Susan McPherson is a corporate social responsibility expert and the CEO of McPherson Strategies.
As the CEO of a social impact communications agency, I’m always on the lookout for new and innovative ways that organizations are creating social change. So when I decided to embark on a G Adventures tour, I knew I wanted an itinerary that incorporated a Planeterra Foundation project.
I expected that I would learn a lot when I went to the Parwa Community Restaurant, the Planeterra project I visited during my eight-day Explore Machu Picchu Tour. What surprised me was that my experience there ended up being the absolute highlight of my trip. And that’s saying a lot, since I also got to hike Machu Picchu, make my own ceviche, and hang out with the world’s most adorable llamas.
Parwa Community Restaurant is located in Huchuy Qosqo, a small village of 70 families located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, about 50 km (31 mi) from the city of Cusco. Because of the village’s remote location and its lack of public services, many residents struggle to make ends meet. With little access to economic opportunities nearby, women historically dedicated themselves to the home and agricultural work.
The restaurant is helping to change that. It’s owned by the Huchuy Qosqo Association, which invests all income back into community development projects. The restaurant’s ingredients are sourced from village farmers, which helps strengthen the local economy. And the people that work in the restaurant receive capacity-building training, monthly salaries, health insurance and pension funds.
None of this would matter much if the food weren’t delicious. And let me tell you: I’m still dreaming about the quinoa soup, fresh salad and of course the causa. If you’ve never had causa, I like to think of it as the Peruvian take on the California roll: a layer of potato topped with ingredients like fish, chili purée, crab salad and avocado. I had it multiple times on my trip, and for good reason. Today, more than 3,500 varieties of potatoes exist in the Andres of Peru.
We enjoyed Parwa’s Peruvian delicacies family-style with the panorama of the Sacred Valley surrounding us. With views of the mountains and villages, the on-site produce garden and the traditional Peruvian décor inside the restaurant, the scene truly elevated the dining experience. It felt like the Sacred Valley version of New York’s iconic Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which is a world-renowned restaurant-on-a-farm that promotes sustainable agriculture and the use of local ingredients.
The hospitality at Parwa was also unmatched. I spent my teenage years waiting tables, and I can tell you that some people just “get” hospitality, and some don’t. The servers we met made us feel welcome, shared fascinating insights about the food and told us about the Huchuy Qosqo village. And they did it all with huge, genuine smiles. It was clear immediately that Parwa Restaurant has made a significant impact on their lives, their families and their community. For women in particular, Parwa has been a game changer, giving them access to training and opportunities that were previously unattainable. Throughout our stops at various local villages, it was inspiring to see Inca women playing a leadership role in community development work.
The Parwa Community Restaurant represents the best type of social impact work, not just in tourism but across all industries. Creating opportunities that improve communities while also providing value to consumers is among the most sustainable and effective ways to tackle social challenges. When it comes to tourism, places like Parwa give travellers the chance to put their vacation dollars to good use AND have amazing experiences, without needing to donate or volunteer. It’s a complete win-win.
Want to experience the Planeterra Foundation's Parwa Community Restaurant for yourself? G Adventures can get you there, via our Explore Machu Picchu trip, or a number of our other small group tours through Peru. And if, like Susan, sustainable travel is important to you, consider taking our Travel Better pledge here.