is never suitable to walk the streets or eat a meal in a bikini or just a pair of shorts. When packing try to avoid carrying products that are enclosed in disposable packaging - can you leave this packaging at home?

Further details on all of the above can be found in the Departure Lounge.

Caring for the environment starts at home

Often it's the little things that we forget:

  • Turn the fridge down
  • Cancel the newspapers
  • Turn off the hot water
  • Put lights on a timer rather than just leave on for security reasons
  • Unplug all unnecessary electrical items

Selective Earth Programme with the World Land Trust

World Land Trust

Why we don’t offer a standard carbon offset programme

We believe that for ‘carbon offsetting’ to be effective, it needs to be implemented as part of a broader set of responsible actions, otherwise it distracts from the real impact of flying on both the developing country, and the developed country. In order to truly contribute towards a healthier planet, we believe that putting our efforts into travelling responsibly, and donating towards conservation projects is a more responsible action than simply offsetting, which is why we’ve put together the Selective Earth Programme.

Selective Earth Programme in conjunction with the World Land Trust

We offer all our clients the opportunity to not only reduce their carbon footprint when flying, but also contribute towards conservation projects in Asia. To do this, we have teamed up with World Land Trust (WLT) an international conservation charity who we believe offer a correctly priced and effective solution to reducing the carbon impact of your flight, through actively conserving rainforest whilst supporting local communities. We work closely with the trust to identify which projects are a priority for funding, to ensure our donations keep on making a difference. We are currently contributing towards the conservation of the Khe Nuoc Trong forest, in Vietnam, as well as planting fruit trees in the surrounding communities.

How do I do this?

For just £9 each way (flights over 4000 miles) you can help reduce your carbon footprint as well as contribute to conservation projects in Asia. Selective Asia will pass 100% of your contribution onto WLT, which protects the world’s most biologically important and threatened habitats, working through a network of in-country partner organisations.

Where does my payment go?

You will help fund a WLT conservation project to protect 20,000 hectares of Lowland Forest in North-central Vietnam, Khe Nuoc Trong. Selective Asia has pledged £25,000 collected on behalf of its clients towards the on-going protection of Khe Nuoc Trong, from accumulative contributions from the past year, and to fund a fruit-tree planting pilot in the surrounding communities. Selective Asia also donates directly to reduce carbon footprint their own travels in the region. Find out more about World Land Trust’s Carbon Balanced programme, their projects and what they have already achieved.  

Read our 2017 progress report - click here

2. During your Selective Asia holiday


Always ask before taking a photo of anyone. Pointing at your camera with raised eyebrows will usually suffice. Respect your subject’s wishes if they decline your request - put yourself in their position and it doesn’t take long to work out why some may say no.

Having said that many people are more than happy for you to take a snap if only to be able to admire the picture you have just taken of them…the wonders of the digital camera! If you get the opportunity, make an extra print and you’ve got a friend for life. It is not good practise to offer any payment for taking someone’s photo. 


Try and learn a little, even just a basic greeting and thank you. You’ll find that people respond very well to this; the locals will appreciate the effort you are making and your attempts are often a great ice-breaker.  


In most instances, we strongly recommend you do not give money or other ‘gifts’ to beggars, no matter how hard it is to resist. Children miss out on a basic education because they are forced to beg by their parents. In the most extreme cases, they may even be deliberately maimed to increase their earning potential.
Your guide can point you in the direction of schools where you can make a more meaningful donation of pens or other equipment to. These donations actually reach the intended benefactors.

Monks receiving alms is not considered begging as the monasteries are supported by the local communities. Ask your guide or a local how to go about giving alms if you wish to. 

Religious Sites

  • Visitors to religious and historic sites should pay particular attention to the following:
  • Be sure to dress appropriately and follow local guidelines
  • Be mindful of your manners and respect local etiquette
  • Never remove anything from religious or historical sites: this constitutes theft, not a souvenir.

Wilderness & Wildlife

We appreciate that making absolutely no negative impact on the environment when travelling to Asia is simply not possible, however, we strive to minimise it. We rely on you and ask that you use common sense and follow local and international wilderness guidelines. 

  • If you carry it in, carry it out – please don’t dispose of litter along the way. This includes cigarette butts and used matches, as well as paper, plastic, clothing and food scraps. Fruit leftovers may be biodegradable but they are unsightly and can take a while to decompose. Carry a plastic bag to collect your litter during the day and take it away with you. And if you're happy to set a good example; pick up litter left by other, less considerate individuals.
  • Don't feed wild animals - food scraps should not be considered ‘biodegradable’. Be aware that rabies and other diseases are prevalent in many countries. Wild animals should never be touched, and we also strongly advise you to refrain from touching domestic animals such as cats and dogs.
  • When trekking and mountain biking you should stick to marked paths at all times. This is for your own safety and also helps to prevent unnecessary erosion.

Wilderness & Wildlife (cont)

  • Try to buy any basic products from the local communities you visit rather than carry them in. This helps to support the local economy in a small way.
  • The protection of water resources is vital. Please do everything possible to avoid polluting vital water sources when trekking and using home-stays. Ask your guide and locals to show you which water to wash and bath in.
  • Only use biodegradable soaps and shampoos that do not contain phosphates. Please avoid using soap and shampoo directly in any fresh water sources such as waterfalls or lakes.
  • If bathing or swimming, consider local sensibilities, both in terms of what you wear and the fact you are in ‘their’ water. Bathe downstream from water collection points and villages, and if you’re using shampoos and soaps, lather up and rinse well away from the water’s edge.
  • To discover more about our position on elephant camps and wildlife sactuaries please click here

Caring for the environment

At your hotel:

  • Request that your towels are replaced less regularly. Most hotels have a system in place for this.
  • Switch off the lights and air-conditioning when you leave your room.
  • Unplug any devices that you are charging before you go to bed.
  • Try exploring the streets instead of a sweating it out on a running machine.


On the streets:

  • Take care to not litter; most developing countries do not have a refuse collection system.
  • Avoid buying items in disposable packaging. Do you really need a carrier bag for that t-shirt?
  • Show people that you are concerned. In the west we are often more informed on these matters than in Asia.

Sex Tourism

An unfortunate by-product of travel in some developing nations is sex tourism. Selective Asia wishes to advise all its guests to give anything of this kind a very wide berth. Enough said.  


When bartering don’t try and squeeze every last penny out of the deal. You are expected to raise your initial offer at least once and in most cases several times. Make a game out of it and you’ll come to enjoy the experience. A tip is to think about the value of the item to you rather than the priceGive yourself a reality check every now and again and you’ll realise that you are probably sticking over 50p…very little to you and I but a vital profit margin for the seller. 

People, Customs and Etiquette

Wow, a minefield… Asia is overflowing with customs and particular etiquettes. Please try and adhere to these where possible and practical. In truth it’s half the fun of travelling in Asia and not only will local people feel respected, they will respect you in return, allowing you to enjoy a fuller travel experience. You are in their back yard, remember. 

  • Don’t be surprised if local people, especially in more remote regions, treat you with a touch of curiosity, even suspicion at times. Keep an open mind and learn from each experience. One of the great benefits of a Selective Asia holiday is that you won’t be turning up with 15 other camera-wielding tourists and ‘taking over’ the village for half a day… as a private 'group' you’ll do a much better job of blending in!
  • You may find you are asked questions by locals that seem direct. We’ve been asked how many children we have, how old we are, if we’re married, what our salary is, and more on numerous occasions. Try to realize this is simply a way for many to practice their English and open a conversation with someone from a culture they don’t know. Also privacy can mean something very different in Asia and the norm is to be married and practice a religion. It’s up to you how or if you answer these questions – we recommend with good humour! 
  • Please respect local customs. Read up before you go and you can always ask your guide, or a local, once you are there. In all but the most remote areas, people understand that you come from a different culture and any errors you make will most likely be met with laughter.
  • Nudity, scanty or inappropriate dress often causes offence. Modest dress will help minimize the risk of sexual harassment, and will help to ensure both you and future visitors are treated with respect.
  • Formalities such as greetings can be quite different to what you are used to. It’s never a problem to offer your hand but it may be found very amusing – again, take your lead from the locals.
  • Please be aware that public displays of affection are taboo in many communities.
  • Try not to lose your temper in public, it is considered very rude by many Asian people and should be avoided at all costs. Save the argument for the hotel room.
  • Likewise, never turn bartering into argument - it will not benefit you. Throughout Asia a tradesperson will never be seen to lose face by buckling to the demands of an red-faced tourist.
  • Abide by all the laws of the country and community you’re visiting… they apply to everyone.
  • Children are not tourist attractions. We advocate the work of and are moving away from including visits to children’s centres, orphanages and schools. We wouldn’t accept tourists visiting these intuitions in our own countries and hope this way of thinking is the same for our clients in Asia.

Water consumption

You will find that the vast majority of drinking water in Asia is supplied in plastic bottles and it is important that you dispose of these responsibly. Asia is straining under the levels of waste that it generates but there are ample opportunities to recycle both cans and plastic water bottles. 

Whenever possible, re-use water bottles by refilling from a safe supply such as from your hotel (if drinking water is provided). Discover more about the work that we, along with our key partners, have been doing to combat the plastics issues in Asia, please read more

Martin G, tailor-made Asia specialist

Try to remember, the western 'way' is not necessarily always the right way.

Martin G, tailor-made Asia specialist

3. Upon your return

It’s all down to sharing your knowledge with others at this stage. Any information, hints and tips that you can pass on ensures that those following in your footsteps will be better educated and more responsible.

You may also want to make donations to groups and charities that work in the region you have visited. For further details on a select number of organisations that we believe are truly making a difference to peoples lives and animal welfare, as well as helping to sustain communities, please click here. Your donations and help are always very much appreciated.

Heritage Friendly Campaign of Cambodia

Heritage Friendly Campaign of Cambodia

We are very proud to have been awarded Silver Status by the Heritage Friendly Campaign of Cambodia. We believe that it is essential to care and respect the destinations we work in. This award reflects the efforts we have made within Cambodia.

The award certifies that, amongst other things, we:

  • Educate our clients on the importance of protecting Cambodia's heritage.
  • Ensure all our employees are educated about heritage preservation.
  • Actively promote good tourism practice, imparting information to guests that is beneficial to the environment, heritage, arts and culture.
  • Support social development programs such as sports activities for the youth, education and literacy programs as well as other projects helping underprivileged Cambodians.
  • Are involved with community projects providing support for underprivileged Cambodians.
  • Promote new Cambodian destinations, helping to ensure income from tourism reaches the areas that need it most.
Responsible tourism is not just the right way to travel but the only way