How we travel
The travels organised by the Cooperative ViaggieMiraggi provide for 3 moments for an experience of Sustainable Tourism
1. Before the travel
We are convinced that knowing the travel well is necessary in order to fully live an experience of sustainable tourism. In most cases the travellers take part in a meeting with both a ViaggieMiraggi operator and the other participants.
It is an opportunity to make acquaintance and to clarify possible doubts about the organisation and the itinerary, in addition to deepen sustainable tourism themes.
2. During the travel
In addition to the natural and cultural beauties of a country, during our travels one meets the associations’ representants, cooperatives, groups committed to the world of fair trade, organisations which deal with social and environmental development projects in Global South countries and in Italy. Visits change depending on the destinations.
3. After the travel
Once returned from the travel, the Cooperative discusses with the travellers and the local representatives and sends the participants an assessment questionnaire, an instrument useful to get suggestions, advice and to improve the future offer.
Our distinguishing features
« Transport organisation »
When an airplane transfer is necessary for the travel, the departure airport can be agreed with the traveller on the basis of his/her needs.
For group travels where the participants leave from different airports, it is possible to meet at the airport where the airline makes a continental stopover or directly at the airport of arrival, where in most cases there is one of our local representatives to welcome the group.
In case of travels with flight included, the departure airport and time are fixed.
In case of travels in Italy, the air transport is organised by the Cooperative or self-managed by the participants, while the possible rail transport is always managed by the travellers.
The flight booking
The agency has a flight booking system which allows to book and press the plane tickets.
During the plane tickets booking, it is necessary to supply the complete and correct names and to check they are the same as the ones in the passport or identity document shown at the check-in at the departure moment.
Most airlines do not permit to change the name either during the booking or after issuing the tickets, and the traveller risks to pay penalties or, in some cases, the flight cancellation.
After the ticket has been issued, if the traveller asks for changes in the reservation or s/he is unable to leave, it is necessary to verify the penalties for the change or cancellation specified by the airline, in addition to possible penalties contemplated in our “General Travel Conditions”.
ViaggieMiraggi does not charge any additional costs on the price of the plane ticket, since the commission/assistance service is included in the organisational expenses.
It is possible to autonomously buy the flight: however, in case of delays, cancellations or problems concerning the flight, ViaggieMiraggi is not be able to guarantee any assistance.
In case of booking office only, a commission as stated in the agency’s table of charges is applied.
All the airfares booked and communicated to the traveller are always subject to reconfirmation when the ticket is issued. The cooperative requires the whole airfare to be paid as a deposit, afterwards the travel agreement, the transparent price form indicating the balance deadline and the information about the common fund are prepared.
As the balance is paid, the cooperative emails the material (electronic plane tickets, phone numbers, material about projects, etc.).
« Pre-travel meeting »
Before a travel abroad, a preparatory meeting is organised. During this meeting, the following topics are discussed:
- participants’ introductions and expectations regarding the travel;
- story of the social cooperative ViaggieMiraggi and principles of Sustainable Tourism;
- how the travel is born and who our local representatives are;
- explanation of the travel material: plane tickets, insurance and all the documents necessary for the tour;
- information on the country in order to better understand the destination chosen and possible bibliography:
- explanation of the price form, of the travel agreement and economic details.
Pre-travel meetings are an opportunity to meet (above all for the members of the departing group) and to clarify possible doubts about the organisation and the itinerary. The meeting usually takes place two weeks before the departure, the cooperative commits to arranging the meeting on the date most travellers agree on. The meeting is held in the office in Padua or in Milan and, if possible for the traveller, videoconferencing by Skype or by landline. The pre-travel meeting is only one: those who cannot participate receive an informative memorandum about what has been discussed. Sometimes the difficulty to agree on available days forces to fix the meeting just before the departure. For couples or groups of 2 people, the meeting is by Skype or phone. For travels in Italy and in Europe, no preparatory meeting is organised. However, it is possible to apply to the agency’s headquarters for further information.
« Transparent price form »
In the transparent price form, delivered with the travel agreement and the General Travel Conditions, all the entries the price consists of are listed, so that the responsible traveller can know how the quotas are shared and what percentage of the final price actually remains to host communities. One of the quotas is for the social cooperative/tour operator ViaggieMiraggi. That quota, which varies depending on the travel being in Italy, in Europe or in other continents, incurs the social cooperative/tour operator’s expenses as well as the ones for the organisation of the travel. That amount corresponds to traditional agencies’ or tour operators’ profit, but it differs as for transparency. A traditional tour operator sells travels with an average charge (on the total price) of 25%. In addition to that percentage, a commission is applied by the traditional intermediary agency (which ranges from 10% to 20%). Our cooperative decides instead a fixed quota of profit which affects the total price of the travel for an amount from about 13% to 20%. The direct subject of our sale is the traveller. Thanks to the transparent price form, the traveller can know how the price of the travel is composed and become a critical consumer.
« Project quota »
On the travels abroad, the group of travellers gives a minimal donation to one or more of the communities/projects visited during the travel. On some travels such quota is collected by the agency ViaggieMiraggi before the departure, on other ones the travellers pay it directly in loco. ViaggieMiraggi periodically checks the projects so as to monitor the economic repercussion of the donations.
« Services in loco »
Travelling responsibly also means using the local accommodation and the public transport (where it is possible), so that the money is spent in loco. Consequently, depending on the situations and possibilities, the overnight stay is in:
- structures supplied by the organisations visited themselves;
- family-run hotels and/or local bed and breakfasts, facilities as “eco-friendly” as possible;
- families’ houses
Depending on situations, the means of transport used are:
- cars, taxis, small vans rent in loco;
- public bus services;
- trains, ferries, planes for possible domestic flights
Meals as well can be consumed responsibly, by choosing;
- locally and family-run structures
- lunches and dinners with families
- street-food and local markets
- sustainable and zero km production
« Travels with common fund »
For some travel destinations, the cooperative establishes a common fund to take in loco. It is an appraisal of the amount needed to pay some services during the travel, defined on the basis of the costs provided by the local representatives and on the number of participants. For some travels, the amount of common fund is necessary to cover many services in loco and the amount to bring from Italy might be sizeable. The common fund is taken in loco by the travellers in euros or in a different currency depending on the destination and on the basis of the agency’s guidelines. On the basis of the destination visited, the fund is managed by the courier or the group of travellers itself has to manage it, appointing one or more “cashiers” and establishing the methods to collect the money among the participants. It may happen to exceed or not to reach the quota appraised, in accordance to the group’s choices on some services (for example, more expensive meals or drinks which the traveller decides to buy, transport or hotels changed in loco for a group’s choice), on the group’s activities (for example extra-programme excursions, etc.) or for a (un)favourable exchange rate when travelling.
« The mediator or the local representative »
It is hardly ever a “traditional” guide but always an informal figure related to our movement of sustainable tourism, to our association or project we have created a collaboration with and which has allowed us to organise the travel itinerary.
The travellers often have very high expectations on the representatives (historical and cultural knowledge, ability to modify itineraries or to confront to the travellers’ particular needs); that must always be checked in advance with the cooperative, because every travel plan proposed has its own story, a situation which differs from country to country. It is also important to know that a service at the same level as big tour operators’ level cannot be demanded to our organisation, as they may work in some zones with local agencies expert in the traditional tourism sector. That justifies the difference in price (for instance, a Madagascar Travel of our catalogue is by far less expensive than one of any tour operator expert of traditional tourism, hiking, etc.)
« Changes of travel date »
It is always possible to agree on dates different than the ones proposed, after verifying if local representatives are available to receive people for the period required. Dates are always approximate except in high season periods, for which the cooperative “blocks” the group dates.
« Changes of plan »
The plan may undergo slight changes at the guide’s discretion, according to the weather conditions or unexpected events which make consider such changes opportune, or at the group’s discretion provided that there is unanimous agreement. Among the activities planned, visits to communities and to development projects are not considered optional.
« Changes of price »
The price indicated in the programmes published by the cooperative may undergo changes for the following reasons:
- exchange rates;
- change of the number of participants on whom the common fund has been calculated (in fault or exceeding).
The quotation prepared at the beginning of the planning often presents some amounts whose exchange rate might later become more unfavourable, therefore we reserve the right to reconfirm prices. During the pre-travel meeting, the group is informed whether there may be a change of the common fund. In that case, the person responsible for the fund carefully checks the common fund expenses, writing on a booklet/sheet possible differences. In any case, the increase of the common fund is, as for every tour operator, regulated by the Travel Conditions and by the agreement, so it may be overspent up to 10%.
« Conditions of participation »
In order to enrol in a travel or to ask for the booking of a tourist service, it is necessary to fill in in each part the subscription application given by the agency.
After receiving the subscription application, the Cooperative ViaggieMiraggi sends the applicant a detailed quotation and a confirmation of the realisation of the travel. As for the “flight included” travels, the confirmation of the realisation of the tour is at the latest a month before the departure.
After that, the traveller interested sends a deposit and the cooperative sends to the traveller the purchase agreement complete with the transparent recap of the several costs and with the general travel conditions. The purchase agreement is countersigned by the traveller and returned within 7 business days after being received, by ordinary post, by email (scanned copy of the agreement) or by fax, if it is not possible to directly deliver it at the agency’s offices.
The conditions of participation have been drawn up in conformity with the law in effect at the time, also contained in our Travel conditions. Along with sending the agreement, the traveller has to deposit the sums specified in it within the indicated deadline. The balance of the cost of the travel has to be deposited at least 30 days before the departure. As for reservations after the above-mentioned terms or at the same time as the departure, it is necessary to deposit the whole amount at the moment of while booking and in one solution. Deposits may be paid cash (up to a maximum of 2999.00 euros permitted by law), by postal order, cheque, bank transfer or post current account; in case of bank transfer or post current account, it is necessary to fax a copy of the transfer as a proof of the payment. In case the traveller renounces the travel, the provisions expressed in the General Travel Conditions are applied. The customer has to keep a copy of the purchase agreement of the package holiday and/or tourist service from the selling travel agency, in conformity with the law in effect at the time.
« Insurance »
The agency’s organisational expenses include an insurance coverage for the travel with the agency Filodiretto Assistance: it is an insurance which covers luggage and medical services. For some destinations, the agency Filodiretto Assistance does not offer any coverage. It is possible to guarantee the insurance coverage with the same guarantees by paying an extra charge. If the traveller wishes to increase the maximum coverage proposed in the policy, a quotation can be required at the agency’s office. As for the travel cancellation insurance, Filo diretto Assistance is never included in the packet. The cost is starting from 5-6% of the total sum of the tourist packet. Besides, it has to be activated at least 32 days before the departure. It is possible to ask for a precise quotation at the agency’s office.
« Assessment questionnaire »
At the end of the travel, every traveller receives an assessment questionnaire which we attach great importance to and which we request all participants to fill in. It is a useful tool to improve our activity and to work out possible problems born during the travel.
General Travel Conditions
For further information, please consult the document on the General Travel Conditions.