Case Study: Supporting a Local Community Through Tourism in southern Chile
Working out how to get started taking responsible action in your destination can feel like a big hurdle. The will is there, but choosing a person or project to support can be difficult. There are very often many questions.
How do you approach that person? What if they don’t actually want your support? What if the idea needs more people or businesses involved to get it off the ground. How do you start that collaborative conversation?
Sometimes it is easier than we think, and we just need to let go, take a walk around where we live, and observe what could be improved, or who could be supported to drive that improvement.
There is a myth that needs busting before continuing. Supporting local communities is not something that is reserved for developing countries or low-income areas.
It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, there is always something you can do to help improve the quality of life in your destination. Always.
It is just what is important that changes.
It is easier to understand with this resource-based example. In rainy northern England, there is little need to save water at a hotel. However, in the drought ridden Australian outback, conserving this precious resource is definitely a priority.
In some places where people live in relative affluence and security, the focus may not be on generating jobs for locals. It could be more about improving road safety or addressing biodiversity loss for example.
In destinations where seasonality is a major issue, the focus could be on providing support to create annual income from different revenue streams for individuals or even as a collaborative effort among tourism businesses.
It takes courage to get started, but the results can be far reaching. Even using your property as a place to host a workshop on something you are passionate about, and something that improves the lives of others, is a great way to get moving.
So let's take a look at this case study, a wonderful example of one woman’s attempt to clean up her local beaches that turned into a superbly rounded collaboration between three pioneering companies in the sustainability arena.
Let me introduce you to Señora Orieta Caucaman.
Photo Credit: Rodrigo Farias
Señora Orieta lives in a tiny town called Detif, on the tiny island of Lemuy, that forms part of the Chiloé archipelago in southern Chile.
Chile is well known for its mussel and salmon industries, and while those industries do indeed bring lots of job opportunities for locals, they also bring undesirable pollution of the natural habitat.
Señora Orieta decided there had to be a use for the discarded polyethylene nets left lying on the beaches of the tiny island. She spent six months collecting and cleaning before beginning the meticulous task of weaving them into delicate yet robust baskets.
Photo Credit: Juan Luis Crespo
Smartrip - a B Corp and the first travel agency with social purpose in Chile, heard about Señora Orieta’s work and joined forces with Parley for the Oceans - a non-profit environmental organisation focused on cleaning up the oceans worldwide, and Tierra Chiloé hotel - an architectural masterpiece located on Chiloé island, to provide support and revenue stream options for her work.
Through this collaboration, Tierra Chiloé now employs Señora Orieta to continue to clean the beach and the hotel also sell her baskets in their gift shop.
Photo Credit: Tierra Chiloé
However, the benefits don’t stop there.
Great news travels fast and the demand from other hotels and shops to sell the baskets grew. With guidance and training from Smartrip and Parley for the Oceans, Señora Orieta now teaches other local women on her island to weave the baskets. Tierra Chiloé also embraces its role in the education of future generations by organising and hosting environment-oriented workshops for local schoolchildren. The power of this action is far reaching and will continue to positively influence the guardianship and attitudes of the local community for generations to come.
There is much inspiration to be taken from this wonderful project that has grown from one woman’s desire to clean up the beaches in her destination, to an initiative that offers not only work and income for the local community, but purpose and pride in the place where they live.
What will you choose to do to make a difference in your destination?
And always remember, "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito". Dalai Lama