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Community-Based Tourism in Peru: A Complete Guide

The more people travel, the more aware they become of the impact they have on the host country. This impact, unfortunately, is not always very positive. As tourism has become one of the most prevalent industries worldwide, we have started to note the various problems that can be linked to it. 

These problems can range from from mass tourism and exploitation to the loss of local culture and the destruction of the natural environment. As we became more aware of these issues, we began looking into better ways of shaping tourism. Willingness to change is becoming more and more visible, sustainability has become a central issue, and efforts are being made to increase the positive impacts tourism can have. 

At RESPONS, we are very grateful to see these changes happening on a global scale. But more importantly, we are beyond proud to be part of this important movement. Having noticed a lack in certain sustainable tourism practices in Peru, our founding directors have decided to dedicate themselves to the task of bringing about real changes. What emerged from this effort was RESPONSible Travel Peru, a tour operator dedicated to community-based tourism, the core of our existence. 

We started our work in 2009 and have been growing bigger and stronger every year since. Over time, we have built connections with more and more communities around Peru, now collaborating with more than 100 different families. Every single one of these families means a lot to us and we take great pride in being able to send our travelers to meet them. 

Are you eager to get to know our dear friends and can’t wait to exchange ideas with different community members? Then we invite you to have a look at our whole range of Community-Based Tourism Tours

Very often, this way of traveling is also a good option for anyone bringing their children. It gives your children the opportunity to team up with local kids and play together. If you like the sound of that, our section about Family-friendly Activities should be of your interest. Do you want to be a lot more active during their trip? In that case, our section with different Adventure Tours might be the right place for you to explore. 

If Community-Based-Tourism is what you are really intrigued about, read on! We will explain to you the different sides of this concept and give some inspiration for possible tours to take part in.

Celso and Alex talking while taking the sun at the beach in Taquile island, Titicaca - RESPONSible Travel Peru

What is Community-Based Tourism?

Peru is a country that is full of small communities living in the countryside, mountains and jungle. Often, they live very simple lives, having preserved traditional agricultural practices. They know how to cultivate crops in all kinds of climatic regions and are experts in adapting to the harsh conditions in these areas. 

Many of the communities live so remotely from the rest of the country, that they have preserved their native language, practicing it day in and day out. In the Andes, for example, you might come across people who speak solely Quechua

In Community-Based Tourism, it is these rural communities that we are interested in. However, before you engage in this way of traveling, we want to make sure you understand the actual meaning and importance of it. Please know that paying a visit to a community, and having a look at how its people live and work, cannot be considered Community-Based Tourism straight away. 

The truth is, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. And this is what we want to explain to you in this article. To us at RESPONS, Community-Based Tourism means above all 4 things: 1. Authentic and spontaneous experiences; 2. Homestays; 3. Organization and ownership by the community; 4. Having a positive impact on rural areas. 

As you can see, the concept is more complex than people might think it is. If we have aroused your curiosity to learn more about this way of traveling and its advantages, continue reading, as we will elaborate on the four aspects mentioned above. We will also give you some examples of great CBT-Tours. Have a look at them if you want to try out this great way of visiting a country and its people. 

Authenticity and spontaneity 

Community-Based Tourism is about meeting local people and being immersed in their daily life. Due to this characteristic, the exact activities you will engage in can vary from one day to another. According to the season, you will help with whatever agricultural task needs to be done at the moment of your visit. Therefore, Community-Based Tourism experiences tend to be rather spontaneous. 

In coherence with that, you should not expect the local population to present a rehearsed show to you or anything going in that direction. Choreographed performances delivered to a different audience every single day are not part of the idea. However, you might of course be lucky enough to visit a community during a local festivity or a similar event. In that case, you will get the opportunity to take part in an experience that is 100% authentic. 

By engaging in local activities and accepting that abusing ancient traditions to show them off to tourists is not an option, you are doing a great job of showing respect to the local population and its cultural values. And thanks to that, you actively contribute to the preservation of Peru’s culture. 

A great opportunity to live an authentic experience in this great country is by participating in our Tour that takes you From Puno to Cusco The RESPONSible Way. If you decide to do so, you will be taken to Lake Titicaca, a place that has been deformed by staged performances being carried out for tourists, in many areas. Being averse to supporting this deformation in any way, we have created an alternative itinerary taking you to less-visited places on Lake Titicaca. 

Here, you will be able to live an experience of true authentic exchange with the communities you will visit.

Totora reed boats on Lake Titicaca - RESPONSible Travel Peru

Homestays in Peru 

When traveling to Peru, we highly recommend you spend at least a few nights in a homestay. To us, this is an integral part of Community-Based Tourism. As we have seen above, this type of tourism is about meeting local people and learning about their daily lives and traditions. And what could be a better way to mingle with the locals than actually staying at their homes? Without a doubt, your encounter with the Peruvians will gain a lot in intensity when you opt for a homestay. 

You will get to spend more time with your new friends, and learn more about their eating culture and their daily schedule. Actually, you can find out anything you want just by sitting with them and asking them what you would like to know. 

Are you sceptical because you don’t speak Spanish? We can imagine that! But rest assured that even if you can’t impress with perfect language skills, you will always be able to converse with the locals. On many of our tours, you will be accompanied by a guide who will be happy to take on the role of an interpreter for you. They are true allrounders! 

And even during the experiences without a guide, like the one in Coparaque or Taquile, we have witnessed beautiful moments of travelers talking to their host families using their hands and feet. So, as long as you are willing to create a connection with the locals, you won’t be hindered in doing so! Are you curious about spending a night at a local family’s home in Peru? Then our Active Colca Canyon Your With Collagua Hike and Homestays will be the perfect option for you. On this tour, you will visit and stay with another local family on both nights. Thus, you get the opportunity to meet more people in the Colca Canyon and find out about different ways of living.

Organization and ownership of the community

At this point, it is very important to us to call attention to something that many people remain unaware of: while Community-Based Tourism is about visiting communities, it is most importantly a question of ownership. Unlike what many people think, tourism products of this kind are not organized, created and often not even owned by travel agencies or tour operators. Instead, the creators and owners of it are the local communities themselves. 

Of course, the local people tend to collaborate with tour operators to get support from tourism experts. In the case of RESPONS, we provide training to the communities, help them identify the particularity of their destination and build up their personal touristic offer. And most importantly: we provide a platform where their products are sold, which is a great economic opportunity for them. 

But despite all of that, we will never be the decision-makers when it comes to tourism in the communities’ territory. Whether it is about the the offer itself, the amount of people they want to welcome per day, or the price they want to fix; we offer to act as a helping hand, but we will never dictate anything or discuss the prices they determine. 

So, why is it so important to us to highlight this way of functioning? It is because the active implication of communities assures that they will be satisfied with their engagement with tourists and truly benefit from it. And in case they don’t feel comfortable for any reason and want to change their touristic offer in any way, they always have the possibility to do so. 

Even though all of our Community-Based-Tourism tours work according to that principle, we like to highlight The complete Vicos Experience with Pachamanca here. Because it was in the small community of Vicos in the North of the country, that our story has begun so many years ago. 

Here, Guido and Pablo, two of the founding directors of RESPONS have met and decided to work together to support Peru’s rural communities. So, if you want to get to know the cradle of our company and meet Pablo and his community, this tour is for you!

Pablos's family some years ago surrounded by their beautiful orchard | RESPONSible Travel Peru
Credit: Jorge Riveros-Cayo

Having a positive impact on rural areas in Peru

As we have just seen here above, Community-Based Tourism can have a positive impact on a communities’ satisfaction. But not only that: it actually has great potential to positively influence the living conditions of the local people. 

You know by now that Community-Based Tourism usually takes place in rural areas. Sometimes we witness a lack of infrastructure and (economic) possibilities in these areas of Peru. The development of the right type of tourism can help improve this situation, generating a secondary income for farmers. Thus, we give them a good reason to stay in their beloved communities instead of moving to big cities in search of better-paid jobs. 

We can also see improvements in public services thanks to our touristic offer. In Vicos, for example, a contribution to the community fund is included in every visit. These funds are used to buy equipment for different schools in the community. 

To have the most positive impact possible on local communities, we suggest you choose lots of Community-Based Tourism experiences and opt for homestays where you can. By doing that, you will increase interesting encounters (for both you and the community members) and support local needs. 

Traveler interacting and laughing with the local community of Ccorccor on a visit. Community-Based Tourism with RESPONSible Travel Peru

If you want to try and follow our advice, you should definitely have a look at Our Signature Trip: Peru The Local Way. When it comes to community visits, this tour is the most sustainable it could probably get. If you are a great fan of this one, you can choose to book it as it is.

However, you can also see this tour as an example that can be adapted according to your wishes. If you want to use the tour as a draft and make some changes to it, you can do that accompanied by one of our Peru Travel Specialists. Go to our Custom Itineraries Section to use this service. 

What makes Community-Based Tourism unique?

Unlike most conventional tours, Community-Based Experiences allow us to truly have a positive impact on the destination we travel to. We believe that many people wouldn’t probably book certain tours if they were aware of the problems they might thus be causing. But sometimes, they just don’t know.

Therefore, we encourage you to remember what you have learned in this article and try to analyze your possible impact before choosing where and what to book. 

Try and increase homestays in your itinerary and opt for experiences that imply local communities. Small-scale options tend to be more beneficial for the locals than huge hotels, for example. 

In addition to that, Community-Based-Tourism shows more respect for our natural environment than other tours might do. It is always conceived by combining the wants and needs of both the local population and nature.

The good thing is that you don’t even have to give up on anything when choosing this type of tourism. On the contrary; we believe that you even get more from it. 

Authentic acquaintances, interesting facts about a different culture and lifestyle and gratefulness when you decide to share your story with the locals: these are only some of the beautiful sides Community-Based Tourism has to offer. Many more are just waiting to be discovered by you! 

If you have any questions concerning Community-Based Tourism or any of our tours and services, please get in touch.

ABOUT RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU

RESPONS’ mission is to improve living conditions in Peru through developing and promoting sustainable tourism. We’ve implemented a business model in which all areas of human relations are respected, and - equally important - respect for the planet is incorporated.

Following this business model, we practice fair trade, foster cultural identity, promote equal opportunities, and we preserve the environment that surrounds us and other species.

Together with you we improve, day by day, on the always-demanding path towards sustainability.

Tours in Peru

Three llamas and hikers among cropfields in the Sacred Valley of Cusco

Inca Road to Huchuy Qosqo with Llamas

Llamas grouped next to hut in beautiful mountain location

Authentic Valley Experience with Llamas and Pachamanca

Hot springs are channeled to man-made pools in Aguas Calientes Lodge, Shituya, Manu | Responsible Travel Peru

Manu Community and Wildlife Experience

Lake Morón in the desert by Ica is a true hidden gem and makes for a wonderful hike through the desert - RESPONSible Travel Peru

Quick magical desert experience

Butterfly Tambopata

Posada Amazonas Cultural Experience in Tambopata

Macaw clay lick

Tracing Wildlife in Tambopata National Reserve