Readers’ lives: Phil Hindle

Phil Hindle won the chance to become G Adventures’ Responsible Tourism Ambassador. He talks about how responsible tourism can help destinations and going to India to see the difference the tour operator is making there.

Q. Why did you become G Adventures’ Responsible Travel Ambassador?
A. Before I won this role I knew very little about responsible tourism, but I used this opportunity to educate myself on the benefits. It is important to get agents like me behind responsible travel, the ones who know very little about it. I would definitely encourage agents to look into this type of travel, try to experience it for themselves and also mention it as an alternative option when selling tour holidays to customers. People want more than just fly and flop breaks, this sort of holiday benefits customers’ needs and also the communities they visit.

Q. What did the trip involve?
A. We were on the eight-day Golden Triangle small group tour that travels to Delhi to see projects that support the city’s homeless then to famous landmarks in Agra. We then travelled to Dhula village to experience rural life in Rajasthan on a cycling excursion and after a night’s stay, travelled to Jaipur and then back to Delhi. I had been on homestays before in Japan and stayed in mud huts in the Congo, but had never been part of something so instantly impactful on the place I was visiting. Straight away we met people who would benefit, such as Women on Wheels, which trains and employs women to become professional drivers. They were our transfers from the airport and our driver was the main breadwinner. Knowing you contributed while still enjoying a trip in an incredible place is just great. Another day we visited the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, a Sikh temple and centre in Delhi. They feed in excess of 10,000 people for free every day, it’s quite an undertaking. We even helped to prepare chapatis and serve the food.

Q. What was the most memorable moment?
A. We visited famous places too such as the Taj Mahal, which I enjoyed more than I expected. It was a stark contrast after visiting charities that work behind the scenes such as the Salaam Baalak Trust in Delhi, which rehomes and educates children who live on the streets. As an agent you see the reasons so many people travel to India and how we can take advantage of its popularity to shift to a responsible tour.

Q. What did you learn on the trip and find interesting?
A. Agents need to step outside their comfort zone to help the growth of responsible tourism. With more customers wanting more ‘authentic’ experiences, agents need to learn and experience the options available. I am a cruise specialist, so learning about this side of travel has been refreshing and eye-opening. I loved the trip to India and would encourage any agent who already knows a lot about the sector or would like to know more, to look into taking on an ambassador role in the future. It’s worth trying to become an advocate for responsible travel as customers become more conscious of these issues, but also so agents can experience it for themselves. A tour like this can make a holiday a richer experience and have a long-term impact on the area visited.

Q: How do you feel about selling responsible tourism after this trip?
A: This trip has made it easy for me to encourage customers to book responsible tourism packages, especially as it does not need to be an expensive holiday. This is now something I feel confident speaking to my customers about. By making agents more aware of the benefits, they are more likely to push the responsible travel message to customers. They will help improve lives and get a little bit closer to the communities in the places they visit.