The idea of an all-inclusive holiday is still difficult for many to accept as Responsible Tourism. Perhaps this example will cause people to think again. This all-inclusive holiday is just that – everyone is welcome, treated with respect and enabled to participate in an activity holiday at an all-inclusive resort. It is accessible tourism made inclusive for all.
I first met José Fernandes Franco at an International Centre for Responsible Tourism side event at World Travel Market Latin America last year. What I saw then of the Campo do Sonhos (Camp of Dreams) and the Parque dos Sonhos took my breath away and I determined then to visit when I returned for WTM Latin America 2014 – taking place this week in SaoPaulo.
Campo Sonhos and the Parque dos Sonhos are 130 km, two hours, from Sao Paulo in the green foot hills of the Mantiqueira Mountains. Two activities and adventure resorts which are more about what an all-inclusive holiday should be than any I have previously visited – or heard of. These two resorts challenge and inspire us to see whether – as guests or in the industry – can anywhere do all-inclusive better.
You can participate as a day visitor or stay in the resort. If you stay for the all-inclusive price of 200 Brazilian Real (£54) for 24 hours you are fed and accommodated well and all the activities are free – no wonder that these two resorts, both developed and run by José, achieve over 80% bed occupancy and 65,000 visitors per year. 65% of guests are either repeats or personal recommendations – one old lady comes for a month every year. Whether you are small child, an expectant mother, burdened by a plaster cast, elderly and suffering reduced mobility, blind or deaf, a paraplegic or tetraplegic you are welcomed with smiles and a can do attitude at these resorts. Families and friends can holiday together and share a host of activities – people of all abilities can play together. This is a resort which wears the all-inclusive badge with pride, where everyone is treated with respect and enabled to enjoy adventure activities. The elderly and infirm, children and paraplegics can ride white water, horses and zip wires together – all are included in these adventure activities.
José turned away from a career international marketing to return to his roots in Socorro, originally to grow vegetables, as he is an agronomist by training. The market garden bloomed and attracted visitors for a farm experience, then came the activities and the accommodation, chalets and hotels. He told me that he “never worked for money” but that he turned his entrepreneurial skills to social purpose. He opened the 6th fish and pay in Brazil and is currently involved in building two new hotels – then he says he may slow down. I doubt it.
I asked José why he had pushed the boundaries of what is possible for people with disabilities so far. It was, he said, because we all have disabilities in our lives, we all start life being pushed, in a pram or pushchair, and most of us will live with or develop disabilities. Pushchairs and wheelchairs need the same ramps. Six years ago, he attended a Ministry of Tourism meeting and heard from people with disabilities about their needs, he accepted the challenge, took responsibility and responded. José is special because he took responsibility and worked with his 160 staff to make places where people are treated equally; and enabled to play and have adventures together. He enables people to fulfil their dreams.