RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL POLICY
Our commitment as a company is to contribute to the sustainable development of our region through the practice of “Responsible Tourism”. This commitment implies giving a high degree of importance to the values of local people and local traditions, which is reflected in the use of local guides, the selection of lodgings in locally-owned accommodations and the carrying out of our low impact activities in wild protected areas (public and private). This is one of our most important values.
All our efforts aim to help the protection of our very fragile environment and to maintain the larger amount of income generated by tourist activities in the local area. Both of these factors are of great importance for our communities and for the people that visit us.
Although we are unable to donate cash because our company is small and our financial resources are very limited, we donate our time and know-how, which can be translated into money. In this field, we constantly train and share our experience in tourism with local indigenous communities that are willing to start up a business in tourism, specially related to ethic tourism. The Lake & Volcano District is an ancestral territory where native people such as Mapuche, Pewenche and Huilliche have lived for centuries. We have a great relationship with them and we usually spent a minimum of 50 hours a year conducting tourism seminars.
One hundred percent of our guides and drivers are local, and live with their families in the area they work and guide in. They all have a legal contract with us and we pay them wages well above average in the local tourism industry. Also, we are proud to say that one of our best tour guides belongs to the Mapuche people, Chile’s largest indigenous group. His name is Ruben Paillalef and you will probably meet him if you take one of our biking or hiking tours. Likewise, our Book Keeper is “señora” Flora Colihueque, a very smart Mapuche woman that takes care of all our accounting.
Finally, we buy everything we can locally (produce and non pre-prepared food). That is a huge factor for our business.
We recycle all glass, cans and plastic waste. Luckily there are many recycling stations where we operate our tours. Moreover, when we do grocery shopping, we always bring our own non-plastic reusable bags. We try to buy in bulk as much as possible (to avoid unnecessary packaging), and use reusable plates and silverware during all our delicious picnic lunches.
Our tap water is not only safe, it tastes great, so we do not buy bottled water. We use big water containers to carry the water and encourage all our clients to refill their bottles with tap water from the Lake and Volcano District.
We are fully committed to the people of Chile and the World in order to conserve the ecosystems that are present within the Chilean territory. This commitment goes much further than just respecting these ecosystems during our tourist operations. Our company leads and supports projects that are directly related to the industry’s sustainable development, as well as those associated with wilderness conservation by private and local communities’ Land Trusts throughout Chile.
Through our sister company, Austral Design Lab, we invest all of the profits from the “nonprofit” tours into conservation projects on the national level. Among these projects, we can highlight the following:
a) Chile’s First Geopark, Kütralkura www.geoparquekutralkura.cl
b) Conservation Tourism product design for Chile’s Land Trusts Association www.asiconservachile.org
c) Community & Ethnic Tourism in the Kuel Valley www.valledelkuel.cl
We invite you to get involved in our tours and programs that promote the conservation of Chile’s wilderness and the development of local communities. You can choose to play an active role and make this ambitious goal possible. Like us, you can be committed to Chile’s fragile and unique ecosystems so that we can keep them as pristine as possible for future generations. Your money and personal support will directly benefit the conservation of the indigenous flora and fauna, as well as the wellbeing of rural communities of Chile.
We work side by side with the indigenous communities of the Lake and Volcano District. This is reflected in our visits to Mapuche and Pewenche communities, where we pay fair prices (usually more than what they charge) and do not ask for “cultural” demonstrations. We let them decide when and what aspects of their culture they want to share with our clients. We encourage them to be genuine and include everyone in their families. We love having lunch or dinner cooked and presented by the indigenous women and usually share a “yerba mate” with the elders of the community. They have amazing stories to tell.
We take our guests to local markets, only when we know who the artists are and that their handcrafts are made in a sustainable way. Getting to know the people behind the product usually makes the tourist buy more and pay more.