Exploration in solidarity lands​​



Setting the context​​

Bolivia is located in South America, and its administrative capital, La Paz, is perched at over 3,500 m altitude. Landlocked and wedged between 5 borders (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru), it is the poorest country in the region. One Bolivian in 8 lives on less than US$1.25 a day. The most vulnerable groups remain rural women and children, and indigenous people, who make up 65% of the population. In 2019, 70% of Bolivian women work in the informal sector. Although Bolivia is one of the world’s least densely populated countries (11.83 million inhabitants), the vast majority (70%) live in cities: around one in seven live in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

The rural exodus of indigenous people, who leave their rural communities to settle in cities in search of better access to resources, comes up against language barriers and cultural differences that limit their access to social services. Bolivia’s geography is extremely varied, encompassing the vast Andes mountain range, the Atacama desert and the Amazon rainforest. Thanks to the diversity of its landscapes and its rich history, Bolivia offers visitors an impressive variety of attractions linked to its natural and cultural heritage. In 2016, the Bolivian government announced its intention to invest nearly $400 million in the tourism sector up to 2020.

In the longer term, the aim is to reach 3 million visitors a year by 2025. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism was becoming one of Bolivia’s most dynamic sectors, with an annual growth rate more than twice that of the country’s overall GDP. However, while over 75% of the population employed in tourism are women, the jobs they hold are more precarious than those held by men.

One way of alleviating the high level of poverty that particularly affects women and indigenous people in rural communities is to capitalize on the economic potential of tourism, and more specifically on the promotion of community, ecological and biocultural tourism. The promotion of sustainable tourism in rural areas and indigenous communities effectively enables localities to generate sustainable income, access training, enhance their cultural heritage and perpetuate their traditions, the economic empowerment of women and the contribution of local communities to post-COVID-19 recovery in Bolivia.

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  • There is more than one Bolivia: the image we have of traditional Bolivia in the mountains, with its Aymara women wearing traditional bowler hats, is well anchored in our collective image. However, there is also an Amazonian Bolivia with its lesser-known tropical climate, and the salar d’Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.
  • Bolivia can be daunting at first sight because of its altitude when you land in La Paz (4000m). Preparation is highly recommended, as it is not possible to access the country via intermediate altitudes as recommended. What’s more, the UV index increases by 40% at 4000m altitude. Appropriate clothing is therefore a must, even if the heat of the climate occasionally tempts us to do the opposite.
  • Bolivia was hit hard by the absence of tourism following the pandemic. Unfortunately, tourism is slow to return, even though Bolivia is one of the cheapest countries to visit in South America. Despite this fact, it seems that for the time being, tourists prefer to visit Peru, which seems more accessible and friendly. This situation is damaging to the communities who decided to offer tourists a network of accommodation that would not only provide them with the income they needed for their well-being, but would also be a showcase for their traditions and customs.
  • The country lives at the pace of today’s Latin America, torn between an ancestral art of living and the pressures of the global marketplace. With a population of 12 million over an area twice the size of France, many communities – apart from their Bolivian status – have nothing in common, even though Bolivia has no fewer than 38 official languages! With such a low population density in such a large country, it’s often difficult to unite the population in a common cause.
  • A trip to Bolivia requires meticulous preparation, because of the many choices available to the explorer, both geographically and culturally. In every region, authentic and memorable encounters with communities are essential to discovering the cultural mosaic that is Bolivia.
  • 6 accommodations

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