Recently, during a #LuxVox Twitter debate on sustainability in tourism, Green Hotelier met Inkaterra, the renowned Peruvian organisation that is celebrating 38 years of experience in sustainable tourism initiatives. The company offers hotels and experiences on the Inca Trail and was recognised by many debate participants for their sustainability credentials.
We wanted to know more so asked Inkaterra to share their learning and experience as one of our best practice case studies.
Here’s what they told us.
Green certification and awards.
Inkaterra has been recognised for their commitment to ecotourism and sustainability, and has been the proud recipient of the Environment Trophy 2013 by Relais & Chateaux. They were also named winners of the Conservation Category in the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2012, while Condé Nast Johansens named Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel the ‘Most Excellent Eco Resort’.
In 2012 Inkaterra became the first world hotel chain to win the ‘International Certificate in Sustainable tourism’ by the CU Green Choice Sustainable Tourism Standard. In addition to these awards, National Geographic, The World Bank Group (IFC) and the United Nations (GEF) are all key supporters of Inkaterra’s sustainability initiatives.
When did Inkaterra’s green initiatives start?
The sustainability initiatives have been Inkaterra’s core principles since it was founded in 1975, and nearly 40 years on, the Inkaterra mission statement is ascurrent as ever: to preserve Peru’s geography, nature, customs and culture whilesharing them with the world in a unique and memorable way.
Why did the company choose the sustainable route and what effect has that had?
Inkaterra founder José Koechlin has pioneered ecotourism and sustainability in Peru, and as a result Inkaterra has become a world leader in sustainable development, committed to the environment and promoting responsible practices to develop a carbon neutral, luxury travel experience. Scientific research is at the heart of the work carried out by Inkaterra, through which they develop business activities that are based on conservation and can be carried out by local communities. The ultimate goal is to improve their quality of life through sustainable tourism.
Who are Inkaterra’s key influencers?
José Koechlin is at the helm of Inkaterra, and a significant pioneer of ecotourism in Peru. The wider Inkaterra team is following his vision to create a wholly sustainable tourist experience and every individual on the Inkaterra staff, from Spectacled Bear keepers to Jungle Guides are crucial team members in moving the Inkaterra philosophy forward as a whole.
What impact have Inkaterra’s initiatives had on the satisfaction of staff, clients and customers?
Receiving international recognition is a huge honour for every member of the Inkaterra team, however it is the knowledge that their work is having a truly positive effect on visitors, the local communities and the surrounding flora and fauna that is most satisfying. Each year, Inkaterra welcomes over 115,000 visitors to its five hotels in the Amazon, Machu Picchu and Cusco. For guests staying at Inkaterra hotels, they truly experience the holiday of a lifetime; a stunning location, unparalleled service and luxury, and the knowledge that their stay in Peru will have a positive effect on those on the ground there – something that not many holidaymakers can claim.
Why do you feel it’s important?
Ecotourism is important in Peru because the threat of deforestation is increasingly significant. Peru loses 300,000 hectares of rainforest annually, and with this comes a decrease in flora and fauna (with Peru being home to a hugely significant number of wildlife, with 20% of the world’s bird species being found there).
Detail some of your sustainable initiatives:
What are the most exciting sustainable initiatives at the hotel?
Inkaterra’s greatest legacy has been forming the Inkaterra Associación (ITA), an NGO, which ensures that all their profits are invested back in to what matters most to the company – research, conservation, education and social development. Annually Inkaterra reinvests over $300,000 into the infrastructure across the Inkaterra resorts.
• Energy & Carbon
Following the constant reinvestment into Inkaterra’s infrastructure, Inkaterra was the first totally carbon neutral travel-organisation in Peru. Inkaterra already manages over three million tonnes of carbon dioxide in their area and this continues to increase.
All of Inkaterra’s hotels and lodges operate sustainable practices including water management and conservation, intensive recycling projects and stocking locally sourced and eco-friendly products – many of which come from nearby villages and our own farms.
• Education & training
Inkaterra have trained over 4,000 local individuals since their resorts opened. Training ranges from ecotourism guides, bird-watching and jungle guides.
Inkaterra’s key principle is that local people are involved with its work at every opportunity, and as such, at least eighty per cent of Inkaterra employees come from surrounding areas of the properties they work at, and they have trained over 4,000 local individuals since their resorts opened. The ITA runs regular workshops and events with local schools and groups to promote and maintain their commitment to social responsibility.
In November 2012, the ITA proposed (and worked alongside the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (MINCETUR) & PROMPERU,) to launch Peru’s inaugural Birding Rally Challenge. It was a unique event for its non-stop modality, bringing together renowned birding teams from around the world. Over the six days, they spotted 649 species of the 700 species that can be found in the Tambopata Amazon reserve and in the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel district. The Birding Rally Challenge is now in its third year.
What have been the main benefits of implementing these green initiatives?
Inkaterra’s initiatives have given many benefits over the years, from the on-going positive impact the schemes have on the local communities and the natural environment, to educating guests that come to stay at each of the Inkaterra properties. It is the hotel guests who provide the best benefit of all – spreading the word about Peru, and promoting eco-tourism and the importance of conservation in this country and beyond.
Do you have plans to expand on your green initiatives in the future?
Sustainable approaches to tourism must always look to the future, and that is what Inkaterra is doing with its newest adventure – a marine conservation project in Cabo Blanco. By collaborating with local fishermen to educate them on sustainable fishing methods, Inkaterra is helping to restore the area’s biodiversity, and transform Cabo Blanco back into an area that encourages environmental growth, social inclusion and environmental care. Inkaterra shall develop another luxury accommodation on the site so that more people can share in the work we do, such as sport fishing, which creates longstanding eco-friendly jobs for the local community.
What would be your top three bits of advice to hotels looking to run similar initiatives?
1. Think long-term, as not everything can be achieved immediately. Develop strategies for environmental or ecological projects that will grow and develop over a period of time. At Inkaterra we have projects that span 20 – 25 years.
2. Involve local people wherever possible and educate them so they understand why the protection of the environment is so important. Never underestimate the importance of training - future generations need to grow up with a better understanding of the importance of conversation. It is today’s youth who must take these concepts forward and help them to evolve.
3. Always try to go at least one step beyond what is expected in everything you do. It demonstrates true and genuine passion.