Within the world’s biodiversity hotspots, poverty is driving people to pursue livelihoods that often destroy the very natural resources on which they rely. Increasingly, governments, local communities, and NGOs are pursuing ecotourism as part of the solution. CI actively supports these efforts by building their capacities to design and implement ecotourism programs that truly address conservation issues and create needed jobs and income opportunities.
CI has developed and successfully used its participatory workshops, seminars and training courses to promote ecotourism as an alternative and help communities, businesses, and other local stakeholders develop competitive ecotourism products and destinations. The tools used to undertake this work have traditionally addressed a range of topics including:
- Business Planning for Environmental Enterprises
- Community Ecotourism Education and Awareness
- Ecotourism Product Development
- Linking Communities, Tourism & Conservation: A Tourism Assessment Process.
Most recently, CI in partnership with The George Washington University has developed the Ecotourism Learning Program.
Tourism Assessment Process with The George Washington University
CI’s ecotourism program and GW’s tourism innovation and research unit have developed "Linking Communities, Tourism & Conservation: A Tourism Assessment Process" – a guide to help donors and practitioners assess current and potential tourism destinations.
The manual presents easy-to-use processes for conducting inventories of attractions; analyzing market demand and competitiveness; evaluating potential social, cultural, economic, and environmental effects; and presenting final recommendations on tourism development. It is also currently being used as a component of the Ecotourism Training Program.
Ecotourism Learning Program with The George Washington University
CI has partnered with The George Washington University (GW) – a leader in ecotourism and sustainable tourism education for more than 25 years – to develop a specialist training course in ecotourism. Piloted successfully in Gabon in 2005, the program consists of eight courses that aim to increase the knowledge of practitioners and program managers worldwide. Course subjects include sustainable ecotourism concepts, tourism assessments, product development, tourism marketing, project design and management, fundraising, and becoming a trainer. The courses will be carried out in conjunction with local institutions to provide a center for ongoing instruction.
Besides producing resources to disseminate best practices, CI incorporates capacity building into all of its regional activities so that strong local partners sustain them. The following are examples.
Ecotourism Training and Curriculum Development in Gabon
In 2005 CI delivered a training course and workshop in this highly biodiverse Central African country. Participants came from a range of Gabonese organizations, including government tourism and parks programs, training institutions, hoteliers, tour operators, and local NGOs concerned with biodiversity conservation in Gabon. The first half of the program focused on the dimensions and impacts of tourism and criteria for ecotourism.
Through interactive discussions, participants produced strategies and institutional structures for managing tourism in national parks and maximizing tourism revenues. The second half of the program examined the jobs and skills needed to implement those strategies, resulting in an outline of recommendations on key jobs areas and the training necessary to meet ecotourism labor needs in Gabon. CI worked with The George Washington University to deliver this targeted training.
Ensuring that Tourism Enhances Biodiversity Conservation in Three Destinations
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.
IN DEPTH: Learn more about the
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.
LEARN MORE: Developing ecotourism at Conservation International.