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LATA Responsible Tourism Awards Recognition image

LATA Responsible Tourism Awards Recognition

Explorandes was recognized as the “One to Watch” in the Nature Positive category of the 2024 Latin American Travel Association (LATA) Responsible Tourism Awards for The Hidden Valleys of Salkantay Trek project. It is a success story of local communities and the private sector working together to protect the land and nature and create value by sharing with the world a regenerative alternative to the overflow in the trekking routes to Machu Picchu.

ExplorandesJun 28, 2024 | 15 min read



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LATA Responsible Tourism Awards – Nature Positive Category 


The Nature Positive category recognizes the value of wildlife and the natural environment as important drivers for travel. The travel and tourism sector depends on nature's beauty to provide its goods and services, yet poorly managed tourism can have negative impacts on the places we visit. The tourism sector has a responsibility to contribute to the reversal of biodiversity loss and protect nature for future generations by promoting a regenerative approach to tourism. This category recognizes businesses that act as the guardians of biodiversity and take a regenerative approach to their operation.


Clinching the “One to Watch” award for The Hidden Valleys of Salkantay project 


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Explorandes was recognized as one to watch by the judges for its work with the Misquiyaco community who saw the risk of overtourism on the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu and created an opportunity to do things differently. Creating alternative trails with the community, Explorandes hires local expedition support staff and pays a per-person entrance fee and camping fees to the community, generating income for the Misquiyaco community in exchange for their landscape conservation efforts. For this effort they have partnered with Regenera, an organization that fosters partnerships between companies who offset their environmental footprint by providing monthly incentives to local land managers and technical assistance providers to work together to protect and restore natural landscapes. 

 

Our passion for regenerative travel motivates us to pursue knowledge, execute at a top level, and commit to the world's best certifications. 

 

Explorandes is an inbound tour operator specializing in active and adventure travel in Peru with direct operations in Cusco, Huaraz and Lima. The company was the first tour operator in the Americas to have an ISO14001 certified environmental management system and one of the first in Peru to be certified under the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Tourism Standards, accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). Explorandes recently joined the LATA Sustainable Travel Network after its completion of LATA’s Sustainable Travel Programme. 



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The award-winning project: Hidden Valleys of Salkantay Trek


Managing the fine balance between promoting tourism to Machu Picchu and ensuring the long-term conservation of the site’s cultural and natural patrimony is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the tourism industry in Peru. It can seem even more daunting when we consider the need to rapidly adapt to a changing climate and landscape as the tropical glaciers next door suffer rapid deglaciation, increasing risks to the site’s accessibility, integrity and the economic health of the tourism industry that it supports due to possible landslides, increased frequency and intensiveness of forest fires and other natural disasters.  

 

Governance, investment in infrastructure (both natural and built), and management practices need to improve vastly so that sound decisions that consider multiple and sometimes competing goals can be made to ensure the destination’s sustainability over time. Our company has been contributing toward managing the potential hazards of tourism by spearheading a regenerative approach to tourism that integrates our sustainability policy and attention to detail into key elements of the experience, such as route design.


A bit of history on the route


During the late 90’s a new permit system that put a cap on the number of visitors was implemented on the Inca Trail, forcing adventure travel companies to explore and promote alternative treks to Machu Picchu. The classic Salkantay trek – which we pioneered in the late 1970’s – stood out as the popular choice for an overflow trek to Machu Picchu. Over a period of approximately 20 years of unregulated and unfettered development, coupled with an increasing demand for adventure travel has resulted in the route becoming overrun by tourism with over 800 passengers per day entering the trail during peak season. All of them need accommodation, either in makeshift campsites or built lodges which puts pressure on precarious local sanitation infrastructure, inevitably affecting water quality and impacting farmers downstream. Lack of destination management and leadership is degrading the local communities’ quality of life, landscape health and visitors’ experience. We need to keep working to improve regulations and management practices that ensure the sustainability of this alternative trekking route to Machu Picchu, our international visitor magnet.  


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After witnessing the problems and failures of the Classic Salkantay Trek, we saw the opportunity to have a second chance of doing it right when Ronald and his uncle Atilio, key members of Misquiyaco community’s leadership, approached us and invited us to visit their forest. Here was our opportunity to prove that thoughtfully and responsibly managed adventure travel can be a powerful tool to protect and regenerate our natural and cultural heritage and contribute to economic prosperity in rural communities who often rely on agriculture as their only source of income.


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The Hidden Valleys of Salkantay 


The Hidden Valleys of Salkantay trek is an alternative route to the Classic Salkantay Trek that contributes to protecting local ecosystems and adds economic value to local communities along the trek by hiring local support staff, purchasing from local suppliers, paying entrance and camping fees and paying fair wages and rates in full formality throughout our supply chain.


The Misquiyaco Community


Misquiyaco is an Andean community that is passionate about protecting and preserving its ecosystems. Their territory spans from the Limatambo valley floor at 2,800 masl up to the high passes of the puna highlands at 4,800 m.a.s.l and traverses at least 4 ecological floors, including the Illpay forest, home to 200 hectares of primary meso-Andean relic forest, with chachacomo and tasta trees as old as 250 years, and a diverse range of endemic wildlife such as orchids, bromeliads, birds, hummingbirds, foxes, deer and spectacled bears.


During the pandemic, the community leaders worked with Conservación Amazónica (https://acca.org.pe/ ) and SERNANP, Peru’s National Park Service, to declare 1,800 hectares – over 65% of their territory – as a Communally-owned Private Conservation Area (C-PCA) and register it in the National System of Protected Areas (SINANPE), legally and publicly committing to conserve their territory and its biodiversity via Ministerial Resolution N° 246/2021/MINAM. To recognize the significant investment made by the community, we began including a per-guest entrance fee as well as overnight camping fees in our trip costs and paying fair rates to the community and its service providers. In addition, we continuously train local expedition support staff whom we hire for our treks.


Growing our Impact


In 2022, after the ACP was established and all of the economic and operational arrangements between Explorandes and the community’s leadership were put in place and refined, we decided to introduce the Misquiyaco community’s leadership to Regenera (https://www.regenera.earth/) , an organization that has been helping Explorandes achieve a positive impact on nature, climate, and communities since 2018. They do this by promoting partnerships between local land managers and technical assistance providers who both receive monthly financial support to protect, restore and monitor natural landscapes. This financial support is paid for by partner organizations such as Explorandes who make a conscious decision to continuously measure, reduce and compensate the negative impacts that we’re unable to eliminate from our operations. More than carbon offsets and tree planting, we partner with Regenera to support living natural landscapes whose biodiversity conservation is managed by local communities who know their lands and ecosystems best. 

As a result of our 3-way partnership, Misquiyaco Community, assisted by the team at Regenera, was able to publish their first ever Misquiyaco Governance Plan (Misquiyaco), or development plan which serves as a road map for the community’s development – outlining their current situation and priorities in education, healthcare, governance, land and water management as well as outlining the current state of productive activities that serve as the basis of their local economy: agriculture, cattle-raising, tourism, timber and non-timber forest products. With a firm commitment to preserve the landscape and a clear development plan, the local community has recently begun receiving the first payments for the ecosystem services their forest provides from Regenera partners.  

Nearly 7 years after this partnership began, we are now welcoming adventurers on regular basis and receiving amazing feedback from the guests, community, and partners. This project is only in its initial phase and will certainly keep growing as we reinvest trip profits and company resources into improving natural and built infrastructure along the trek. This trek is not only the most conscious and intentional trek you can choose to visit Machu Picchu, it also offers an exclusive, off the beaten path experience. The landscapes and highlights of this multiday trek experience reflect a perfect blend of nature, living culture, ancient sites, Inca trails, gastronomy and challenging physical activity wrapped in comfortable camping settings, led by outstanding guides, and supported by the most experienced team of expedition staff in the country.


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Project video:




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Someone request to turn on the night lights? 


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Are you up for a good dose of ancient archeological wonders?


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Do you like the idea of immersing yourself in nature while walking the same path stairs that Quechua people used in Inca times and explore isolated ancient sites


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Can you see yourself enjoying Andean nature?


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For more info regarding this unique program follow the link: Hidden Valleys of Salkantay Trek

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