Red Tusoco community-based tourism in Bolivia

Domestic role of community-based tourism in Bolivia

Bolivia’s 2025 patriotic agenda fosters the creation of small community-based businesses, whereas the new law promoting and developing the tourism industry focuses in particular on community-based tourism, which offers great opportunities for development to rural and indigenous communities living in natural reserves with a high tourism potential.  Because of the limited number of industrial productive activities (such as intensive livestock breeding, intensive agriculture and forestry) in these regions and in vulnerable social-economic areas, the environment becomes an asset to be cherished and protected. Responsible tourism could thus become an important means to generate revenue, create jobs and fight the rural exodus.

Social and community-based tourism

Red Tusoco (Red Boliviana de Turismo Solidario Comunitario), the network of Bolivian community-based tourism brings together and supports the development of 22 small enterprises in rural indigenous communities in Bolivia in an attempt to improve living conditions by boosting the community's natural and cultural patrimony. Red Tusoco provides training in management and tourism and fosters indigenous management.

In 2009, Tusoco Viajes was created to form the business branch of the network. It is a tour operator that makes, promotes and sells responsible community-based tours in Bolivia on the domestic and international markets. The final aim is to help the communities in which the small businesses originate. Red Tusoco also aims to play a role in the organisation of community-based tourism on national level and to put in place an independent certification system organised and recognised by the Bolivian state.

Foster community-based tourism in Bolivia for sustainable and decent rural development

Through the project financed by TDC, Red Tusoco hopes to improve the management capacity and quality of service delivery and to gain access to markets by means of new technologies.

Recently, Red Tusoco set itself the goal to formalise the legal existence of all its 22 members, which should also help strengthen the network. One of its actions focuses in particular on the improvement of the offer of these still very fragile small businesses. A handbook was edited to improve the quality of tourism service delivery and of quality assurance in each of the small community-based businesses.

The project plans to develop 12 new products/roads, concentrating in particular on new members or members in remote – and thus disadvantaged – areas in terms of tourism exposure. Contacts have been established with the new Bolivia tourism promotion agency (Boltour) to allow Red Tusoco members to be included in its brochures and documents.

Tusoco Viajes' business turnover is steadily growing but it has to broaden its offer, its target markets and it needs to modernise promotion and sales through digital means.The brand new website (www.tusoco.com) is far more intuitive, uses images and offers user-friendly navigation. It was developed in English to reach more potential users. It will also be available in Spanish soon. It brings together Tusoco Viajes and Red Tusoco, allowing the client to link a purchase of a tour operator with the work done in the communities.

The project has an impact on an economic as well as a social and environmental level. Tusoco Viajes forecasts significant growth of 22% a year, which will translate in increased revenue for the small businesses. The project should boost job creation in rural areas and train a specialised workforce which means professional skills are developed and community youths can participate in social and economic activities to reduce the rural exodus which affects large parts of the region. This also gives the inhabitants of these rural areas a certain dignity and pride as they otherwise often feel poorly treated compared to the citizens of urban centres.

Communities with small responsible tourism businesses will cherish and conserve their local natural patrimony and foster self-management of their land. The duplication of this model to a larger scale should have a positive impact on the environment.

www.tusoco.com