Emiliano Iturriaga I wanted to know some countries in Africa. That is why, at just 19 years old, he traveled to Kenya without knowing that this adventure would inspire him years later to generate the first idea for his venture: rutopia.
During a walk in one of the last tropical jungles of the African country, Emilio accompanied a group of soldiers who were looking for the remains of some elephants that had been illegally hunted for their ivory. However, on the way, the Mexican noticed how the commercial areas were destroying the vegetation of the beautiful natural area. Not only that, he also watched with astonishment and a certain sadness how local women who had gone to cut down trees to have firewood for their homes were detained.
“I understood that people are forced to degrade the ecosystem due to a lack of alternatives to develop sustainably,” Emiliano commented. The experience was hanging around in his head for a long time until he prompted him to devise a method to change things and undertake.
Rutopia, business with positive impact
As if it were a predestined meeting, the 19-year-old Mexican met the only man who did sustainable tourism in Kenya. His business consisted of taking tourists to little-known places in his country, where travelers from all over the world were amazed by the unknown beauty of the African continent. Emiliano understood that this model could be replicated in Mexico, not only as a business idea, but as a good option to generate positive change in the most needy communities in the country.
To mature his idea, the entrepreneur traveled through communities in different countries, but it was not until he lived in Chiapas, Mexico, that everything seemed to come together to give his idea a true shape. There he met Miguel, a travel guide who knew perfectly the birds and the hidden beauties of the Selva del Triunfo, but who really had no way of connecting with tourists to publicize his services.
“I was sure that many people would love to know Miguel’s work, -his knowledge about birds and the area-, to have a different tourist experience,” Iturriaga said in an interview.
Emilio sat down with Miguel to develop a strategy to make himself known to tourists. The model consisted of carrying out a marketing campaign about the “unknown” places in Chiapas and about which the guide had perfect knowledge. The plan worked, the tourists arrived with Miguel, and Emiliano had the “Eureka moment” of inspiration to create the startup Rutopia.
The strength of ecological tourism
The service consists of a platform that connects indigenous communities in Mexico with travelers who are looking for authentic experiences outside the commercial and conventional tourist routes. It currently operates with 40 communities throughout the Mexican Republic and has expansion plans throughout the country and Latin America.
Currently, ecological tourism generates 3.5 billion dollars a year in Mexico and each year the sector grows by 17 percent. However, more than 80 percent of the businesses in the sector focus on providing services in just over 5 percent of the country’s natural areas.
Worst? According to figures from the entrepreneur, two out of three indigenous ecotourism projects were abandoned due to lack of visitors, despite the fact that seven million Mexicans live within protected natural areas.
Rutopia’s offer wants to support these communities and offer travelers different experiences through the unknown parts of Mexico. For example, would you like to learn how to make Mayan weaving or go to the Lacandona Jungle for adventure tourism? Rutopia organizes that journey for you.
“Rutopia is a tool with which community tourism projects can design and sell experiences and on the other hand. It is a space for travelers to personalize and carry out experiences that were previously out of their reach,” said the entrepreneur.
The startup is made up of eight people and among all of them they want the contribution made by the tourist to be distributed equitably:
- 10% Community Fund
- 10% local representative
- 60% Experience providers
- 20% reinvestment
For now, the entrepreneurs are looking to launch their web application to reach more Latin American travelers. With this tool you can reserve the place where you want to travel, as well as the activity you want to do.
“We want to change the mentality of Mexican tourism so that it gets out of the typical places and knows those indigenous communities that offer so much.”