With tourism being an important economic asset in Ecuador, Go Local!, a local member based in Ecuador, are very much involved in changing the way tourists see their country. Here Go Local! give us their thoughts on travelling locally.
The spirit of Much Better Adventures is one that will be attractive to most adventure seekers. Although group tours and mass tourism is still widely available, many people are looking nowadays for more independent friendly travels. Much Better Adventures describes this as: Independent, individual and personal. Run by friendly people who share your passion for adventure, live locally, and know the best spots.
However the biggest challenge is how to find this trip. Most websites are still dominated by the big organizations who has a huge capital to spend on marketing (instead on the quality of the travel).
For me this was one of the reasons to start a travel organization in Ecuador, where I have worked as tour guide. I was surprised about the non-personal atmosphere of the trips and the distance with the local people. I set up an organization, named Go Local! that works together with locations owned by local people or run by a community. The same is for the activities that can be done; they are small scale and run locally or a possibility to visit a tribe.The idea originated after contact with development organizations in Ecuador with a legitimate plan but without money for implementation. As well as the visits of local communities that had set up a nice tourism activity but no visitors. Knowing that in Ecuador there are still no affordable travels that make use of local initiatives, a liaison was made. With this concept travelers can explorer another Ecuador against a fair price. Moreover we support development projects by these special tours and travelers may visit the development projects during their journey.
To add local tourism at a program is not that simple as one might think. The locations for the trip are screened on accessibility (public transport), safety, comfort and price. But a place that looks well organized today can be dirty the next day. Support in management, ideas and marketing is highly needed. Another challenge is communication, as easy as we can send an email that difficult it can be for a community to get internet connection or even be reachable by mobile phone. Furthermore the setting of goals is a challenge. To improve a place to make it suitable for tourists is an activity with a lot of patience. Another important one is cultural differences. We clearly see that we have to translate our ideas and knowledge to get it understandable for the locals. They are thinking from their own setting or maybe the Ecuadorean but both can be very different than a Western idea, which is the final customer. You simply cannot just say a place has to be clean or comfortable, more description is needed. Positive about Ecuador is that there is already national tourism and this is the reason why there is already some good infrastructure. Where a national tourist want to have easy access, good radio and TV sounds, clear lights in the night ask a traveler for a more environmentally friendly and peaceful setting. This gives hope and opportunities to some community based locations that were neglected by the national tourist, but can be the perfect spot for the traveler.
All in all a bit of patience is needed but once things are running and you see the pride of the community which feels great. Go Local hopes that they can support these locations and be a benefit for them as well as for the traveller who want to find these spots with just a little bit of help. It is clear that the local initiatives need support from outside to get their business working. Go Local! is trying to give the community another platform to work as partners and to sell the product on their website. For us involving local tourism is not seen as a unique concept to charge high prices but as the logic standard. Another benefit is that the traveler can connect all the locations and create in this way a fully organized holiday. We have now realized trips to communities in the jungle, Otavalo, Nanegal, Cuenca, Quininde and Santo Domingo. At these locations you can share the daily life of the community and explore with them the surrounding. This can be working in the farmland or going for caimans. These trips can be combined with activities like rafting, surfing, mountain biking, hikes and mountaineering.
The most important chance of success for a local project is continuity and that is the aim for Go Local! In this way they are able to give the tourist the service that is needed and soon the project can run more and more on its own. Go Local! has written a special guidebook to make sure that the traveler can easily reach the local project. Because at the end you are you are looking for a better adventure but you are on a holiday as well.