1. What inspired you to create your business?
In 2007 we missed a sustainable tourism business model, which procured benefit to all participants, a relationship win-win-win-win, etc. (travelers, travel agency, partners, local people, environment, etc.). The traditional model that we perceived travelling to India was primarily based on the overexploitation of resources and workers and only worked in function of variables such as price depending on how many people were travelling. We decided to bring our vision we wanted to commit. If anyone had told us it was impossible probably we wouldn´t have done it… but we haven’t worked in this sector before and that allowed us to dream of inviting travelers to India, a wonderful and fascinating place, trying to induce a meeting of cultures and civilizations that enriched all participants. That is how we started dreaming we were true hosts in India for our dear travelers.
2. How does being responsible help your business attract potential customers?
Many travelers have confessed to us that they value very positively our involvement in sustainable tourism, although we haven´t got any intention of promoting us in that way. Marketing does not motivate the fact of having created and trying to seek a highlight model of sustainable business, although it´s obvious and palpable in all the experiences we propose to our travelers. This is what makes the difference. It´s just what we do, we feel it as our responsibility, our duty. We don´t want to compete in the market with that argument. We want to have our own approach, that we try to adjust every day in the company with the work of all of us… and if someone does not feel it from the very beginning when they contact Sociedad Geográfica de las Indias as an employer, customer, supplier or partner, that’s mean we are doing something wrong… We believe that honesty in actions translate into facts, facts that people notice and feel… and perhaps the world of today has too many advertising, self-promotion and a lot of facelift based on “sustainable”, like greenwashing tendency.
3. How do you engage guests in your responsible tourism activities?
We are proud of working with People and for People. It´s not just a saying. We work for clients who have an extraordinary profile as people, we work with partners, guides, drivers, etc., that also have it. Positive interactions occur every day. All parts of this relationship, in its role, bring something positive… and this way is very easy. Traveler is involved almost naturally in responsible tourism activities. They visit the widows ashrams to know in first person the true, they assist to private concerts, not in great auditoriums, but in private humble houses-, helps bathe the orphans elephants rescued by one of the NGO, helps cooperatives with economical disadvantaged people, etc. Our clients want to know more, they enjoy discovering and really trust us. Our own staff in India empathizes with travelers so much that it´s almost impossible not to share this perspective of responsibility. When we talk about “responsible tourism” we really think it´s no more than responsibility, coherence and consistency on the proposal. We procure that our activity and this meeting of another culture is done without harming anyone, and if possible, brings high benefits for all of us (travelers, for example look for emotions; guides, for dignity and a brilliant career; business, for social and economic benefits, etc.).
4. What is the responsible tourism initiative of which you are most proud?
Without any doubt, it is approaching rural India to thousands of travelers. Get our travelers to know that part (majority) of India that almost nobody knows and almost everyone looks with huge prejudices. Gandhi said that in this India (the rural one) we could find the eternal India, and our travelers feel it that way. It´s not an enroute visit in a tourism circuit… When someone visits a rural village or a school, perhaps to give geography lesson to children, it´s not only a simple activity. It´s a history encounter between all of them. Spend a night with a rural family in India, who earn some money and can see the tourism from a different perspective… it´s a real and valuable bridge between cultures and religions. When you help to do dinner there and peacocks sing in the backyard, these are things that money can’t buy… The fact of promote those encounters between people, cultures and civilizations, where different people recognized themselves as equals, as humans, is a huge pride for us. We are also very proud of having planted thousands of trees (each one for each traveler who has traveled with Sociedad Geográfica de las Indias. With these plantations in the reserves of Kanha and Kumbalghar in few years our economical activity, facing the environment, will have been even positive!
5. What positive impacts does your tourism business have on the community/environment where you are based?
Perhaps the most positive impact of our activity is the impact on people who are part of this chain: travelers, suppliers, partners, workers, local population, etc. Also, as mentioned above, we try to impact positively in the environment with two programs (Plant for Planet, of NNUU and the SOS Wildlife, through our support as a company and as a support of our travelers in the care of Slot Bears in North of India). In addition, we can list our support to local populations, the fact of developing rural tourism
in the country, supporting magnificent projects such as Vicente Ferrer Foundation, Sonrisas de Bombay, Mobile Creches, etc. If we have to highlight only one thing, it will be to regain a dignity of professionalism by paying decent wages in a sector deformed by tips and commissions.
6. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
We have done something that seemed impossible: have challenged the establishment of industrial tourism, in its model based on “volume” equals to “lower price” equals to “more sales”. It has been ten years since we took our own path. And that independence that has cost us so much, that attitude of being able to look for the best, without any commitments, maybe that, that has been our compass and our best challenge, is our greatest achievement.
Personally, it has been a tremendous satisfaction. Every week something incredible happens. If I had to choose only one thing it would be that trip where our traveler with severe motor disability reached the Tiger Nest in Buthan. Imagine the feeling that she lived that day, at 3000 meters high.
7. What advice would you give to any entrepreneur starting a responsible tourism business?
Be a dreamer. Do something real, something you can show, you can touch, something that changes peoples live and environment, for better. Ignore those who say “it´s impossible”. Work every day of the week; be aware that if you don’t feel unsuccessful, you will be winning the battle. You have to know your project it´s important, very important, even if only few people know it. The future will measure your self-confidence. All the answers are hidden in you (so surround yourself with people who feed the project, or at least, they not accused it of “impossible”) It is the key. Remember, when you hear the first “that´s impossible”, that impossible also means that it has not been tried enough.
YouTube video that illustrate the answers.