Discova Responsible Travel Report 2022/23

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Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023


Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Discova’s Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023 Foreword Discova’s Responsible Travel Working Group Environmental Initiatives Reusable Water Bottles Biodegradable Wet Tissues Animal Initiatives Protect the Animals Animal Audits Supplier Realignment Training and Awareness ABTA’s Animal Welfare Working Group Voice to the Voiceless Social Initiatives Child Protection Local Guide Ambassador Program A Student Dormitory in Luang Prabang Province, Laos Water for Om Goi Village, Chiang Mai, Thailand Educational Travel A Learning Hub for Knapor, Siem Reap, Cambodia Happy Libraries Covid Relief in Phuket, Thailand Covid Relief in Vietnam Volunteer Days Technology Sponsorships Economic Initiatives Social Enterprises Locally Owned Businesses and Initiatives 4 Ways You Can Help Support and Promote Responsible Tourism in Asia or the Americas

3 5 10 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 19 20 22 24 26 28 30 34 36 38 38 39 39 40 41 48 57

Foreword We are in this industry because we love travel and the experiences it provides others. We are also very aware that the tourism industry is a mammoth, with critical influence on the environment, people and economy. It is our responsibility to manage that influence and ensure that the industry’s impact on our planet is sustainable and ethical. As a global DMC, Discova feels compelled and passionate about committing to that responsibility in a holistic way. That is why we orientate our business and initiatives around three key pillars: environmental (including wildlife), social, and economic responsibility. Despite the challenges we faced during the pandemic, we continued to commit to those pillars and sustainable development in the incredible communities we work with. In that time, we raised funds for and completed a water filtration system in Om Goi, Thailand, built a dormitory in Laos, opened more Happy Libraries in Vietnam, and initiated new community projects in Cambodia and Bali, amongst others. It is thanks to the dedication and compassion of our staff and partners, that I can proudly introduce the second edition of Discova’s Responsible Travel Report and the initiatives herein. Suyin Lee Managing Director

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Discova’s Responsible Travel Working Group To support our efforts and turn objectives into reality, Discova established a Responsible Travel Working Group (RTWG). Comprised of passionate employees from all areas of the company, our ever-growing team is responsible for planning new – as well as expanding existing – sustainability initiatives and holding each destination accountable for implementing these projects locally.

Say hello to some key members of Discova’s RTWG

Michaela Connor Regional Peopleworks Leade Child Protection & Gender Equality Advocate Michaela is from Sweden by way of New Zealand and works in our Phuket office as part of Discova’s Peopleworks team. Mother of two, Michaela is dedicated to protecting children from the negative impacts of tourism. She has diligently implemented child protection initiatives into all aspects of our business, and alongside the Social Committee, she also champions for gender equality across all Discova destinations. As a by-product, we proudly support the Women’s Empowerment Principles Signatory.

James Duquette Partner Experience Manager Wildlife Advocate James is from Vietnam by way of California, and has lived in France, Scotland, and Cameroon. He is passionate about animals and wildlife, and at home has two cats who at times think they are tigers. He is dedicated to the wildlife system at Discova and firmly believes that through cooperation and education, we can improve the welfare of wildlife throughout the world.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Phen Phoy Guide Academy Trainer Local Guide Ambassador Program Originating from Battambang, Cambodia, Phen has a background in education and is actually a trained and credentialed English teacher. After more than five years with Discova in various teams, Phen has returned to his calling: teaching. In Siem Reap, he has taken the lead on launching the new Academy for Local Guide Ambassadors, modelled on Discova’s successful pilot project in Indonesia. Phen is a friendly and kind individual who is passionate about helping our communities and improving the opportunities afforded to his fellow Khmer.

Chi Ngo Educational Travel Executive Educational Travel Superstar Chi is from Ho Chi Minh City and has a strong passion for helping her community. With a long history of volunteering, Chi has been involved in community development from a very young age. Her community spirit, combined with a love for travel, new cuisines and helping others, intertwines perfectly with Discova’s Educational Travel team. Chi is a major driving force for all of our Educational Travel projects, especially Discova’s work in the Mekong Delta.

Sina Lorn Assistant Country Manager, Cambodia Economic Opportunities Advocate Sina joined the Discova team in 2011 as a sales and reservations executive, after working in the travel and service industry in other roles and igniting her passion for tourism in the process. She had been promoted within Discova several times before taking on her role as Assistant Country Manager in Cambodia. Sina is a strong advocate for responsible tourism and takes pride in connecting local enterprises with opportunities for their growth and development.

Tu Anh Le Regional Product Manager Social Enterprises Advocate Tu Anh grew up in Vietnam at a time when people’s greatest concerns were feeding their families. Her parents considered travel to be a luxury and unnecessary, but she has always had a deep desire to see different cultures, environments, and people. Tu Anh joined Discova in Vietnam in 2014 and has since taken on various roles throughout the region. Through her passion for sustainable travel, Tu Anh continuously helps drive business to social enterprises with innovative new product developments.

Andrew Howells Operational Risk Officer Responsibility Inspector Andrew is an avid traveller, having been to over 50 countries around the world. He is just as at ease experiencing the sights of a big city as he is exploring remote, off-the-path regions taking in the natural wonders on display. An Australian, Andrew spent six years living in Northeast China and some time in Hong Kong, and is now based in Bangkok, Thailand. Andrew’s responsibilities include on-site inspections across Discova’s range of suppliers to ensure they meet our requirements.

Peter Christiansen Global Director of Operations Plastic-Free Pro

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Peter comes from Denmark by way of Indonesia, and has made his life on the Island of the Gods. A driving force in the RT team, Peter had an epiphany after seeing the amount of rubbish that touring produces – he said “this must stop” in Indonesia. Now in a global role as Director of Operations from July 2022, it will be one of Peter’s main missions to attempt to halt consumption of single-use plastics at Discova.

Sonia Sancho Regional People and Culture Leader for Discova Americas The Passionate Eco Student Sonja was born and raised in Costa Rica, where she worked with Discova in several teams before becoming Country Manager in 2019. In 2021 she transitioned to her current role, and now lives in Cancun, Mexico. She still loves to trek in Costa Rica’s national parks when she visits, and is a big animal lover and mom to an American Staffy. Sonia studied Ecological Tourism, and loves being able to combine her passion for the environment and travel at Discova. What is especially gratifying to her is to see travel products being developed that help communities to grow, that are also aligned with the sustainable use of natural resources.

Simon Lindsay Regional General Manager Americas Responsible Travel Advocate Originating from Scotland, Simon currently lives in Mexico and is working his way around visiting all the countries of the world. He is an advocate for mitigating the environmental impacts of tourism and seeks to introduce responsible travel policies across the product range in our Americas destinations. To achieve these goals, he works closely with suppliers to analyse sustainable ways of collaborating to protect the natural beauty of the destinations we operate in.

Yumiko Sato IDS Leader Costa Rica Environment Advocate Yumiko comes from a diverse background, born in the USA to a Belgian mother and Japanese father, and with that came an appreciation for diversity and its connection to travel. She is currently based in Costa Rica, and despite her outspoken and social nature, revels in the tranquility of hikes in the region’s mountains and national parks. She is passionate about connecting travellers with the priceless beauty of these sights in responsible, mindful ways.

Bryant Garcia Product & Contracting Manager Costa Rica The Forest Lover Bryant was born in Arenal and now lives in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, with his wife and daughter. When he’s not playing soccer in his freetime, he spends time with his family visiting Guanacaste’s stunning beaches or taking part in environmental activities, like forest cleanups. Bryant studied ecotourism, so it’s no surprise he’s deeply invested and passionate about environmental conservation. He loves walking through Costa Rica’s forests and educating others on ecological issues, and has even provided environmental talks for children in schools in Guanacaste.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Environmental Initiatives

Through travel, we have the opportunity to see and experience our wonderful world, but with this privilege also comes the responsibility to look after our planet, care for the environment and all its inhabitants, and preserve its natural beauty for future generations. One of the most urgent environmental challenges in the travel industry is plastic waste. We are committed to lessening our contribution to the problem and are continuously expanding our initiatives in single-use plastic reduction. We aim to replace these with environmentally-friendly alternatives across our destinations.

Reusable Water Bottles To ensure the well-being of travellers, tour operators must supply fresh, clean, and cool water. However, providing every guest with several disposable water bottles is one of the biggest contributing factors to unsustainable plastic waste. The challenge is two-fold: we need to ensure customers have reusable water bottles, and provide them with the regular opportunity to refill them. To minimise this impact on our environment, we encourage all travellers to bring reusable water bottles on their trips and offer all our partners custom-branded bottles for a small charge. Five of our biggest partners have agreed to switch to reusable water bottles.

To refill these bottles, we have pioneered the use of on-coach water by introducing custom designed ‘cooler bags’ for 19-litre water containers. These cooler bags allow us to provide mobile water refill stations for our customers, and we are committed to having these available in 90% of our destinations.

More sustainable alternative to styrofoam

Easily stored and transported

Environmental Initiatives

Allows for ice, so we can provide cool water – a major challenge!

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

In addition, we have partnered with the app and NGO, RefillMyBottle, to help our FIT customers locate places where they can fill up their bottles with clean drinking water at anytime, whether they are on a Discova-operated tour or not. To complement this, we have partnered with key hotels to install additional refill stations in their lobbies. We commit to offering this project in 90% of our destinations and make it available to all our customers and partners by end 2022.

In Thailand, we have also trialled recyclable glass bottles for FIT transfers for several months. Despite saving hundreds of singleuse plastic bottles, the project was not as successful as planned, but we will continue to search for new alternatives to reduce our contribution to plastic waste.

Single-use plastic bottles saved



bottles saved



bottles saved



bottles saved

Since the initiation of the project in 2017 and until Covid hit our industry in late 2019, we prevented the use of 565,488 single-use plastic bottles, or the equivalent of over 15 tons of plastic waste. Our current target for the FY 2023 is a reduction of 250,000 single-use plastic water bottles.

Biodegradable Wet Tissues Plastic-wrapped wet tissues are ubiquitous in many of our destinations. To reduce our footprint, we have sourced a biodegradable and package-free alternative. By using bamboo-based compressed napkins, moistened with hypoallergenic natural essences, we are able to offer a service that is not only better for the environment, but also provides a better experience for our travellers. In the past couple of years, we have successfully implemented this initiative in a variety of countries and are committed to expanding our eco-friendly tissues to at least 90% of our destinations by the end of 2022. • • • •

Made from bamboo Non-toxic and hypoallergenic Expand by adding water 100% biodegradable

Since 2019, we have replaced a total of 225,446 plasticwrapped wet napkins, which corresponds to almost 1 ton of saved plastic waste. Our current target for FY 2023 is a reduction of another 250,000.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Animal Initiatives

Encounters with animals are standard local practice within the tourism industry; protection and betterment of care for the world’s animals is a key focus for Discova and we believe that animalfriendly tourism is both possible and necessary. As part of our commitment to wildlife, we have set standards for practices we will and will not allow. Discova has a clear supplier selection and audit process, as well as transparent feedback and a whistleblowing process to report violations. With this system, we commit to following best practices for the industry and require that our suppliers adhere to those standards too.

Protect the Animals Often, travellers hope to have an encounter with local wildlife during their travels, the experience of coming face-to-face with a wild animal being something exceptional. From orangutans in the Bornean rainforest and Asian elephants in the jungle, to whale sharks in Mexico and sloths in Costa Rica’s canopy treetops, these encounters can be an extraordinary element to a trip – but only if the animals are treated ethically.

Animal Initiatives Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Animal Audits In 2017, Discova partnered with Travelife – a leading training, management and certification initiative for tourism companies committed to reaching sustainability – to develop and pioneer an innovative Elephant Camp Audit. That initiative has proven successful in improving conditions for elephants throughout Asia. Since then, we have continued independently to expand the scope of awareness to include a larger variety of animals, many of which may be encountered throughout our global operations.

Supplier Realignment When our suppliers do not align with our goals, our focus is to move them toward best practices and improving conditions for animals. We prefer to maintain relationships and channels of communication with stakeholders, because to remove ourselves from supplier relationships means we no longer have any influence over positive change. For smaller businesses, we also consider the social and economic impact that our decisions may have.

Animal Initiatives Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Training and Awareness Discova has made strong commitments as part of its animal initiatives, and to ensure those commitments are adhered to, we have maintained a strong training pathway. Over the last two years, Discova has invested 328 working hours in animal protection awareness with the end-goal of alignment and momentum in going Contact Free by 2023.

ABTA’s Animal Welfare Working Group Discova’s wildlife advocate James Duquette attends ABTA’s Animal Welfare Working Group quarterly calls. During these virtual meetings, tour operators, agents and one other DMC pose questions and new ideas for the better implementation of animal protection in the tourism industry.

Voice to the Voiceless Discova has used its reputation as an industry-leading DMC to provide a voice to the voiceless. In cooperation with Four Paws, a leading animal welfare organisation, Discova pledged its support to ending the dog and cat meat trade in central Vietnam – as a result of Four Paws’ efforts, local government in Hoi An signed an agreement to that effect. We look forward to more cooperation with Four Paws moving forward.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Social Initiatives

We connect people and places with a world of possibilities, a purpose we hold true for not only our partners and travellers, but also for our local communities. To move towards a more socially inclusive industry, we seek to establish the means by which tourism development benefits disadvantaged communities and helps preserve local culture.

Social Initiatives Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Child Protection The wellbeing and welfare of children in our communities is one of our biggest priorities. We believe that children are not tourist attractions, and for several years have been working in close collaboration with key NGOs in the field to improve the standards of child protection in the travel industry. As part of our commitment to child protection, Discova has:

Banned all orphanage tourism and disruptive school visits and will not include such experiences in any product or marketing.

Created a detailed Child Protection Policy which includes guidance for Discova staff and customers about how best to protect children in our destinations.

Committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure broad awareness of the steps that must be taken to safeguard the future of our children.

Continuous Efforts Discova’s Child Protection Policy is a key part of our onboarding process with all new employees; all policies are easily accessible via our intranet and online learning platform to provide more depth and clarification when needed. We ensure tour guides who work on community projects involving children, undergo police checks prior to starting work and have the knowledge and confidence to create a safe environment for both local and visiting children. To ensure the safety of children travelling with us, seatbelts and car seats are offered in all Discova destinations. In addition to this, all product contracts have a ChildSafe clause, and trips not suitable for children will be specified when making a booking.

We became one of the first global DMCs to become a ChildSafe certified business in all the destinations we operate in. Our Asia teams completed their certifications in January 2021, and our Americas teams followed in November 2021.

Since becoming certified we have:

Implemented a ChildSafe Policy and Photograph and Media Guidelines across our business and shared with the homestays we contract.

Raised ChildSafe awareness through sessions facilitated by our Discova ChildSafe Ambassadors in all our contracted homestays across Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Facilitated ChildSafe awareness sessions for freelancing tour guides to ensure they follow the guidelines and are aware of the 7 tips for travellers.

Included principles for child protection in our supplier contracts.

Social Initiatives Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Local Guide Ambassador Program A common challenge for many people throughout our destinations is the lack of access to education and the difficulty finding meaningful employment. To further support local communities and marginalised groups, Discova has developed the Local Guide Ambassador Program to increase the social inclusiveness in the tourism industry. We strongly believe that sharing knowledge and creating employment are among the best ways to impact society positively.

The program’s six-month education scholarship is divided into an intensive three-month curriculum of classes, including history, geography, and English, as well as three months of practical experience and specialised workshops. During the program, participants receive a monthly allowance, accommodation, insurance, and all materials, and are provided with one year of paid work experience and an official guide license at the end of the course. After having been launched in Indonesia, this hugely successful program is being expanded to Cambodia and other destinations.

Number of program graduates

“I feel lucky to have been part of the Local Guide Ambassador Program – it changed my life and that of many other young people who participated in Bali. Not only did we receive a living allowance, but we learnt from passionate lecturers. I’ve been working with Discova for two years now and they have continuously supported my career as a tour guide.” – Hulu Wayan Mahendra, Tour guide in Bali, awarded with Discova’s Top Tour Guide Award in 2019

READ MORE Did You Know About Our Guide Academy?

Social Initiatives Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

A Student Dormitory in Luang Prabang Province, Laos In 2018, we began the ambitious project of building a much-need dormitory for a high school in Pak Xeng district. Over 40,000 USD in funds were raised through various activities. The school is located in a rural, remote area of Laos. Many of the almost-1,000 students here commute a considerable distance from the ethnic hill tribe villages in the surrounding mountains. Since they travel a long distance, they reside at the school during the week.

In 2018, their accommodation consisted of bamboo huts adjacent to the school itself. Between 6 and 9m², these small huts leaked during the rainy season and got extremely cold during the winter. What’s more, 114 of these small huts were home to nearly 400 students. Construction began in November 2018, and, despite some hurdles along the way (the school’s remote location and the pandemic), the dormitory was completed at the beginning of 2022. Students now have a comfortable environment in which to enjoy their studies.

READ MORE Discova Project Update: Dormitory Building Finished in Laos (FEB 22)

“On behalf of all teachers and students, I am tremendously grateful for the kind support received from Discova and the international schools they partner with that have helped support the construction of a concrete dormitory building for our students. While they used to live in cramped and uncomfortable bamboo huts in the past, they are now ecstatic to have a large, safe and comfortable dormitory. We sadly don’t have anything to give back to everyone who was involved and supported us, except a HUGE THANK YOU!” – Mr. Thongphan, Director of the beneficiary high school in Pak Xeng district

Social Initiatives

Water for Om Goi Village, Chiang Mai, Thailand In October 2021, we began raising funds to make a much-needed water filtration system a reality in San Mamuang, Om Goi district, Thailand.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023


In October 2021, we began raising funds to make a much-needed water filtration system a reality During our Walk for Water challenge in November We walked or ran

10,000 km in


Goal: 10,000 USD We exceeded this goal and raised 11,953 USD In March, construction of the filtration system was completed, and local villagers can now enjoy access to safe, clean water. We will continue to do maintenance on the system for the next 5-10 years, using contributions of 15-20 USD/ family/year from local villagers and the village fund generated from Discova Education Travel (DET) bookings to Om Goi.

READ MORE 10,000km in 10 Days: Bringing Clean Water to Om Goi (SEP 2021) Bringing Clean Water to Om Goi (NOV 2021) The Om Goi Water Filtration System Comes to Completion! (MAR 2022)

Social Initiatives

Educational Travel

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Our Educational Travel Team works closely with rural communities to develop inclusive and sustainable tourism projects that are designed to alleviate poverty, preserve local culture, and protect the environment. Discova’s Educational Travel (DET) Team support this through: • Educational services • Project management services • Job creation • Local entrepreneurship development • Community micro-credit funds • Community health promotion To turn these opportunities into reality, we partner with schools, universities, special agents and adult groups from around the world, and craft immersive trips and unique hands-on experiences that are mutually beneficial for communities and educational groups. By offering professional, free-of-charge project management services, our educational travel experts not only ensure our clients and their visiting groups contribute effectively to the economic and social development of the communities they visit, but that 100% of their donations go directly to the project.

Projects are a limited activity to achieve a specific goal within a specified time frame. This might entail building a school or other village infrastructure or providing healthcare services. Over the years, Discova has successfully set up five major project sites across four countries – Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos – and we will continue to expand our innovative educational travel services to more destinations throughout the world.

Until Covid hit in 2019, the Discova Educational Travel Team successfully managed Educational Travel Projects Totalling 166,903 USD Effectively creating thousands of working days for local villagers, paying a total of 31,351 USD in wages

Community Development Projects Knapor and Chansar, Cambodia

Construction of 5 new classrooms for a secondary school

Seuang River, Lao PDR

Pak Xeng Water Tank Pak Xeng High School Dormitory (on going)

Om Goi, Thailand

San Ma Muong Village Water Supply Playground at Tung Loi school

Mai Chau, Vietnam

Bao La Community Farm Access Happy Library Community Health Education x 6 Khai Cai Village road & playground

Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Social Initiatives

Vinh Long Social Housing Building Projects x10 Ben Tre Social Housing Building Projects x 1 Community Health Education x 1

Project Costs


$2,558 $13,654

$4,480 $789

$39,166 $770 $13,000 $7,422

$25,000 $2,500 $4,800 $166,903

Community Employment (direct to villagers) Village cooks


Culture activities


Traditional music & dance performances


Local guides


Blessing ceremonies


Miscellaneous payments to local communities

(transportation, support services, security)

$9,821 $31,351

For FY 2023, our DET team is eagerly looking forward to support our local communities once again by targeting similar numbers as the ones represented above, as now most of our borders have fully reopened.

For an overview on some of the educational projects our DET team have completed in Mai Chau, Northern Vietnam, and how they have positively impacted the lives of the local communities, watch the video:


Social Initiatives Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

A Learning Hub for Knapor, Siem Reap, Cambodia Our DET team has been working with the Knapor community near Siem Reap, Cambodia, for 10 years now, largely providing infrastructure and educational support. The community has developed significantly in that time, but we identified one more need here: a learning centre for the local Forest School. The school was established in 2018 by a local English teacher, who provides free extracurricular English and environmental awareness classes to the 60-80 students, aged 8-15 years old, who attend.

We have now begun building a much-needed learning hub, which will be completed August 2022. The hub will include a 18m² library and a 42m² sheltered classroom with walls. With funds raised by educational travel groups who visit the community, left-over donations from our Walk for Water campaign, and construction support from current and future visiting educational groups, this project and its long-term impact is now becoming a reality.

READ MORE Discova’s New Community Development Projects in Cambodia

Budgets Building Structure

13,500 USD Student Books

940 USD Total Budget

14,440 USD

Social Initiatives Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Happy Libraries The Discova Happy Library Project is a small project aimed at providing books for local children in the remote villages of Northern Vietnam’s Mai Chau District. About a four-hours’ drive from Hanoi, the average person’s income here is around 60 USD per month, which barely covers basic needs. The only bookstore is located 30 kilometres from the villages, and the selection of reading material in the local school is also limited. After working with different communities for several years, Discova has been raising funds to buy books and set up ‘micro libraries’ at local community houses in several villages. Open 2-3 times per week, these libraries give local children access to a large variety of books which contribute to the development of their reading and learning skills.

Throughout 2022, Discova has funded two more Happy Libraries for a total sum of 2000 USD Happy Libraries with a total of 5,110 books to support Children in our communities

READ MORE Happy Library Update: A Book is not just for Christmas

Testimonials “Thanks so much for sharing the blog on our “Happy Library” Christmas donation. There’s a sense of pride and validation in our decision to partner up with Discova when we see initiatives such as this. It’s a breath of fresh air to be working with wonderful partners that prioritize CSR and make meaningful impact on a local level for communities in need.” – Mark Perera, Kensington Travel

“Thank you for making this library book/ furniture donation in our name! What an amazing cause. I’m proud to work with a DMC that takes CSR so seriously.” – Sky Emery, Wendy Wu Tours

Covid Relief in Phuket, Thailand During the Covid-19 pandemic, we learned that a little really can go a long way. In Phuket, our staff saw that the surrounding community was struggling with the absence of previously generated tourism income. The solution? Through workplace giving, our Phuket office raised enough money to buy and prepare food bags for those in need.

Social Initiatives

One ‘Life Bag’ would feed a family of 4 for 4 days, and in May and June 2021 we succeeded in providing food for 153 and 139 families, respectively.

Covid Relief in Vietnam

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

In Vietnam, Discova provided and fundraised approximately 5535 USD for Covid relief during the pandemic. The funds were used to:

• •

Give selected Vietnamese guides and their families much-needed financial assistance. Repaint a three-story building of a school for children with special needs. The 88 students began a new semester with freshly painted classrooms. Donate to the KOTO Dream Ride in 2022, to make their summer trip to Hue and Hoi An a reality and to support KOTO in their recovery post-pandemic.

Volunteer Days Responsible travel starts with us. To make a positive impact on the communities in which we live, work and travel, all Discova employees are given one day of paid volunteer leave per year. Whether individually or in the form of a team outing, this day can be used to volunteer at any registered charity in line with our pillars of responsibility.

Technology Sponsorships A few of the beneficiaries of our most recent technology sponsorships and donations:

Chansar School, Siem Reap Cambodia Discova provided 15 laptops as well as internet access for 2021 & 2022

Tan Mai School, Northern Vietnam Discova provided the school with 2 printers, 2 laptops and a desktop computer

Manggis Women Farmers Group, Bali, Indonesia Discova helped facilitate a donation for 2 machines for the community to produce organic coconut oil

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Economic Initiatives

Social Enterprises We recognise that in many destinations, there are points in the supply chain where we can maximise the value of every dollar spent by partnering with social enterprises. These businesses serve a vital role in funding responsible development and supporting socially inclusive vocational training for hospitality and tourism industries. By incorporating an ever-increasing number of social enterprises into our supply chain, we are able to support businesses that contribute to sustainable local development and provide more opportunities for marginalised members of our communities.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Economic Initiatives

Below are a few of the social enterprises we support throughout our destinations:

Mexico Communidad Yaxunah

Laos Buffalo Dairy Farm

Vietnam Immersion with a Green Family

Thailand Vocational Training Center of Chiang Mai Women Correctional Institution

Vietnam KOTO Villa

Myammar Inle Heritage

Hong Kong La Parole



Golden Silk Pheach

Suan Sampran – Patom Organic products

Cambodia Phare, The Cambodian Circus

Malaysia PichaEats

Indonesia Muntigunung Community Development Program

Myanmar Inle Heritage Inle Heritage is a non-profit organisation that preserves the cultural and natural wealth of the Inle region, and helps it to thrive as a place to visit, work and live. The organisation also provides alternative education for Burmese youth. Here, they are taught about responsible tourism and sustainable development of agricultural practices that aim to have minimum negative impact on the environment. The Inle Heritage restaurant offers cooking classes with chefs that have gained their skills through vocational training.


Economic Initiatives

Buffalo Dairy Farm This socially responsible business is a collaboration between international and local individuals – funded, owned and managed jointly. It provides a range of economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses, including producing cheese and ice cream from dairy-producing buffaloes, land rental income, educational support to cattle farmers to improve their yield, improved animal welfare, and job opportunities for local communities. We have developed a unique product here so that travellers can enjoy highlight activities and sights in the area, and also take part in a hands-on, local farming experience to support the aims of the business’ projects.

Hong Kong Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

La Parole La Parole is a high-end French cuisine restaurant that was opened by social enterprise, Confiserie Benji Limited. The revenue generated by the restaurant, after deducting necessary expenses, is contributed to Benji’s Centre. Benji’s Centre was found in 2004 and is the first and only charitable organisation providing specialised professional speech therapy to children and teenagers with communication challenges, especially those from low-income families, in Hong Kong. The centre provides over 250 children (70% of which enjoy free treatment) with intensive individual therapies and has helped more than 900 children since its establishment.

Vietnam Immersion with a Green Family Near popular Hoi An, a local company supports a family by offering a unique tour to their home, away from the town’s mass tourism. Our clients’ travellers get privileged insight into rural life here. They share in some of the family’s daily rituals, like cooking, cycling and farming, and visit the surrounding countryside, local crafters, and enjoy a boat ride among the fields. Travellers will learn how this family became self-sufficient and take part in some of their organic farming tasks. Discova also offers an exclusive menu here, designed by the family.

Vietnam KOTO Villa Dining with social impact. KOTO Villa is a training restaurant by a notfor-profit social enterprise that empowers at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam. They provide a holistic 2-year hospitality training program that incorporates both vocation training and life skills. With an emphasis on fresh, aromatic ingredients that is beautifully plated, the restaurant and its students take pride in presenting some of the best dishes Vietnam has to offer.

Indonesia Muntigunung Community Development Program Back in 2004, Muntigunung was one of the poorest areas in Bali. Families had no access to water and had to walk for an average of four hours just to fetch the precious necessity, and many women and children were forced to beg in the tourist areas in the south of the island to ensure their survival. In 2006, in an effort to provide a more sustainable and brighter future for the Muntigunung community, Future for Children – a Swiss backed NGO – together with Yayasan Dian Desa, initiated the Muntigunung Community Development Program. Three social enterprises were established to develop the area’s economy: Muntigunung Community Social Enterprise (Food), Muntigunung Community Social Handicrafts Enterprise and Muntigunung Trekking. Profits from these social enterprises are reinvested, creating more job opportunities within the local area, offering local people the chance to earn a dignified income and for families to stay together.

Mexico Communidad Yaxunah Communidad Yaxunah is a small Mayan community of 700 inhabitants who work together to maintain ancient Mayan traditions and educate tourists on the unique ways of Mayan culture. The tourism group is both men- and womenled, and consists of three groups: Lol Kum, Compadres, and the Yaxunah Tourist Parador, who provide cabin accommodations, food, and activities in the community. Here, travellers can observe traditional ways of cooking and the creation of artisanal products. The village also has its own archaeological site (just 25 minutes from Chichen Itza) and cenote.


Economic Initiatives

PichaEats This exciting social enterprise is a fusion food catering company that seeks to support refugees in Malaysia who have cooking abilities but lack access to employment empowerment. PichaEats identifies refugee families or individuals who can cook, trains them to become professional chefs, and then markets, sells and delivers the food they make to customers. Discova travellers have the opportunity to learn culinary skills from the chefs, share their dining table and learn about the fascinating journeys of survival that brought them to PichaEats.

Cambodia Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Golden Silk Pheach Golden Silk Pheach offers professional opportunities to the local community, (primarily women) with large households to support. The project has provided more than 100 women with the skills to secure a regular income in its silkproducing centre. The preservation centre uses traditional silk production techniques with equipment manufactured entirely on-site. Here, we have created a product called “Siem Reap Behind the Scenes (Empowering Women)”, during which travellers can learn about the art of Khmer silk-making whilst interacting with the women and gaining insights into local village life.

Cambodia Phare, The Cambodian Circus More than just a circus, Phare performers use theatre, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern. Phare artists are students and graduates from Phare Ponleu Selpak, a non-profit art school. The association was formed in 1994 by nine young men returning home from a refugee camp after the Khmer Rouge regime. Today, more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the alternative schools. Phare Ponleu Selpak also has extensive outreach programs, trying to help with the problems highlighted in their own tales. Discova has supported this NGO since the beginning. We support them by promoting it and adding it to our programs in Siem Reap and Battambang wherever possible.

Thailand Vocational Training Center of Chiang Mai Women Correctional Institution This vocational training centre offers women inmates the opportunity to develop skills involving handicrafts. The women produce local crafts such as northern sarongs, home decorations made of cotton, crochet items, curtains, slippers and more. Here, we include a rickshaw explorer activity and stop at the ChuanChom Kitchen for snacks and drinks.

Thailand Suan Sampran – Patom Organic products The founder of the Sampran Model Movement operates under the Sookjai Foundation and supports farmers to switch from conventional to organic farming practices. The movement is also responsible for finding new marketing channels for these farmers and for supporting the direct relationship between farmers and consumers. Our clients’ travellers can visit the organic farm and take part in cooking classes and workshops during half-day excursions from Bangkok.

Locally Owned Businesses and Initiatives Our team lives and works in the places we operate in. Discova is committed to prioritising locally owned businesses and maximising the amount of revenue that stays within our communities in order to support sustainable community development. In this way, we are able to make a greater positive impact on the destinations in which we work, live and travel.

Economic Initiatives

We have gone so far as to improve our systems so that users can ‘flag’ locally owned businesses, making it easier for Sales and Reservations staff to locate and include these within itineraries. At Discova, our goal is that 80% of our revenue goes to locally owned businesses and enterprises.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Local Life Product Our on-the-ground experts have crafted a range of ‘Local Life’ tours, designed to help inject maximum revenue into local economies. The revenue is to be directed into local businesses and communities that would otherwise not receive this, so that they too can benefit from tourism income. We do this by creating experiences and excursions that often include lesser-known local charms, and venture off the tourist track and into the authentic heart of a destination.

A few highlights of our Local Life product offerings

Authentic Guanacastecan Culture, Guenacaste, Costa Rica Full-day tour

Travellers spend the day immersed in learning all about Costa Rican coffee and other delights at Finca de Tío Leo. Welcomed by the owner himself, guests are shown the behind-the-scenes process of coffee production. Tastings accompanied by “empanada” are included. Highlights • • •

Meeting charismatic local farmer Tio Leo Learning how to make empanada and chocolate tasting Coffee roasting process and sampling

Discova the Difference Learning from Tio Leo himself, there is no better way to experience a famous Costa Rican product, accompanied by a delicious lunch. Travellers complete their day with a visit to an artisanal village to observe local art forms made from sand collecting.

Economic Initiatives

Community Village Tour, Siem Reap, Cambodia Full-day tour

Spend a day amidst the peaceful landscape of rural Cambodia. Accompanied by a local guide, explore the rustic area and witness firsthand the benefits of community-based tourism. Make traditional crafts like reed brooms and woven baskets, and enjoy a home-cooked family style lunch made from the fresh local produce of the area. On the way back, make one final stop at a Buddhist temple to receive a traditional Khmer blessing from the monks to bring you good fortune for your travels ahead.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Highlights • • •

Experience the local way of life in rural Cambodia Learn from the locals how to make traditional crafts Receive a traditional Khmer blessing from Buddhist monks

Discova the Difference We are immensely proud of this signature Discova tour that ensures that every participant positively contributes to the sustainable development of rural Cambodia. This is an exclusive experience provided by Discova only.

Farm Visit and Mochi-making, Kyoto, Japan Half-day private morning tour

This half-day tour invites travellers to the mountainside village of Ogi. A scenic village that thrives on agriculture, it is the perfect place to learn about rural life in Japan and taste fresh speciality foods. Travellers wander through the village streets and encounter locals going about their daily tasks, and visit a local rice farmer’s house to learn all about mochi, a traditional Japanese rice cake. With the guidance of the local family, guests practise pounding hot, glutinous rice using a giant mallet and mortar. They then mould the paste into the desired shape, sprinkle with flour and have a bite of the delicious treats! Guests end the morning with an intimate lunch with the family, and enjoy sharing Sukiyaki, a type of Japanese hot pot. Highlights • • •

Visit a rural village surrounded by terraced rice fields Learn about and make mochi rice cakes with local farmers Eat lunch with local family host and get to know the local ingredients

Discova the Difference Visit and experience life in a rural village outside of Kyoto. Travellers learn about food culture in a beautiful area surrounded by terraced rice fields, with a history dating back 1300 years. Guests get hands-on and learn to make mochi and prepare a lunch using seasonal local ingredients from a friendly farming family, who will welcome them into the community.

Economic Initiatives Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Manggis, Bali Our collaboration with the people of Manggis has been manifold. We began working with the rural east Bali community in the midst of the pandemic, near the end of 2020. With the sudden economic challenge the community faced due to the collapse of tourism, we set out to assist wherever possible. What began with identifying an irrigation issue in the rice-dependent village, turned into a blossoming relationship that would see us help to develop an organic farming project in cooperation with the villagers.

Today, we’ve shifted our focus here as travel returns to Bali. To achieve the goal of integrating the community and their organic farming methods with tourism, we have developed various skill programmes and workshops that are run for and by the community. This means that they can personally manage the tourism activities and programmes that the village provides.

More recently, we have put into motion the establishment of a unique tented camp here, where we will employ local villagers. This, on the one hand, means we can create a more immersive experience for travellers visiting the incredible community and its splendid environment, and, on the other, allow local villagers to put the skills they have learned into practice and earn additional income.

READ MORE Manggis Part III, 2022: Our Farm-to-table Project Gathers Pace

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

Economic Initiatives


Life of Balinese Farmers in Manggis, Indonesia Private tour

Just an hour’s journey from South Bali, travellers can experience the unspoiled village of Manggis and its humble farming life. We’ve created an immersive product here that sees guests experience a day in the life of local farmers. A Manggis farmer introduces guests to the farming practices here and explains how these align with Hindu Balinese beliefs of protecting the earth and being kind to the environment. Depending on the time of year, visitors spend the morning either planting seeds, nurturing or harvesting crops. Along the way, they learn how the village went from conventional pesticide rice farming to its now organic practices with the support of Discova. After about two and a half hours in the field, guests enjoy a delicious home-cooked Balinese lunch in a local home. Highlights • • •

Enjoy a hands-on experience of the organic farming methods in Manggis Directly support and empower the local community Support and promote sustainable living in Bali

Discova the Difference Discova collaborates with the community in Manggis Village to empower and develop the community while promoting sustainable living practices. This is an exclusive experience provided by Discova only.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023

4 Ways You Can Help Support and Promote Responsible Tourism in Asia or the Americas Ask us to incorporate visits to social enterprises and local life products into your travellers’ itineraries. Speak to your Discova contact to find out how you can better support locally owned businesses and initiatives. Include a set donation (e.g. 1 USD per customer) to go towards a specific project or enterprise. Progress updates can then be provided by Discova. Ask to fund a project and we can incorporate a visit to the chosen project into your itineraries, if desired.

Responsible Travel Report 2022 / 2023