Latin America has many jewels that remain unexplored, even by those who have been travelling to the region for decades.
In order to share more in-depth knowledge with the community, our team interviewed REMOTER Local Expert Jan Strik, a Dutch traveler who fell in love with Central America and saw the potential in providing professional, reliable and creative travel services to visitors looking to explore this incredible part of the world. Jan highlights the main aspects of the neighboring countries Panama and Nicaragua through the eyes of Vapues, his Tour Operator and Destination Management Company (DMC).
1) What is Vapues’s core purpose and motivation in the region?
Our mission is to contribute to the enrichment of our customers’ lives, to change the ways of experiencing sustainable tourism, to discover, learn and transform through innovative, high-quality travel services. We’ve built a network of unique hotels and services across the region, helping travelers from around the world to experience the best of Nicaragua and Panama in comfort and style. Tourism can be a force for good and we’re determined to do what we can to make it so. We believe that our dynamic, friendly team are the best at what they do, with vast knowledge and great attention to detail.
2) How important is tourism in Nicaragua’s economy and how does Vapues take action?
Tourism is the second biggest industry in Nicaragua, after agriculture. The sector provides income to many communities, generating revenue for numerous families throughout the value chain. Aware of our role in the sector and the local economy, Vapues Travel actively contributes to these dynamics, promoting and implementing responsible actions that recognize and value cultural identity, needs, expectations and the rights of communities. Our initiatives include:
- Supporting local initiatives by promoting cultural and social projects.
- Participating in social projects as a strategic ally to promote sustainable excursions and the training of local people in rural communities.
- Working hand-in-hand with rural cooperatives in order to offer authentic packages and benefit communities with complementary income.
- Promoting and recommending the work of local artisans.
- Implementing good practices during tours and in our offices
- Implementing an acquisition policy that includes environmentally-friendly products.
- Establishing measures to reduce energy and water usage.
- Applying alternative practices to manage organic pollution and waste.
- Executing recycling projects.
- Supporting projects for biodiversity conservation.
- Raising awareness of bad environmental practices, including captivity of wild animals.
- Supporting local companies that promote environmental preservation.
- Ensuring staff training regarding sustainable practices.
- Ensuring and promoting a work environment that is free of discrimination and harassment.
- Implementing training and talks to ensure that all employees know their rights.
- Providing staff with the opportunity to present complaints or comments and manage any conflict in a respectful, fair and confidential way.
- Encouraging the reporting of any harassment or discrimination.
3) For people who don’t know anything about Nicaragua, what would you say are its unique features?
There are few places on Earth where such natural beauty has remained so untouched and undiscovered by mass tourism, blessing Nicaragua with a wildness and authenticity which appeals to adventurous travelers all over the world. This is a land of warm welcomes, stunning volcanic landscapes, vast tropical forests, deserted Caribbean and Pacific beaches, picturesque colonial cities and incredible wildlife, all just waiting to be explored.
To the surprise of most travelers, Nicaragua has a lot to offer: exquisite hotels and lodges across the country, and a range of unique experiences which show off the country’s fascinating history and diverse nature. The ideal destination for bespoke tours for couples, families and groups.
4) Panama is mostly known as a business destination. What are some other aspects of the country that Vapues highlights and what kind of traveler does it appeal to?
Panama is so much more than a destination for business travelers and visitors who want to see the Panama Canal. Although still relatively undiscovered as a luxury tourism destination, Panama boasts incredible diversity. From the vibrant capital of Panama City, you can travel through tropical forests, spot remarkable wildlife, visit ancient indigenous communities, drink world-class coffee straight from the source and relax on stunning beaches and remote islands surrounded by turquoise ocean waters.
Panama is a great destination for bespoke tours for couples, families and groups.
5) What does Vapues take into consideration when tailoring your “Curated Experiences” menu?
Over the years we’ve built a catalogue of unique tours and experiences which bring our travelers closer to this gorgeous part of the world. We offer a wide variety of private experiences across Nicaragua and Panama, all of which can be added to a tailored itinerary to bring travelers closer to these incredible destinations. Cook local recipes with indigenous people, go horseback riding through lush countryside, snorkel among colorful reefs or kayak in wild jungles.
We believe that the specialized knowledge of local experts is essential to the experience and tend to include scientists, artists, architects and public figures in our curated experiences, providing added value and often surprising, intriguing perspectives. Creativity is essential, as is managing expectations and including elements of surprise. We often seek authentic, remote locations that require an advance team to prepare the experience.
6) As part of the company’s perspective, you state:
“We also believe that tourism should benefit local communities and celebrate their culture and traditions, and you’ll see this throughout our range of accommodations and authentic experiences”
Could you tell us about some of the socio-environmental actions that Vapues supports?
Experiential and sustainable travel is our core, so we make sure that a good part of our tours contemplate guests sharing with local communities, whether through full immersion overnight stays or day trips.
In order to do so, we support main local operators through projects that aim to make tourism better and fairer for everyone: from monitoring birds and local biodiversity to designing trails focused on environmental education and assisting with the marketing of Community-Based Tourism.
Click here to learn all about our partner projects.