Ecotourism in Ecuador is plentiful, multifaceted, and complex. Ecotourism holidays in Ecuador can vary, but typically include visits to the Amazon Rainforest and Amazon Basin, and cultural enrichment and engagement with some of Ecuador’s many indigenous tribes. What has been key for the development of ecotourism in Ecuador has been the belief in preservation, conservation, and education, both through the government, and through local cooperatives.
One of Ecuador’s leaders in ecotourism is Yachana Lodge and Centre for Geotourism Training, an ecotourism project in the Amazon rainforest that seeks to “achieve sustainability through education”. Their philosophy is that if travellers, industry members, the community, and youth are educated on the implications of tourism and both its benefits and negative impacts, they will be equipped and empowered to forge a positive future for the rainforest.
Instrumental to Yachana’s vision is its dedication to rainforest conservation and its commitment to local youth education. Many of the travellers visiting Yachana are usually well-versed in ecotourism and responsible travel principles, hence why they are at Yachana. However, Yachana has identified that educating local youth in conservation, preservation, and sustainable tourism practices is an integral way to ensure a positive future.
The Yachana Technical High School, established in 2005 by the Yachana Foundation, is attended by indigenous and mestizo students living in Ecuador’s remote Amazon region. These students are being educated to be the next generation of green leaders and entrepreneurs, in a way that is relevant to their daily lives, and the communities they live in. The high school’s curriculum promotes the “conservation of the Amazon’s biodiversity through teaching sustainable use of natural resources, providing professional skills to improve employability, and mentoring management of student-run ecological enterprises”, according to the Yachana Foundation. It is also as close to being self-sustaining as possible, with a goal of 100% self-sustainability set for the next few years.
In Ecuador, conservation and sustainable tourism are priorities. The Ecuadorian government and its Ministry of Tourism are focused on promoting ecotourism opportunities to travellers, and also engaging travellers by inviting them to be a part of ecotourism projects. There is also the acknowledgement that not only is sustainable infrastructure important, but the effective management of the sustainable industry as a whole, and its parts, is elemental in the overall success of sustainable tourism and ecotourism in Ecuador.
Ecuador’s government and, subsequently, its tourism industry, have received significant support from organisations like the Rainforest Alliance, allowing Ecuador to experience success in its ecotourism development. This success has emerged through trust and faith in Ecuador’s ecotourism by local businesses and travellers – it demonstrates that Ecuador is serious about sustainable tourism development, and understands that an holistic approach is the best way forward.
Another successful element of Ecuador’s tourism plan is its awareness that each of its four regions require different, tailored approaches to ecotourism. The Galapagos, an extraordinarily fragile ecosystem, has its own policies and practices. Conversely, what works in the Galapagos may not always be applicable in the Ecuadorean Amazon or Andes regions, same with the Coast, which includes the capital city of Quito.
Ecotourism in Ecuador
With all of its national parks, protected areas, and heritage sites, Ecuador is an appealing place for travellers – it offers a diverse array of activities, all while considering the environmental and socio-cultural impact of tourism. Initiatives by both the government and local cooperatives, like Yachana, have enabled Ecuador to become a leader in the ecotourism movement. By focusing on education as a fundamental element in the future of conservation, preservation, and sustainable tourism management, Ecuador has created a truly sustainable path for ecotourism.
Photo Credit: lana.japan