EcoTurkey Travel is an independent, fully licensed, UK based tour operator. EcoTurkey is a business with ambitions to change tourism for the long-term benefit of the local people, tourists, the environment and the tourism industry in Turkey. As such, it promotes ethical holidays to Turkey.
In this interview, Ali Keskin, Founder-Director, EcoTurkey Travel shares with us his motivation behind setting up the company, the underlying company philosophy that guides its efforts, and the sustainable business practices the company follows.
SOST: You are a fairly new business. What motivated you to focus on ecotourism?
Ali Keskin: I consider myself a World Traveller who believes in human rights, equality and respect for other cultures. It’s always the small things that make the big difference. Our hope is to change tourism for the long-term benefit of local people, tourists, the environment and the tourism industry in Turkey.
EcoTurkey’s website is a guide to the country, up to date travel advice and details of ethically and ecologically sound holiday packages and accommodation. The business works with environmental organisations, human rights groups and local community groups in order to promote sustainable tourism and ethical holidays in Turkey.
SOST: What is your guiding philosophy on sustainable tourism?
Ali Keskin: Respect for local people, their cultures, traditions, religions and the environment are essential to our philosophy and our tours, and we work hard to ensure our groups have a positive impact on the places and people visited.
As a principle, EcoTurkey Travel recognises and supports the 2002 Cape Town Declaration.
In the destinations we visit, we use licensed local guides, with proper national accreditation where demanded by law. As well as contributing to the local economy, this practice ensures that our guests learn about the region that they are visiting firsthand from someone who knows the area(s) intimately, and it also promotes local employment.
EcoTurkey supports Climate Care, an NGO that runs some of the world’s largest corporate carbon offsetting programmes. Though we do not impose a requirement on our customers, we do encourage them to ‘carbon neutralize’ their flight at the time of booking their tour with us.
Ali Keskin: All of our holiday options are meticulously vetted by a group of experienced travellers. EcoTurkey Travel insists that all collaborators are ethical and eco-friendly businesses which benefit the local economy, promote ethical labour practices and work in line with conservation and sustainable environmental policies.
To accommodate our guests, we primarily use small family run guesthouses, lodges, historical boutique hotels that employ local workers. In the case of larger hotels, we only collaborate with non-chain locally owned establishments.
In terms of tour activities, all of our guests can get involved in work on the farm, go fishing or take part in workshops based on local culture and handicrafts like kilim (flat-woven carpets) weaving, simple clay pottery making, basket making or producing a range of traditional preserves such as jams and pickles. Many of these activities continue to be performed by women and have social, practical and economic dimensions. You would be interested to know that only women weave carpets and kilims; male carpet weavers are not accepted in Turkish culture.