by Molly Castillo Keefe and Juan Carlos García
This time last year only a ramshackle shipping container stood where the newly-minted tourism center in Ecuador’s Chimborazo National Park can now be found. This achievement reflects one of the Conservancy’s key strategies for our work in Latin America and internationally: collaboration with communities to reduce poverty and advance conservation.
This project—carried out with the support of the Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance, a partnership that includes USAID, Ecuador’s ministries of Tourism and Environment and The Nature Conservancy—is about more than just one tourism center in Ecuador.
It’s part of a far-reaching suite of creative alternatives interweaving sustainable economic growth with conservation. Tourism is among many conservation solutions involving local communities that the Conservancy has helped develop in Latin America, and it is one that is setting a sustainable course for nature and people alike.
Around 15,000 tourists visit Chimborazo National Park every year, located in the heart of the Ecuadorean Andes. The structure of the new center, built of local materials, so complements its natural surroundings that it fades like a chameleon into the landscape.
And the best part is that the center will be managed by Chimborazo’s Community Tourism Organization, representing local indigenous communities, who will benefit from the income from running the center and providing services like interpretation and guided excursions for visitors.
The Conservancy played a key role in designing the management strategy for the new center, working closely with the ministries of Tourism and Environment and the local community to jumpstart the area’s first sustainable tourism initiative.
Such projects are vital to conservation, and help mitigate new threats to protected areas by creating a permanent structure for local management that benefits the park and the people who live in and around it. This is especially urgent in the case of Latin America, where the shortage of resources for park management is so acute that there is only about one park guard for every 75,000 acres of protected areas
Juan Carlos Garcia is a tourism specialist for The Nature Conservancy based in Quito, Ecuador.
Molly Castillo Keefe is a marketing specialist for The Nature Conservancy in Latin America.