Chilean communities open their doors to a new type of tourist

Community-based tourism invites the conscientious traveler to cultivate quinoa with the Aymara or explore cultural traditions with the Mapuche.

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There is a new type of traveler afoot in Chile and the world at large: tourists who are looking to make a cultural connection with the country they have chosen to visit, and eager to learn more about their hosts. After all, the decision to pack up and travel is about much more than the search for a sunny beach and a frosty drink with an umbrella (although those are nice).

Community-based tourism is the newest face of international tourism trends, with a growing contingent of travelers and operators in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. The idea for tourists is to get a more authentic look at what it’s like to encourage sustainable tourism that brings real development benefits to communities, and an interchange of ideas between people of different cultures.

In Chile, people are choosing to spend time in the country’s north, with the Aymara community of Cancosa, helping cultivate quinoa and exploring the Atacama desert by llama, or delving into Pewenche culture in southern Chile during a horseback ride through Alto Biobío with the Trekaleyin community.

Still, with their far-flung locations and the road-less-traveled character of these tourism opportunities, it is often a challenge to bring together host communities and tourists. Global tourism network Travolution is trying to bridge the gap, bringing together community-based tourism operators from Latin America, Asia and Africa in an innovative model that earned it a grant from Chile’s economic development agency, Corfo.

Travolution’s members in Chile include tourist entrepreneurs from Putre in the north to Aysén in the south, as well as representatives from the public sector, private sector and academics.

Between November 17 and 20, community-based tourism operators will be meeting in the Elicura Valley in the BioBío Region for a four-day conference at the Rayen Wekeche cultural center. The conference will culminate with an open-air public market with information about the different community-based tourism operators, cultural shows and travel activities as well as stands selling tasty traditional food and original handicrafts.