Mark Bibby Jackson talks with Simon Heyes, the founding director of Climate Friendly Travel Registry member Senderos, a marketing company that represents a portfolio of nature-based, sustainable travel experiences across Latin America.

Often in life your heart might be in the right place and you might have a wonderful product, but you struggle to get the message across to potential customers. This is where companies such as Senderos come in, to help create a pathway for your story to reach potential clients.

Senderos is a B-to-B marketing and PR company that specialises in Latin American wildlife and conservation lodges, small high end hotels and expedition vessels. It does not directly deal with the public, but instead handles members’ Marketing and PR activities for UK and German-speaking markets, as well as arranging activities including press and familiarisation trips.

Senderos Services

“We aim to be in contact with all tour operators, as well as high end travel agents, that sell Latin America, as well as encouraging publications and travel journalists to feature our places in editorial,” explains Simon Heyes. “We strive to be a very reliable and knowledgeable source of information for all these groups helping our partners get more international guests as well as the right kind of travellers.”

Although in some special cases Senderos might reach out to recommended clients, usually they are contacted by the property directly.

“We work with mostly very small owner run properties and we understand that it’s a big commitment. Anyone can apply but in practice we are very selective, especially about sustainability and conservationin travel which is a big part of our DNA.”

Simon Heyes, the founding director of Senderos
Simon Heyes, the founding director of Senderos

Up to now the screening process has been based on experience and ‘gut instinct’, Simon admits, but Senderos is currently working with The Long Run and others to create, “something more tangible to demonstrate sustainability commitment and transparency.” He hopes to launch this in the next few months.

Simon lived and worked in South America in the mid-90s, and after working as a specialist tour operator started Senderos out of his love of the region and its people.

Commitment to the Future

“We recognise, and are frankly scared by, the climate and biodiversity crisis,” he says. “So, we aim to work at the sweet spot where conservation and scientific research meet sustainable tourism and in our small way do our bit and help our partners working in that area.”

Part of this process has involved getting their own house in order. Since 2018, Senderos has carbon balanced its operations with the World Land Trust.

“We commit to reduce as well as balance,” says Simon. “But beyond our small operational carbon costs, and some unavoidable work travel especially to Latin America, we believe that easily our biggest effect comes down to whom we choose to work with and promote.”

Simon believes that the travel and tourism sector has a positive role to play in the “climate and biodiversity solution”.

“It is such a positive force for good when done well – for Conservation, Culture, Community and Commerce (The Long Run’s 4 Cs) – but we all know and have seen the negative effects such as over tourism or where its exploitative of natural and human resources.”

Climate Friendly Travel Registry

Most recently, Senderos has joined the Climate Friendly Travel Registry (CFTR), which Simon sees as an important component on the road to providing a climate-friendly direction for the tourism industry’s future.

“We all need constantly pushing and encouraging. SUNX Malta and the CFTR do just this, they push us to be better, help us understand where our weaknesses are and inspire us,” he says. “We constantly ask ourselves are we doing enough, the answer often comes back no, but here is support, encouragement and inspiration.”

He cites SUNX Malta, The Long Run, Conscious Travel Foundation and the LATA Foundation as associations that Senderos works with and promotes through its connections.

“Our business is all about engaging others and bringing them into the conversation about ways to travel better,” he says. “We also contribute case studies to media and support travel journalism that advocates for change. For example we feel there’s been a lot of media focus on carbon and rewilding, but not enough on the value of existing biodiversity.”

Promoting Partner Projects

Cristalino Lodge Brazil by Samuel Melim

In addition Simon is keen to highlight some of the ground-breaking measures undertaken by their partners.

“In Brazil, for example take a look at our partner pages for the inspirational Comuna do IbitipocaCaimanCristalino Lodge and Pousada Trijunçao. Or take a peep at our partners in Costa Rica also a sustainability hotspot.

“Diving into just one, let’s look at Comuna do Ibitipoca in Brazil,” he says. “Conservation, rewilding, community and culture at the core, rural regeneration, organic farm to table meals, education, a hothouse of ideas and science. And an incredibly beautiful place to stay, one of Latin America’s finest small country hotels.”

Simon derives constant inspiration from those partners who show commitment and innovation in conservation tourism. This has been recognised by others; both Caiman and Comuna do Ibitipoca have been nominated for WTTC Tourism of Tomorrow Awards for example.

All this reinforces his belief that we all can adopt individual measures to improve the future of travel.

“It shows us the need to take personal action and be creative, both at work and in our home lives,” he says. “At Senderos for example we mostly cycle, we only use green energy, we recycle as much as we possibly can and we are all crazu about plants and green spaces. No actions are too small.”

New Year, New Start

As for the coming year, Senderos plans to launch an “important collaboration between three conservation-minded partners in Brazil to show the good fight that’s going on there, as well as the bad that’s in the press”.

Finally, his New Year Resolution for 2022 is to keep finding ways to become more radical and positive. “As well as the day to day work to put food on the tables of our families, and as we emerge from the Covid pandemic, it cannot be business as usual,” he says. “I thank Geoffrey Lipman and Hans Friederich at SUNX for keep reminding me of that!”

Article first published in eXist, the Climate Friendly newsletter produced by SunX Malta, and reproduced here with their permission.

Main mage: Canadian Canoes at Caiman, Brazilian Pantanal by Felipe Castellari