Trekking Aymara is a local tour operator of the original Aymara people in the Arica and Parinacota Region of northern Chile, specializing in connecting Indigenous tourism with outdoor activities including hiking, trekking and volcano summits.
The Aymara people are one of ten Indigenous groups in Chile, located throughout the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America. The founder of Trekking Aymara, Álvaro Mamani, is from the Aymara people of the far north of Chile, located in the foothills and highlands near the borders of Peru and Bolivia. He leads treks with customers from around the world to share the traditions of the highlands, native wildlife and Andean communities of the territory.
“In the Andean region, we have a connection with the mountains and that is reflected in my trips to nature with my customers. We try to show and connect them with nature, the identity and our world vision,” Álvaro explained.
Social media has been a key strategy in enabling the company to find new customers domestically and from outside of Chile. Although the pandemic placed a hold on international business, thanks to proactive steps to leverage online tools, Álvaro is successfully staying connected with potential customers around the world.
When it comes to letting potential customers know what they can expect on a Trekking Aymara tour, sharing images and videos of the treks has enabled Álvaro to turn organic posts into sales.
“We use Facebook and Instagram, and after that LinkedIn,” he noted. “We have a strategy on Instagram. We look for friends who have a connection with the mountains and nature. And we send and publish photographs that are very well received because they do not know anything about the area.”
The founder also utilizes videos, promoted by his various social media platforms, to advertise his school of adventure tourism and Indigenous Heritage, among others, he offers a Mountaineering Course with an Andean Aymara label. The courses, a combination of digitally accessible classes and time on the terrain, are advertised to individuals interested in learning about mountaineering, life in nature, route planning, and the region’s biodiversity and Aymara’s culture.
He regularly creates his own videos on YouTube to showcase the landscape of the volcanos, mountains, valleys and deserts of the region.“[People] are very surprised by nature. [They] want to have this experience, but with not so many tourists around them, being this the new tendency of enjoying life outdoors, and we offer that and our Aymara culture,” he said.
When promoting his tours, Álvaro noticed a boost in interest in Indigenous tourism. Before the pandemic, this expanded digital engagement directly translated into business growth.
Like many in the tourism industry, Trekking Aymara felt the full effect of the pandemic. “Before COVID, 95 percent of our customers were foreigners. Mostly German, Swiss and Austrian tourists,” he shared. “From the beginning, we have been receiving European tourists from different origins. But the pandemic came, and now we mostly receive foreign tourists residing in Chile, such as national or regional.”
In addition to serving local adventurers during the pandemic, Álvaro has invested in training local tour guides and working with other Indigenous business owners in Chile.
Álvaro shared that he recently participated in a “program of Indigenous tourism, supported by the Chilean government.”
“I was a tour operator for this project and that will result in one minute of a promotional video. We want to empower Aymara and other Indigenous communities of Chile,” he added. When the government-funded program ended digitally over Zoom, Álvaro emphasized that community tourism can result in repopulation for Indigenous populations.
Álvaro commended the Chilean Government for endorsing projects and programs to encourage indigenous tourism but added that he would like to see more assistance from governments. “We still lack more support for Indigenous people, we do have it, but not as we would like.”
“We are part of this process of having the power of sustainability for the benefit of the Indigenous Peoples and opportunity for the good of everybody,” he shared.