Responsible tourism is a very important concept in the world today, with people taking holidays further afield to increasingly exotic or isolated places. It is essentially and new alternative to ‘mass tourism’ whereby both tourists and tour operators respect and benefit the places and communities that they visit and operate in.
By following responsible tourism guidelines, you ensure that both you, the traveler, and the local community benefits from your trip. Tourism should always be a force for good, which sustains local jobs, contributes to the local economy and conserves local cultural and natural heritage as well as providing you with incredible and unforgettable experiences!
Tourism has the potential to be of real benefit to local communities, particularly in poor countries like Peru where tourism is a major industry, but unfortunately this is often not the case. Many agencies charge very competitive prices and care more about their profit than anything else – simply the cheaper the tour or trek, the less likely it is that the agency follows responsible tourism guidelines.
Below is some information about how DOS MANOS contributes to responsible tourism, and also how you can contribute when you take your holiday.
DOS MANOS & Responsible Tourism
Here at DOS MANOS we firmly believe in responsible tourism and treating our local staff and the local environment with respect the respect it deserves.
We contribute to the local economy by providing jobs for local people, for example as tour guides, porters, cooks, but more importantly by paying all our local staff fairly. For example, we are amongst the agencies that pay their porters the best in Cusco; 20% above the declared minimum wage. Additionally we buy all local products and eat local produce on our tours and treks; ensuring a high economic benefit to the local area.
We treat our local staff with the respect that they deserve - we provide them with their own sleeping tents and mats as well as ensuring that they are given sufficient food (not just what is left over after the tourists are finished). We respect the maximum weight of 25kg that porters carry - we prefer to take one extra porter instead of having them carrying the maximum weight or more. By paying fairly and adopting this approach our local staff are happy and feel appreciated, and thereby provide you with the best service.
We follow the ‘leave no trace’ rules on all of our treks and tours to remote places. We always take with us all rubbish and other materials that do not belong in the natural environment, we use biodegradable products to do the dishes and in our portable toilets, and we leave each site we visit exactly as we found it. We keep to marked and designated trails to avoid disrupting or damaging delicate vegetation or wildlife.
How YOU Can Practice Responsible Tourism
To help enjoy the richness of Peru without contributing to its degradation, please think about the following during your visit. By heeding this advice, you can act as an example for other travelers who are less informed than you!
Before you Travel
You should start by learning a little about Peru before you travel, read up on the culture, religion, traditions, history and politics. This will give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive in the country, so that you can dress and act accordingly. It’s also a good idea to buy a Spanish phrase book or take a few classes so that you can interact with the local people.
Knowing and understanding the country you visit is all part of having a positive impact on it. Obtaining this knowledge beforehand means that while in Peru, you have the opportunity to be a cultural ambassador for the Western World. Much of the world’s image of western tourists is based on the unrealities of television and magazines. Look for situations for cultural exchange whereby learning about each other’s lives is mutual. Getting to know the person sitting next to you on a local bus or the person cooking your food takes is often a rewarding experience (and a good chance to practice your Spanish!).
Approach your travels with an open mind and you won’t be disappointed. Sometimes plans change and a chance for more in-depth learning or a unique cultural experience presents itself. Adapt yourself to the situation rather than trying to change the situation to you.
Respect Local Customs and Bridge Cultural Gaps!
Remember that the norms, religion and culture of Peru are very different to that of your home country. Conduct that may be acceptable in Western communities may not be appropriate here.
Similarly you will almost certainly encounter customs and ideas here in Peru which seem strange to you based o your own cultural values - try to be open minded and learn from this new culture. Local people have different ways of thinking and concepts of time, but being different doesn’t make them wrong. If unsure, it’s always good to ask questions - locals will be pleased that you want to know more about their way of life!
You will encounter poverty in many areas of Peru, including people begging in the streets. Please don’t hand out sweets, money, or anything else, because this only serves to corrupt and worsen the begging mentality. If you want to do something for a poor community, why not volunteer instead? See http://www.amautaspanish.com/amautaspanish/english/volunteer.asp for volunteer options in Peru with our partner Spanish school AMAUTA.
Be respectful in places of religious or cultural importance to local people, for example churches or ancient ruins. These may be just a tourist attraction to you, but to locals they are important places for their religion, culture & history. Visitors should be quiet and respectful in such places.
‘Leave No Trace’
To minimise environmental impacts, follow the international “Leave No Trace” rules. Remember when you are in the countryside (or even in a city, anywhere!), don’t litter or leave things behind, and remove litter that others leave behind. When hiking, stay on the trail, and if you need to go to the bathroom, do it at least 70 meters from any water source. Don’t trample delicate vegetation or remove any form of plant, and don’t approach, surround or chase animals you may observe in order to get a photograph.
Try to buy local produce – buy your food from the many local markets rather than going to a supermarket. Buy gifts from local craftsmen at artisanal fairs rather than in large shops. This adds to the local economy and directly benefits local people.
In hotel or home stays, try to use water for showering, washing etc sparingly. Clean water is a very precious and expensive resource here in Peru and tourists tend to use far more than local people.
Many of our local staff, particularly porters for our treks, come from poor isolated areas of the Andes surrounding Cusco. Tips make a big difference to them both financially and in terms of self value, hence are very important and should always be remembered at the end of any tour.
Suggested tips depend on the tour in question. For city tours, rafting, horseback riding and so on, you might consider giving around $5 (approximately S/.15). For treks, a good amount is $10 to the head guide, and $5 to porters and cooks.
- Offer local staff coca leaves and tea
- If you have any old clothing in good condition, you could bring to give to local staff, including children’s clothes.