Spotlight on Adventure Champions: Mountain Lodges of Peru

17 January 2022

Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) Adventure Champions are the vanguards of the adventure travel industry having been members of ATTA and leaders in the community for a minimum of 15 years. They are true believers in the power of adventure travel and have made an impact on the direction of ATTA and on the industry as a whole. To honor their commitment to their ethos and lasting contribution to the adventure travel industry we are spotlighting Adventure Champions through a series of interviews.

Mountain Lodges of Peru
Luxury Accommodation and Tour Operator
2021 T+L Best Tour Operator
Headquarters: Peru
ATTA Member since 2005

Introducing Enrique Umbert, Co-Founder and CEO
Enrique Umbert, Co-Founder and CEO, Mountain Lodges of Peru

Tell us about Mountain Lodges of Peru: Mountain Lodges of Peru is one of the leaders of adventure travel experiences in Peru. We combine a very high level of comfort and luxury lodge-to-lodge accommodations with an extraordinary level of adventure in the field.

We are a company born in dedication to giving back and making sure that our footprint in the world is positive. And we believe that by doing this, we contribute to the progress of this country, Peru, which we love so much, through positive development and sustainable adventure travel.

We have a network of six lodges in Cusco, another lodge near Lima, and a few boutique hotels in key hubs around Peru as well. Through the lodges, we connect travelers with a full variety of different adventure travel experiences ranging from very hard adventure like trekking to soft adventure like culture with itineraries anywhere from 3 to 15 days.

Why have you stayed an ATTA member for 15+ years?

ATTA is a vital voice for the adventure travel industry and being a member for over 15 years is a badge of honor for us. We get to represent Peru on the global stage and build relationships with other passionate industry leaders, having conversations we otherwise wouldn’t. The educational component of ATTA’s membership is a huge asset as well since I believe we must continually learn and adapt to stay relevant and make positive, sustainable change.

How has your company changed over the last 15 years? 

We founded Mountain Lodges right around the same time the ATTA started and, over these past 15 years, I think we've grown a little bit hand-in-hand with the ATTA in regards to understanding our role better. It starts with a tremendous vision and passionate people to help develop adventure travel as one of the main development opportunities, globally and in our case, locally in Peru for now. The ATTA has such a strong vision and core values that you start to get passionate, genuine, and authentic people on board, and these great ideas begin to come to life. So in our case, it meant asking the question “what we can do differently in terms of tourism in Peru?” For us, it meant finding a way to provide a better experience platform for Machu Picchu, which is one of the main tourism drivers in Peru. We wanted to try and get people to think differently about how to travel to Machu Picchu and get outside, or maybe off the beaten path which is why we created this network of lodges in different areas to draw people off mainstream paths.

What is the greatest force that drives you to work every day? 

Number one, I think that it is the feeling that what we're doing genuinely creates an impact. The second is people–our staff, our guests, and all the different stakeholders that have somehow, in the last 15 years, become part of our tribe of Mountain Lodges of Peru and our local community here.  That includes neighbors, local communities, like our partnership at Huacahuasi Lodge, guardians of different natural resources (official or unofficial), suppliers, guides, and drivers. It's like hundreds of people and thousands of families that have somehow become part of the Mountain Lodges of Peru family one way or another. 

So that's a huge responsibility and a huge driver, but it's also maybe the biggest strength we have–we're now a community. And I think because you asked what the relationship was with ATTA, it's like, you can feel, you know what I mean? It's a community that's almost outside of your hands. You're elected to lead it, but it's like this force of nature that already has this forward momentum.

What gives you hope about the next generation of adventure travel leaders?

Well, there are many things. The generations currently operating in adventure travel have been a little more fiercely fighting. And by that, I mean what characterizes us is that we are very emotional and passionate in portraying and promoting our values and leading by example. Some parts of the new generations are taking that one step further by really demanding change.

So I think that I think there's a certain social activism that is stronger in some upcoming generations or at least a part of them. I guess the big challenge is how to get them from being digital social activists to actually engaging and connecting with the problems at the root and the core of them.

What is your advice for young adventure travel companies? 

Remain passionate and genuine in what you do. In this current world, it's very easy to get overwhelmed with many things. It's like finding your passion, having a clear vision, and finding the right balance for your company. Some companies may go way past their abilities to create a positive environmental, social impact that it becomes unsustainable, so they don't make it past the few initial years. In that case, they may realize they needed their commercial strength to sustain the business. And for some, it's the other way around–they focus on the commercial elements and then realize they’re not grounded in strong vision and principles. This type of business also kind of dries out because the competitive set is so strong and people seek and value certain things. So to summarize, having a clear vision, remaining passionate, and just making sure you find the right balance for the right time.

What gets you excited about the future of adventure travel?

I think it is the recognition that adventure travel is getting even if a lot of it is being seen from a commercial point of view. We could criticize cruise lines and big hotel chains for their interest in integrating adventure travel. And while the commercial driver may be the focal point for now, there are more people in adventure travel now that were not previously engaging, and I am grateful for that starting point. 

I remember a talk that Shannon Stowell gave where he acknowledged it is easy to criticize certain parts of the industry, like mainstream cruise lines and chain hotels, but we have to ask what criticizing accomplishes. We want them to incorporate our principles and vision so we have to guide them and invite them, not criticize them.  So if we open our arms, instead of extending our hand, then we are making change, even though it may take a hundred years or it may take 10 years, change will require sacrifice and it's not going to be perfect.

So that gets me excited about adventure travel-the recognition and incorporation of the concepts of adventure travel into certain parts of the tourism industry that may have generated concerns in society as a whole. I think that if some companies start to appreciate what we are promoting as adventure travel, see the commercial value, and then they become engaged, that is the future of our industry. And therefore, I think adventure travel can continue to be like the spearhead and passionate promoter leading by example. 

Is there anything else you would like to say?

There is so much more to do as a community and in our sector, there is still an opportunity to connect more people to this energy that we are promoting. I think back to the Summit in Alaska years ago with the message, “think big and be bold.” We have to be responsible in how we do it, both in practice and in communication, but there is so much more to be done! There are many people and places that are not connected to the energy of adventure travel and we have work to do to connect them. The social disparity and economic distribution that exist are real and make certain adventure travel destinations and experiences unattainable for many. Get outside of the mainstream and find ways to connect and change.

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Guests relax in the beautiful gardens of Lamay Lodge after a day of activities.
Along the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, guests can experience glaciers, cloud forests, remote villages, and luxury lodges.
A warm welcome in the traditional village of Choquecancha.
A hike to Humantay Lake along the Salkantay Trek for close-up views of glaciers and condors.
Guests meet traditional weavers and learn about the culture of the Andean people on the Sacred Valley and Lares Adventure.
After a day of adventure, enjoy the comforts of luxury lodges, gourmet cuisine and camaraderie of like-minded travelers.