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Posada Amazonas
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  The challenges of a success story Posada Amazonas, Peru: A joint venture between a Tour Operator and a local Community By Nicole Häusler, mas|contour, Tourism Consulting and Regional Planning, Berlin/Germany, haeusler@mascontour.info Introduction Worldwide Community-based Tourism (CBT) projects became in the past years extremely popular among the international donor agencies and NGOs as the implementation of such tourism projects has been expected to yield direct benefits for the local population, including: ã   Creation of direct jobs as well as additional income for the local population ã   Education and further training opportunities (language, service, guiding) ã   Strengthening of the cultural identity through appreciation by tourists ã   Strengthening of social or organisational structures within a community ã   Protection of local resources In this context especially ecolodges have been constructed in the past years without giving the local communities a clear picture about the threats and problems which can arise by running such a tourism project in their villages . For many CBT projects worldwide managing a lodge becomes too much to handle after only a few years for the communities (see Häusler 2006), since it involves various and complex tasks requiring highly specialised knowledge, not only to remain competitive internationally but also to meet the everyday challenges of hotel management. One of the core reasons of failures was the missing link to the private sector that has the professional skills to sale the product to the national and international market. The project Posada Amazonas in Peru has another approach - it is a joint venture project between Peruvian tour operator Rainforest Expeditions and the local community of Infierno (English: Hell ). The basic idea behind the project is to establish a joint venture between a private tour operator and an indigenous community in the Amazon region of Peru, which is capable of preparing the community, in cooperation with the business partner, to manage the complex operation of the lodge independently after the end of the regular project duration of 20 years.    2 The project is currently in its eleventh year of existence. The article will describe the challenges this project has to face in the mid-term of its contractual relationship. Interestingly the current problems are not due to insufficient financial receipts (which CBT projects quite often have to struggle with), but to severe conflicts at both institutional and organisational levels between the private company Rainforest Expedition and the community of Infierno , as well as within the community itself  1 . 2 The Posada Amazonas Project: A General Overview The Posada Amazonas lodge is located in the community area of Infierno , a two-hour boat ride away from Puerto Maldonado in the tributary area of the Amazon near the borders of Brazil and Bolivia. The lodge has 24 large and comfortable bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, as well as a fully open outer wall which allows the tourists to be in constant, direct contact with the surrounding nature. During the two to four-day standard tours, travellers can not only visit several different attractions, including Lake Tres Chimbadas, parrot and macaw clay licks, the Canopy Tower (35m) and a garden displaying indigenous medical plants, but they can also go on an ethno-botanical hike among forest plants which are used as staple food but may also serve as medicine. The regular all-inclusive price of a stay at the lodge is US$90 per day. The lodge welcomed 6,158 guests in the year 2004 with a total of 14,441 overnight stays, which represents an average utilisation rate of 70%. In 2005 the lodge received even 6,550 guests. The Posada Amazonas lodge is owned by Rainforest Expeditions, a company based in Lima, and the community of Infierno. Although Infierno is generally referred to as comunidad nativa or comunidad indigena , at least half of its population are settlers and mestizos 2  from the Andean region and other rural areas in Peru or Bolivia. The other – indigenous – half is made up of members of the Ese'eja ethnic group. The community is currently inhabited by 130 to 150 families representing a total of approximately 500 people. Today, they make a living by combining farming, animal 1  During the stay at the lodge in April 2007, the author had the opportunity to conduct several interviews and make many snapshot observations. But due to the brevity of the stay, this analysis naturally remains a purely subjective assessment and focuses especially on the situational analysis. 2  This group also includes ribereños , settlers who srcinally came from the High Andes and are now second and third generation inhabitants of the region.    3 husbandry, small-scale tree-felling and the harvesting of Brazil nuts with other subsistence activities, such as hunting, fishing and collecting forest plant and animal products. 3 History In the early 1990s, Rainforest Expeditions began its ecotourism and research activities at its first lodge in the region, the Tambopata Research Centre lodge 3 . Few years later the tour operator was looking for a location to build a lodge that could serve as a stopover for more than 500 tourists per year on their eight-hour boat ride from Puerto Maldonado to the Tambopata Research Centre. The community's location was ideal for these purposes. After months of consulting, convincing and negotiating the contractual terms, the community of Infierno and the company Rainforest Expeditions signed an agreement in 1996 which contained all the terms and conditions necessary to establish a joint venture in the form of the investment company Asociación Ke'eway de Ecoturismo, which would assume full management of the Posada Amazonas lodge. The agreement requires that the revenues derived from the lodge be divided between the two parties so that the community receives 60% and the company 40%. Decisions are made on an equal basis. The entire infrastructure is the property of the community of Infierno. As holder of the tourism licence, Rainforest Expeditions has the exclusive right of use to the lodge for a period of 20 years. After this period, the community may choose whether to continue the joint venture, seek a new business partner, or to assume full responsibility of a wholly owned business. In addition, the agreement stipulates all the community members' obligations, particularly with regard to environmental protection (prohibition of hunting and tree-felling). With regard to staff training, the two parties confirmed five levels of training: 1.   Lodge construction workers 2.   Lodge staff (service, kitchen, restaurant, guest rooms) 3.   Leaders and positions in middle management 4.   Lodge administrators and office staff in Puerto Maldonado 5.   Leadership positions in senior management The joint venture Posada Amazonas established a participation mechanism , which means that decisions should made on an equal basis. Every two years, the community elects ten of its 3  The company is as well owner of the lodge Refugio Amazonas, which was opened two years ago as well in this area.    4 members to work in the Comité de Control/Supervisory Committee, their only payment being an expense allowance. This committee is in charge of monitoring, evaluating and auditing compliance with contractual requirements. It may also audit any and all activities and business operating results, always with the greater good of the community in mind. Staff Training and Income All hotel staff and tour guides undergo extensive in-depth training. While other tourism companies in that region chiefly recruit highly qualified staff from outside the community, Rainforest Expeditions wanted to make a difference from the outset hiring only locals to work at his lodges. As of 2005, 64 waiters, 64 boatmen, 52 room attendants, 41 cooks and other kitchen personnel, 21 laundry attendants, 8 bakers, 11 bartenders and one chief of maintenance had been trained (Source: Adler, 2006). This rotation system does not apply to the guides, since their multi-level training is not only time-consuming but, most importantly, also more cost-intensive. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and come from Infierno as well. So far 28 applicants successfully finished training as Spanish-speaking guides, and 7 of them completed all levels of training and have become bilingual guides. The training costs for local guides are high, averaging US$4700. The training is provided on a loan basis: upon successful completion of training, employees are required to repay half of the loan in instalments out of their income, while Rainforest Expeditions covers the other half. The salary structure at the lodge is as follows: 13 of the 14 permanent employees at Posada Amazonas are members of the community. Laundry attendants, kitchen assistants, waiters and room attendants earn about US$250 per month, the cook receives a monthly salary of about US$430. Working hours and holiday periods are agreed on in a contract. The guides earn more, depending on length of employment. Accordingly, senior guides may earn as much as US$1000 per month. All employees are provided with free board and lodging as well as free transport. For the sake of comparison, workers in this region earn between US$125 and US$190 per month; Teachers earn between US$220 and US$280 per month (Source: Adler, 2006 and own interviews). Economic Revenues of the Community

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Jul 23, 2017
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