Responsible & Sustainable Travel
ENIGMA recognizes that it operates within an environment, a culture and communities that are fragile and sensitive to impact. Organizing trips through Peru and some of its most spectacular remote areas gives us the chance to show this country with pride but also implies a high responsibility to be culturally sensitive and minimize any negative impact on the environment.
Our goal is to be a real help to the local communities we work with, providing income and assisting them to develop in a natural way, integrating their activities with ours and achieving that they also benefit from the development of tourism in the country, if they so desire. With this goal, we provide positive cultural exchanges and operate in such a way that we not only maintain but also improve the care for the environment and the areas in which we operate.
Our strategy has been to integrate both responsibility and sustainability as key elements in our corporate philosophy, developing policies, guidelines and action plans that have then been passed on to all the areas and participants of our organization. We do this through trainings and constant awareness so that we ensure that the culture and the environment of the places in which we operate are respected in all phases of ENIGMA’s activities, from the first contact and design of a trip to the last step of guest feedback. It has therefore also become a key aspect in our team’s attitude, which you will be able to perceive whenever you travel with us.
In our commitment to communities and the environment, to ensure we have a lasting positive effect and that we “give something back,” our strategy has three main points of focus:
- Responsible Operation
- Social Commitment: focused on Children and Women of Peru, as these are the two most socially disadvantaged groups
- Environmental Respect
Please find hereafter the main guidelines of each of these key strategic points:
1. Responsible Operation
ENIGMA has defined its operation as one responsible towards the place and countries in which we operate, towards our staff, individuals and third parties involved, towards the law, and towards our philosophy and ourselves. Some of the main guidelines that define the responsibility in our operation are the following:
- We are a Peruvian company, which exclusively employs professional Peruvian people, thus contributing to the country’s development through its promotion and through the generation of local jobs, as well as to the Peruvian people’s development through their preparation and training in both the urban and rural areas in which we work.
- ENIGMA Adventure Tour Operator is an Authorized Travel Agency and Tour Operator by the Peruvian Ministry of Industry and Tourism.
- ENIGMA is also an Officially Licensed Inca Trail Operator as appointed by the National Institute of Culture (INC) and the Natural Reserve National Institute (INRENA), who regulate the access to the Inca Trail.
- ENIGMA regularly pays taxes to the Peruvian government, since this is the first means to help develop the Peruvian economy, improve local infrastructure and reduce the country’s external debt. This is unfortunately not a usual practice amongst most agencies and businesses in the country, which take advantage of the still weak tax control system and seek ways to avoid declaring their revenue and paying taxes. This allows these irregular businesses to sell at a lower price, also damaging the market and the proper, serious and legally operating businesses.
- All our employees are regularly paid professional wages: guides, chefs, porters and horsemen are paid on the same day their work finishes (after every trip), while our office staff is paid on a monthly basis. ENIGMA does not exploit its employees and does not abuse through delayed wage or salary payments, which is an all-too-common practice among most agencies employing humble people with little means. If you visit or travel with us, please do not hesitate to ask any of our staff to verify that this is true. Moreover, all direct employees are registered with the company and receive health insurance as part of their employment benefits.
- ENIGMA offers one of the best-recognized treatments to its team of porters:
- The wages we pay to our porters surpass those established by the Porter Law (#27607) and its Regulation (D.S. 011-2005-TR).
- Most importantly, our porters are paid on time, contributing to a higher stability of their usually fragile domestic economy. A delayed wage payment can frequently have serious consequences such as their children missing school for several days or weeks or them lacking proper school material.
- ENIGMA porters are provided waterproof tents for their accommodation during any trek, thermal waterproof fleece jackets, shoes, back and hip protection to carry loads, special orthopedic backpacks, an independent kitchen and gas to cook their meals without having to wait for our clients to finish, and sleeping bags and pads.
- Our porters enjoy a high budget for their meals along the trek, estimated at approximately 20% more than other top-end agencies offering similarly priced treks (source: internal survey through free-lance cooks). Contrary to the claims of many visitors, porters are used to an Andean diet, which should not strongly vary in order not to affect their organism; they not only request this but prefer it. Therefore, ENIGMA provides enough food quantity and quality, their preferred diet being richer in local carbohydrates such as potatoes and rice.
- All ENIGMA porters have been carefully selected by our personnel and have undergone training courses in each of their fields to ensure a higher quality service as well as a constant improvement and motivation for our team. Our porters have a formal work contract with ENIGMA, which guarantees both their job and their income.
- Finally, all our porters are protected by a life and accident insurance paid for by ENIGMA.
- Our excellent porter treatment has been widely recognized by the porter community itself and by our clients, and has become one of the main reasons why socially conscious Inca Trail visitors wish to travel with us. The same treatment applies to our horsemen in all treks operated with pack animals.
- ENIGMA staff training: Our guide teams have been trained in first aid and rescue and are regularly updated through seminars and courses in their respective fields. All of our trekking staff receives regular briefings on how to best comply with the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu Sanctuary Regulation as well as on environmental awareness. ENIGMA also regularly provides seminars and courses to its team, covering various matters such as flora and ornithology in the Machupicchu Sanctuary, among other topics. Additionally, all our staff has participated in the development of our Responsible & Sustainable Tourism Policy through their constant input; they have shared in creating the policy and strive to follow it. Our training also extends to our chefs, porters and wranglers. Our chefs and assistant chefs follow specific tailor-made courses every year to ensure we maintain our superior-quality menu. As per our porters and wranglers, trainings are undertaken every year as well, with a focus on each person’s specialized role: tent setting, vaiselle cleaning and hygiene, waiter service, environmental responsibility/waste management, among other roles.
- All ENIGMA treks are operated by ENIGMA: We do not share operation with other agencies, neither totally nor partially. We are licensed operators ensuring a high standard of quality in all our treks and programs. We would not be able to guarantee the same level of service if we shared services with another tour operator. This means that only we operate all our treks, so any client having booked with us is sure to be operated by ENIGMA and not any other third party.
- Group Size: To minimize the impact generated by our operations in each of the destinations, ENIGMA offers its services in small groups, which respect the local people, culture and environment.
- Transportation: We invite our most daring clients to travel local transport (buses, trains, ships, etc.), to interact with local people without leaving the comfort and quality that characterizes our company.
- Supplier Selection: ENIGMA hand-selects suppliers—including hotels, transportation companies, specialized operators and restaurants—that are oriented towards sustainability, so that they share our philosophy and commitment to social, cultural and environmental issues, while at the same time ensuring the quality and operation of our services.
- Defense of Local Culture: With the purpose of protecting local living cultures as well as their traditions and customs, ENIGMA promotes experiences and initiatives that share this goal, ensuring that our guides and ambassadors are appropriately trained and knowledgeable in this subject, and employing local guides and staff. Our guides are local experts in flora, fauna, history, archeology and culture, familiar with our ancestral customs and traditions, and the majority of our guides are also native Quechua speakers.
- Food Service: Although our excursions and hiking trips often take us through remote and isolated areas, our meals service continues to be delicious and varied, always with the use of local ingredients, purchased from local suppliers.
- Recommendations: Our representatives and guides are well informed and updated on recommendations for dining, shopping and other city services, helping our customers in choosing locally owned, reliable and professional businesses, and thus further contributing to the local economy.
2. Social Commitment
As mentioned before, our goal is to be a true help to the local communities with which we work, providing income and assisting them to develop in a natural way, integrating their activities with ours and achieving that they also benefit from the development of tourism in the country, if they so choose.
For this, we have established two main action plans under our Social Commitment strategy:
- To provide positive cultural exchanges between our guests and the local communities with which we work. Our focus here is primarily on helping Andean communities by integrating them into our activities and designing programs that help promote their development, while ensuring total respect and fair trade and payment to them.
- Annually select different actions and programs or design projects aimed to benefit CHILDREN and WOMEN. Our children’s focus is to improve their wellbeing, their access to opportunities and, above all, their education. Women’s help is directed towards creating work opportunities for them, increasing their independence and helping them earn their own income to contribute to the domestic economies.
Some of our most significant actions are the following:
- A Library for my Community: ENIGMA promotes educational initiatives that help to form an educational society—democratic, just, inclusive, tolerant and forging a peaceful culture that affirms national identity. Since 2011, as part of this initiative, ENIGMA has been working on the project “A Library for my Community”. This year’s chosen community is the Rural Community of Amaru, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the District of Pisac. This project includes the construction, implementation, monitoring and control of a library put in place by school areas, where the beneficiaries are initially primary school children. The next stage will be focused on kindergarten, followed by middle and high school, and in both short and long term we intend to reach throughout the Sacred Valley communities and meet their education needs through the implementation of community libraries.
- Community Integration: ENIGMA chooses to work with the active workforce available in the communities in which it operates. This includes the training and recruitment of men and women of at least 18 years old. These communities are our primary source of recruitment of porters, employed exclusively along the Inca Trail and its variants, and also of wranglers, whose work and that of the pack animals they own and manage is necessary for all trekking routes other than the Inca Trail.
- Community Initiatives: ENIGMA participates with several Andean communities, such as some located along the Lares route, one in Urubamba and another in the heights of Pisac, in the design of “community experiences” offered to our guests. These mainly involve programs in which the visitors have the chance to learn from the community’s living style, habits and work, while interacting with them and even having the possibility to stay in a community home. We are proud to participate in some fascinating initiatives taking place in which the community people have been trained to be our guides.
- Staff Training: Year after year ENIGMA is giving courses and workshops for training our team, including guides, chefs, assistant chefs and waiters, among other team members. With our chefs, for example, their excellent development with ENIGMA has contributed to ventures in opening their own businesses, an initiative that ENIGMA welcomes and supports. Also, each year we provide training to our porters and wranglers in areas related to risk, safety, equipment use and even social issues and national realities that keep them constantly up-to-date. Finally, our guides are trained in Advanced First Aid by entities recognized in the U.S. (Sierra Nevada Outdoor Education) and they participate in various classes that complement and enrich their knowledge in general and specific subjects.
- Social Outreach Budget: ENIGMA regularly supports and donates school material and clothes to the communities with which we work. These have included: Mollepata, Lares, Quiswarani, Cuncani, Tinki and Lamay. We also serve as godparents of several of our porters’ children in their baptism ceremonies, as well as provide clothing and food baskets at Christmas time as part of our gifts to our employees.
- Support to relevant causes and NGOs: ENIGMA regularly supports NGOs and projects linked to causes that we consider key. Following is a list of some of the ones that have most deeply moved us:
- Aprendo Contigo: This NGO, with more than200 volunteers, works in Lima’s main children’s hospitals, including the huge Hospital del Niño and the INEN (Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Neoplásicas – National Institute for Neoplasic Illnesses, where most children with cancer are treated). Certified by the Ministry of Education, the green-uniformed volunteers play and teach patients, so that they do not miss their respective courses while having to receive sometimes months-long treatments at these public hospitals.
- Cooperar: ENIGMA collaborates with the campaign “Abrázame Fuerte” (“Hug me Strongly”), which focuses on the collection of warm clothes for the community of Tankarpata, located just 20 minutes away from Cusco’s city center. This community is home to more than 400 families in extreme poverty, of which approximately 100 are children between three and 13 years old. Two important campaigns are run in June and July, which are in average the coldest months affecting the area.
- ADASEC: ENIGMA actively supports this organization, which assists the Hipólito Unánue Hospital in Lima by raising funds to purchase valves for kids suffering from hydrocephaly, a condition in which there is an abnormal amount of fluid in the brain. This is a common problem among Peru’s most impoverished classes, and this project has been especially critical.
- Matching our clients’ donations: Whenever a client chooses to help any project, organization, orphanage or other cause, be this either through economical or material donations, ENIGMA matches our client’s support, thus also getting involved in our clients’ initiatives.
- Supporting Charities and Fund-raising projects: We have worked with renowned NGOs in designing fund-raising trips and/or charity challenges. We support these institutions by designing and quoting trips to support their programs, and just adding a small administration fee, so that the trip is almost operated at cost and the rest benefits their cause.
- Horsemen Outsourcing Project: Porters’ services are exclusively employed in the Inca Trail, since the maintenance of the trail in its current conditions does not allow pack animals, as they would damage it. Trekking programs that run in other areas do employ pack animals but, unfortunately, the demand for these programs is still substantially lower than that of the world-famous Inca Trail, despite their breathtaking beauty. As a result, numerous families belonging to these communities suffer from severe unemployment during most of the year, as agriculture is typically their only means of survival. ENIGMA has started to help some of these communities by making lead members of their family’s part of our porter teams, and training them on how to best behave and work as a porter. Providing new jobs and training, we contribute to the welfare of these families.
- Our Clothes Bank Project: ENIGMA invites all of its clients to support our neighboring communities through the donation of clothes and other materials that are of no further use to them. We gather all this material and organize donations to communities every three or four months. Alternatively, the donations can be organized to be a part of the activities in a program, so that our clients can live this social aid experience for themselves.
3. Environmental Respect
ENIGMA is fully conscious that the areas in which we operate are natural protected areas, and we therefore comply with the corresponding Law of Natural Protected Areas #26834 (published July 04, 1997), as well as with the Law of Conservation and Sustainable Profit of the Biological Diversity #26839 (published July 16, 1997). All our operations, campsites and activities try their best to avoid aggression and damage to these natural protected areas and their bio-diversity.
We are aware that all human activity creates impact, to a greater or lesser extent, positively and negatively. Conscious of this reality, ENIGMA has developed a series of green actions that are benefiting all involved in each of the destinations where we have been working. The following are some of the most significant efforts:
- Green Office: A green office focused on environmental sustainability with the use of codes of conduct that allow us to reduce, reuse and recycle solid waste generated, even though these are in the smallest quantity. In an effort to reduce paper use within the office, our office has policy to use of electronic information when at all possible and to reduce the use of printed-paper. This policy is exemplified with our customers to whom information is sent electronically, thereby reducing printing brochures, posters and other advertising.
- The use of biodegradable products within the office and in our operations is important in order to minimize our impact.
- Minimizing or almost eliminating the use of disposable plastics, which we have substituted with materials made of aluminum, cane, wood or textiles.
- Cleaning Campaigns: ENIGMA regularly leads and sponsors cleaning campaigns, the most notable of which is on the Inca Trail, in which we have achieved in removing up to 700kg of inorganic waste in three working days by our team of 30 volunteers.
- Reforestation: In order to reduce our carbon footprint, ENIGMA periodically joins with other institutions in reforestation campaigns in which staff and clients participate together. The participation of visitors in reforestation programs is another one of our successful initiatives, undertaken over the past four years.
- Code of Conduct: ENIGMA has taken various actions and measures to assist our office and our employees, through workshops and the creation of codes of conduct, to be aware of environmental protection in everything we do, both at work and at home.
Code of Social and Environmental Conduct
We invite all our passengers to follow our code of conduct:
- Selective disposal of garbage (organic & inorganic)
- Garbage removal from Natural Protected Areas
- Use of flush toilets built along the Inca Trail or different communities and villages. Otherwise, we provide toilet tents with biodegradable toilet products. All garbage is disposed of outside the Natural Protected Areas
- Avoid fires – no smoking allowed inside the tents
- Avoid disturbing animals - no animal hunting allowed
- Preservation of flora, no picking orchids or other plants allowed
- Walking over the Inca ruins, walls or archaeological sites is absolutely forbidden
- Avoid tipping or giving candies or others items to local community children or adults in order not to impact their lifestyle
- Protect local water systems through the use of only biodegradable soaps and shampoos while camping. Please use our provided bowls for washing purposes to avoid the soap getting into the ground.
- Respect cultural differences: Local customs and traditions may be different from your own. Ask our guide or representative about which behaviors are acceptable or not.
- Take photos with care: Always ask permission to take photos of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. If you do take a photo, offer to send copies back to them and make sure to follow through with your promise. If your subject wants immediate compensation in return for the photo taken, offering a piece of fruit or bread, or a souvenir from your home are ways to do it, as well as paying for them, this being the most common compensation requested.