Travel consultant Kerry Cook was named Responsible Travel Ambassador for G Adventures last year after winning a competition run in conjunction with Travel Weekly. Last month she set off to Peru to see responsible tourism in practice.
Q. How did you become G Adventures’ Responsible Travel Ambassador?
A. I had been interested in responsible travel for a while, and when I saw G Adventures was looking for an ambassador it just felt right to enter. I sent off my 200 words explaining why I wanted to do it and was called to a judging day at G Adventures’ offices in October, to give a presentation.
Everyone I met who had entered seemed brilliant so I was really shocked to win. Last month I joined the Inca Discovery tour to Peru; it was a great mix of people and the most amazing experience.
Q. What did the trip involve?
A. The eight-day trip took in Lima, Cusco, the Ollantaytambo ruins and the three-day Lares trek, which is an alternative to the Inca Trail and includes glimpses into the rural communities of the highlands around Cusco. We visited a weaving co-op in Ccaccaccollo, where you can learn about how the dyes are all made naturally. I was guest of honour. Visitors can buy beautiful handmade souvenirs from the shop knowing that 97% of the money is going directly to the person who made that item.
Along the Lares trek we met local people going about their daily business. We shared bread and coca leaves with them, and at one of the campsites met some children, and tried to speak to them in Spanish while playing catch. I made some lovely memories that I’m not sure I’d have if I had gone on a standard tour, which didn’t go off the beaten track.
Q. What was the most memorable moment?
A. We tried some wonderful local food and learnt that one restaurant we visited – the Parwa restaurant in the Sacred Valley – is supported by five local families who provide the ingredients. It was a real farm-to-plate experience and not necessarily one you’d get in Cusco, for example. It was the nicest meal I had on the trip and the staff had been trained by the Planeterra Foundation – G Adventures’ non-profit organisation – in various different areas of catering.
Q. What did you learn on the trip and find interesting?
A. Tourism is the third biggest industry in Peru but it’s concentrated on the main tourist hotspots, like a lot of countries in Latin America. A G Adventures tour leader told me that Peru, unlike many other countries, has no external debt. However, the wealth is not necessarily shared fairly and things such as scholarships to higher education don’t really exist. So tourism can have a huge part to play in lifting people out of poverty.
G Adventures takes small group tours to visit the Planeterra projects, which creates a significant benefit to the local community. Planeterra is making a real difference, with local people being trained up in how to run successful businesses, and many other skills too.
Q. How will you use your new skills going forward?
A. My manager and I are going to hold an adventure travel evening, based mainly around South America, where we will tell people some of the things I have learnt. Many people assume responsible travel is all about being eco-friendly but there is much more to it – the social responsibility side of it is so important.
I try and weave in responsible travel options whenever I’m speaking to clients because most of the time they are really interested and just hadn’t thought of it.
Kerry’s sales tips
If you talk about giving back to local communities, people are really interested.Give examples of ‘responsible’ activities clients can do. Sell the fact that G Adventures’ trips are slightly off the tourist track
May 2015: Travel consultant at Deva Travel
August 2012: Sales support role, taking over business travel at Deva Travel
April 2012: Trainee admin assistant for business travel and flight-only department at Deva Travel
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