Good practices applied in “Andean Lodges” business model
Many times development of a community based tourism is a tricky question for different reasons. Communities can easily be manipulated by agencies and operators, people involved are under paid and positive impact is hardly present, if at all. On a completely opposite side is “Andean Lodges”, operator from Cusco, Peru, whose activity generates benefits on many levels.
“Andean Lodges” operates trekking tours in the southern Peru for more than 10 years, in a region around Vilcanota range, some 100 km from Cusco. Core of their business model is strong involvement of local indigenous communities in all areas of their work. Not only in the delivery of the service but as well in the product creation and client relations. Communities Chillca and Osefina participate actively in all segments of one tour and their value in organization is immeasurable.
From the very beginning of its business ‘’Andean Lodges” looks for solutions on how to positively influence communities involved. Before actually being involved, members of Chillca and Osefina have opportunity to participate in courses and practical work where they learn about hospitality techniques and working processes. People who choose to work in housekeeping pass several weeks in hotels in Cusco learning directly from housekeeping departments. They learn about room preparation, general maintenance and cleaning.
On the other hand, those who decide to work in the kitchen start their career in the restaurants around Cusco area. They learn about various cooking technics, food preparation processes, meal serving and arranging. Once they finish this part, they work on menu creation for all tours. Meals are based on traditional ingredients from this region and have been part of southern Peru’s diet for decades or centuries. They are all light, fresh and rich in proteins in order to provide good balance for participants.
Through all of this, ‘’Andean Lodges” supports education of community members and provides opportunities for additional job possibilities. They work on a rotating principle so that everyone receives chance to earn and be involved. Enhancement of the local economy is achieved with one more segment. Llama breeders are part of “Andean Lodges” concept as llamas are used for transport of all necessities and gear during the trekking. They are still main mean of transport in the Andean region and through this cooperation breeders have one more opportunity to economically support their activity and development.
Another example of positive relation between the two is the way how Cusco based operator treats the subject of remuneration. All people who participate in the business process are paid immediately after tours are finished. With this, people from “Andean Lodges” successfully battle ever present problem of late payments which, in cases of some operators and distributors, arrive month or two after the work is done. By distributing income as soon as the work is over, it is possible to immediately help community’s everyday life and directly influence their existence. Modern tourism is known as an environment where problem of payment exists in various countries and activism in this form is probably the best way to deal with and battle it. Finally, communities are shareholders of the company and have possibility to participate in decision making processes.
Customs and tradition of Inca communities have their place, too. Workers wear their traditional clothes and gladly explain meanings of its colors and designs. Local producers of alpaca wool present their techniques and products so travelers have close insight in the creation process of these beautiful artisanal. Communities have chance through this to present their culture, share it with travelers and preserve it.
Environmental responsibility is present in various forms. None of the lodges is using gas or electricity for heating, diminishing by that emissions of CO2. The only heating source present is fire and it is used only in the common area. Furthermore, all shampoos and soaps used are biodegradable, all lodges have their own biodigester and waste is separated into the organic and non-organic one. The latter is then transported to Cusco to be disposed or recycled, if possible. Use of plastics is minimal and there are almost no single-use products used.
Material used for the construction comes from the surrounding areas so hotels fit perfectly into the environment around them. Rocks come from the mountains which make Ausangate range and woods from the forests close to this region.
Positive influence of “Andean Lodges” activities is seen on various levels and in different forms. Social, environmental and economic sustainability are all equally represented and build strong base for business development. Communities which collaborate with them are equally involved in all aspects of their work and make inseparable part of the company. Together, they successfully incorporate all three pillars of one sustainable product and ensure that tourism is developed in the most beneficial way possible.