At the beginning of a sustainable community tour with Awamaki, our partner weavers and teachers greet tourists with warm smiles and bunches of flowers. After introductions, the women demonstrate how to spin and naturally dye alpaca and sheep fibers. Next up is the main event – a one on one weaving lesson! During this time, tourists can talk and learn more about the art of the backstrap loom straight from their personal weaving teacher. Through this interaction, tourists gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the hard work of the weavers, and thus they often purchase textiles from the women at the end of the lesson.

Tourists that attend an Awamaki tour are highly likely to purchase a textile from one or more of the women afterwards because of this bond with their weaving teacher and an understanding of her work. Nothing makes you appreciate how difficult something is like trying it for yourself! Our numbers on income from tourism activities compared with income from general Awamaki and client orders illustrate this. In 2016, our artisans made twice as much from tourism than from traditional orders. The average order income (per woman) for 2016 was 766 soles (about $250 USD), whereas the average tourism activities income (per woman) was 1,645 soles (about $500 USD). Our partner artisans in the two tourism cooperatives (Huilloc and Songuillay) have a higher average income than the other five cooperatives that sell textiles to Awamaki and other clients. The reason the women in tourism make more isn’t from the tours themselves. Though they do earn income from their demonstrations during the tour, the income is marginal compared to what they earn from personal sales made to tourists at the end of the tour.

Awamaki understands the financial importance that these personal sales bring to the women and their families. For this reason, we have expanded our tourism program and allotted more time at the end of the lessons for these personal sales. From 2015 to 2016, there was a 49 percent growth in the women’s average income from tourism. Last month, we began working increasingly with women in the Songuillay cooperative to get them ready to hold tours on their own. Through a series of workshops, our hope is that they will be equipped with the skills they need to successfully lead tours when the opportunity presents itself in their community.