Operating in San Pedro de Atacama, the Turismo Gato Andino (Gato Andino Tourism) agency is part of a powerful alliance that seeks to avoid the extinction of this feline, “one of the 5 most endangered worldwide”, according to the company.
Alejandra Palma, commercial representative of Turismo Gato Andino, told Chile Travel Trade News how this important project is being carried out and the work they are doing to preserve the feline’s habitat in the middle of the driest desert in the world.
-What is the importance of the Alianza Gato Andino NGO?
–La Alianza Gato Andino is an NGO that was created because of the danger which this feline is in, one of the 5 most endangered worldwide. Diego Venegas and Sebastián Álvarez knew about this problem and decided to use the insignia of this cause focusing on how tourism can help protect the Andean cat.
-How do you do responsible tourism that does not affect the species?
We don’t take more than 12 people in any of our activities, because a guide with 12 people can make sure that we are respecting both the place we are going to, and the culture of the communities that live there. We strongly believe this is a beautiful tourist area and taking care of every site we visit is very important.
-How do you connect tourists with the preservation of the Andean Cat?
-We connect mainly in two ways, the first is by linking our clients with different donation methods, for example in each commercial presentation with our business clients we open the possibility for them to make donations directly to the alliance that constantly seeks resources to monitor and protect the habitat of the feline. In this sense, for example, we have donated six camera traps to be able to supervise the behavior of the Andean cat and thus make the most efficient decisions for its protection.
–The other aspect, of course, is to link our clients with the international alliance, because we, as a tourism company, show part of this habitat and involve our clients with this issue, which often leads to a second interest that brings them closer to the Alianza Gato Andino to carry out another activity, donation or become personally involved.
Tours, activities, and contact of Turismo Gato Andino
Turismo Gato Andino was created by Diego Venegas and Sebastían Álvarez, who reinvented themselves after the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2021 they decided to take a big step and formally opened their tourist office.
-What are the tours you offer?
-We have different lines of experiences, first the classic ones such as el Valle de la Luna (The Moon Valley) or the Tatio Geysers and, also another line that are outdoor activities, whether they be trekking, biking, hiking, climbing volcanoes and finally, we have a last line of business that is linked to the relationship with local people, in which we link for horse rental or visits such as the Caravana de llamas (Caravan of flames).
-What we are looking for is local integration and we deeply believe in the richness of San Pedro de Atacama, that is why the owners of Gato Andino and I are constantly testing each new service, to get to know the experiences they offer and work together as long as we have similar principles and practices.
-How can they contact you?
One of the best and most direct ways is to get in touch with us through Instagram @turismo_gatoandino which is in our experience the most powerful and direct platform by far. Another sales channel is the office on Calama Street on the corner with Caracoles which is also in direct relationship with the client for anyone who needs to resolve specific doubts or know more about any experience. Finally, all the business part of the company can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-What do people take away after living an Andean cat experience?
-The main thing for me is to understand why it is so important, when visiting a sacred site or a site of such historical richness as San Pedro de Atacama, to take measures to protect the place and the culture being visited. There is a very important vision that we share, which is to express to people that we have a desert “palace”, which is the driest on the planet, and that both culture and cultural heritage if they are experienced in the right way, we can protect them at the same time we are getting to know them. This has always been crucial for us, to find that balance between being able to sell without ever losing sight of the importance of what we have in front of our eyes.