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Safety & Risk Management

Philosophy of Risk

Rustic Pathways understands that risk is an inherent aspect of our programs and takes the health and wellbeing of our students extremely seriously. We travel to remote destinations, many of which have limited access to the definitive medical care and emergency systems that are commonly found in the developed world. However, risk is an essential component of personal growth. Taking risks such as trying new foods, summiting a demanding peak, journeying through undeveloped areas and challenging existing world-views is part of the magic of travel. We believe that the positive transformations our students undergo are a direct result of properly managed risk.

Our Approach to Risk Management

Risk management begins with a process of identifying potential risks, then evaluating their potential outcomes and likelihoods. We use this information to formulate a management plan to mitigate risk through prevention and to outline appropriate response measures. Risk Management at Rustic Pathways occurs on three levels: company-wide, country operation and program management.

1. Company-Wide

At the Company-Wide level, Rustic Pathways employs a Director of Risk Management and Safety who oversees the implementation of the Company Risk Management Plan and the Critical Incident Protocols. The Director of Risk Management and Safety is also charged with the review of all Country Risk Management Plans (CRMPs), Program Risk Management Plans (PRMP), and Natural Disaster Plans. Moreover, the Director is responsible for conducting safety audits both in documentation and in the field; reviewing incident reports; ensuring medical screening and student forms are at or above the relevant industry standard; and providing Country Directors with resources such as our established Activities Standards and Program Protocols and Procedures and guidance in the area of Risk Management and Safety. The Director of Risk Management and Safety stays current and abreast of best practices in the industry through continued education and participation in industry Risk Management Conferences.

2. Country Management

The next layer of risk management occurs at the destination country level and is overseen by each of our full-time Country Directors. Our Country Directors, in conjunction with our country management teams where applicable, develop Country Risk Management Plans and Natural Disaster Plans. These plans, evaluate potential risks, identify precautionary measures, detail management procedures and provide contingency or evacuation strategies. Country Directors are furthermore charged with developing and an intelligence network to monitor on-the-ground conditions by utilizing local staff knowledge, and international reporting agencies, and participation in the Oversees Security Advisory Council- an arm of the US State Department. Country Directors also oversee the hiring and training of staff with certain company requirements for quality and professionalism including but not limited to background checks, age minimums, medical certifications, and in-country training workshops specific to risk management and safety. Our Country Directors and/or our HR Department also employ flight leaders to staff our international group flights originating from the United States to our destination countries.

3. Program Operations

On a third and independent level, the management of risk occurs on each of our programs through the leadership and professionalism of our guides. During training, our guides are taught and develop a thorough understanding of the Program Risk Management Plans for the programs they will be leading and the Critical Incident Protocol. Staff is trained to ensure our students’ compliance with the Rustic Pathways Student Pledge, which outlines the rules governing student behavior on programs. Staff also conducts in-person medical screenings with all students at the beginning of their program. Our guides document incidents for review by Country Directors and the Director of Risk Management and Safety. In this way, our three-tiered approach creates a feedback cycle for constant improvement and communication with regards to the management of risk at Rustic Pathways.

Student and Parent Responsibilities

Our students and parents must also have a role in maintaining the safety of our programs. We rely on our students to understand and comply with the rules of our programs, as outlined in our Student Pledge. These rules are distributed to all participants prior to the program and are additionally reviewed during the beginning of the program with the program leaders. We also expect and rely upon students and parents to fully and accurately complete our forms before the program. Information from our medical forms is used to properly screen students to ensure appropriate program placement.


Rustic Pathways has created a three-tiered management structure to identify, evaluate and manage risks. At each level, feedback and communication occurs to continually improve our systems and the safety of our programs. Please review as well the below graphic for a summary of our risk management structure. Rustic Pathways acknowledges that risk is an inherent component of participating in our programs. We therefore seek to properly manage risk to provide a safe environment for students to grow through their experiences with us.