Best Practices

This document details the Best Practices system VWB has compiled for use by RTA Business Partners.
The underlying aim of introducing these best practices to our members is to highlight the benefit of a more responsible approach to tourism, one which will in ensure businesses, their local communities and the planet a sustainable future.
In the following sections, we will introduce the key partners in our collaboration and describe how together they serve our mission.
The research that has been put into the development of our best practices, draws from six key features of ecological sustainability; reduce, reuse, recycle, redesign, replace, respect. Later on in this document we will explain the justification used for relying on these features to guide our best practice development. We will also show how these features can be distributed across eight avenues of focus for the adoption of our best practices.
Our aim is to ensure that these best practices are available for revision and regular updating by individual RTA business partners, each of whom has its own customized online database, allowing them to improve their compliance level as they can afford to and to recognise the benefit of doing so. 
In this document, a section is dedicated to explaining the best practice adoption procedure, how these practices  are evaluated, monitored, measured, and for what purpose.
We have also included a section in this document to detail the opportunities for academic study and research groups, or individuals, who can get involved in the development, monitoring and evaluation of these best practices.


The Responsible Tourism Alliance  

RTA is a social enterprise driven, non-commission based business model. It provides an online platform for supporters and practitioners of responsible tourism, to address inequality, and to ensure a sustainable future for their industry, the environment, and the wider community.

It is designed primarily to help micro, and small businesses, (accommodation, attractions, activities, workshops). These businesses are often beyond the boundaries of established tourism destinations, and are disenfranchised by the traditional commission based booking model.

It aims to level the playing for them, and for the local visitor based communities they support, by empowering them to take back control of the direction, development, and impacts of their local tourism industry.

The RTA’s specific roles as a partner in this collaboration are:

  • Marketing & Booking - To provide an online search and booking system that connects a membership of responsible travelers (RTA Ambassadors) to a global database of responsible tourism product providers (RTA Business Partners) who offer their products or services, presented via a comprehensive online business profile, via the RTA Local Agent. The introduction of a fee based - instead of the traditional commission based - system, (which currently represents less than 3 in 10 micro or small tourism businesses and takes 85% of the revenues tourism generates), is key to the development of this more equitable approach to tourism.

  • Ground Handling – RTA Local Agents identify and establish ‘tourist routes’ as excursions from or connecting tourism destinations together. RTA seeks out potential micro and small tourism business partners - (entrepreneurs/community leaders it identifies as catalysts) along these routes. It offers their products and services to its customers (RTA Ambassadors) who are invited to customize and book their own itineraries along these routes. It provides them with the unique and rewarding travel experiences they seek, charging transparent booking fees in an equitable deal - with discounted prices, upgrades, complimentary services negotiated on a case by case basis between both buyers and sellers. It is intended that the RTA Local Expert network be extended through partnerships established in other destinations and countries.

The Volunteers Without Borders Foundation – Is the non-profit partner and its key role in the collaboration is in:

  • Providing English language speaking volunteers equipped with IT and tourism development skills to assist RTA business partners in putting together their business models and business profiles for upload to the RTA online database and search system.

  • Providing volunteer (Thai/Foreign/Local Government/NGO) experts to deliver a range of specially designed ‘skills training workshops’ aimed at improving the operation of and customer services in the identified businesses. This includes the selection of best practices, and the implementation of suitable 2nd revenue stream options that are both non-tourism dependent and culturally appropriate.

See www.volunteers-without-borders.orgfor an explanation of the full and much broader roles played by VWB volunteers. These roles are based on the concept of working with the tourism industry players to build a better future for all, as opposed to giving something back for perceived advantages enjoyed over others.

Track of the Tiger T.R.D. (Tourism Resources Development Co. Ltd.) and extended partners.

Track of the Tiger, established 1986, is a recognized proponent of responsible tourism, and is the appointed management company for the RTA Business operation. Track of the Tiger T.R.D., owns, operates and partners with a number or rural-based resorts & experiential education centres. These cater to; international school groups on outdoor & environmental education and service learning programmes, tourism study and research for schools and universities.

It uses its client base to provide both monitoring and evaluation of the RTA business partners’ efforts to implement their best practices, as well as to provide additional support and promotion for their efforts where merited.

It is a symbiotic relationship that works well, providing a win-win outcome for all involved.

As a business, we are acutely aware that unless our investments in the tourism industry ensure equality and sustainability for those in the areas in which we are located, and in the tourism destinations through which we draw our custom - we or the others in our broader community have no long term future in tourism.

We firmly believe that unless tourism business operators like ourselves play an active role in developing and managing the quality and impact of tourism we, and those in our communities as well as future generations, will pay a very high cost for our not doing so.

Adopting Our Best Practices

Of the 140 plus best practice compliance and award systems used in the mainstream tourism industry worldwide few, if any, are within the budget or accommodate the needs of the micro and small business operators. The RTA’s best practice system is:

  • free to use
  •  can be customised to suit the preferences of the individual business partner
  •  is displayed on the partner’s online business profile
  •  is monitored for compliance by RTA Ambassadors
  •  and is evaluated by Track of the Tiger’s client base of tourism study and research groups.

From our composite list, Business Partners identify which best practices they can or want to implement ‘at the time’ by clicking Yes or No in the relevant fields of table format presentation. They remove those not pertinent to their businesses by clicking N/A where applicable. VWB Volunteers assist with this work where required, and the database can be updated to suit any changes made.

Business Partners are scored 1 to 5 – by RTA Ambassadors (authenticated by a booking ref. number) - on their compliance with stated best practices in place. They are encouraged to ‘do more’ as they can afford to, based on the cost savings and additional custom their efforts produce. This score, combined with their service standard rating (1-5), provides their overall rating. Their rating pushes them higher up the search results page.

Best Practice Workshops

The Volunteers Without Borders Foundation recruits volunteers and local experts from various backgrounds and agencies to conduct research into, and deliver vocational training on topics such as:

  • Managing Enquiries & Bookings via the RTA Local Agent.
  • Basic Business Management - (establishing revenue & expenditure projections.)
  • Business Operations Manual – Establishing standard procedures for running your business (all staff roles and reports.)
  • Basic Financial & Operational Reporting (an RTA format designed to allow remote support/guidance and position the business for impact funding or crowd funding support going forward.)
  • Local Business Regulations & Taxation.
  • Managing your business profile on the RTA database and marketing your business effectively using the tools provided on the site. 
  • Basic Hospitality Training.
  • RTA Best Practices (waste management, hygiene, safety, conservation and more) 
  • Cross-Cultural Challenges
  • English language learning for tourism.
  • 2nd Revenue Stream Generation (non-tourism reliant.)

Each workshop is designed to add value to and improve the RTA business partner’s business value and its impact on their communities and environment.

During our business partner recruitment surveys, we provide applicants with a breakdown of the type of courses available to them and ask which courses they are most interested in. We may suggest others for their consideration.

We encourage potential supporters to contribute to the development of these courses. If, for instance, your organisation is interested in developing responsible tourism, and can fund or provide one of the above workshops, then your help would be much appreciated.

The Volunteers Without Borders Foundation offers individuals or study groups access to specific areas of the RTA database that will allow in-depth research on the detailed information they hold, including the costs and benefits of the responsible tourism best practices adopted by the RTA business partners. 

Each study must be approved by our administration, and will exclude access to the personal detail of RTA Ambassadors or business partners.

Avenues of Focus

When VWB Volunteers discuss the benefits of joining the RTA with potential business partners, they explain the importance of compliance with VWBs responsible tourism best practices. It is emphasised that whilst compliance is desirable, it is optional, and can be implemented in stages. The value of adopting these best practices is discussed in terms of attracting custom, and the importance of these in ensuring the sustainability and longevity of the industry.

RTA Ambassadors or student study groups working with VWB, will be more interested in their efforts towards rather than level of compliance with their best practices.

This best practices policy is a lot to take in and it is explained that on joining RTA, their compliance levels may be very low. We emphasise, however, that as the system is in place to help them and not to judge them, they will be offered the chance to attend training workshops alongside others from their areas. These workshops will focus on the 6 key avenues – depicted below - through which compliance can be achieved.


Table 1: KEY




The business shows that it has taken measures to decrease its use of specific practices and products which are negligent or damaging to their socio/environmental context.

The business regularly reuses products and items, which can be repurposed to reduce their socio/environmental impact.

The business has taken measures to change and rethink the way that they consume and produce, in order to reduce their socio/environmental impact.




The business takes measures to recycle items that they use in their day-to-day operations.

The business replaces its unnecessary/negative impact items with more environmentally friendly products for the operations of their day to day running of the business.

The business respects its staff, environment and surrounding residents through providing informative training resources which highlight ways to increase respect for their socio-cultural and environmental context.

Insert Color

Within each of the avenues of approach, and under headings listed below, are a range of issues that can be addressed with the implementation of selected best practices. Some are relevant for a particular business, and could be ‘clicked YES or NO’ at the business owners’ discretion - others are obviously not pertinent, so can be clicked N/A (not applicable.)

Each heading highlights an area that focuses one or more problems, and provides guidance as to how best practices can be implemented to address them.

Problems, and the best solutions to them, vary in scope and severity from one region, country, area, or even from business to business. The pros and cons accorded to addressing them in a particular order of priority is also dictated by a variety of factors.

The solutions are more easily found through a collaborative effort between VWB and the business operator.

To demonstrate how VWB volunteers help business partners identify and establish best practices, it is perhaps easiest to show what type of questions the Volunteers will ask of business owners. Examples of these are to be found in the next section.

Best Practices by Category

To demonstrate how VWB volunteers help business partners identify and establish best practices, it is perhaps easiest to show what type of questions the Volunteers will ask of business owners. Examples of these questions are to be found below.


Does this business show that is has created awareness within their company about how to reduce, reuse, redesign, recycle, replace and respect the different avenues of responsible conservation, hygiene, energy consumption, pollution, waste management, safety & security and socio-cultural which apply to their context? Look for signs indicating this, ask about what type of training is made available to the staff, and check their advertising and marketing to see if there is evidence of this. If they are unaware of how to raise awareness, do they show a willingness to learn?


There are several avenues of conservation a particular business can be involved in, but again, some may not apply.

Wildlife / Animal- If the business works with animals of any sort, are the animals kept in large enough space? Are they treated well? Do they respect the laws and policies in place that are designed to protect endangered or wild animals, and show a willingness to improve and learn more about how to better their standards?

How does the business deal with surrounding animals? Are habitats of indigenous or endangered species intact and undamaged? Is there evidence of stray animals in the area, and has the business owner indicated any intention of following the right protocols involved with stray animals? Have they made efforts to reduce the number of animals involved/associated with their business enough? Do they reuse animal products in other avenues (cow dung for fertilizer)? Have they redesigned the way they incorporate or deal with animals to ensure that their practices are as ethical as possible? Have they recycled where possible the equipment and products used when caring for these animals? Have they replaced products where possible with the most ethical and eco-friendly options for that product?

Environmental-How does this business reduce their environmental impact? Do they reuse materials in producing their wares and services? Do they recycle materials such as water and plastics? Have they redesigned their plumbing, agricultural and service delivery process to emphasis environmental conservations? Have they replaced harmful environmental products with more eco-friendly products? Have they tried to keep the indigenous flora and fauna intact on their premises? Do they respect the reasons for conserving the environmental and show a willingness to participate in measures to do so?

Water- How does this business reduce their unnecessary use of water? Do they reuse grey water in their gardens? Do they recycle used water for their garden where possible? Do they collect runoff or rainwater? Have they redesigned their plumbing and drainage to emphasise water conservations? Have they replaced leaking pipes? Do they respect the reasons for conserving water and show a willingness to participate in measures to do so?

History: If premises are located on or near a historical site, is it properly maintained and protected? If historical artifacts are displayed or sold at business, are they insured? Does the business have a security system in place to reduce the risk of theft? If traditional cultural items are displayed are used, how are they maintained?


Does this business show proper hygiene standards? Are the toilets kept sanitary, do employees wash their hands regularly, do they have the proper HAS certification regarding the products they sell? Is the business maintained with cleanliness? Are the shelves dusted, floors swept, and customer areas kept tidy? Has the business shown signs to indicate they have taken measures to reduce dustiness in their area? Can you see that there are efforts to properly reuse and recycle hygiene products and containers for other uses? Has the business shown ways to redesign the way they present themselves to the public, though cleaner toilets and improved hygiene standards?

If the business uses a kitchen, are hygiene standards kept up to a high level? Have they replaced unhygienic items with cleaner alternatives, and do they show the respect and willingness to continue improving their standards.

Energy Consumption

Does this business show efforts to conserve energy as much as possible? Have they made efforts to reduce their carbon footprint by turning off lights whenever the room isn’t being used or does not need extra lighting? Do they reuse and recycle energy sources wherever possible? Have they redesigned areas which use unnecessary energy to cut down on consumption? Do they respect and understand the need to preserve energy?


Does the business dispose of water and waste correctly? Do they have a decent sewage system? Does their waste water pollute surrounding areas? Do they cook with charcoal or gas? Do they use strong chemicals to clean the premises?

Waste Management

Does the business recycle their plastics, metals, paper and other waste? Do they have separated recycling bins? Do they offer single use plastic?

Safety & Security

Does the business carry out safety measures? Do they have fire exits? Are there dangerous areas? What have they done to keep the premises secure? Do they have CCTV cameras?


Is the business respectful towards all staff and visitors? Do they hire locally residing residents? Do they provide support for people with special needs or disabilities?

Recommended Application

To demonstrate how VWB volunteers help business partners identify and establish best practices, it is perhaps easiest to show examples from the survey Volunteers conduct and work through with the Business owners. Some examples in these categories are to be found below.

The 6 key avenues of focus – Reduce, Reuse, Redesign, Recycle, Replace and Respect - through which compliance can be achieved, have been colour coded.

Insert colour


We encourage all visitors and staff to turn off electronics, pick up litter and turn off unnecessary taps. This is evident through signage.




We have informative material on how to reuse plastic products where possible, as well as other multiple other ways to reuse card, glass and other possible waste material.




We periodically train staff with regard to their role in the management of environmental, socio-cultural, health, and safety practices.         




We have informative content for visitors to read. This includes information on local culture and surrounding areas.




We create awareness amongst our staff and clients as to how to recycle, what to recycle ,and where to take recycled goods.






If there is endangered marine life, swimming and scuba diving is either prohibited, or only takes place with professional guides. We avoid using boats unless absolutely necessary.




We use native/indigenous plants for decoration and to keep natural habitats for surrounding animals.




We have  a garden at the premises to grow food for the staff and/or for guests. The garden also absorbs heat and creates a microclimate.




If business is on or near a historical site, old buildings and/or artifacts are protected with fencing or signs.






Our staff thoroughly wash and disinfect their hands before and after preparing any food.




Toilets are up to HAS (Health, Accessibility and Safety) standards.






Any natural cost-free alternatives to energy saving are used e.g. natural ventilation and surrounding plants to shade areas.




Accommodation is draught proof and/or tinted windows are used to keep rooms cool during the day and to keep the heat in at night.




We replace incandescent lights that are used more than a few hours a day with fluorescent or energy efficient light bulbs.






We monitor how much pollution we can cut down on. There are regular trash pickups, proper sewage systems, and proper wastewater disposal/filtration is used.




Organic or pesticide-free vegetables are used for cooking.




We correctly label, store, track and disposes of all chemicals. Proper management and training for use of all chemical materials reduces the likelihood of  guests, staff and the environment being exposed to hazardous materials.




Where practical, employees use bicycles, a car pool, or public transport to get to work.




We have built a compost toilet. These toilets are easy and cheap to build, and have greatly reduced our water bill.






Any food waste is composted adequately, used in the garden, or fed to livestock.




When renovating or constructing new buildings, we use sustainable materials and products (e.g. recycled or recyclable local materials) from renewable resources. These resources are longer lasting, non-toxic, and most importantly, energy and water saving.




Newspaper is reused for cleaning windows and rags for cleaning floors. Filtered grey water is reused where appropriate.




Where possible we look to replace plastic products and other harmful materials with more environmentally-friendly options like biodegradable take-away containers.




We provide recycling bins so that we can recycle all plastic, glass, metal and take these materials to a plant.






There is a first aid kit on the premises.




We have installed CCTV cameras and/or an alarm system.




We have surveyed the premises for potential risk and danger areas and have closed them off or have implemented safety measures (e.g. a handrail, a bridge over an uneven path, safety lighting in dark areas)




There are facilities on the premises to give access and support to people in wheelchairs. Ramps are placed throughout the premises.






We offer internships, volunteer programs and/or training opportunities to nearby communities to help create Second Revenue Streams.




Our business employs local staff from surrounding communities; it especially strives to hire women and minorities.




We are not involved in compulsory labour nor do we employ children to complete work normally undertaken by adults. If children (<14 years) work here, they work under special working times and conditions for children.






We measure customer satisfaction by looking at RTA reviews (and/or other sites like Trip Advisor) and, if appropriate, take corrective action to reduce negative feedback.




Our Business conducts staff training on how to implement your responsible tourism best practices into your business.




We keep the community informed of sustainability initiatives and second revenue streams they can get involved with. Community members are included in the planning processes, organization and implementation.




We believe employee education is most important to establish and maintain 'green' objectives. Employees are encouraged to come forward with new ideas or problems to help keep the staff morale, relationships and company standards high. We constantly try to replace old knowledge and habits with effective ones that meet sustainable standards.





Monitoring & Evaluation

In keeping with our philosophy of collaborating with our development partners in order to ensure a win-win outcome for all involved, we believe in a monitoring and evaluation system that relies on input from Track of the Tiger’s client base, (RTA Ambassadors, Student & University Groups, Self or grant funded Post Graduate Research.)

Where grant or donor funding is made available from 3rd parties it will be used only as agreed by VWB and the donor. The RTA will provide access to its databases with reasonable conditions imposed, but is not responsible for the design cost or specific studies.

Group Monitoring & Evaluation
RTA Local Agents

Monitoring & reporting of the responsible tourism best practices compliance as stated in the RTA business partner’s online database presentation/declaration, following a random but planned schedule.

Note*Part of their combined RTA/VWB role.


RTA Ambassadors

Monitoring & reporting of the responsible tourism best practices compliance as stated in the RTA business partner’s online database presentation/declaration, noting which ones they could not immediately verify.

Note*The business partner is aware that a positive comment/score will result in greater levels of custom and lower operating costs.

Track of the Tiger Client School & University Study Groups.

Monitoring & reporting of the responsible tourism best practices compliance as stated in the RTA business partner’s online database presentation/declaration, noting which ones they could not immediately verify.  

Note* The scope of the study/research may be expanded to cover: RTA business partner financial & operational reports, RTA Ambassador profiles (demographic but not personal detail.)

Track of the Tiger Client University Study Groups.

Representative Bodies, NTOs, Tourism NGOs, Corporate Sponsors – who will fund research sharing the findings with Track of the Tiger who will in turn share it with its collaborating client base.

Monitoring & reporting of the responsible tourism best practices compliance as stated in the RTA business partner’s online database presentation/declaration, noting which ones they could not immediately verify.

Note* The scope of the study/research may be expanded to cover: RTA business partner financial & operational reports, RTA Ambassador profiles (demographic but not personal detail.)