The desire to experience exotic places and cultures different from your own is intrinsic to the human experience. Every traveler enjoys seeing the world through the eyes of others and having their ideas about what life is like expanded. In recent decades, there has been much discussion about a type of tourism that comes to gawk and go home, or that appreciates the beauty of a culture including songs, dances, food, clothing, and way of life, etc. only to ignore the problems that culture is facing and forget about them as soon as one leaves. This is equally true of our impact on the environment. Many now believe that travelers ought to be responsible caretakers and preservers of the remote and pristine environments they travel thousands of miles to enjoy.
Much as we might like to, we cannot and should not ignore the fact that wherever we go in the world, we have an impact, inevitably influencing the world around us in positive or negative ways. That realization on the part of tourism professionals led to the creation of a type of tourism that is not only sustainable but that actively helps protect the people and places it touches. But how can you know whether you are benefitting or harming the places you visit? One great way is to do your homework and thoroughly research and investigate the tour operators and travel agencies you engage when you plan your trip.
In Peru and on the Inca Trail there are many factors that go into the creation of responsible tourism. Many tour companies operate the Inca Trail, but not all pay strict attention to creating a product that benefits travelers, the people that carry out the logistics of the tour, and the places they are visiting. This blog presents some guidelines to consider when choosing a tour operator for your trip to Peru.
The best travel tour companies follow strict guidelines when dealing with people and the environment. For example, companies that hire porters for the Inca Trail and other wilderness treks ought to respect weight limitations so as not to overload the folks that are handling equipment on the trail. Too, the porters and cooks ought to be paid fairly for their hard work. It is responsible to both the communities and to travelers to hire qualified local guides, porters, and others, and to make sure that they are well-trained in safety procedures and have wilderness first aid certifications.
Look for companies that have participated in campaigns to clean up the environment and/or won awards for their participation and for their social and environmental responsibility. The World Travel Awards are a gauge of excellence within the tourism industry and have a Green Tour Operator category, which Explorandes recently won.
A great tour operator will pay attention to safety above all else. So helpers on the ground should have access to and know how to use safety equipment, such as two-way radios, GPS locators, and emergency kits. They should know the proper procedures to use in case of accident or emergency and have strong knowledge of the land and evacuation routes and procedures.
In these days of social media, many online resources are available to travelers to qualify the best travel tour companies in any region. Travel sites such as Trip Advisor contain reviews filled with information about the experiences of those who have traveled with different tour companies. Travel blogs are another great source of knowledgeable content. When considering the Inca Trail, one very helpful blog can be found here:
Study the website of any tour operator you are considering. Quality travel companies make it very easy for prospective clients to find the information that differentiates them from their competitors. For example:
In summary, the items you should look for in a tour company are:
- Qualified Sales Team with knowledge of local places and logistics
- Good reviews on major travel sites and travel blog sites
- Responsible social and environmental practices
- Recognition/ awards for social and environmental practices
- Modern and up-to-date safety equipment
- First aid training for crew, Wilderness First Aid training, Knowledge of CPR
- Qualified Sales Team with knowledge of local places, events, and customs
- Ability to customize experiences/ find unique travel options
- Environmental certifications as the Rainforest Alliance Certification for Tour Operators
We at Explorandes are a socially and environmentally responsible company, and are committed to excelling in every one of the points mentioned.