The Story Behind Komú
Komú is no ordinary startup. Heavily rooted in community, environmental conservation and co-creation, the team is working to change the face of the tourism industry for the better.
Co-founders of Komú, Pablo Menéndez and Karen Bellato, believe that community based tourism has the potential to do exactly that. However, after noticing that many of the current community tourism models were not providing communities or travellers with a rich experience, they made it their mission to turn things around.
Community based tourism itself is not a new concept. The model works on the basis that small and often marginalized communities can use tourism to generate income and, at the same time, maintain their culture and heritage. Tourists meanwhile, are able to learn from those communities and get an authentic understanding of their customs.
As Co-founder Karen explains during our interview, “there are companies who have been working for over 30 years in this, so we don’t want to arrive with the mentality to compete nor do something completely new but actually collaborate and contribute to help reach the point that communities are able to manage themselves and create their own projects – they should never be used as a product of tourism.”
Communities need to be listened to
Pablo and Karen believe that the time to support these communities is now. They fear that if we do not start understanding their true needs, we’ll fall into the same unbalanced, one-sided cycle of taking rather than sharing.
As consumerism increases at a frightening speed, so does the vulnerability of smaller communities. However, in a society where individualism is championed, Karen and Pablo believe that we have a lot to learn from the connection that these communities have to nature and their attention to the common good.
How did Covid-19 change things for Komu?
Covid-19 had a huge impact on the global tourism industry, but that didn’t stop the Komú team from advancing their project. As well as expanding their platform to the Spanish market, they’ve also been furthering the conversation of community based tourism online. Although much of what they had initially created had to be put on hold, the team decided to pivot into the online event space.
And, not surprisingly, the team was extremely excited when their first initiative turned into an unexpected pilot project with participants asking for more information. And, as a result, they quickly started building up the biggest community based tourism online network in Latin America.
As Karen explains, “when we talk about community based tourism the range of potential topics is enormous. You can speak about culture, female empowerment, nature, conservation. So we wanted to create a way to keep talking about these topics with the same purpose to keep strengthening, collaborating and co-creating even in a digital environment.”
So, what does the future of tourism look like?
While the team acknowledge that there will be many tourism businesses that won’t survive the impact of the pandemic, they say it has created space for to question mass tourism and the negative effects it can have on the environment and smaller communities.
“Covid-19 has made us put into focus our lifestyle, rhythms and relationships” says Karen, “we simply can’t keep repeating past mistakes when it comes to business and personal connection.”
With this in mind, Co-founder Pablo explains that while there are gaps in the tourism sector he’s hopeful that we can expect to see a strong focus on sustainable tourism post-Covid-19 and that community based tourism will be “an instrument for change” as part of this movement.
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