Many great things come from simple ideas! Meet Andrew Straw and Paul Snedker, two friends, both passionate about cycling. Their company Saddle Skeddadle cycling holiday is one of the UK’s leading biking holiday specialists offering responsible cycling holidays all over the world. They also organise and manage Meet the People Tours in partnership with Traidcraft; fair-trade holidays designed to open our eyes to the world of fairtrade. We managed to keep them still long enough to ask a few questions, and what a pleasure it was.
Saddle Skeddadle, great name. How did it all start?
In a tent, 4,000m above sea level! We were on a cycling tour around Chile 14 years ago and we decided that when we returned home it couldn’t be to a ‘real job.’ Saddle Skeddale was conceived. We enjoyed our trip so much that we decided to bring other cycling enthusiasts back to Chille with us.
Easier said than done I’d imagine. How did you finance your idea?
We arrived home penniless but managed to get a £250 grant and used it to tout ourselves around some local exhibitions. Luckily we were convincing and we scraped a group of six people together; our very first tour group.
Clearly cycling is much better for both the cyclists and the environment. Tell us about Saddle Skeddadle’s responsible approach to holidays.
Right from the very beginning, we have always been very careful to respect the local communities that we tour in. We always want to give something back to the local people. Using local guides and staying in local accommodation opposed to hotel chains, is essential. It’s more than just preserving the landscape, our small groups respect local cultures and communities whilst minimising the disruption that we can cause.
What about the Carbon Footprint created by flying to other countries?
We run a scheme whereby people can opt to offset their carbon when they book flights with us. This is successful to some degree and is always an option but recently we have felt that we could do more on the ground by using a different approach.
We have joined forced with Sustrans UK’s leading sustainable transport charity. Sustainable transport is central to who we are as a company and we recognise that we have a responsibility to maintain the routes that we want to enjoy. For every mile that our customers cycle on the National Cycle Network, we donate 5p to Sustrans. It makes sense and shows our commitment to reducing carbon emissions.
So if I was off on a Meet the People tour, what would I expect to get?
The tours are designed as a mixture of raising awareness and also seeing the sights. They offer a jam packed itinerary. For example, you can view for yourself the extreme’s of a country like India, visiting the Taj Mahal on one hand and the fair-trade producers on the other.
Paul, you used to work for Traidcraft, but now manage and organise the Meet the People Tours through Saddle Skeddadle. Tell us more.
Traidcraft had managed the Meet the People Tours successfully for many years but it was a distraction from their core business. We decided there was an opportunity through Saddle Skeddadle to work together, following the same fair-trade approach to the holidays that Traidcraft had always followed.
Tourism is a tricky business. There is no fair-trade mark as such. It has many different components and we constantly strive to get as many different aspects of the holiday to be as environmentally acceptable as possible.
We work in partnership with all the locals, a true and long term partnership, in fact 65 per cent of the money from the holidays goes straight to the local people. We think that is pretty impressive.Click here for more green gods