Creating work, value & prosperity for local families in Argentina
We are Heart of Argentina Travel, a family owned travel agency from Córdoba in Argentina. Our customers are mainly Europeans (Jan, one of the owners is Dutch) and North Americans. We organise custom-made trips in both Argentina and Chile. For us, it’s really important to distinguish ourselves with authentic and unique travel experiences.
Most of these experiences are with private guides, as we can add a lot of value to a trip this way. As a travel agency, we also develop new travel experiences. We are always looking for new and sustainable alternatives and trying to promote slow travel.
In this article
Trekking the Calchaquíes valley
In the Calchaquíes valley (Salta in Argentina), there is a lot of international tourism. But the smaller rural families who live far away from the main tourist attractions, don’t really see the advantages. To change this, we have created a 3-day trekking for our international customers. A trekking where three local families take the responsibility to organise logistics (mules and horses), food and accommodation for our guests.
Improving local living standards
The South of Argentina, Patagonia, is known for its marvelous multiple day treks. However, the much-requested Northwest of Argentina (Salta, Jujuy) hardly offers any of these hiking experiences. So in 1999, our local guide in Salta, started a project with three rural families in Vallecitos (Quebrada de Jumial – northern Calchaquíes Valley). He started this to create an authentic hiking experience which would improve their living standards.
These families live very isolated: 8 hours walking distance from the nearest farm, which can be reached by car. The Vallecitos families were willing to open up their small community to create more prosperity for themselves and future generations. Tourism could be a good way to earn a more decent income. Something which is very difficult to gain with their traditional agriculture.
“Over the years, the increased number of excursions to Vallecitos have led to a huge improvement in quality of life for the community.”
More excursions, more local benefits
In 1999, our guide organised around 2 trips per year to Vallecitos. From 2008, when we started to work with him offering this service, numbers have increased to 2-3 trips every month in high season (September to December). In the beginning, there were very little services and facilities for the hikers who visited Vallecitos. There were no toilets, and no warm water was available. Over the years, the increased number of excursions to Vallecitos have led to a huge improvement in quality of life for the community.
They now have toilets and showers with warm water, heated by solar energy. Thereby, they constructed sleeping rooms for the guests with the local and sustainable “abode” bricks. The community has a better income and invested this in its own infrastructure. Besides, they live less isolated now. They learn from the international exchange of cultural experiences, where traditionally the people of these regions are not very communicative.
A future in the local community
Also very important: the younger generations of these families experience that there is a future for them in the community. They don’t need to go to live in the big city to have a successful future. One of our goals is to educate the younger generation to be independent hosts for international tourists. We teach them to speak English, being communicative and proud of their culture.
Today, one of our guides always has to translate everything. This stands in the way of authentic interaction. Which is why it would be so much better to have one of the youngsters explain everything. Part of our goal to make the project more sustainable. For it to become more independent, maybe even to such a level that the community can organise the complete 3 days excursion themselves.
Responsibility and ownership are essentials
After 20 years of offering Vallecitos as an authentic travel experience, we know that responsibility and ownership are essentials. Together with a minimal quantity of treks per year. A critical number of trips, especially during high season. This to guarantee the Vallecitos families a stable income so they can better plan expenses and stay motivated to keep investing in their community.