Big Five, Art Experiences Travel Partner on New Experience in Ecuador

Big Five Tours & Expeditions has teamed up with Art Experiences Travel to launch the “ME Ecuador Trail,” enabling travel advisors and travelers alike to support local artisans and community tourism.

Ecuador, like other destinations and as an established tourism destination in South America, has a major challenge—ensuring tourism dispersal beyond its main tourism draw, the Galapagos Islands. ME Ecuador is a collaborative that prioritizes pathways to visibility for indigenous communities, artisans and artists among travelers, travel advisors and travel providers. The organization, which was co-founded by three tourism industry leaders (including Big Five and Art Experiences Travel), was created with the goal of giving micro-entrepreneurs on the mainland a chance at becoming responsible members of the tourism industry in Ecuador by helping write their own business plans and holding them accountable through a code of ethics agreement.

“Ecuador has a unique challenge in that the different regions on mainland literally compete for the same client’s attention, playing out on the region level. The key component left out is the local people, one of the main pillars of sustainable tourism. Local artisans, chefs and all micro-entrepreneurs felt the effects of the pandemic more than any other sector of the country. Unemployment jumped fivefold during that time,” said Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five Tours & Expeditions.

Hotel Otavalo_Ecuador
Local artisans and micro-entrepreneurs play a key role in the tourism economy of Ecuador. (Art Experiences Travel)

Ecuador is home to 14 indigenous tribes. Additionally, it celebrates many artisans and artists that have mixed indigenous art crafts with Spanish influences, making it their own version of mestizo art. The “ME Ecuador Trail,” operated in collaboration between Big Five and Art Experiences Travel is a sustainable tourism initiative designed to invite Ecuadorian micro-entrepreneurs to the tourism table and allow them to thrive and become a voice and teacher for others in their communities to join in the effort of sharing their craft/skill with the world.

“Sustainable travel is not only about focusing on carbon footprint, it also is about amazing transformational experiences, which MEs can more than deliver. Sustainable travelers of all ages are curious and always willing to accept a deep cultural immersion, even more so when it is shared personally by safe-keepers of culture and tradition,” said Sebastian Vergara, president and CEO of Art Experiences Travel. “The ‘ME Ecuador Trail’ and ME Ecuador initiative hold the key for transformational community tourism in Ecuador that lines up a fair pricing policy that is focused on changing the lives of Ecuadorian micro-entrepreneurs and in turn keep culture and tradition alive for generations!”

As Big Five’s current president’s pick, the eight-day “ME Ecuador Trail” program includes the following tour highlights:

  • Enjoy a ride through the Andean mountain range
  • Learn about Otavalo’s history, beliefs, traditions, and legends. Visit cherished places to get a deep understanding of the Otavalo culture, seen through the eyes of locals
  • Discover the ancestral gastronomy of the Kichwas. Different flavors from the Andes, such as grains, roots, fruits, vegetables and more, are turned into one-of-a-kind dishes
  • Find out about the connection between the condor and the eagle while learning about the positive energies of “Pacha Mama” ("Mother Earth")
  • Discover the meticulous work of the Cuencanos and these skilled craftsmen that make Cuenca the cultural capital of Ecuador. After a short visit to the city, find out about its facets through these entrepreneurs
  • Stay at all three Art Hotels Ecuador properties—a collection of luxury boutique hotels with properties in Quito, Otavalo and Cuenca (future locations to be added include Guayaquil and the Galapagos Islands).

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