In a world where every man and his dog seems to be claiming to be doing his or her bit for the planet, it is easy to overlook those who are really getting their hands dirty to keep our communities clean, safe and environmentally friendly 

Over the past few months, leading walking and cycling tour operator Headwater has been working with over 400 hotels and 100 agents/local guides to put in place a structured sustainability programme and charter, which will be rolled out to all staff and customers by the end of November.

According to Tina James, Managing Director at Headwater: “We have always believed we have both a moral and an ethical responsibility to maximise economic and environmental benefits in the off-beat villages where we offer our walking and cycling holidays. When creating interest-packed itineraries, we are always looking for ways both ourselves and our customers might inject money into the local communities – from meals in family-run restaurants to visiting local heritage attractions – and we will always go that extra mile to protect local wildlife, whilst leaving a minimal carbon footprint.

“But we felt more could be done so, over the last 12 months, our management team has been tirelessly conducting assessments of every single holiday in our 2014 portfolio, evaluating each individual component against an agreed fixed set of eight key criteria. As a result, every holiday now has its own overall Sustainability Score which appears on every brochure/web holiday page. Ratings – shown as percentages – have been calculated according to how each holiday performs in the following areas:


  • Food sourcing (local, organic/free-range produce, regional wines etc)
  • Waste management programmes (food waste, composting and re-cycling)
  • Local transport and transfers required
  • Energy-efficient heating sysetms (including swimming pools)
  • Levels of effort made to employ local people
  • Sympathetic renovation and restoration work
  • Water-saving initiatives (towels, linen, showers rather than baths)
  • Use of lesser trodden paths, tracks and county lanes.

“And the results? In our cycling programme, only 5% of holidays scored less than 80% with holidays – in Umbria and France’s Canal du Midi and the Alsace – each scoring an incredible 95% or higher. In our walking programme, scores were equally impressive with 81% of holidays scoring 80% or higher, with Spain’s Vistas of Valencia taking pole position with a near-perfect rating of 99%!

“Going forward, it is vital that we both maintain these high standards, but also continue to work with staff, suppliers and customers in order that all our holidays achieve, or exceed, our global 80% Sustainability Target.”

Images courtesy Headwater

 For bookings and further information, call Headwater 0845 322 4672 or email