World Responsible Tourism Awards – Winners Interview Series

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Ana Garcia, Tren Ecuador

Exclusive Interview: Ana Garcia, Tren Ecuador

Founded in 2004, the World Responsible Tourism Awards allow people the chance to celebrate the heroes and share the stories of the most exciting and enduring responsible tourism experiences in the world.

Tren Ecuador were the joint overall winner and also won the Gold award for “Best for Poverty Reduction and Inclusion.”

Best for poverty reduction and inclusion is awarded to a tourism organisation with a creative and long-term approach to reducing poverty in local communities and including local and marginalised people in their activities. It is one of the longest standing categories of the World Responsible Tourism Awards. The judges wanted a tourism organisation that could prove significant reduction of poverty in a local community, inclusion of local and marginalised people, and a long-term sustainable vision for continuing their work, and providing a working example for others tourism providers around the world.

Tren Ecuador is the commercial brand of the Ecuadorian Railway Company. Through their one-day expeditions and the 4 day- 3 night Tren Crucero The Luxury Experience tours they seek to provide a unique and authentic experience of Ecuador’s diverse cultural and natural heritage by engaging local communities offering tourist services along the routes.

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    They share tourist value with 26 station-cafes, 14 artisans’ plazas, 13 museums, 2 lodges, 9 folklore, historical recreation groups and several community-based tourism operations, serving 150,000 tourists yearly and creating local opportunities to 180 micro enterprises and around 1,400 families.

    Through their social responsibility strategy, “Travel Good, Do Good, Feel Good” every time you grab a bite at one of their cafes, buy a souvenir in their Plazas or jump on board for one of their tours you become a part of this big family committed to making responsible tourism sustainable, fun and profitable for all.

    We interviewed Ana Garcia, General Manager of Tren Ecuador to find out more.

    Tren Ecuador recently won not one, but two World Responsible Tourism Awards. In 140 characters (a tweet) or less – why do you think you won such an important award?
    The way we operate our tours manages to spread tourism benefits more evenly to the local communities
    What was the driver for creating Tren Ecuador specifically – what gap does it fill?
    Tren Ecuador is the commercial brand of Ecuadorian Public Railways Company. We were created with a specific mandate to restore the abandoned railway system and operate it as an example of how tourism can contribute to local development.
    Who is Tren Ecuador primarily for?
    Tren Ecuador’s average 130,000 to 150,000 customers every year are for the most past Ecuadorian tourists, with growing numbers of international tourists who for the greatest part choose our Tren Crucero 4 day-3 night luxury experience..
    What difference does Tren Ecuador want to make?
    We aim at creating opportunities for local communities through tourism, and also to offer tourists a different way of discovering the extraordinary cultural and natural heritage of this country through those who actually preserve it.
    What are the barriers to making that difference?
    Mostly budgetary. We are a very young company so we still need to increase the numbers of visitors so the economic benefit for the communities keep growing.  The same barriers that affect all tourism businesses, mostly.
    Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
    We work closely with our allies: distribution channels, the local governments, the communities themselves, to keep growing our market share. Also we have established alliances with schools of hospitality to support our suppliers with continuous training to keep improving the quality of service.
    Is the tourism sector doing enough to deliver a sustainable travel and tourism?
    I think the tourism sector is steadily understanding and assuming the need for a more sustainable, responsible holistic approach. What we need is to harness the power of  responsible consumers to really becomes a mainstream trend.
    How can people find out more about Tren Ecuador?
    At our website: www.trenecuador.com, and please go check our social responsibility section to learn more about our “Travel Good, Do Good, Feel Good” strategy
    What are the key factors of your success?
    Having a clearly stated mandate for economic inclusion at the core of the company, having a long-term strategy, having a professional team with experience in developing and marketing tourist products with local communities,  a monitoring system that allows us to identify problems and set up solutions,  and above all, patience and conviction.