Travel Positive: why working directly with local partners makes for better holidays
As we proudly and boldly take the covers off our new Travel Positive initiative, we wanted to share a real-life example of how our way of working directly with local partners, and, where possible, owner-run hotels and lodges creates better holidays for you and better outcomes for local communities, landscapes and economies. There are plenty of examples to choose from in Spain, Portugal and Latin America, but we eventually settled on a restored farmhouse in the olive groves of rural Andalucía.
Having scoured around the region looking at countless farmhouses in various states of disrepair, Tim and Claire finally found what they were looking for in this idyllic pocket of Andalucía, roughly equidistant from Córdoba and Granada. There was, of course, the small job of fixing it up - a 5-year undertaking which brought its own inevitable ups and downs. But they have now been hosting guests there for over a decade, more recently with their adopted dog Ruby, who turned up at the house unannounced, and their son Max, who gave a bit more notice of his arrival.
Direct relationships, direct benefits
We've developed a close direct working relationship with Tim and Claire over countless years now. They have hosted us and our families on holidays and various of our team on our development trips around Andalucía. They are very much part of the Pura family and in 2019 were very much a part of the 73% of all services for Pura Aventura holidays that we booked directly, no middle-person. They're also part of the 53% of nights on Pura Aventura holidays spent in owner-run hotels and lodges last year.
We know they'll greet you with a smile, serve up delicious home-cooked food and let you take Ruby out for a stretch of the legs. But beyond their hospitality, what does our relationship with them mean to you, to the destination and its local communities? Does it matter how we go about our business?
The answer, as you probably suspected, is yes. It matters to you and your holiday, to the communities and to the places. But let's start with you.
One factor that is absolutely critical is our ability to control the flow of visitors on your holiday. So we're not going to overlap you with other Pura guests beyond the odd night or two as you drive through Andalucía. As nice as our travellers are, do you really need to keep bumping into John and Barbara round every bend? On our Inn to Inn walking holidays we limit departures to one a day so that you're not walking in convoy with other guests through the beautifully peaceful Spanish countryside.
That would be much harder if we didn't operate directly with the majority of our lodges and hotels and tailor our trips accordingly, so that they are unique to us. And by choosing a majority of small guesthouses we know that you'll share them with only a small number of often like-minded guests, be they Pura travellers or not. It's a logic that applies as much in the wilds of Patagonia or the forests of Ecuador as it does closer to home.
We often get feedback on our clients from partners, (almost) universally glowing. Working directly means that Tim and Claire get to know what links our Pura travellers; curiosity, gratitude and a desire to truly understand and enjoy the places they visit. If that means the welcome when you get there is even warmer, the sense of familiarity just a touch higher, more the better.
There is a stock of maps and walking notes that they can arm you with to steer you in the right direction as you set off walking around the olive groves and below the limestone peaks of the Sierras Subbéticas natural park. Together we've since developed a couple of these walks further and folded them into our Inn to Inn route. But whether you're here on a walking trip or with your hire car, it's through this direct relationship that we're able to get you out into the countryside of Andalucía, giving you a wonderful experience and, as a by product, helping to keep public rights of way open and clear in a region where some farmers would wish otherwise.
There are many other benefits for your destination too which come from your stay in Andalucía.
Let's just loop back to the 53% of our holidays being spent in owner-run hotels in 2019. Whilst the other 47% can be pretty special - Antarctica cruise ships, Galápagos boats, Amazon lodges or boutique city hotels - wherever possible we like to use a majority of small, owner-run places for you to stay because we believe it helps create a more personal connection with the place and a stronger economic imperative for its preservation.
What that means in practice is that your money, in most cases, is going directly to the people who you'll meet on your travels without passing through the hands of a middle-person. In this case, it's going to Tim and Claire, directly. In turn they employ a handful of people from the local village to help clean and cook. Zamoranos is a tiny village, a dot on the map between seas of olive trees. It's not entirely clear to me what else they'd be doing without this work. They also hire locals to collect up the ripe olives from the 100 trees that they own in their garden each November and then take this harvest to a local olive factory for it to be processed.
But it's not just that. They buy seasonal vegetables from a local co-operative, sell wine from Jaén and beer from Granada, recommend small restaurants in nearby villages and, since we launched our Inn to Inn walking route which passes through their B&B, they have introduced us to local taxi drivers who we now employ in these trips and Raùl and Davinia, owners of another wonderful small B&B down the road in Almedinilla.
All of this benefits the local community. But it also helps make your holiday here more personal, more textured, more Andalucían.
Again, this is but one example - there are many others throughout Spain, Portugal and Latin America. We don't claim perfection, nor will we get there, but we firmly believe that our way of working directly wherever possible, with a majority of owner run hotels and lodges, makes our holidays better for you and more beneficial for those you'll meet when you get there.