What does 'sustainable tourism' even mean? Nadia El Ferdaoussi explains all.
Something a bit different from me this month. I want to talk about responsible travel and what that really means. It seems like there’s been a recent awakening when it comes to being eco friendly or wearing sustainable fashion, we’re all increasingly aware of these things. Of course, nothing happens overnight though, people have been working tirelessly for years to bring these issues to the mainstream media, or to people who’ve managed to avoid hearing about them. I’ve finally sat up and taken notice and I’m admitting that it had never really crossed my mind.
The idea I want to explore is that tourism could potentially be the biggest form of wealth distribution we’ve ever seen. Charity is great, no one could knock it, but what if there was a way we could have our holiday, while helping at the same time? We’re spending a lot of money, often in areas where people could never dream of such wealth, doesn’t it make sense to spread it more responsibly?
Aren’t we a bit too “woke” now to be okay with just taking from poorer countries and leaving nothing behind to contribute to the communities we’re so happy to take our Instagrams in? A guilt has crept in that’s hard to ignore, and that can only be a good thing.
I travelled to Peru with G Adventures to see firsthand the impact sustainable social enterprise has on local communities and how they can directly benefit from tourism. Last year was proclaimed the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the UN, to help in the fight against poverty. The tourism industry generates 10% of the world’s economic activity, so there’s massive potential to create a ripple effect simply by choosing to travel with a company that helps contribute.
While in Peru, I saw the effect that booking tours with G Adventures can have. Tourists on their trips are directly making a difference to those who need help. That change is sustainable and provides communities with the means to continue to flourish and grow. They believe “travel
is an exchange, not a commodity” and that “as a social enterprise, the planet is our product.”
We visited a women’s weaving co-op in Ccaccaccollo in the Sacred Valley, supported by Planeterra, the non-profit arm of G Adventures’ travel company. Thousands of tourists visit Cusco and Machu Picchu every year and hundreds of local men are employed as porters and cooks on the Inca Trail. But for the women there was no way to make money and their weaving traditions were at risk of not being passed on, with customs being lost along the way. By respecting the rights, culture and history of indigenous people, while connecting travellers who can support their lives through tourism, there are many ways to spread wealth.
We were able to buy handmade woollen goods before waving goodbye. It’s mutually beneficial and just makes sense. While it might be small, remember that ripple effect. Ten thousand travellers who come to Peru make a difference, all while still ticking off those big bucket list moments. Machu Picchu was everything I expected. This time I took the train from Ollyantaytambo to Aguas Caliente and then a bus for the remainder of the journey, but next time I’ve got the Inca or Lares trail in sight.
Getting there: Fly to Lima with BA via London or Iberia via Madrid. Check the best routes on Skyscanner
How much: An eight day Machu Picchu trip with G Adventures is priced from €1,099 per person including seven nights’ accommodation, breakfast, transportation and specialist Inca Trail guide in the Sacred Valley and at Machu Picchu. It also includes visits to Ccaccaccollo and another G for Good project; Parwa community restaurant. For more info click here or call 01 6971360
What to do: Best Bite Peru in Lima run food tours where you can visit a local market for ingredients to make pisco sours and ceviche in a cooking class, a must do. Visit the highest 100% owned Irish bar on the planet, Paddy’s in Cusco, but don’t expect a pint of Guinness!