Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Development Impact of Rural Tourism in Peru's Colca Valley

by Simon Bidwell


This thesis aimed to evaluate claims that alternative forms of tourism can help reduce poverty and promote more inclusive development in Latin America by creating alternative economic opportunities in historically marginalised areas while supporting and revalorizing traditional cultures and livelihoods.

The focus of field research was the Colca Valley in southern Peru, which has become an increasingly popular tourist destination since the mid 1990s. A broad political economy approach was taken, combining detailed case studies of the experience of tourism in contrasting

localities in the Colca Valley with an analysis of Peru's wider economic and social context. The research thus framed the empirical question of “impacts” with historical-structural analysis while also acknowledging the potential diversity of perspectives on tourism and development. The key questions were as follows:

· What economic, political, social, cultural or other factors have structured the development of tourism in the case study areas?

· What have been the impacts of tourism to date in the case study areas and to what extent has it contributed to poverty reduction and more inclusive development?

· What are the expectations do different stakeholders have of tourism and what is their vision of its potential contribution to development?

Theoretical Background

Two streams of theoretical literature formed the background to the thesis. The first related to the Latin American structuralist and dependency theories which emerged during the 1950—80 period to challenge modernisationist accounts of development.

These theories argued that the position of Latin American and other developing countries as “resource peripheries” in the global economy constrained their development and perpetuated social inequalities. Since the late 1980s, these theories have been superceded by a broad set of approaches which may be grouped under the heading of “neostructuralism”.

Neostructuralism retains many of the insights of structuralism but is more optimistic about interaction with the international economy, in part based on the development success of previously peripheral countries in East Asia. It emphasises the need for resource peripheries to diversify and develop “non-traditional” exports that have a greater value-added component and greater links with local economies. Alternative forms of tourism have many of the characteristics of the non-traditional activities promoted by neostructuralist approaches.

The second stream of literature related to theories and case studies of alternative tourism,including ecotourism and “sustainable”, “responsible” or “pro-poor” tourism. Seen since the late 1980s as compatible with grassroots or sustainable development, alternative forms of tourism are claimed to help preserve natural environments, provide development benefits to local communities,and revalorize traditional livelihoods.

Among the criticisms, alternative forms of tourism have been argued to be no different from traditional tourism, to privilege Western views of sustainability and crowd out local use of resources, and to appropriate and commodify indigenous cultures or livelihoods for external profit. The model of “rural community tourism”, which has developed over the past decade in Latin America in particular, places more specific emphasis on local control and economic benefits but there is continued debate about its potential contribution to development.


A broad political economy approach was taken to the research. This called for a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods, combining ethnographic approaches in local communities,structured interviews with formal institutions, and analysis of data. I undertook four months of field work in Peru between March and July 2010, dividing my time between the regional capital of Arequipa, the provincial capital of Chivay, and the case study districts of Cabanaconde, Tapay (lower Colca Valley) and Sibayo (upper Colca Valley).

The perspectives of approximately 75 participants were recorded in field notes, including representatives of institutions, local authorities,small business proprietors and community members. I also conducted a quantitative survey of 41tour operators in the city of Arequipa. I participated in two meetings of the Tourism Technical Committee, which is comprised of 10 State, non-governmental and international institutions working to link tourism and development in the Colca Valley, and I attended a two-day conference on the “Municipal Management of Tourism”.

I also obtained CDs of detailed data from the Peruvian National Statistics Institute on population, poverty and development indicators down to district level and undertook extensive review of Census data.

Discussion of Research Findings

The research found that a broad political economy approach was useful for understanding the evolution and impact of tourism in the Colca Valley. Unlike Peru's most popular tourist destination of Machu Picchu, which is controlled by the State and monopolistic capital, in the Colca Valley tourism had developed in a spontaneous, informal way.

Outside investment had played a role in the provincial capital of Chivay, which is the centre of “conventional” minibus-based tourism, but in the more peripheral case study areas (where adventure and cultural tourism is predominant) almost all tourism services had been initiated by people with local origins, most frequently by return migrants who had accumulated capital in the cities.

However, thanks to their control of transport and information, tour operators based in the city of Arequipa had come to dominate the tourism market, with nearly 80 percent of tourists travelling to the Colca Valley doing so through an agency. Increasing competition among these mostly small-scale urban tour operators had driven down prices and led to pressure being placed on local providers to also reduce prices.

Pre-existing social differences and mistrust within the Colca Valley communities prevented a common front being presented to the tour operators. A cycle of conflict and destructive competition at a number of levels had thus restricted the overall value obtained, disincentivised innovation and led to what many participants described as the “disorderly” development of tourism.

Although lack of cohesion in civil society was a proximate cause of this disorder, the thesis argues that the underlying reasons related to the wider Peruvian context of narrow economic development, underemployment, and wages that have stagnated at early 1990s levels.

In the case study areas of Cabanaconde and Tapay, economic benefits had largely accrued to a few families who had established accommodation and restaurant services. These were mainly people with existing skills and resources who often maintained footholds both in the city of Arequipa and the local village.

Tourism did not necessarily produce large earnings, but assisted the long-term accumulation of assets and promoted economic resilience. Some other community members had obtained additional income through guiding, selling crafts or opening small stores.

However, growing urban dominance of tourism had reduced the space for local participation, particularly of guides. The majority of community members dedicated to agriculture or herding had little contact with tourism and received few benefits:

Little employment had been generated by tourism: jobs consisted of a few formal positions in larger accommodation services, mainly occupied by temporary migrants from the city, and informal work in family-run businesses, usually undertaken by migrants from poorer communities and paid below minimum wage.

In the case study area of Sibayo in the upper valley, a rural community tourism project had been developed over the past five years. In contrast with the lower valley districts, this emphasized equity, broad community participation and linking traditional livelhoods with tourism.

A more homogenous and cohesive social context, unusually proactive municipal leadership, and intensive assistance from outside institutions had permitted significant progress with community organization and development of infrastructure for tourism. However, low volumes of tourists constrained the further development of the project and raised questions about its long-term viability or replicability.

The research also considered social, cultural and environmental impacts of tourism. While studies of tourism in developing countries often paint it as socially and culturally destabilizing, the preliminary conclusion of this thesis was that tourism had had only a minor effect on rapid social change largely due to decades of migration, expansion of secondary education, and the influence of electronic media.

The cultural influence of tourism had on balance been positive, contributing to an increasing recognition and pride in traditional culture and livelihoods, which in Peru have historically suffered from marginalisation and discrimination. Environmental impacts were an increasing concern, notably the influx of non-biodegradable items into fragile natural environments.

Nevertheless, the increase in tourist numbers counterbalanced population decline in the case study districts, and their impact could potentially be mitigated. Greater environmental impacts in the canyon area were threatened by the building of new roads, mining, and a proposed hydroelectric project.

Overall, the research concluded that alternative forms of tourism can have a decentralizing impetus by creating new economic opportunities in historically marginalised areas of Latin America, although these are most accessible to those with existing skills and resources.

Tourism can also be culturally decentralising by bolstering challenges to cultural categories that have historically perpetuated marginalisation, and by offering a useful platform for local self-assertion. However, like other “non-traditional” industries it does little to directly promote equity or address the structural features of underdevelopment, which require wider social and political action to bring about change.

Implications for Development Practice and Policy

An increasing number of institutions were working to link tourism and development in the Colca Valley. Ten State, non-governmental and international institutions had formed a Tourism Technical Committee which met monthly in the provincial capital of Chivay .

These institutions deployed a discourse which combined elements of grassroots development, emphasising sustainability and participatory approaches, with aspects of neostructuralism, emphasising competitiveness and links to markets. The most controversial role was that of the Autocolca authority, a parastatal entity

theoretically responsible for both promotion and regulation of tourism in the Colca Valley and which obtained revenue by charging foreign and national tourists for the right to enter the valley. In 2005, concerted protest action by Colca residents saw the administration of Autocolca devolved from regional to provincial level. However, despite more localised governance and an increased budget for investment, most research participants were critical of some aspect of Autocolca.

The thesis made the following specific recommendations for institutions working to link tourism and development in the Colca Valley:

· Explicitly aim to decentralise tourism in the Colca Valley by presenting it as a place to

explore rather than visit in a tour from Arequipa. Reorient publicity towards extending the stay of visitors rather than simply attracting more tourists.

· Tailor interventions based on the specific needs and potential of each district rather than applying general solutions across the region.

· Consider using regulatory tools to promote local participation and control, given the limited potential to address urban bias of existing efforts to provide skills training and strengthen civil society.

· Improve the transparency of the Autocolca authority by publishing easily understandable summaries of expenditure in local media.

· Place more emphasis on preserving the Quechua language in the Colca Valley.

Some general lessons for development policy and practice emerged from the research. The most salient of these are listed below.

In a market paradigm, demand matters

Where institutions promote grassroots initiatives that remain within a market-based paradigm, they should take account of the nature of the relevant market, and pay particular attention to the demand side. The institutions working in the Colca Valley were doing a lot of work to upskill local people to deliver tourism services and develop new products.

However there was relatively little investigation into the nature or determinants of tourist demand, and few ideas about how to overcome problems with transport and information that prevented local people from gaining access to tourism markets, let alone participating in them on an equal footing. This risks of this approach included wasted investment, disillusionment, and new sources of conflict.

“Local” is a relative concept, and not all “local people” are the same.

An important finding of the research was how much social and cultural context varied within relatively small geographical spaces: despite being separated by little more than 50 km, the respective case study districts in the upper and lower Colca Valley differed in ethnicity, culture, language, livelihoods and migratory patterns. This was not often acknowledged by the various institutions.

People in the lower valley districts were said to be uninterested in projects or difficult to work with. However, all staff from NGOs and other institutions were based in the capital of Chivay (pop. 6,500) and usually only made brief visits to other parts of the valley. Lower valley residents saw this as a lack of commitment to learning about their distinct reality and (reasonably) wondered why no institution bothered to post a staff member in the village of Cabanaconde (pop 3,000).

In theory, the devolution of control of Autocolca to provincial level was a progressive step, putting the governance of the tourism authority in “local” hands. However, people in the lower valley districts felt little had improved: there were constant complaints about dominance of Autocolca by Chivay-based “interests”.

At the same time, people from all parts of the valley were united in complaining about the influence of Arequipa-based tour operators and guides. It isimportant for development agencies to be aware of the differences and commonalities that exist at different geographical levels and to understand how conflicts based on ethnic or territorial identity overlap with those based on class.

Grassroots interventions may be constrained by structural factors at the national level

A key argument of the thesis is that the evolution and impact of tourism in the case study areas were constrained and partly determined by structural factors at the national level. These factors included ongoing narrow economic development based on mineral extraction, widespread urban underemployment and stagnant wages.

Together they incentivised the development of a crowded sector of micro-enterprises with little capital and low risk tolerance, generating little formal employment and tending to compete on price rather than quality. Another specific factor was the deregulation of the travel agency industry in 2005, which contributed to the proliferation of smallscale urban tour operators.

While development institutions working at the grassroots often will not be able to influence these wider structural factors, they should at least recognise them and understand the constraints they place on otherwise worthy interventions. In some cases an understanding of the wider political and economic environment may help institutions develop more

Friday, February 24, 2012

Are you a Zombie blogger?

by the Colca Specialist

I know my dear readers that you will enjoy this article.Computers are part of many people lifes around the world and of course Blogging too.
This article will tell us in a specific way if we have the Zombie blogger syndrome.
Enjoy it!

The Colca Specialist

Stop Being A Zombie Blogger And Get On With Your Life!

By Robert Boland

So you’re sitting there, groggy eyed, head pounding with a triple espresso in your shaking hand as your eyes stare with an empty gaze at your laptop’s screen. You’re constantly refreshing your adsense page, checking to see how your earnings are doing. Suddenly your eyes flicker and something in the corner of your brain registers what you’ve just seen on the screen.

“Today so far: $0.01”

Well at least it’s an improvement on yesterday…

Now come on guys pull yourselves together. That’s not how you blog! So many people find themselves in this situation. They sit at their computer all day, scouring the web and reading up about how to make money online, how to blog, how to get visitors to their site. They click through link after link, page after page, blog after blog, watch video after video and even read interviews of brilliant bloggers on my new site, all the while simultaneously refreshing their adsense page in another window. I call them “Zombie Bloggers”

Your Typical Zombie Blogger

They do the same thing day in and day out. Sometimes to take a break to go and rant on some blogging forum to try and figure out why they aren’t making any money. They claim they’ve done everything. They’ll tell you that they’re writing 3 posts a day, commenting on every blog they come across, they’re constantly tweeting and pushing their sites on social networks and ensuring that all their pages are fully SEO optimised, but still they haven’t got a single cheque from Google.

These Zombie Bloggers live off caffeine and sugary snacks, their desks are littered with crushed styrofoam coffee cups and they live in a world of denial. They’ve bought every e-book on the web, signed up to every course they could find and bought the best wordpress themes out there, but what have they done to actually get their blog going?


Wake Up And Move!

If you are one of these Zombie Bloggers (you’ll probably never admit it) I am about to give you a right kicking. Clear your coffee stained desk of all those Styrofoam cups, throw away all those energy bar wrappers and open up your blinds. Don’t be afraid of the light streaming in your window, it won’t hurt you.

Now next step is to go outside, go for a walk, a run, a jog or swim, anything to get those limbs moving again. Get some oxygen into your head so you can think straight and go drink mountains of water to flush out all that coffee. Then sit down and compose yourself, close your eyes for a minute and clear your head, time to get back to reality.

Welcome Back To Reality

Now that you’re back to life again let’s have a look at the situation. You’ve got a blog, you know what to do to get it going, you know it will take time so why aren’t you doing anything?
Grab yourself a pen and paper, and write down what needs to be done. Prioritize that list and put down how long you’re going to spend at each activity.

What next? Go get a coffee? Check your adsense earnings? NO!

Start working now! Today is when you’re going to finally sort yourself out, if you want to get anything out of blogging apart from a headache, now is when you need to start working once and for all. Even if you just write one post, make sure you’ve optimised it for SEO and then do a bit of promotion, that’s a start. Take small steps, if you go and overload yourself again you’ll just become a Zombie Blogger once more, and trust me, that’s not what you want.

Do yourself a favour and don’t look at your adsense page for at least 2 weeks. No cheating, no sly peaks, nothing. In fact don’t look at your sites traffic either for 2 weeks. Instead just focus on working and developing your blog, add fresh content, optimise it, do some networking. I can pretty much guarantee that you will see both an increase in traffic and earnings after those 2 weeks.

Nice To See You Again

Now that you’ve successfully escaped from the dark realm of the Zombie Blogger it’s time to start making some money. Keep yourself motivated, read this post again and again, don’t let yourself slip back into the world of a Zombie Blogger.

I can promise you, you will be a much happier blogger, a wealthier blogger and a happier person now that you’ve successfully managed to bring your life back from the dark side.
Were you a Zombie Blogger? Or maybe you still are?
Hopefully I’ve saved you and got your blog back on track, let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Letter to the President of Perú Ollanta Humala Tasso

“Please cancel plans for road through Alto Purus and save uncontacted tribes and their rainforest habitats”

Dear President Ollanta Humala,

A road through a national forest will open the door to illegal activities, pollution, and devastation of an area which has somewhat managed to remain ecologically rich.

People of all nations seem bent on destroying what can never be replaced. Shame on all of us. Your government has only been in office a short time, yet already you are doing tremendous harm to your great nation’s rainforests and indigenous peoples. The latest insult to basic human rights are plans to build a highway through Alto Purus – Peru’s largest national park – comprised of vital intact Amazonian rainforest ecosystems and inhabited by at least two ‘uncontacted’ indigenous tribes. I demand that this road be cancelled immediately, never to be re-considered.

Further, your government must cease state violence against indigenous and other local communities resisting mining and roads, and closely follow their desires regarding protecting standing rainforests and their land from all usurpers.

The highway would put isolated populations – including the Mashco-Piro – in grave danger of being decimated by confrontation with loggers, hunters and illegal miners. The highway would violate a new law passed last year by Peru’s government guaranteeing indigenous people the right to be consulted about and in agreement with any project affecting them. Your government has failed to understand legitimate community grievances regarding the Conga mine as well, and has reacted violently with a state of emergency against those trying – quite reasonably, for those that thirst – to protect their water from foreign mining.

Mr. Humala, your government is utterly failing to react to reasonable environmental concerns and protect the rights of local communities from ecocide and genocide. The history of European colonialism makes clear that the worst thing you can do to the Amazon and the people who live there, particularly if they are uncontacted, is build a road through their territory. Every time this happens, the result is the same: lots of people die, and standing rainforests that could provide local and global benefits forever are destroyed.

You are not helping the poor by stealing their lands and pushing through ‘development’ which kills them. Your actions against your nation’s indigenous peoples are nothing short of neo-colonialism, worthy of past violent and ruthless European colonialists who devastated your native peoples for hundreds of years. Is that the legacy which your “leftist” party wants to continue? I and the world community demand that you end the genocide, end the ecocide, and leave rainforests and their traditional peoples alone. Earth Revolution is in the air around the world and in Peru, and if you keep ruthlessly exploiting your indigenous peoples, your government will fall.

With grave concern,

1,661 signatories and counting….

Partido Nacionalista Peruano, Ministery of Justice,
Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of
Transportation, State Ombudsman, Congressman Carlos Tubino
Arias Schreiber, Father Miguel Piovesan, Peru Embassies
worldwide, Peru media

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tourism in Colca Canyon affected by heavy rains

70 soles for nothing!

By The Colca Specialist

Last week several incidents happend in Colca Canyon. The heavy rains Arequipa had in the last week are causing much trouble not only in Arequipa but also in several parts of Peru.

In the Colca Canyon there were many car accidents provoked by the heavy rains and the fog.Even the president of the Regional Goverment Dr. Juan Manuel Guillén Benavides suffered a terrible car accident when he was traveling to Caylloma province,a province of Arequipa where the Colca Canyon is located. The reason of his trip was to check the damage suffered by a water channel that takes the water of Colca River to Majes irrigation area which is located after the Colca Canyon.

The landslide that destroy the channel happened in the surroundings of Achoma, a settlement located in the Colca Valley.The channel and the road were destroyed and many tour vans had to take an alternative road to reach the condor cross area but at the end they couldn´t because of the mud that didn´t allow the tour vans to reach the place.

The Colca Specialist was in the area and the the trip was a five star trip thanks to the van provided by Naturaleza Activa which was a 4x4 jeep which allow us to visit the whole place without any kind of problems. The other tour vans stayed on the way because they couldn ´t arrive to the canyon because they got stuck on the muddy roads.

The Colca Specialist recommends you that in order to have a successful trip to the Colca Canyon it is better to travel in a 4x4 van in order to avoid surprises on the way specially in this rainy season.

It is not recommended to travel in big buses to Colca Canyon because the unpaved roads that take you to the canyon have no pavement and with the heavy rains they are very muddy and slippery so it is better to travel with the adequate transportation.

Safety first and don´t forget that your holidays are important so the decision you take is up to you! Here I am sharing with you some of the pictures I took of my trip to the Colca Canyon last week!

The Colca Specialist

This is a picture of the road between Arequipa and Colca Canyon.The fog doesn´t allow you to have a good visibility of the way!

This picture was taken on Patapampa which is the highest point on the road to Colca Canyon (4,800 meters).The caterpillar machine id trying to rescue the van that has fallen outside the road!This was the first accident on the way!

The muddy roads in Colca Canyon touristic circuit! How it is possible that the authorities are charging tourists with a touristic ticket that costs 70 soles? What do they do with the money obtained from the touristic tickets? Autocolca SUCKS!

Many tour vans got stuck on the way. Colonial Tours and other travel agencies couldn´t arrive to the condor cross with their vans which are not adequated for this trip and this weather!

The Colca Specialist having fun inside the 4x4 wheel-car provided by Naturaleza Activa!


A Coca -Cola truck which crashed against a wall in the area of Cabanaconde!

Dr. Juan Manuel Guillén Benavides,the president of the Regional Goverment of Arequipa during a conference before the accident he had in Pampa Cañahuas area on the way towards Colca Canyon!

The van that was taking the president of the Regional Goverment,Dr Juan Manuel Guillén Benavides ended like this on the way to Colca Canyon.The accident was provoked by a truck which has invaded its way!