While most people who travel to Cuba stay in all-inclusive resorts, ecotourism in Cuba has shown to be compelling enough to draw travellers in from all styles of travel, not just independent adventurers. Despite being a bit of a tricky country, ethically, green tourism and ecotourism in Cuba has grown considerably, and, according to the national tourism board, conservation and preservation are consistent efforts within the country.
Development of Ecotourism in Cuba
Cuba knows that it has a lot of potential where ecotourism is concerned. Home to 263 protected areas and six UNESCO biospheres, Cuba is a naturally diverse and environmentally exciting country with a lot to offer ecotourists. Those in the industry are aware of the potential for ecotourism in Cuba, but also that close management is necessary for sustainable development.
Officials are seeking to attract environmentally-conscious travellers, who they know are inherently low impact travellers. They are also anticipating a rush in ecotourism from Americans, once the travel embargo is lifted (expected to be happening soon). As such, the industry is planning on examining carrying capacities and imposing restrictions on visitors and their activities, so as to monitor the impact the anticipated growth may have.
Pinar del Rio
Perhaps the jewel of ecotourism in Cuba is Pinar del Rio, the province home to two UNESCO biospheres and Valley of Vinales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The peninsula of Zapata and its swamp, Cienaga de Zapata, is known for its indigenous crocodiles, and Cuba’s first sustainable eco-resort, Las Terrazas, was developed in Pinar del Rio.
Considered to be a ‘touristic complex’, the sustainably developed Las Terrazas is located in Biosphere Reserve Sierra del Rosario. The project, which was initiated in the 1960s, was established in a reforestation effort, as well as with the goal to improve the living conditions and communication methods for the local communities. Las Terrazas marries conservation and nature preservation with social and cultural enhancement, and visitors can experience canopy tours, hikes, walking tours, cultural excursions, coffee plantation tours, and birdwatching, among many available ecotourism excursions.
In addition to the ecotourism excursions offered by places like Las Terrazas, ecotourists in Cuba often find themselves enjoying the biospheres and la Cienaga de Zapata, as well as birdwatching. In Turquino-Bayamesa in particular, birdwatching and natural habitat preservation is of particular importance to both locals and visitors. An area of Turquino-Bayamesa known as the IBA (Important Bird Area) has been the focus of careful and conscientious management efforts for conservation, preservation, and ecosystem restoration. In addition to the environmental impacts of these efforts, the area works on developing community employment opportunities for locals, in conjunction with ecotourism.
The community has been involved in biodiversity management efforts such as signage installation, trail management, soil erosion control measures, and conservation of the endemic, threatened birds. The management of these elements are instrumental to the promotion of the IBA as an ecotourism destination in Cuba, which is precisely what Turquino-Bayamesa wants to do moving forward into the future of ecotourism in Cuba.
Ecotourism in Cuba
Ecotourism in Cuba is poised and ready for the influx of tourists it expects in the near future. Between the impending lift on the American travel embargo and the ardent promotion of Cuba as an ecotourism destination to Europe and afar, Cuba is working on managing impacts of ecotourism, and ensuring that the appropriate management and development strategies are in place. Ecotourism in Cuba is promising and forward-looking, and it’s certain that Cuba has a lot of ecotourism options for those seeking adventure.
Photo Credit: International Rivers