HopTour LatAm – the assessment

More than two years ago, Justine and Mahery « have met » Florie thanks to her interposed travel blog. After three-hour Skype chatting, the magic started to work and Florie adopted the Hopineo project, starting with her travel to South America. After these 22 months adventuring and discovering, it’s now time for the assessment. Very special interview with Florie Thielin, at the heart of HopTour Latin America.
Hopineo : Can you remind us what was the main motivation of your trip, and how did you figured it out (length of time, places…)?
Florie : I had in my mind the wish to learn Spanish for several years and to go for a long trip in South America. Working in the Tourism industry, I was looking for a new project allowing me to link the development of my professional skills to the travel: combine business with pleasure. I didn’t have a lot of savings, I was trying to find solutions also, allowing me to travel for a long time despite my limited budget. I got the idea during a trip in the South of Spain (read the article on my blog) : swap my digital marketing skills for bed and breakfast while traveling.
Three days before leaving, Justine and Mahery checked out my blog and invited me to collect the good practices in sustainable tourism that I have learnt on my way to publish those on Hopineo. This is how my first “Hospitality Tour” project became an “HopTour” project. With Hopineo we then launched a kind of similar concept to WOOFING but applied to sustainable tourism, where the hosting structures are called HopHosts.
I had taken a one-way flight ticket for Cancun, Mexico on July 1st 2014, thinking I would travel 6 months across Central America and from the South to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was finally a trip for almost 2 years, until Cap Horn, and with an unprepared extra in Brazil, where I was finally returned from Sao Paolo in April 2016.

Workshop sustainable tourism, Ilhabela island, Brazil

Austral Road, Aysen, Chile

H : From this starting point, which was your biggest surprise ?
F : I left with five hotels contacts confirmed for the first three countries. While going down the continent, I was looking for the structures some weeks upstream and the contact online to make the proposition. The biggest surprise was to always find HopHosts ready to host me in each country and to let my itinerary taken shape at the mercy of confirmed swaps. Once arrived, almost every time, they offered me to stay a bit longer!
I left with a crazy idea on my own. But slightly I integrated this global tourism professional network engaged for a sustainable tourism. This is what allow me to meet amazing people, turn more professional in the steps and facilitate the search for HopHosts in the next countries. By the way, I found myself for example volunteer for the organization of the ESTC de Quito conference, recording an interview of the Equatorial Tourism Ministry, getting involved in the global summit of adventurous tourism ATWS au Chili, co-organizing a workshop week end about the Ilhabela island after WTM Sao Paulo, giving presentation in tourism universities… Such great surprises!
H : Which one are the 3 most inspiring meeting of your trip ?

F : Andean Lodges are 4 lodges built on the Ausangate mountains in the Andes, Peru. Roger Valencia, fan of climbing and tourism professional in Cuzco, is one of the Co-Fondeur. The Andean Lodges company belongs equally, 50% to his agency and 50% to the Quechuas communities of the crossed villages.

The Paraguay start slowly to open to global tourism. The Moisés Bertoni foundation work particularly for the preservation of the Mbaracayú biosphere reserve. Yan Speranza, the Foundation Manager, participated actively of the development of a training center for the local youth, linked to a touristic hosting structure to reinsure the durability of the project.

Douglas McMeekin in the Founder of Yachana Lodge located along the Napo river in Equatorial Amazonia. The retain earnings for the touristic part of the project allow to deliver a quality education to the local youth, and particularly teaching them the agricultural technics more respectful of the environment.

H : What do you miss the most since you’re back ?
F : Eating tropical fresh and delicious fruits, speaking Spanish
H : What do you miss the less ?
F : Backpacking again and again !
H : What is the main learning that you get from this trip ?
F : The meaning of a sustainable tourism seems clear and precise in the theory. Practically speaking, nothing is ever all right or all wrong. I visited all kind of touristic initiatives: from the tourism association of native community, to the very luxury lodges, through by small guest rooms. I don’t think that a touristic actor can be 100% sustainable, or that a kind of accommodation is more sustainable than another. All these concepts and comfort level have their space to reach the expectations of the different kind of travelers. This is the diversity which make the wealth of the offer!
I think that the three major marketing issues of tourism and a main stake for the development of the sustainable tourism actors are:

  • Touristic Product: to improve the quality of the experience and the offer for the traveler.
  • Attraction of the Destination: to develop new destinations to allocate the offer on the whole territory (avoid the « Machu Pichu » phenomena).
  • Digital Communication: to make visible all the « small » actors of sustainable tourism online aside the « bigger »

(read the article: Who are the Actors of Sustainable Tourism? Which are the Marketing Stakes?)

Grey glacier, National Park Torres del Paine, Chile

Pachamanka traditional food, Nasca, Peru

H : What is the most improbable event during your trip ?
F : Getting to Cap Horn ! Since the beginning of this trip, I always thought that I will go from Santiago, Chill straight to Buenos Aires, without crossing the Patagonia. Not that I didn’t want to go but it is a very isolated part of the continent and the prices are high (transport especially). But thanks to Jorge Moller, from Foundation Régénera, that I’ve met during the international conference of ecotourism in Quito, I’ve met the President of the Ama Torres del Paine Foundation, and the team of cruise expedition in Tierra del Fuego Australis… and I finally get to the extreme part of the South Continent!
H : We always talk about the magic of travel ; how would you define it ?
F : For me, the magic of travel is this freedom feeling which appears particularly when I am alone, sightseeing the landscape by the bus window, exploring the streets of a new village, walking in the mountain… And then this is also the kindness of the people I meet over my trips, these “strangers” who have this spontaneous and natural goodwill.

Community-based tourism, Andean Lodges, Ausangate, Peru

Quilotoa lake, Ecuador

H : What would you tell to someone who never did any HopTrip ?
F : To swap his time for skills while traveling, and particularly to bring ideas for sustainable tourism is a very nice experience! It is a unique opportunity to forge beautiful friendship and to travel in the tourism “back stage” of the visited country.
We all have competencies that we can offer. What is important is to build his own project per what we like to do. The purpose is also to take advantage of the experience of the HopTrips to keep developing this same skills (for me it was the digital marketing and videos for example). This allows to be in a true win-win relationship where everyone get rich as much on the personal as on the professional level.
H : What are your wishes for Hopineo for the future ?
F: The website is now well working. I wish the community to keep growing, to be better organizing and to give the possibility to others travelers and tourism professionals to live wonderful sharing experiences. Hopineo put his own little spin into the co-construction of a better tourism for a better world; let’s the adventure continue!
Want to go on a vacation and do HopTrips ? To contribute to the development of Hopineo while listing new ideas and solutions for a sustainable tourism in your region? To help with English/French/Spanish translations ? There are many ways to contribute depending on the availabilities and the wants of each. Contact-us!

Translated by Clémence Duvent


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