Workers' rights

When going trekking or climbing a mountain, guides and porters are crucial for the tour’s success and a customer's safety and comfort. They are however often subject to difficult and hazardous working conditions.

In many destinations, porters are subcontracted to a local tour operator. Porters and guides often receive very low salaries and have to work long hours without an adequate number of rest days. Porters also may not receive the necessary equipment (shoes, protection against cold, medication), making their work even more dangerous. As jobs are rare in many destination countries, many people have no other choice than to carry out this strenuous and hazardous work. Due to the seasonal and sometimes difficult to predict nature of tourism, many porters and guides are in casual employments without job security. To earn additional income, some guides or porters are willing to carry even more baggage or take dangerous routes at the request of tourists, putting themselves (and their customers) in danger.

Porters are reliant on their health and physical strength to carry out their job. Even though it is in the nature of their job to be exposed to major strains and risks, porters are often not sufficiently (if at all) covered by social and health insurance. Also, their relatives may only receive inadequate compensation in the case of injury or death. As many porters and guides support an extended family, the loss of income has wide consequences

A documentary on the strenuous and dangerous work of the Inca trail porters.

After 16 guides were killed by an avalanche on Mt. Everest in 2014, the Nepali Government offered only $400 USD to each victim’s family. It increased the amount to $5000 USD after protests. Delays and bureaucratic hurdles complicated the families’ claims.

As a result of the “Trekking Wrongs: Porters’ Rights” campaign by the organisation Tourism Concern, over half of UK trekking tour operators adopted their Codes of Conduct for improved working conditions for mountain porters.

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Take action

Policy and process

Training and capacity building

  • Sensitize customers about the rights and working conditions of guides, porters, and game keepers to help protect these workers from exploitation and raise awareness for fair working conditions. 

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.