Wheelchair trekking in Patagonia and educational stays in an Inca village
ITB Berlin presents and supports two outstanding social tourism enterprises
March 08, 2023
On Wednesday at ITB Berlin two social enterprises represented by women, and the ideas behind their establishment, were presented by Rika Jean-Francois, CSR representative of ITB Berlin, and Prof. Dr. Claudia Brözel from the College for Sustainable Development, Eberswalde. The latter is the founder of the "Social Entrepreneurship Competition in Tourism", which was launched in 2019. Ancestral Teacher, established by the Peruvian Paola Sota, seeks to enable travellers to acquaint themselves with ancient artisanal skills and wisdom from local people in the areas they are visiting. These activities are always incorporated in sustainable, community-based tourism projects. Joanna Gruau, whose project "Wheel the World" was the winner of the Growth Track competition last year, presented a booking platform for disabled travellers, which also seeks to support destinations in their efforts to develop travel offers for disabled people.
Paola Sota described how she grew up in Cusco in a family that had always been active in tourism. When she was visiting the Sacred Valley of the Inca with her father and a travel group she became aware of the ´difficulties of arranging more in-depth encounters with the indigenous people. “The few families that made themselves available complained about two problems: limited demand and very short stays”, Sota reported. With her newly established online platform Ancestral Teacher in 2022 she was awarded first place in the competition’s Launch Track.
Her long term aim is to grant access to high quality, socially responsible projects from all over the world, offering the three categories of Travel, Experiences and Stays. The travellers gain authentic experiences and meet face-to-face with local people – and the "Ancestral Teachers" can preserve and pass on their skills and values. “We can learn a lot from them, not only from their artisanal skills but also from their overall way of life“, Sota explained.
While this project is still in its early stages, Wheel the World was launched in 2018 and has been expanding ever since. This business idea was developed by two Chileans who were planning a trip through Patagonia in wheelchairs and discovered that it was extremely difficult to find the information they needed for their preparations. Wheel the World now operates an online booking platform for people with or without disabilities. This offers a choice of overnight accommodation, activities and entire round trips, providing specific details about all these offers and guaranteeing complete accessibility.
"Up until now over 2,500 people have booked with us, 40 per cent with and 60 per cent without disabilities”, explained Joanna Gruau, emphasising that Wheel the World is more like a community than a ”normal“ company. One important area of work for this start-up has become the scrutinising of offers and on-site staff training. It has developed its own app to register whether offers are truly barrier-free.
Within the scope of the "Social Entrepreneurship Competition in Tourism" its initiators have made contact with some 600 social enterprises since 2019, Prof. Dr. Claudia Brözel reported. In 2023 the initiators of the competition, for which information is available at www.socialtourismcompetition.com, intend to concentrate on the subjects of research and exchanges, and for this reason no prize is being awarded this year.