Mr Fischer, why did berg-welt decide to compensate the emissions for all of the flights it offers?
To answer the question, I need to provide a few details: the development of the idea behind berg-welt and the stimulus for this concept came from my 25 years of experience organising, executing and guiding mountaineering trips and expeditions in South America, in the Himalayas, in Karakorum and other regions of the world. As a result of these trips, I established many personal contacts and friendships with local people. The wealth of experiences and discoveries I gained from these trips and contacts became increasingly clear to me, but also how important the small financial income from tourism was for the people in these countries. With berg-welt, we want to make all of this available to our guests, on the one hand, while generating work for the local population as a reliable partner, on the other.
I did however face a dilemma prior to starting with berg-welt: On the one hand, the implementation of this project was very important to me, but on the other I was worried about offering such trips with long flights due to the ecological aspects.
I made the choice for berg-welt, but with the requirement that all flights would be subject to CO2 compensation from the very beginning, with the inclusion of this service in our standard prices.
You were and still are a pioneer in Switzerland with the complete integration of CO2 compensation into the travel packages. What kind of feedback have you received from customers?
Our customers obviously support our travel philosophy. We very rarely receive specific feedback from our customers regarding compensation. We are convinced that it is generally much easier to include such a service in the overall price, instead of trying to request such compensation in addition to the travel price. Actually, airlines should be obliged to add such a surcharge to their ticket prices, as is already the case with fuel and taxes for example.
What else do you do to live up to your claim "Responsibility towards people and cultures in the host countries"?
Our main responsibility is, as already mentioned, ensuring reliability towards our local partners and generating work for the local population. Where possible, we also support training, sponsorship and development and ensure fair remuneration. Furthermore, we also hold preparatory meetings to try and prepare our trip participants for the journey as well as possible.
This includes sensitisation towards and respectful treatment of nature, local traditions, cultures, religious values and feelings. We ensure these are treated with care while travelling. We enable and promote encounters with the local population while travelling. We treat our local helpers respectfully and in a friendly manner, and actively communicate our appreciation of their services.
The correct disposal of waste in the host countries is also a matter of course for us. We take great care to ensure all of our waste is taken with us and disposed of accordingly. We also seek to accordingly sensitise the local population through our activities and our support to local employees.
What is it that encourages customers to book a trip with you?
We are small and thus have a very personal touch. Our customers feel our passion, and that we take customer satisfaction, which has the highest priority with us, very seriously. They appreciate our small groups, which include a maximum of twelve people, the great support from our dedicated and competent travel guides, and also the fact that we provide them with outstanding food – even in the most remote corners of the world.
You have been travelling the world for around 35 years now and act as a tour and expedition guide to areas that are sometimes very remote. What has impressed you the most during all this time?
Hmmm, I've experienced so many wonderful things that it's difficult to select one specific experience. The most impressive aspect is probably all of my encounters with the people – and possibly this one is a good example: In a very poor village in Ethiopia, three children were playing with an old plastic football. I decided to play with them as best as I could. More and more children then joined us, I have no idea where they all came from. It became impossible to "play football". But the children wouldn't let me go. I tried in English to get them to sing along – without any luck. But after I had sung three bars of a Swiss German song, they all joined in. So I sang songs in Swiss German with what seemed to be 50 children, until it was time to retire for the night. We had a lot of fun! And – I have never seen so many happy children before!
For its pioneering role in climate protection and its sustainability measures in the host countries, berg-welt received the myclimate award as "Pioneer – provider of climate-neutral mountain holidays" in March 2017 at the world's largest travel exhibition, the ITB in Berlin. The company, which is based in Steffisburg, was founded in 2007 by the experienced mountaineering and expedition guide, Martin Fischer.