In part two of this week’s blog series highlighting the Rainforest Alliance’s work with indigenous communities around the globe — a recognition of the UN’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People — we’re putting the spotlight on a project with a group of tourism businesses in Ecuador. David Dudenhoefer writes…
Community lodges in Ecuador offer travelers a unique vantage point from which to experience the country’s ancient cultures and impressive biodiversity. However, not all community lodges offer the kind of service and comfort that international travelers demand. To help indigenous communities improve their tourism businesses, generate additional income and become more effective environmental stewards, the Rainforest Alliance has been working with the Huaorani Ecolodge, Kapawi Ecolodge, Sani Lodge, Secoya Lodge and Napo Wildlife Center.
In February, the Rainforest Alliance arranged for representatives from several international tour operators – including Life Adventure, Country Walkers, Detour, Holbrook Travel and Journey Latin America – to visit the lodges. In addition to considering these lodges for inclusion in their catalogues, participants offered suggestions to the lodges’ managers for improving accommodations.
“We’re open to everything the wholesalers and customers suggest. That’s the key to success in tourism,” observes Jiovanni Rivadeneira, general manager of the Napo Wildlife Center, a lodge managed by the Añangu community. Suggestions included enhancing the quality of bungalows and accommodations, cleaning up trails and improving guide training.
Twenty-five community members employed by the lodges also had the opportunity to participate in an internship hosted by The JW Marriott Hotel Quito, where they learned ways to improve their kitchens, restaurants, and housekeeping and maintenance skills.
“We hope that these relationships and experiences will help community lodges to bring the quality of their services and facilities in line with their natural and cultural resources,” explains Veronica Muñoz, manager of the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable tourism program in Ecuador. “We believe that this initiative can help lodges to increase their revenues, improve their communities and conserve their cultures and biodiversity.”
For more information on responsible travel options, visit www.sustainabletrip.org.