Making Brazil the biggest sustainable tourism destination in the world: this is the purpose of Vivalá, a sustainable tourism agency that carries out expeditions throughout the country, uniting communities, nature and volunteering in a single experience.

Tourism was one of the first sectors to feel the negative impacts of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and, no wonder, it is also the one that is preparing the most for the resumption. With tourist activities suspended last year, Vivalá redirected its energy to carry out research with travelers, seek fundraising via public notices and articulate a campaign with a donation of more than 30 thousand reais to traditional communities in vulnerable situations, which were left without the usual visitation.

The scenario makes sustainable tourism in Brazil a viable travel option, as traditional communities, such as riverside and indigenous people, already have all adults vaccinated following the priority groups in immunization against COVID-19. With the rise of the dollar and the borders closed in other countries, the resumption of tourism begins to attract more travelers to destinations within Brazil itself.

“First, because people are increasingly looking for authentic experiences, a trip that is not just conventional tourism, but also helps to preserve the environment and has a positive impact on the lives of people, communities. There is also a growing demand for trips that provide a deep connection with nature in its pure state, whether for the safety of being outdoors, or for the need for outdoors after a long period of isolation, but also for the collective recognition that being close to nature generates well-being”, explains Daniel Cabrera, executive director and co-founder of Vivalá.

Voluntourism: Embarking on this Journey

As if the opportunity to get to know new places geographically was not enough, a type of tourism that allows a deep contact with the destination, its culture and local population with interventions that help disadvantaged social groups is voluntourism. 

Volunteers or 'volunturists' who decide to embark on a Vivalá expedition receive online training to understand the agency's methodology, including information on biodiversity, local culture, contacts and suggestions on what to pack.

Through expeditions in different regions of Brazil, Vivalá dives into the local culture of traditional riverside and indigenous communities with the intention of valuing human life through community-based tourism. In the country with the greatest biodiversity in the world, experiences always take place in conservation units, strengthening the message of environmental protection.

One of the differentials, in addition to immersion in the culture of local communities, is helping to empower small family businesses. In total, there are almost 200 enterprises such as small inns, restaurants, canoeists, artisans, guides, confectioners, dancers, among other professionals, which seek to solidify their initiatives. Assistance is based on empathy and active listening, especially listening to what this population has to offer in their territory.

In 50 sustainable tourism expeditions, Vivalá has already added more than R$ 530 thousand reais injected directly into communities and more than 150 local community-based tourism businesses mentored in more than 4,600 volunteer hours.

For Daniel Cabrera, it is through volunteering that knowledge is brought to people with little access to formal education, even though they have enormous wisdom. “We want to develop the chain of community-based tourism suppliers in the country, creating people increasingly prepared to work in their businesses, generating quality services for travelers, disseminating their culture and generating income and quality of life for their families. This is our way of promoting inclusion, income transfer and empowerment of communities: helping to support them, but also working for their self-esteem and independence”.

At the end of the expedition, the exchange empowers both the local residents of the communities visited and the tourists themselves. “To preserve it is necessary to know. The feeling of gratitude in travelers, after the trip, for having lived something intense, for having helped to make someone's life better and for creating bonds with the community, which goes beyond the mere relationship of a client or tourist, but a relationship of respect, collaboration, collective construction and friendship”, says the co-founder of Vivalá.

Shipments 2021

Five destinations are already confirmed for the second half of 2021, including Lençóis Maranhenses; Shanenawa Indigenous Village, in Acre; Seridó Geopark, in Rio Grande do Norte; Chapada Diamantina, in Bahia; Grande Sertão Veredas, between Minas Gerais and Bahia; and Chapada dos Veadeiros, in the Central Plateau.

Vivalá currently operates in two destinations in the Amazon: Rio Negro, in Amazonas, and Rio Tapajós, in Pará. The next adventures are scheduled for the holiday of September 7th. There will be 8 days and 7 nights of immersion with the local riverside population. 

In the case of the Rio Tapajós Expedition, the trip begins in Santarém, the third largest city in Pará, passes through the communities of Maguari and Jamaraquá, within the Conservation Unit of the Tapajós National Forest, follows trails and other experiences, such as Carimbó, until arrive in Alter do Chão (by water) where it is possible to connect with scenarios such as Praia da Ponta das Pedras and Praia do Amor.

The Rio Negro Expedition begins in Manaus and takes place in the riverside community of Lago do Acajatuba, about 1h30 by boat from the Amazonian capital. There, the group lives experiences such as hiking in the jungle, diving in the river, observing the sky, cultural workshops, in addition, of course, to volunteering.

The expeditions include land and water transport (from the starting point of the expedition start), accommodation and almost all meals, except on days free for dinner and include guide accompaniment in all destinations.

“From our partnership with Fundação Grupo Boticário, we are committed to expanding sustainable tourism to other biomes and communities in Brazil in 2021. Therefore, in addition to our traditional activities in the Amazon, between Amazonas and Pará, we now have the village Shanenawa indigenous people, in Acre”, says Cabrera, who also reveals a broad long-term objective of the agency: “We want to transform Brazil into the largest sustainable tourism destination in the world, an inclusive tourism that provides well-being for all involved, biodiversity, traditional communities and travelers”.

Expansion

Vivalá has an expansion plan for the next five years that foresees four product lines: Group Voluntourism, Individual Voluntourism, Group Ecotourism and Individual Ecotourism, with the operation of all these modalities in all Brazilian states.

With the pandemic, the process of digitizing operations accelerated, which today allows Vivalá employees to work essentially remotely. Based on a management driven by data and results, the agency created a high potential for scalability in the mission to transform Brazil into the largest sustainable tourism destination in the world, and Vivalá, the largest reference in this market in the country. 

“We will diversify our direct relationship with travelers based on the growth of the Vivalá team, with affiliate and referral programs, and seeking a greater presence in international markets. We are also intensifying our relationship with partner agencies and creating exclusive experiences for organizations, companies and schools”, concludes Daniel Cabrera.

care

Vivalá has monitored vaccination in the places to be visited and works to raise awareness of the care that must be taken to resume activities. Before the trip, each traveler receives two masks and a bottle of 70% gel alcohol. Disposable masks are also available throughout the trip, to reinforce the necessary care. Care is redoubled in the food and cleaning of accommodation and, at most, two travelers are allowed per room, to avoid agglomerations. The groups still remain 50% smaller for this year.

Tests for COVID-19 are also recommended before and after travel. With the advancement of vaccination of the general population, a way to ensure that all travelers are vaccinated before excursions is also being studied. All activities that promote agglomerations, such as small celebrations in the communities visited, are suspended.

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