An exciting tide of change is sweeping the world of travel. Community-based ecotourism offers reconnecting, adventurous, educational, and more authentic experiences than resorts. Community-based ecotourism is a different kind of tourism, emphasizing leaving an impact and directly benefiting the communities.
One thing that the pandemic brought to light is the long way to go in the tourism industry. First is the lack of support networks for communities that depend on tourism and equity in distributing benefits. In its recent pandemic impact assessment, the UN World Tourism Organization estimated a 58% to 78% reduction in tourism by 2020. Therefore, community-based ecotourism should be supported when its time to travel again.
There are examples of responsible experiences to meet the native peoples and guardians of nature in Mexico. At Rutopía, we support tourism experiences in destinations that otherwise wouldn’t see tourism’s benefits. It is time for conscious travel that contributes to the development of local communities and the conservation of the environment.
What is community-based ecotourism?
The conservation of biodiversity for the benefit of local communities and local people is the postulate of community-based ecotourism. Since the 1990s, Latin American countries such as Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Mexico started to develop community-based ecotourism projects. Community-based ecotourism seeks to create local businesses that provide benefits to communities. The objectives of community-based ecotourism include equity in participation, ecosystem conservation, and improved well-being. Above all, the WWF International proposed in 2001 certain conditions and requirements for a tourism project to be considered under community-based tourism standards:
- Landscapes or wildlife of interest to attract specialists and general visitors.
- Ecosystems with a carrying capacity to handle some visitors without harm.
- Local communities are aware of the opportunities, challenges, and potential changes arising from the projects. Also, interested in receiving visitors.
- Existing or potential structures for the community to effectively make decisions.
- No obvious dangers to indigenous culture and traditions.
- Initial market assessment.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), there are 196,157 localities in Mexico. Many of these localities are rich in culture, traditions, gastronomy, history, and biodiversity. For that reason, these places are attractive for tourism and also for the personality that characterizes Mexicans. Thus, community ecotourism is a model that allows intercultural exchange between tourists and the local population.
Why choose community-based ecotourism?
Its time to think twice before planning trips and why and what to travel. People are becoming more aware of authentic experiences, seeking to immerse themselves in their environment to establish more lasting connections and better understand the destinations they visit. Travel can be transformative not only for travelers, also to local people and natural ecosystems.
Community-based ecotourism is a responsible way of travel. It prioritizes people over profits and empowers local communities. For travelers, it means seeking authentic experiences, making them discover new places without harming them. For example, opting for local accommodation instead of an all-inclusive hotel may seem insignificant, but not to that community that manages the housing. So if we want to continue traveling, we should be concerned about what kind of travel we do.
Valuable community-based ecotourism experiences to visit in Mexico
More and more indigenous and rural communities in Mexico are offering travelers the opportunity to learn about their traditions, landscapes, and lives. In addition, there are successful community ecotourism projects in the country. For example, the work of states such as Oaxaca, Chiapas, Puebla, Baja California, Hidalgo, and Jalisco. In summary, its possible to see that community-based ecotourism is mainly relevant in the country’s center and south areas—our selection of projects that positively impact travelers and destinations.
La Ventanilla is located 10 minutes from Mazunte in Oaxaca. It is an ecotourism destination dedicated to the conservation of species. This community has worked for over 20 years to protect their natural resource, for example, the project to protect sea turtles, crocodiles, and mangroves.
Taselotzin Ecotourism Center
Taselotzin is located in Puebla’s northern highlands, and a group of Nahua women administrates it. This project exemplifies organized participation, revalorizing customs and practices, and pride in the roots. In addition, this community offers traditional medicine workshops, herbal products, temazcal, and biodegradable cleaning products.
Río Grande Community Ecotourism Center
The State of Hidalgo has the Rio Grande Community Ecotourism Center. Located in a cloud forest in Hidalgo, Acaxochitlán is the perfect choice for a weekend getaway. Here, travelers have spaces for camping, or if they prefer more comfort, the place also offers to stay in cabins with a fireplace for the coldest days. Also, ATV tours, boat rides, mountain biking, all this in the middle of wooded vegetation and cold weather.
Muyil Community Center
In the community of Muyil is Community Tours Sian Ka’an, an initiative that belongs to the Muyil family cooperative. This cooperative belongs to one family. Its main attraction is the tours of the reserve’s canals. They also offer bird watching, flora and fauna tours in archaeological, coastal, and other communities. In addition, there are boats, kayaks, a community museum, a butterfly farm, and an interpretive trail.
One thing travelers can do is to look for destinations that meet sustainability standards. In addition, that leaves a impact and puts the income in local stakeholders’ hands.
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