Back in June of this year, we spoke with SA Expeditions co-founder Nick Stanziano about how his company’s belief that tourism can be a powerful, positive force towards conservation of ecology and culture. Here’s part 2 of that interview.
Your Perfect Peru: How can Peru go about preserving—and strengthening–its cultural and natural attractions?
Stanziamo: First, awareness. Peru is one of the richest countries on the planet in terms of cultural and ecological value. Much of the challenge is that the wider world and many Peruvians don’t grasp the importance and utility of these resources. For example, Peru brings more than 80,000 hikers on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu annually, but the larger and potentially more important stone-paved Inca highways sit abandoned in the north of the country.
It’s clear to us that having a sustainable revenue source on Inca Trails in the future will require a focus on the monumental Inca roads in the north, or what we call, “The Great Inca Road.” In fact, I explored last year on foot more than 3,000 miles of Inca roads with a team of llamas, to fully understand this potential. We also thought it important to bring the world along with us, publishing stories and pictures everyday for more than 170 days across the remote Andes on social media. We introduced the Great Inca Trail, the most important pre-industrial road of mankind, to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people around the world who otherwise would know nothing about it.
Next, community. Outside of the capital of Lima and a handful of other cities, Peru is a country built around the concept of “communities.” Millions of Peruvians daily lives are centered around the social structure and needs of their indigenous identity, whether it be land ownership, division of work, marriage and other fundamental aspects of life. Therefore, if you are bringing visitors to rural parts of Peru for an authentic experience, you need to understand how those communities function. Our project in the valley of Choquechaca outside the Sacred Valley attempts to set a standard in which trekking experiences are based around the community in which visitors are trekking through. And it’s not employing a local to carry your backpack, it’s about working with entire family groups, within the communal structure and ecosystems in which they live, helping them unlock the value of the cultural and ecological resources that they possess. It’s about creating harmony between business and social interests, instead of optimization of profit.
Finally, conservation. In both our projects in the Choquechaca Valley and the Great Inca Trail, the long term result we are working towards is conservation of the cultural and environmental resources that exist there. By engaging responsible, small-scale tourism in both places, we place economic value on the native forests and culture of the Choquechaca valley, as well as the monumental Inca highway and cultures of the Great Inca Trail.
We always strive to create a positive impact for the local communities, the country of Peru, SA Expeditions and the tourism industry at large. We’re in it together.
If you would like to visit Peru with SA Expeditions, please visit their website by clicking here.