Responsible tourism policy

Espiritu Travel & Responsible Tourism

We are a specialist travel company with a broad focus on responsible travel.

Our vision is to create and promote experiential and transformative travel to Cuba which brings the greatest possible benefit to local communities and especially to the entrepreneurs with whom we work. Your trip is also created to minimize its environmental impact and respect the special way of life in Cuba.
Responsible Tourism is twofold, first, it requires that travel companies, hotels, governments, and local people take responsibility for the negative impacts that tourism can have and try to mitigate those impacts, taking a more holistic and inclusive approach to the development of tourism. Second, it’s about the traveler, traveling responsibly, doing what one can, enjoying a new destination like normal but being more aware of tourism’s impact and making adjustments to how one travels in order to reduce those negative impacts.

Why is responsible tourism so important?

Tourism is one of the most important and largest business sectors on the planet, it accounts for 11% of the world’s GDP and it employs more people worldwide than any other. It is hard to imagine but your vacation is significantly important to a lot people. For people in Cuba, tourism can be the only source of income that they have to improve not only their standard of living but that of their families.

Our trips

  • work almost exclusively with privately owned businesses, these include casas particulares, paladares, and small shops in addition to working with independent licensed guides;
  • work in partnerships with privately owned businesses, rather than state-owned;
  • provide employment and leadership opportunities for our guides and tour leaders;
  • are safe, fun, and enjoyable for you and gives you the opportunity to interact with local people;
  • limit the negative impacts on the daily lifestyles of communities
  • actively avoid activities which exploit animals – wild or
    domestic. This includes zoos, aquariums, breeding farms (i.e. crocodile farms) as well as horse taxis, and carriage rides;
  • do not promote visits to any dolphinariums, swim with dolphins activities, or the National Acuario in Havana;
  • educate travelers about responsible tourism;
  • help us to donate to the charity that we support.

We encourage travelers to

  • fly less and stay longer;
  • avoid resorts and support locally owned guest houses (casas particulares) and privately owned boutique hotels.
  • respect people’s privacy while taking photographs;
  • not to remove native flora and fauna, whether in the form of shells or coral;
  • seek out and support locally owned businesses, to ensure maximum community benefit;
  • respect native marine life and encourage the use of coral safe sunscreen.
  • carefully choose activities that are animal friendly and do not encourage or support the mistreatment of animals;
  • encourage others to become responsible travelers.

Espiritu Travel head office

We run our office in a responsible manner by using fair trade products, reducing our energy usage, as well as recycling. By developing electronic literature, we limit the number of paper materials we produce. In fact, all paper is used on both sides in our office!

We encourage our employees to use public transport or a bicycle to get to work. We all work at home on Fridays.

Espíritu Travel in Cuba

Public transport is not an option in Cuba. So private vehicles are the only manner of transport available for longer distances. Domestic flights are never used due to safety and reliability. Espíritu Travel has a wide range of suppliers throughout the island of Cuba. Our challenge is to extend the reach of our influence to all suppliers and to help them progress as much as possible with its very limited resources and ability to adopt such practices.

We encourage responsible travel

We have been proactive in raising awareness about traveling responsible in Cuba. We provide our travelers with information on how they can reduce their negative impact and make positive contributions to the communities they will visit in Cuba.

Animal welfare
The issue of animals in captivity is a sensitive one for our company. The situation for domestic animals in Cuba is often appalling which is why we have taken it on as our main cause. We do not recommend horse taxis or scenic rides. as nostalgic as they may seem. The majority of them are in poor condition and work extremely long hours, oftentimes in extreme heat and humidity with poor tack that leaves open wounds on their bodies. Horses around the country have borne the brunt of the transportation crisis in the country especially outside of Havana. While there are animal welfare laws, they are not enforced and it is obvious the suffering they endure horses. There are plenty of bicycle taxis to get you around the cities and towns. In places where horseback riding excursions are part of the itinerary, we have carefully selected the stable in which we work ensuring the highest standards are met for the welfare of the horses.
Our guides are not permitted to take clients to places where animals are used as entertainment or are kept in poor conditions, such as the crocodile farm in Peninsula Zápata.

Waste management
In Cuba, solid waste pollution is a problem all over the island and in particular in the cities and towns. Waste disposal systems are just not adequate on the island. We suggest the following to our clients.
Say no to plastic bags, instead of
 canvas bags for carrying items. We suggest bringing canvas carrier bags so that you can use them for when you purchase water or souvenirs rather than the one-use plastic bags. Also, remove packaging from items before you leave home, Drinking bottled water is a must when in Cuba since the water supply is not reliably safe.
However, as you can imagine this exacerbates an already over-taxed and inadequate waste disposable system. There is an alternative to bottled water which is both good for the environment and good for your budget. There are now a wide variety of water filtration bottles that have purification systems so you are able to refill them with tap water so that you have safe water to drink.
Cigarette buts should not be dropped on streets or behind bushes but put in a trash bin or in a pocket until a trash bin is available. We recommend smokers carry a receptacle to collect their butts. Plastic film cases are excellent for this and reduce the smell!

As an island nation, Cuba depends largely on rainfall for its water supply. But the past years has been one of record drought but this is only half the problem, the situation is exacerbated but a crumbling water delivery infrastructure and treatment facilities. You will see in Old Havana, in particular, that water tankers bring potable water to residents. Try to be mindful of your water usage and take steps to minimize it when possible.
We also suggest eco-friendly toiletries especially coral safe sunscreen. A common ingredient found in chemical sunscreen is toxic to coral. We recommend mineral-based sunscreen, with titanium oxide or zinc oxide which has been found not to harm reefs. Not only are these types of sunscreens better for the marine environment but they are better for your skin! Let’s help keep Cuba’s coral reefs healthy.