Ensuring that Tourism Enhances Biodiversity Conservation in Three Magical Destinations
Nature seems to play favorites with certain places, endowing them with impressive vistas, lush vegetation and remarkable wildlife. Belize’s Cayo District boasts Mayan ruins, a wealth of biodiversity, rushing rivers, breathtaking mountains and mysterious tropical rainforests. The Galapagos Islands, which inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution, are a treasure trove of wildlife and unique species. And the Mindo Chocó cloud forest in Ecuador rewards visitors with a wide variety of flora and fauna, including a multitude of tropical birds.
These naturally endowed regions have become magnets for visitors, who may inadvertently threaten the very places they are coming to enjoy.
In response to the ecological threat tourism presents, Rainforest Alliance, Conservation International, The Programme for Belize and the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Association (Asociación Ecuatoriana de Ecoturismo), working in collaboration with the private sector in each country, have come together under the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) to promote and disseminate the best management practices for tourism in each of these three regions.
Entitled "Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into Tourism Through the Development and Dissemination of Best Practices," the two-year project will support sustainable tourism and conservation by identifying best management practices and developing training manuals and workshops in sustainable tourism management for local tourism businesses, including hotels, tour companies and cruise lines.
"With our conjoined efforts we hope to create – by means of our skills, experiences and relationships – tangible results in the conservation of the ecosystems of Belize and Ecuador," affirms Jamie Sweeting, Senior Director of Travel & Leisure at Conservation International. "We believe that by promoting the supply-and-demand approach to tourism, all of the participants will benefit from sustainable best management practices."
Project staff will identify best management practices appropriate for tourism in tropical rainforests and coastal/marine ecosystems, develop bilingual manuals that can be used in training workshops, and build a cadre of training leaders who can share the best practices with tourism entrepreneurs. Simultaneously, the project will work with major inbound and outbound operators to build and develop the sustainable tourism supply chain.
Training is fundamental as it generates the awareness necessary for the participants to fully commit themselves to sustainable practices," notes Ronald Sanabria, Director of the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable tourism program. "Training, done in partnership with the tourism industry, will enable us to achieve our objective – namely, conserving the biodiversity of the Cayo District, Mindo Chocó and the Galapagos Islands."
Entrepreneurs who participate in the training will also have the option of receiving an assessment of their businesses to identify areas where the impact on natural and cultural resources could be improved. Participants who demonstrate a strong commitment to adopting best management practices will benefit from the project’s efforts to develop effective marketing tools and link them with international tour operators eager to respond to clients’ growing demands for vacations that are not only memorable but also benefit the conservation of these natural and cultural attractions.
Efforts to conserve Biodiversity:
- Develop manuals for sustainable tourism best management practices in tropical forests and coastal/marine areas
- Supply information about applying tourism best management practices to 2000 interested entrepreneurs through participation in seminars and other methods of dissemination
- Train 400 business people in best management practices, certification, marketing and monitoring
- Assess 50 tourism businesses to indicate areas in which they should improve or establish sustainable practices
- Support 25-30 businesses with technical and financial assistance so they can more easily adopt best practices
- At least 10 businesses from the three regions will participate in programs linked to the Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas, the regional entity that brings together the continent’s certification programs and other key sustainable tourism organizations that provide them with technical and promotional support