This is the second in our new series of interviews with social entrepreneurs working in tourism. The NGO “Centro Bartolomé de Las Casas” (CBC) was founded in 1974 and is the oldest NGO in the Peruvian Southern Andes. In 2011, it launched the responsible travel agency CBCtupay as an entrepreneurial spin-off, promoting social projects and sustainable tourism within the Quechuan communities of the Cusco region. We spoke with Eva Becker, who works with CBCtupay.
TRAVINDY: What are the challenges you are trying to address?
CBCTupay: We’re trying to connect marginalized indigenous communities to tourism markets – to give them access and the right to discuss and decide about the services and products they want to offer, because often they are displaced or exploited by bigger tourism companies.
CBCtupay works with associations focussed on providing Community Based Tourism and we want to help the indigenous Quechuan communities we work with maintain their social structures. We invite municipalities and village authorities to take part in our projects. For example, we share knowledge about climate change with the communities and associations; and at the same time we learn from them how their agriculture and crop culture has changed and how they are working the fields now (because all of our small scale entrepreneurs live on subsistence agriculture, with tourism as a little “extra” for them).
Basically, it is a form of reciprocal learning through which CBCtupay wants to preserve ancestral knowledge about Pachamama (which is how “mother earth” is called in the Quechuan communities) and its plants. To do this we connect tourists and volunteers to this fragile ecosystem by offering responsible tourism to the social projects of the NGO “Centro Bartolomé de Las Casas” in Cusco, of which we are a spin-off. We try to bring economic benefits to the communities so as to close the gap between the economically well off and the rural population who live in often extreme poverty, because this gap is extremely big in Peru.
TRAVINDY: What is the impact you are trying to achieve?
CBCtupay: The target group of our work are native Quechuan families in the first place and rural organisations in Quechua communities after that. We intend to improve the competitiveness of their products (woven textiles, ceramics, along with agricultural products like quinoa and amaranth or corn) and services (mainly tourism, accommodation, food) and to do our best to ensure that when the communities to enter the market they are as well informed as possible.
We want them to take responsibility for their own development and their product placement. What we do is give them the capacity to understand the market’s cost structures and pricing, and give them basic tools in marketing and language, since most of our counterparts in the communities don’t speak even English or Spanish but only Quechua.
“Using a participatory approach means we don’t ‘teach’ the communities how tourism works, but ask them to lead by describing how they want people from abroad to see their community and how they think it could work”
We hope this will bring them fairer prices and a recognition of the rural Quechuan communities in the international travel market as well as in national and regional travel industry, because often the big fishes and more professional travel agents take advantage of the communities or sell them as a destination, while keeping most of the benefits for themselves.
TRAVINDY: What’s special about your approach to meeting these challenges?
CBCTupay: The special thing about our project is that it connects global markets with local Quechuan culture. We use participative methods to guarantee our small-scale-businesses can cope. In every community there are 9 to 15 local Quechua people working as entrepreneurs, often women who want to contribute to their family’s income by providing meals and accommodation for tourists or by selling their artisan works.
Our participatory methods mean we don’t “teach” the communities how tourism works, but ask them to lead by describing how they want people from abroad to see their community and how they think it could work.
TRAVINDY: What’s the most exciting thing you’ve achieved so far?
CBCTupay: One of our associations was invited to an artisan fair in France, where four women travelled to the city of Caen to present their weavings. And as we are still young, the formalisation and legalisation of the Responsible Travel Agency CBCtupay in November 2011 was the realisation of a great goal.
TRAVINDY: What do you need to help you be more successful?
CBCTupay: We need more personnel specialised in fair trade and sustainable tourism willing to commit to the NGO “Centro Bartolomé de Las Casas”. They need to have a passion to develop another kind of tourism, one which is a niche and doesn’t have that much income and earnings compared to conventional tourism.
Furthermore our promotion and marketing is still very weak and we are not yet well known in the Peruvian travel market let alone in the international travel business.
Finally, we have trouble finding trilingual tourist guides (ones who speak Quechuan, Spanish and English), who are willing to work with indigenous communities, yet this indispensable for most of our tours.
TRAVINDY: What does that success look like? Share your dream with us.
CBCTupay: We want to establish an associative model of managing community based tourism from its grassroots without the major intervention of NGOs or travel agencies:
In our case the communities still need assistance and “Knowhow” from the outside of their community and in many cases the associations fall apart and people work individually only in order to maximize their personal income.
“Let people live with sufficient income based on tourism but still maintaining other activities and without the being bound by the chains of depending only on tourism.”
We want to find the key to a community based tourism which involves the community and doesn’t replace other activities such as subsistence agriculture, but involves all the activities that a community partakes in. Let people live with sufficient income based on tourism but still maintaining other activities and without the being bound by the chains of depending only on tourism.
TRAVINDY: If you could connect with one person, company or organisation in responsible tourism, who would it be, and why?
CBCTupay: We would like to connect with TourCert, because they do a good job promoting good practices in responsible tourism and are a “door opener” for small Latin American incoming agencies in Europe. We would like to form part of their network, obtaining training and capacity building our personnel of CBCtupay and our communities in certification of responsible tourism and what it takes to be certified.
As we understand, they still do not offer criteria to certify Responsible Tourism in communities or a CBT-certification, which certainly needs other baselines than the certification in common tourism businesses. It would be great to connect to them!
TRAVINDY: Which other person, company or organisation would you most like to recommend to be interviewed for this series, and why?
CBCTupay: We would recommend Mr Ronny Peña Castillo (email him here or connect on twitter) for this series. He is a professional tour guide in Cusco with lots of experience guiding tourists in Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the Cusco Region.
But one day he decided not to work for conventional mass tourism companies anymore but only for sustainable agencies and to spread the word of the three columns of sustainability and how a tour guide can create awareness about environmental protection, socio-cultural impacts of his work and economically fair repartition of the income tourism generates in Cusco.
He launched a round table for tour guides who want to inform and keep on educating themselves in fair trade and sustainability issues in tourism, and this is open to every guide who wants to join. Ronny offers capacity building on sustainable travel and how to minimize negative touristic impact on a grassroots-level amongst the tour guide-community in Peru, especially in Cusco and Machu Picchu.