By Their Bootstraps: Homemade Heritage Tourism in Peru

Every year, Green Destinations organizes the Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories competition, which invites submissions from around the world – a vetted collection of stories spotlighting local and regional destinations that are making progress toward sustainable management of tourism and its impacts. From the 100 winners announced in October 2021, this story, from the Colca Cañon of Perú, shows how an impoverished community with pride in its culture and traditional architecture can turn itself into a heritage adventure destination: Sibayo.

Villagers look to the sun as it rises over the Andes Mountains. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Submitted by Jeniffer Stephanie Diaz Santivañez, Promotor Touristico.

From Alpacas to Tourists: How the Village of Sibayo Grew a Business

The rural, pre-Hispanic town of Sibayo, nestled in the province of Caylloma, Peru, has met the test of time. Its traditional stone architecture and its living Collagua culture have survived to this day. However, in its recent history, Sibayo was all but forgotten to those outside the Colca Valley. Facing high poverty levels, malnourishment, and inequities that resulted in a period of high migration, the municipality looked towards solutions to better the lives of their community while simultaneously preserving its unique heritage. Thus, the small town began its push from a livestock production economy to a community-based tourism economy.

In 2001, the town set out an objective to diversify its economic activities and open up the rural community to tourism, using a framework that bridges the private sector, local authorities, and civil society.

A Sibayo man leads a group of alpacas down a stone pathway to meet visitors. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]
Faced with initial skepticism and resistance to this tourism-based approach, local management worked alongside the population to promote the rural community and dispel any concerns associated with tourist activities. Only after villagers felt supported and that they could trust tourism did the real planning begin – nearly four years later. Experiential tourism was developed, centered around rehabilitating the town’s old stone houses, where food and lodging could be offered, meshed with agritourism concepts, in which tourists could participate in planting, handicraft making, firewood collecting, and walks with the local farmers.

Outdoor adventure activities such as rafting have become increasingly popular for visitors of Colca Canyon. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

 

As Sibayo began to gain attraction, the community evolved and new experiences sprung up, such as hiking to archeological remains, canoeing, cycling, and living the local culture. Women also began to have a leading role in tourism efforts, establishing 12 women-run microenterprises, which has resulted in improved gender equality and women’s empowerment in the region. By implementing community-based tourism, Sibayo’s economy has become dynamic, and tourism has positively affected the economy. The success of the community-based tourism framework has depended on connections between governments, the local people, and private organizations. Thanks to this tourism framework, the locals have been able to access housing sanitation services, improving the living conditions of the community.

Introducing visitors to traditional cuisine has proven to be an excellent way to foster a connection with local culture. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]
To read more about the ingredients that went into these successes, along with how the town is combatting their new test of COVID-related challenges, check out the Green Destinations’s Top 100 story here. 

  • Log in and post
    Log in to submit a DSC post. Be sure to read editorial guidelines first. New user? Register here.