Behind the Glitz of Orient-Express: Community Projects in Peru

The Orient-Express group is famed for their beautiful hotels and trains but look behind the glitz of this world class company and you see a tourism business that recognizes not only its investors, but also the importance of supporting the local communities in the areas in which they operate. We paid a visit to Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco to find out about a couple of the many community projects they are involved in.

Fair Trade – Supporting local farmers

(c) Orient Express
Huama farmers having lunch at Hotel Monasterio.

Hotel Monasterio (Cuzco) and Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge (Machu Picchu) are fully committed to purchasing the largest possible amount of food supplies from local producers, and, as such, have created a strategic alliance with the community of Huama to purchase all the potatoes that the hotels consume directly from them, rather than through a middle man. The impact of this seemingly simple change in buying has had a massive impact on local growers. Before this direct purchase channel was established, Huama’s farmers received 0.30 soles per kilo of native potatoes: now, thanks to the elimination of the middle man, they receive 1.90 soles per kilo, a six fold increase in their income!

This increase in earnings has enabled them to change their growing practices: replacing harsh chemical fertilizers for organic fertilizers not only makes produce healthier and better quality but also helps keep the earth clean of pollutants. A higher income also improves the community’s quality of life immensely.

(c) Orient Express
Rafael Pilco, leader of the Huama potato farmers.

Furthermore, Hotel Monasterio has developed a very positive relationship with the Association of Regional Farmers of Cuzco (ARPAC). This organization is made up of 5 thousand farmers and small producers from 150 communities in Cuzco and it promotes fair trade, encouraging local economic development by creating relationships between farmers and consumers. 

Hotel Monasterio purchases a mass of locally produced produce including papayas, pineapples, avocados and oranges from farmers in the valleys of Yanatile and La Convención, members of ARPAC.

Supporting local artisans

(c) Orient Express
Girls of the Orphanage of Santa Rosa de Lamay learning how to make pottery.

For the past few years Hotel Monasterio has allowed the artisans association of the community of Chinchero in Cuzco to exhibit and sell their textiles and weavings at the entrance to the Chapel of San Antonio Abad (one of the most visited spots in the hotel). This facilitates a win-win situation: the hotel showing support for local artists, guests are able to purchase beautiful authentic local crafts and the artisans themselves are provided with a rent free “shop window” with high levels of footfall.

Santa Rosa Orphanage

Furthermore, for the last 10 years Hotel Monasterio has purchased all their ceramic pieces used for tea and pisco sour throughout the hotel from the Santa Rosa Orphanage in Lamay, Cuzco. The orphanage is managed by the religious order, Hijas de la Caridad de San Vicente de Paul, and is home to 50 to 70 abandoned girls. These girls no longer live with their families usually because their parents cannot afford to support them or because of personal problems in the family. The girls live at the orphanage where they sleep and eat, and in the afternoons, when they return from school, they learn pottery and weaving from local artisans.

Hotel Monasterio displays these ceramic pieces in all the guestrooms and allows guests to purchase them, with all the proceeds going directly to the orphanage.

There is no denying the luxurious quality of the Orient-Express experience, but it’s reassuring to see a company supporting and giving back to the communities in which they operate.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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