One year ago four friends set up Puelmapu, an innovative business venture designed to fill a critical gap in the Chilean tourism industry. Today the team offers inclusive day trips, with a focus on the great outdoors, catering to the needs of wheelchair users, the blind, the deaf or people with any kind of intellectual disability. They strive to offer an ideal tourism service where everyone is included.
“Our business is family-run. We started up this year but we’ve been working in tourism for more than three years now,” Belén Farías Gutiérrez, co-founder of Puelmapu told This is Chile. “After we were given funds by Capital Semilla [a fund for innovative entrepreneurs offered by The Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO)], we were able to make our business formal.”
Gutiérrez describes Puelmapu as a small team of local guides who organize a variety of day trips within and around Santiago, and in the greater Metropolitan region. By organizing small-scale trips, they aim to invest their efforts in training their guides to their fullest potential, in order to best meet the needs of their clients.
“We realized that what is most important to us is the ability to provide the best support we can on these trips and that comes down to the training of our guides,” Gutiérrez said. “We want to be as reliable as possible so we try to find out as much as we can about the people we work with beforehand.”
In addition to the three-month Red Cross first aid course that all their guides go through, they also go one step further in carefully customising each trip to the specific needs of each participant. This is achieved by working closely with the organisations that take help support them on a permanent basis and consulting the clients families.
“We work a lot with children and adults with Down Syndrome and organize trips to places like Cerro San Cristóbal,” Gutiérrez explained. “We usually meet twice to collect information both from the foundation that takes care of them, the National Association of Mentally Disabled (ANADIME) and even their parents. We think personal contact is very important,” she said.
The company recently took part in Expo PYME, an exhibition organized by the government for the second year to support and recognize small and medium-sized businesses.
“It was our first time at Expo PYME. We were selected to participate by Sernatur [the national tourism service of Chile]. We decorated our stand with traditional baskets woven on the island of Chiloé, a great way to get people interested and to talk to them about our first trip outside the wider Santiago area in January and February,” Gutiérrez revealed excitedly.
Common day trip destinations for Puelmapu are Valparaíso, Cajón del Maipo, Pomaire, Cerro el Roble, Parque Natural Aguas de Ramón, Cerro San Cristóbal and Cerro Santa Lucía. Tours are currently offered in Spanish, Portuguese and English and focus on trekking, as well as activities such as rock climbing and horseback riding.
By Daphne Karnezis