Responsible tourism has two sides. On the one hand, it means responsibility versus local communities in tourist regions to ensure that the negative side effects of tourism do not outweigh the positive impact on the local economy. On the other hand, it means responsibility versus tourists which is predominantly a question of health and safety.
In the context of Kilimanjaro, the predominant problem caused by tourism is the exploitation of porters. Porters are the ones who make Kilimanjaro tours possible for the vast majority of climbers, and who do all the heavy lifting. Sadly, our summit success often comes at the cost of the very people who help us reach our mountaintop.
For example, porters may be subject to the following practices:
- Not receive their due minimum salary and client tips intended for them
- Carry company weight in excess of the official 20kg park limit
- Not even receive three (3) meals per day, despite their hard labour
- Sleep in conditions that expose them to health and safety threats
- Not be assisted with descent and medical treatment in case of accidents
In extreme cases, porters have been found dead, left behind by their guides when they had accidents or fallen sick.
The founder learnt such a story first-hand from her own guide on Kilimanjaro who almost died when he had started to work as a porter: He woke up in wet clothes in the middle of the night—it had rained and his tent was leaking. The next morning, it was snowing. Instead of giving him dry clothes or sending him down the mountain, he had to continue working—in wet clothes on a snowy mountain! He worked until he fainted, and they left him behind. He only survived because tourists found him and saved his life. His story touched the founder deeply.
While his case is an extreme example, would you be happy to contract your climb with a company that might have been responsible for such practices? Or even just any of the above practices? We don’t think so. It is easy for companies to claim that they treat their porters fairly and ethically in order to win more clients. However, without local monitoring, it is impossible to know their actual practices.
There is only one organization that monitors Kilimanjaro porter treatment practices locally—the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), a Tanzanian non-profit organization initiated by the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC).
To ensure that we can honour our responsibility commitment to you, we only accept companies who are members of IMEC’s and KPAP’s Partner for Responsible Travel Program to promote their Kilimanjaro tours on KiliGATE. We are proud to be the only booking platform collaborating with and endorsed by KPAP.
We also allow our KPAP Partner operators to promote their other non-Kilimanjaro tours on KiliGATE, knowing that they are committed to responsible tourism. As we expand our geographic reach, we will work with other local NGOs and certification agencies to verify the responsible and sustainable tourism practices of our partner operators in the context of their specific activities and destinations. For example, as of launch, we are already partnering with Travelife and Responsible Tourism Tanzania.
We only partner with verified and responsible tour operators. Currently, for Kilimanjaro, there is no organization that monitors or certifies the quality of operators from a tourist point of view (such as experience of the guides, quality of equipment they provide to you, and so forth).
However, we believe that our responsible partner companies who adhere to minimum standards of fair porter treatment are also more likely to offer higher quality standards for their clients than companies who do not allow KPAP to monitor their porter treatment practices.
Furthermore, we believe that guides and porters who are treated fairly by their companies are also more likely to have your best interest in mind. That means first and foremost not your summit success, but your health and safety.
The main cause of danger and death for tourists on Kilimanjaro is altitude sickness. However, it is also the easiest to avoid as symptoms usually develop gradually and can be monitored. Experienced guides will be able to assess whether it is safe for you to continue, or whether immediate descent is required.
Unfortunately, guides who are not paid well may be more concerned about your tip at the end of your tour, rather than your health and safety. Hoping for a bigger tip if you reach the summit, they might be inclined to assist you to the top by all means, even when it is no longer safe for you to continue.
While there is no guarantee, we believe that booking your climb with a responsible tour operator will be the safer choice for you.