Yesterday, I had my first ever Skype call with the Much Kaab honey cooperative in Mexico. The group has only recently had the internet installed so I was bracing myself for some technical difficulties. To my pleasant surprise, the whole group appeared on screen with full video and audio. They looked happy, focused and prepared.
They described how they are taking ownership of their business. For example they are planning to travel from their small village to meet with a hotel manager to explain why their prices have gone up. I asked what they’d say, and without hesitation they replied:
“Because they are now made from all natural ingredients, which are better for the environment and for your customers. It also allows us to make a living from this business.”
As the call progressed I noticed something different about them, compared to last year. They seemed more confident in themselves and in interacting with me. They seem to have taken control of the business and been empowered by becoming more independent, since our direct support ended last year.
Their hard work is starting to be rewarded financially too. They told me that their main hotel client, the Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe, following a consultation with guests, has doubled the number of rooms featuring Much Kaab products, therefore doubling their orders of shampoo and soap each month.
As a result the group has been able to pay each of its eight members a regular salary for the past three months. Things are looking positive, as that same hotel chain has plans to embed this policy of local procurement into their business and also stock Much Kaab products in their hotel on the island of Cozumel.
It’s very motivating to see the results of this pilot project, yet at the same time I am aware that this is just one group in one community and that there is potential to connect lots of other small local businesses to the tourism supply chain.
The Travel Foundation’s new strategy, and the programme of work we’re developing in Mexico, is to work at a more strategic level, in order to have a wider impact in the region.
By Terry Brown, Destinations Programme Officer