These responsible tour operators and DMCs are inspiring a shift towards positive-impact tourism.
It’s no longer enough to offer travelers memorable, transformative experiences with high-quality services. Travel companies are now urged to take action on sustainability and climate change as we realize what enormous responsibility the tourism industry has in helping protect people and the planet.
Increasingly, Latin American tour operators and DMCs are going above and beyond to commit to more sustainable practices that benefit destinations, provide fair income for local communities and help preserve the region’s diverse nature and culture. As 74% of international travelers want travel companies to offer more sustainable travel choices (Booking Sustainable Travel Report 2023) and almost 60% of travelers are likely to pay to offset their carbon footprint when flying (WTTC A world in motion: shifting consumer travel trends in 2022 and beyond), sustainable travel companies in Latin America are rolling up their sleeves and employing innovative solutions and ethical principles in their operations.
Our REMOTE Community is full of inspiration from travel companies who work tirelessly with local communities to foster positive socio-economic and environmental impacts. Each operator has developed distinct initiatives and is following different paths toward sustainable tourism.
“Nowadays, a commitment to sustainability is not a choice, but an obligation,” states Jan Strik, founder and director of Vapues Travel, which operates in Nicaragua and Panama. Strik reminds us that, “The role of properties and DMCs is elemental to the process of cultural understanding and inclusivity and the preservation of the environment. A tour is much more than a product: It is a vicarious learning experience in which travelers are put in contact with local protagonists with an often-alternative reality, and with a different motivation, identity, world vision and perspective on development. The role of DMCs and properties is to enable and reinforce this inclusive environment and provide comprehensible and (market) segmented “product” information to Tour Operators and Travel Designers, enabling them to present clients with selected experiences, matching and effectively managing expectations.”
Sustainability is a core value and practice at Vapues Travel, which has been a certificated Travelife Partner Committed to Sustainability since 2017. In addition to the various practices that are part of Vapues’ Sustainability Policy, which are constantly improved and updated, the company recently dedicated itself to developing the concept of Location Bound Slow Travel, in which travelers are encouraged to go to one or several hubs with a limited range of infrastructure, transportation and services, while being introduced to and experiencing the cultural and socio-economic reality of the local providers that operate their services. The essence is to maximize communal impact and minimize carbon emissions.
Pure Brasil declared war on single-use plastics over a decade ago and is always working on creative solutions to encourage its partners and suppliers to do the same. “We also take special care to provide fair pay to everyone in the production chain and tax and labor formalities that aren’t always practiced, in spite of the law. We know that this is the least we can do, but many simply don’t!” says Douglas Simões, founder of Pure Brasil.
The company, which operates all throughout Brazil, has also been dedicated to developing and supporting authentic community-based tourism experiences that truly benefit traditional communities. In such destinations as Rio de Janeiro, the Maraú Península, the Amazon and the Pantanal, Pure Brasil makes sure that travelers have the opportunity to connect with the true hosts and their culture.
Going in the opposite direction, Tropic DMC was born in Ecuador in 1994 as a social business focused on the conservation of the forest and the Huaorani culture. “Tropic’s foundation was about sustainability. We were more of an experiment and we wanted to prove that tourism could be used as a tool for conservation. So this is the essence that we’ve been trying to maintain for the past 30 years,” says Jascivan Carvalho, Tropic’s CEO. Since then, Tropic has been certified by Preferred by Nature, become a part of the Conscious Travel Foundation and developed several initiatives to promote conservation and empower local people in Ecuador.
Tropic’s initiatives include the creation of a network of local artisans in the Andes of Peru and Ecuador, leadership team training on sustainability, projects for the conservation and regeneration of endemic species through ecolodges and support for the first community-based ecotourism operator on the Galapagos Islands. The company also recently kicked off its journey toward becoming carbon positive.
“Nowadays, if tour operators want to remain in business, especially in countries like ours, where nature and culture are the biggest components of what people are coming to see, unless we realize that we’re destroying these unique habitats and ecosystems and that we need to advocate for and be proactive in conserving these lands and cultures, I feel like this will be the beginning of the end of our businesses (not to mention the planet). We’re going to miss the opportunity to continue doing the business that we do and love.” Carvalho emphasizes.
Check out these other amazing, responsible Local Experts in Latin America:
– Amazon Emotions – Brazil
– Bolivia Milenaria – Bolivia
– Costa Rica Sun Tours – Costa Rica
– Esencia Patagonia – Argentina and Chile
– Geo Boutique Travel Designer – Ecuador
– Ideia Tours – Brazil
– Lares – Uruguay
– Latin Trails – Ecuador
– Mai10 – Argentina
– Maya Trails – Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras
– Memorable Travel Group – Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama
– Socompa – Argentina
– Todos Santos Eco Adventures – Mexico
– Viaventure Central America – Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua
– VM Elite – Chile