The Latina America Travel Association (LATA) has given Nicaragua the award of Sustainable and Responsible Tourism Destination of 2017 during the WTM travel trade in London. Nowadays, the country is the second fastest growing destination in the entire American continent and number eight worldwide. In total there were 1.5 million visitors in 2016, (with 16,923 coming from the UK) and a current 28.4% growth rate in 2017.
During the ceremony, Her Excellency Guisell Morales-Echaverry, The Ambassador of Nicaragua in London, introduced the remarkable sustainable initiatives developed by private tour companies and public tourism sector in Nicaragua, which has resulted in a significant increase in the number of sustainable travelers over recent years.
Vapues Tours among other 31 tour operators from four different continents, received the Travelife Partner and Travelife Certified awards as a recognition for their commitment to sustainable initiatives related to labor conditions, human rights, environment, biodiversity and fair business practices.
The awarded companies comply with more than 150 criteria, related to an operators' office management, product range, international business partners and customer information. The Travelife standard is covering the ISO 26000 Corporate Social Responsibility themes, including environment, biodiversity, human rights and labour relations; and is formally recognised as being in full compliance with the UN supported Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria.
Travelife, which has been established with the support of international travel associations, is the leading international sustainability certification for the travel sector. More than 35 national travel associations are promoting the scheme to their members including ABTA (the leading UK travel association) and PATA (Pacific Asian Travel Association).
Rainforest Alliance recognized the leadership and sustainable actions of fifteen companies and individuals in the tourism field in Latin America. Their commitment to sustainable tourism as in the community and country have been decisive to honor them with the recognition of Sustainable Tourism Leaders. Four of the fifteen selected companies are Nicaraguan, including Vapues Tours.
Vapues Tours has a broad sustainable experience in Nicaragua with development and implementation of diverse initiatives including good practices such as recycling, school education programs, work with rural cooperatives, artisans and local families and environment protection.
On the other hand, the company is an active member of TOPS (Tour operators promoting sustainability) in Nicaragua, with a mission to promote sustainable practices in tourism. Since 2012, TOPS financially supports small tour operators to improve their knowledge, proactivity and good practices in tourism. As well, TOPS cooperates with local communities to promote local culture and economy.
Last weekend the Vapues Tours team had their annual field trip, as a means of saying "thank you" to all employees, but also to get to know destinations and hotels in detail.
This year the trip was all about sustainable tourism, from two different points of view. First we went to Charco Muerto, a community of farmers and fishermen on the lakeside of Mombacho volcano. Here the team assisted in painting the school, with help of local community members. The night was spent in the community, which meant back to basic as there is no running water and limited electricity.
Vapues Tours is passionate about sustainability and community-based tourism, and staying in Charco Muerto was a wonderful experience. It offers a chance to see a different side of Nicaragua, a side that appears in no tourist folder, but that has so much beauty, and it is such a pity that so few people know of it. The environment is incredibly serene and beautiful, the people are very friendly and in harmony with nature. We welcome anyone who wishes to visit this or other communities in the rural parts of Nicaragua.
The second day the team traveled to San Juan del Sur, one of Nicaragua's top destinations, where a hearty lunch was enjoyed in Restaurant El Timón. We continued our way to the ecolodge Morgan's Rock- in appearance and terms of comfort a contrast to Charco Muerto, but remarkably similar in terms of their sustainable philosophy.
Here Vapues tours helped a reforestation project by planting mango trees, that should provide food for, among others, the three monkey species that live in the reserve. After an inspiring presentation on the importance of sustainable tourism by our sustainability expert, we had a good night's rest in Morgan's Rock's beautiful treehouses. Next morning it was time to return home, a lot the wiser.
Thank you to our hosts in Charco Muerto, Morgan's Rock and El Timón, and to all participants of this wonderful trip!