AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

Journey Latin America Sustainability

Our sustainable Tourism Vision

We began our journey almost 40 years ago and ever since Journey Latin America has striven to operate responsibly and sustainably, both at home and abroad. Our aim is to provide authentic experiences which are sensitive to the environments and communities you visit. We endeavour to be sensitive to local laws and customs and minimise any negative impact of long-haul travel.

At Journey Latin America's offices we make every effort to reduce our carbon footprint, including monitoring and seeking out new ways to reduce energy consumption and minimising waste. We strongly encourage staff to travel to work by bike or on foot, and currently 25% of our workforce come to work on two wheels.

AITO was the first travel industry association to incorporate a commitment to Sustainable Travel and green tourism into its business charter, and we were delighted to be one of the first operators credited with the maximum Sustainable Travel Award by AITO.

Sustainable Tourism Projects from Journey Latin America

Pintando El Cambio project

Art is lifting spirits and raising moral in Santa Catarina on the banks of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Here the smiles of the locals belie the number of teenage pregnancies or the serious lack of food or sanitation. The vibrancy of the villagers is matched by the brightness of the houses as the Pintando El Cambio (painting for change) project takes shape. Drawing on inspiration from centuries old traditional Mayan weaving designs, contemporary geometric patterns are emerging on walls throughout the town preserving traditional roots and appealing to a younger generation.

In 2019 Journey Latin America staff have worked hard but had fun along the way, raising a whopping $3000 to fund the painting of six houses within this project. On top of this we have designed a number of products that allow our clients to spend a few hours or even days in the community, helping with a donation or actually painting the houses themselves. In order to maximise our impact and fund raising efforts it was key to reach as many people as possible through press and social media. With the help of Sarah Gilbert (travel writer) we have reached approximately 950,000 individuals.

At the end of 2019 a total of 400 houses will have been painted, including the six we funded.
Local Miguel Martin said “We actually have never had support from anyone to help us change the conditions we live in before, so we think this is a big opportunity. The benefits are many, but the most important is having new visitors so our Community can be known and recognized because of our culture and textiles. This is really special because most of the inhabitants are artisans and they earn money by doing handmade products”.

Our pledge has had a big impact on staff who have been incredibly supportive. We are trying to start a legacy by creating products around the project that will have a positive impact on clients and locals. Seeing how the project has lifted the village has been an amazing experience for us all.

Transforming the lives of families living on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala through art.

In 2019, JLA will contribute to the community of Santa Catalina and the Pintando Project on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala by incorporating a visit to the project into excursions taken by clients. This will help to not only transform the lives of families living there but revive the local textile designs which the region is famous for. The Pintando Project does this by painting houses and public buildings in a contemporary manner with influences from traditional Mayan textile designs.

JLA pledges to raise £500 from fund raising activities by our staff. The company will match the funds, raising a total of £1000 - enough money to sponsor the painting of two houses.

To better promote and raise awareness among our customers about the project we will offer all our customers visiting the Lake Atitlan area a free visit to the it. We will also create new experiences to further raise awareness and contribute funds including an opportunity to stay with a family and help prepare one of the houses for the artists. For each person booking these experiences, a donation of £50 will be made. We aim to sell them to 20 customers this year – raising a further £1000. We will also promote the project on our website and in email newsletters.

Our aim is to help and get our customers actively involved in the project to rejuvenate the community, maintaining traditions and restoring the environment to make it a better place for locals and tourists alike.

Rethink your drink

Following a year of selling Water-to-Go filter bottles to passengers with the aim of reducing plastic waste in our destinations JLA has now decided to take this idea further. We now want to focus on a more local scale with this pledge and to finally achieve our 2017 target of selling 500 bottles.

In 2018, we will establish partnerships with two Destination Management Companies (DMC’s) to help reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles given to our clients during transfers and excursions. Firstly, we will assess how many single-use plastic bottles are used before analysing possible solutions (e.g. refillable water stations in their offices and at different stops on route) and then working with the DMC’s to implement the solutions. We currently offer approximately 60 excursions and 140 transfers through these DMCs which could amount to saving hundreds of single-use plastic bottles. We believe that this will also lead to conversations with DMC’s regarding other single use plastic on excursions such as plastic straws, bags and polystyrene boxes.

In addition to this we will continue with the promotion of our branded Water-To-Go bottles. We will now offer them to Bespoke Clients (70% of our customer base), with the aim to sell 350 bottles by March 2019). Furthermore we will develop our Sustainable Travel webpages to provide clients with information on the hotels we work with that have excellent environmental and social policies and with simple guidelines on the actions clients can take to travel responsibly while on holiday.

  • - Work with DMCs to limit their use of single-use plastic in Latin America
  • - Continue to sell our Water-To-Go bottles to our clients
  • - Update our sustainability pages to include hotels that support eco-friendly practices

LATA Foundation

Journey Latin America currently supports The LATA Foundation, a UK-based charity that supports grassroots social and environmental projects throughout Latin America. These projects are carefully chosen and always aim to relieve poverty through sustainable development and environmental conservation. Over the past 10 years the Foundation has upheld this aim through a number of different initiatives. Projects supported include the provision of clean drinking water fountains to schools around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, free dental care for hundreds of children in the ‘villas’ of Buenos Aires and the planting of more than 30,000 native trees in the Sacred Valley of Peru by local communities. The Foundation is also able to support emergency relief to affected areas through working with trusted local organisations.

  • The projects are usually located in areas where tourism is high and fall into four categories:
  • Education and training
  • Health
  • Community development
  • Conservation

Keep Hydrated

“Keep Hydrated”. This is the key piece of advice our Tour Leaders and guides from Journey Latin America provide to our customers. Whether it is in the humid tropics of Central America, the windswept plains of Patagonia or the high altitude plains of the Andes having a filled water bottle close to hand is a simple and effective way to keeping healthy and alert while on tour. The knock on affect of this is that numerous bottles of mineral water are bought and consumed daily considering the water from the tap is not drinkable. This in turn leads to huge amounts of plastic waste which, as widely reported, has reached critical levels for the environment.
Journey Latin America want to combat this by offering our group tour passengers the opportunity to purchase a Water Bottle with an extremely effective water filtration system at a 50% discount. We will monitor the impact by asking our tour leaders to note how many bottles of water would otherwise have been used. We envisage that every customer taking one of these bottles with them on tour will mean on average 10 less bottles bought and discarded per person per trip. We hope to reach at least 80% of our group tour passengers (approximately 600 clients) in the first year of the pledge and then expand the initiative to include our passengers on Tailor Made trips, of which we book over 2,000 a year. We feel this is an effective and tangible way of reducing the plastic waste in the continent we care so deeply about while also including our customers in the fight against the polluting of these incredible destinations.

  • - We want to help reduce plastic waste from discarded water bottles in all of our destinations
  • - The program involves everyone from our clients, tour leaders and office staff with the aim to also include our suppliers.