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Responsible travel is about respecting and benefiting local people and the environment. This can only be done by learning a little bit about the country, the culture and even a few words of the local language before you arrive. Responsible travel is more adventurous than "mass tourism" as it requires interaction with local people, staying in small locally owned hotels and sampling some of the delicious local cuisine. Things may not always go to plan but they will certainly be more exciting and at the end of your visit you will feel more fulfilled and informed about the places and people you have visited having experienced a deeper and more real travel experience.
Peru Treks fully supports the principles of responsible travel and sustainable tourism and has been working hard to show that it is possible to provide an excellent quality service whilst being culturally sensitive, looking after our trekking staff and helping to conserve the environment. In our opinion the only way to improve trekking standards and reduce the impact of tourism on the environment is to provide good quality information, charge a price that is fair and reasonable for the services provided (with no hidden extras) and demonstrate that our company is working towards conservation of the environment and looking after the well-being of those persons who work for Peru Treks and those communities that we visit as part of our tours.
Peru Treks recognizes the fact that if tourism is not correctly managed it can have a very negative effect on the local people and culture, the environment and the local and national economy. This is particularly true for a country such as Peru whose economy depends so much on tourism.
It is obviously important to us that you have a great time when you visit Peru, but this must not be at the expense of our national treasures: our environment and our people. As a professional company we have a duty to act responsibly and to encourage and promote responsible tourism. The emphasis must be on actions right now rather than just a list of things we would like to achieve in the future. Peru Treks has many economic, environmental and social responsibilities which we have included below in our Responsible Tourism Policy. Our goal is to become Peru's foremost responsible tour operator, an achievement which in our opinion is very achievable with our determination. However, visitors must also accept their role in helping us to realize this goal. Our web page How You Can Help lists some tips for how you can contribute to being a responsible traveller. Only if tourists and travel companies work together can we ensure that tourism can really benefit local communities, providing income, positive cultural exchange and a financial incentive to protect the natural environment.
Our most important responsibility is to ensure that the financial benefits of tourism are passed down throughout the entire company, including the office staff, guides, trekking staff (porters, cooks, horsemen) and the mountain communities in which we work. We have listed below some of the measures that we have taken to ensure that this is done.
1. Peru Treks is a local trekking company with offices in Cusco. The owner, Georgina Gonzalez, was born in Cusco. All of our staff (with the exception of Mike Weston our reservations manager) are Peruvian. All of our guides and tour leaders are from the Cusco region with the majority coming from villages in the surrounding countryside. Our web page About Us has a brief profile of each of our team members.
2. Our porters have been carefully selected from three communities in the mountain villages around Cusco. We employ about 180 permanent porters and another 50 are employed as required. Two porter groups come from the village of Amaru which is high up in the mountains about a 2-hour walk from Pisac. One porter group is from the Cuper Alta community beside Lake Piuray near the town of Chinchero, and another porter group comes from Paucartambo, a 4-hour bus ride to the north-east of Cusco in the mountains overlooking the jungle. For details of porter pay and porter treatment see our Porter Welfare page.
3. Peru Treks pays national sales tax (known as IGV) which is currently 18%. In 2015 we paid over US$227,000 in IGV and another US$24,000 in corporate tax (a 40% tax on profits). Our net profit after tax was about US$35,000 (the equivalent of about US$9 per client as we have around 4000 clients each year) of which US$12,000 was spent directly on community projects (US$3000 on school supplies, US$3500 on porter football championship and family day, US$2000 on school promotion - a 3 day holiday for 26 kids from Tiracanchi to visit Lake Titicaca, US$1000 medical expenses for porters due to injuries/financial help unrelated to the Inca Trail, US$1500 Christmas donations and US$1000 carried forward to 2016). Another US$9,000 was spent on porters welfare (sleeping bags, backpacks, warm jackets, back supports & shoes).
As you can see we are contributing, on a yearly basis, more than quarter of a million US dollars in taxes directly to the Peruvian economy as well as providing work to more than 200 people. This is probably the highest tax paid by any tour company in Peru for an equivalent turnover. We pay such high taxes because all of our clients are direct sales by the internet. We only operate the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and have to buy trek permits from the government so they know exactly how many clients we have - we couldn't avoid taxes even if we wanted to! We do not work with intermediaries or operate treks for overseas tour companies. If you buy a trek outside of Peru you will probably pay sales tax in your own country. When an overseas tour company sends the money to a Peruvian tour company who will actually operate your trek, this payment is exempt from tax (basically so you don't end up paying sales tax twice). That means that if you buy a trek or tour with a tour company outside of Peru you are not contributing towards the Peruvian economy in the form of sales taxes. This type of service is known as "receptive tourism" where Peruvian companies operate treks for overseas companies rather than finding their clients directly. Of course, by buying a trek outside of Peru you will still be helping the economy by providing work for local people. We estimate that over 75% of services provided by Peruvian tour operators are "receptive" and do not contribute directly to the economy. Peru Treks pays sales taxes on 100% of our Inca Trail services. When we buy your Inca Trail trek permit a copy of the receipt is automatically sent to the tax offices, and since all of our clients are "direct sales" we have to pay taxes for every client. On average in 2015, US$62 of your trek price went directly to the government in taxes. This is a big contribution towards the economy as many companies are exempt from paying sales taxes, and those that are not exempt spend a lot of time and energy trying to avoid paying their taxes. We would like to think that all this money is being used to pay for schools, teachers and hospitals but this may be being a little over optimistic.
4. Where possible we purchase equipment locally. Obviously all fresh produce and food is bought in local markets and small shops. Camping equipment such as dining tents, kitchen tents, porter backpacks, duffle bags, porter jackets, biodegradable soap are all fabricated in Cusco. Porters shoes and back support belts are made in Lima. Our tents and sleeping bags are manufactured by Doite in Chile rather than using overseas makes. Only our portable toilets and special biodegradable toilet bags are manufactured in the USA. Therefore about 99.99% of all income remains within Peru.
5. We contribute directly to many community projects in the Cusco region including the construction of two schools in mountain communities.
1. Peru Treks has a zero litter tolerance. On our treks all rubbish and waste material is carried out and disposed of in suitable facilities in the main towns and cities. The waste is divided into organic (green bags) and inorganic (black bags). We never bury waste along the route of the trail (see below for exception) and certainly never dump rubbish behind a hedge.
2. When campsites do not have proper flush toilets we take a portable toilet and toilet tent. We use special biodegradable toilet bags which are carried out (Inca Trail) or buried on more remote treks.
3. We give all of our clients biodegradable soap to wash with (made locally) and wash the dishes with biodegradable detergent. Dishes are washed in a bowl using filtered water and the dirty water are passed through a fine mesh to filter out any solids before being returned to a suitable outlet (sink, sewer or river).
4. Only clean burning fuel (butane gas) is used for cooking. Kerosene is not permitted due to the possible dangers to the environment caused by spillage. Camp fires are not permitted on the Inca Trail or in areas considered to be a fire risk.
5. Travellers are encouraged to bring water purification tablets or water filters on the trek as this reduces the use of plastic bottles and also reduces the weight carried.
6. When our clients come to our office to pay their trek balance we provide them with a written trek briefing. This briefing includes information about Machu Picchu Sanctuary regulations which aims to protect the environment within the protected areas of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.
7. We reduce paper wastage in our office by not producing any form of paper brochures. All communications are by email and paper mail is rarely sent or received. We have reduced the need for paper in our office by the use of computer technology. Reservation details required for the purchase of Inca Trail permits and train tickets are transferred to the relevant companies by computer disk.
8. We have an ongoing training of our staff to ensure high standards of environmental care and responsible behaviour. At the end of every trek our clients are asked to fill out a trek report which allows as to monitor and highlight any areas of our service that can be improved upon.
1. We encourage our clients to act in a responsible manner. Our web page How You Can Help lists some tips for how you can contribute to being a responsible traveller. Our guides are professionally qualified and have a great passion for their work. Not only will they tell you about the history of the places you will visit but they will also be able to tell you about the culture and the local traditions and superstitions. Most of our guides are fluent in the Quechua language (the native language used in the countryside) and all of them have the ability to communicate in Quechua to an intermediate standard.
2. We employ local people and pay them a fair wage helping to put money into the local economy. All trekking staff are paid punctually at the end of each trek. Office staff are paid monthly and receive free health insurance for them and their families, pensions, and bonuses at the start of the school year, independence day and Christmas. All porters receive free accident and life insurance which covers them throughout the year and not just when they are working on the Inca Trail.
3. We treat our employees with the respect that they deserve and expect our office staff and guides to do the same with our porters. We listen to comments and complaints from our porters and, in the last three years, have dismissed two guides because we felt that they were not treating our porters respectfully.
We have worked hard to provide the best possible working conditions for our porters which include limiting the load that we give to the porters to carry to 20kg. We provide our porters with tented accommodation with a waterproof floor, backpacks with padded shoulder and waist straps, shoes, warm jackets, sleeping bags, foam mats, and plenty of nutritious food.
4. We contribute directly to many community projects in the Cusco region. In the last 10 years we have been responsible for the construction of two schools in mountain villages, and have carried out more than 250 distributions of school equipment and second hand clothing. We have set up a home-stay program where visitors can spend the night with a Quechua family in the village of Chinchero and are currently working with the community of Amaru to help promote a more wide-spread home-stay program involving the entire community.
To show that we are actually committed to these social development programs and not just all talk please visit our Community Projects page.
The information provided above is specific to Peru Treks and is original material. The work is subject to copyright and cannot be reproduced in part or in whole by any other company without specific written permission from Peru Treks.
Peru Treks & Adventure Tour Operator
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Specialists, working to help the community
Office Address: Avenida Pardo 540 (in the corner of the small park), Cusco, Peru
Telephone: 00 51 84 222722 (from overseas), 084 222722 (from within Peru), 222722 (from Cusco)