Red Tusoco: sustainable tourism in Bolivia

Sarah Marlier
09 June 2017
Tourism continues to grow in popularity, even though it entails environmental costs. However, it offers disadvantaged regions new development prospects. A programme of the Belgian Development Cooperation, the Trade for Development Centre, supports sustainable tourism. As such, it funds the NGO Red Tusoco, a vital driving force of the Bolivian economy.

 

Red Tusoco: a promising Bolivian NGO 

The NGO Red Tusoco – a kind of umbrella organisation of 22 small-scale national tourism companies - has developed a new sustainable tourism offering in Bolivia. Indeed, sustainable tourism has a range of advantages, and the NGO explains this in great detail to travellers: economic growth, new jobs, less poverty, the responsible use of natural resources, the protection of the environment and cultural assets, etc. Evidently a sharp contrast to the packages offered by conventional, mainly profit-focused, travel agencies.

The NGO proposes various tourism possibilities, whereby contact with the Bolivian population and the discovery of nature are central elements. For example, tourists can discover the day-to-day lives of farmers and craftspeople, or enjoy the hospitality of the native communities and their exotic gastronomy. Red Tusoco also proposes various volunteer activities for tourists who wish to contribute to local development. It goes without saying that people who choose sustainable tourist packages commit to respect both the inhabitants of the country and nature.

In the first instance, Red Tusoco intends to improve the quality of the daily lives of the Bolivian population. It is a fact that sustainable tourism ensures job creation and incomes. In addition, some of the activities are managed by the inhabitants themselves, in cooperation with an accredited tourist company, which directly benefits the local economy. As such, it is vital that the natural and cultural heritage is conserved. This is the only way that both tourists and Bolivians can enjoy them for years to come.

Tourists can discover the day-to-day lives of farmers and craftspeople, or enjoy the hospitality of the native communities and their exotic gastronomy.

 

The NGO proposes various tourism possibilities, whereby contact with the Bolivian population and the discovery of nature are central elements. Red Tusoco also proposes various volunteer activities for tourists who wish to contribute to local development. It goes without saying that people who choose sustainable tourist packages commit to respect both the inhabitants of the country and nature.

In the first instance, Red Tusoco intends to improve the quality of the daily lives of the Bolivian population. It is a fact that sustainable tourism ensures job creation and incomes. In addition, some of the activities are managed by the inhabitants themselves, in cooperation with an accredited tourist company, which directly benefits the local economy. As such, it is vital that the natural and cultural heritage is conserved. This is the only way that both tourists and Bolivians can enjoy them for years to come.

Tourists observing a beautiful nature area
© Red Tusoco

Bolivian tourist sights fascinate the general public

Sandro Saravia, manager of Red Tusoco, explains: 'We combine the tourist offering of the various communities in Bolivia with our most impressive national tourist sights. That way, we hope to attract tourists. As such, we work with hotels in various cities, but also with transport companies, restaurants and suchlike. Through the customer relations we have built up with the tourist companies over time, reservations, payments and cancellations already run a lot more smoothly. Thanks to the many advantages, it was possible to set up small sales commissions and create jobs.'

And Bolivia has a lot to offer! Tourists can sail on Lake Titicaca, the longest lake in South America, or stroll around the famous mythical 'island of the sun'. Or they can trek to huge salt plains, volcanoes... and so much more! All of them offer dream landscapes.

Red Tusoco also organises other activities: rafting, tree-top tours, treks, climbing, gastronomy, dancing, music, handicrafts, etc. Above all, the organisation offers authentic exchange between tourists and the Bolivian community.

The activities of Red Tusoco are based on two principles: solidarity and community.

Through its actions, the organisation encourages the Bolivian population and tourists to show solidarity towards each other. The organisation promotes a more balanced distribution of the economic benefits. They also ensure that the farming community also participates more actively in the local and national governance of Bolivia.

Another initiative aims to improve the offering of small and still fragile tourist companies. In recent years, Red Tusoco has developed a code of conduct for solidarity or community tourism in Bolivia. Using a manual, the organisation hopes to improve the quality of tourist services, and raise awareness among both inhabitants and tourists.

Tourists sailing on a boat
© Red Tusoco

More tourists 

The support of the Trade for Development Center (TDC), a programme of the Belgian Development Cooperation, is enormously appreciated. As such, the team members of Red Tusoco were able to hone their management skills. The organisation also successfully managed to improve the quality of its services.

'Since the emergence of sustainable tourism in Bolivia, there has been a notable increase in the number of tourists coming to our country. They react positively to our 'inclusive tourism', and the new, uncommon tourist attractions. They are also interested in diverse activities related to the culture of the host cities. And yet, the number of tourists is far below our expectations', admits Saravia.

A few years ago, Red Tusoco drew up a satisfaction survey for tourists who visit Bolivian communities. With the assistance of the Belgian Development Cooperation, the NGO has developed a uniform model in recent months. As a result, information can be collected and classified more easily. The 22 partner companies also each have a guest book which tourists can fill in. Red Tusoco intends to further improve the services provided using both these sources of information.

Red Tusoco expects sales to grow by 22% every year. The new project will have a positive effect in Bolivia, in economic, social and ecological terms. For example, small-scale local businesses have earned more incomes, and a large amount of jobs have been created. In addition, staff have been trained as effectively as possible.

Would you like to go on a wonderful holiday whilst promoting the well-being of an entire community? Have fun and help others at the same time? That is now possible thanks to sustainable tourism.

 

 

Woman near a lake, wearing traditional Bolivian clothes
© Red Tusoco
Man on a mountain bike enjoying the view
© Red Tusoco
Photo with an optical illusion. We believe that two women are standing on a pot and the woman (in actual size) is swallowing a person on a fork
© Red Tusoco
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