By Henry Thorndike
Arequipa is the second most important city in Peru and it is well-known because it is the place where you can find active volcanoes such as Ubinas and of course it is the place where the deepest world canyons: Colca and Cotahuasi are located.
I decided to stay some days in Arequipa because I wanted to do some mountainclimbing in Arequipa and I was really interested to climb Ampato ,the mountain where Juanita “The snowmaiden” was found.
I visited several travel agencies specially those recommended by the Lonely Planet Guidebook and Trip Advisor.
At the beginning I was really confused because of the big difference between the prices but then I realized that the prices are different because there are very good travel agencies and there are others whose quality service is chaotic.
I started with the well-known Carlos Zarate and it was dissapointing for me because when I visited his travel agency the people there couldn´t speak English fluently. ¿How can that be?
The I moved to Ivan Jimenez travel agency called Quechua Explorer which is very popular in Arequipa. The girls there couldn´t speak English . I needed more information and they just show me a piece of paper with very basic information .
I wanted to see the equipment they use for the mountainclimbing and it was terrible.The equipment was really basic and old.For such expeditions a montainclimber has specific needs and as I realized the quality standards here in Arequipa are very poor.
Then I visited Colonial Tours who offer me not just the Colca Canyon Tour but also mountainclimbing. It was notorius that there was not even a backpack in the place,not a piece of equipment of all the tours they offer.
Besides from mountainclimbing they offer river rafting,mountainbiking and I realized that the old lady there is just another travel agency who survives thanks to commsissions!
That is why it is important not to buy adventure tours anywhere! Since adventure sports have a certain degree of risk a traveller has to look for security and guarantee.The worst option is to buy a tour inside hotels don´t ever do that!
I found out that all the travel agencies in Arequipa have very cheap prices because they pool their clients.For example if anybody wants to do mountainbiking everybody offers you DOWNHILL CHACHANI and you travel with a very cheap operator.
If anybody wants to climb a volcano in Arequipa literrally 99% of the travel agencies endorse their clients to Quechua Explorer and this travel agency pays a very high commissions to all the travel agencies which endorse their clients to them!That is why the equipment is terrible! Sustainable tourism in Arequipa? I don´t think so.
All these travel agencies have something in common: POOR QUALITY STANDARDS ,NON ENGLISH SPEAKING TRAVEL AGENTS AND ALL OF THEM ARE RECOMMENDED BY LONELY PLANET and TRIP ADVISOR!
To appear in Lonely Planet it is suppossed that the tourists write letters to the the guidebook so after a specific quantity of recommendations they are visited by a representative of Lonely Planet who invites them to appear in the guidebook and it costs 500 US.
I understand Lonely Planet it is another businness but al least they should qualify the travel agencies of Arequipa according to specific quality standards. How can a travel agency recommended by Lonely Planet not to have people who speaks English? It is a shame!
A written piece of paper with the program doesn ´t mean profesional!
I hope Lonely Planet guys take this advice into consideration because thanks to us tourists you keep your guidebooks in circulation. Do a better job please beause until the moment Lonely Planet sucks and Trip Advisor too!