EcotourismExcellenceAward - Library
I NTER NAT IONAL
One of the most critical environmental
problems facing us today is the loss of our planet’s
biodiversity. Species, ecosystems and ecological
processes—the very living resources on which we
depend for survival—are being depleted at an alarming rate. This is especially true in the biodiversity
hotspots, 25 threatened areas where exceptional concentrations of endemic species are undergoing devastating losses of habitat. These areas cover just 1.4
percent of the planet’s land surface, yet contain more
than 60 percent of all terrestrial species. CI focuses its
efforts on these remarkable places, where each dollar
put toward conservation saves the most species.
The winners of this year’s Ecotourism Excellence
Award are all working in the biodiversity hotspots,
Around the globe, people are demonstrating that
tourism and conservation can go hand in hand.
demonstrating that ecotourism can be a sustainable
economic alternative—one that provides jobs to local
Conservation International (CI) is proud to present the 2000 Ecotourism Excellence Award to innovative leaders
people and, by its reliance on healthy ecosystems,
offers a powerful incentive to preserve the environ-
in the tourism industry whose
conservation victories are helping us protect our planet’s natural heritage.
ment. By reading the stories of ecotourism leaders
who are furthering the goal of biodiversity conserva-
The Ecotourism Excellence Award honors those who are making
significant contributions to biodiversity
tion, I hope that you will be inspired to take action to
conserve the areas where you work and travel.
conservation and who are serving as
role models for others. A distinguished panel of experts selected the
Russell A. Mittermeier
from among 69 nominations received from 29 countries. CI is honored to
President, Conservation International
present the 2000 Ecotourism
Excellence Award to Rainforest Expeditions of Peru and Gonzalo Trujillo of
Colombia. Both were chosen for their extraordinary commitment to conservation; their
vision and innovation; and their sensitivity to local environmental and cultural issues.
Nominees were evaluated using the following criteria:
CI believes that the Earth’s natural heritage
must be maintained if future generations are to thrive spiritually,
culturally and economically. Our mission is to conserve the Earth’s
living natural heritage, our global biodiversity, and to demonstrate
that human societies are able to live harmoniously with nature. CI is
a global nonprofit organization, working in 32 countries on four
continents. Practical and people-centered, we draw upon a unique
array of scientific, economic, awareness-building and policy tools
to help inhabitants of Earth’s biologically richest ecosystems
improve the quality of their lives without depleting natural resources.
Ecotourism has the power to motivate people to protect their
surroundings by creating jobs that depend on a healthy environment. CI’s Ecotourism Program supports projects that generate
sustainable, nature-based jobs, including Eco-Escuela in
Guatemala, Chalalán Ecolodge in Bolivia, Fazenda Rio Negro in
Brazil, Ixcan Biological Research Station in Mexico, canopy walkways and other attractions in Ghana’s Kakum National Park,
Brazil’s Una Ecopark, Indonesia’s Gunung Gede National Park and
many more around the globe.
Each of CI’s ecotourism projects is based upon strategic conservation goals and takes a community-based approach to ensure
that local people derive economic benefits. In addition, each project is intended to serve as a role model to the rest of the industry. CI conducts ecotourism development workshops and provides
other capacity-building tools that encompass community education and awareness, participatory frameworks for creating ecotourism policies, product development and guide training. The
Ecotourism Excellence Award is one of the tools that CI uses to
build better environmental and sociocultural practices within the
ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITMENT Efforts to minimize negative
impacts of tourism on the environment (instituting visitation limits to environmentally sensitive areas; using alternative technologies such as solar power and wind power). Support for
conservation initiatives (trash clean-up and community recycling
initiatives). Support for environmental education efforts (ecology
courses in schools; guide training; lectures and seminars for visitors). Positive contributions to conservation (educating communities about environmental concerns).
SENSITIVITY TO LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES Efforts
to address local environmental pressures (actively lobbying decisionmakers and community members for policy changes). Support
of environmental research, communication and outreach campaigns (distributing informational brochures; raising awareness
about a particular issue). Advocacy of local environmental programs (support to and membership in local environmental organizations; fundraising for local organizations).
CULTURAL SENSITIVITY AND BENEFITS Efforts to minimize
negative social impacts of tourism (gaining an in-depth understanding of social impacts; managing interaction between tourist
and community; instituting visitation limits to culturally sensitive
areas). Efforts to increase local benefits as a result of their work
(fair and equitable compensation; good employment benefits; purchasing local goods). Community participation in the decisionmaking process (creating community-based partnerships; giving
communities ownership; empowering community members to
make their own decisions). Local employment opportunities offered
(ensuring that jobs at all levels are accessible to local applicants;
providing adequate training and education). Contributions to community development projects (funding local schools, health care
and other social services). Cultural education programs for tourists
(distributing pamphlets and guidelines on codes of conduct; holding
slide shows and talks on local environmental and cultural issues).
CI would like to thank the members of the Judging Panel:
President, Gerosa Amazon
Eisenhower Professor of
Tourism Policy, George
LEADERSHIP AND INNOVATION Position as a role model
(teaching, demonstrating and providing an example to others).
Novel approaches to extending benefits (developing creative
ways of ensuring community participation; innovating new product or project design within the industry or region). Advancements
in ecotourism standards (instituting new training programs;
improving current standards).
Chairman of the Board,
The Ecotourism Society;
Director, Pacific Asia
Senior Editor, National
Rainforest Expeditions founders Eduardo
Nycander and Kurt Holle launched the Tambopata
ers eliminate the need for costly heating systems,
profits equal those earned in 1999, the community as
while composting and shipping nonbiodegradable
a whole will take in nearly $50,000.
waste to a city dump at nearby Puerto Maldonado
help to minimize pollution in the fragile rain forest.
For the Ese’eja, this involvement in sustainable
ecotourism has resulted in dramatic initiatives: The
community. To complete social assessments,
Conservancy and Backus Foundation, has imple-
downstream from the research center. These two
Nycander and Holle actively recruited major funding
mented several wildlife protection programs. For
attractions—a biological field station and tourist
and support from the MacArthur Foundation and the
example, after years of hunting eagles for their feathers,
lodge—give visitors unique opportunities to experience
Canadian-Peru General Counterpart Fund. At both
the Ese’eja at Posada Amazonas assigned guardians to
a pristine rain forest alongside working scientists.
Posada Amazonas and the Tambopata Research
eight large eagle nests; in 1999, a community member
They are also powerful models of ecotourism that
Center, community members receive priority consid-
blocked a construction crew from cutting down a tree
provide local people with new prosperity and incen-
eration for jobs and work flexible schedules to allow
that held a nest.
four beds per night to researchers who stay and eat for
have been published out of Tambopata. In addition,
week-long Rainforest Biology Workshops taught by
Ecolodge and Tour Operator
young Peruvian biologists have drawn over 500 students
Posada Amazonas stands in a 2,000-hectare reserve
set aside 25 years ago by the local Ese’eja community to
protect primary forests and wildlife. The project is a joint
venture between Rainforest Expeditions and the Ese’eja
community, under the representation of the Ke’eway
Association. The Ese’eja take home 60 percent of the
lodge’s profits, have an equal say in all decisions and
enjoy training and jobs at the Posada. After 20 years,
Rainforest Expeditions will cede full ownership of the
lodge to the Ese’eja.
The lodge is a model of sustainable operating practices: It was built using only local materials, such as
the other Ese’eja families. If the company’s year 2000
and, with funding from the American Bird
entirely with solar power. Cold-water sinks and show-
benefits and minimize negative impacts on the local
and more than a dozen groundbreaking research papers
that are 38 percent higher than the mean income of
lodge on the Tambopata River about 75 kilometers
Reserved Zone, Peru
candles and wind lamps, soon will be illuminated
community has formed an ecotourism committee
free. Some 50 researchers have bunked at the center,
ing with Rainforest Expeditions earn annual wages
Rainforest Expeditions worked hard to maximize
Ecotourism Excellence Award,
able indoor temperatures. The rooms, now lighted by
the business by adding Posada Amazonas, a 24-room
At the research center, a 13-room lodge dedicates
time for communal tasks. Community members work-
Research Center in 1989. Ten years later, they expanded
tives to protect their lands.
palm fronds and clay, which help maintain comfort-
menu of fresh tropical fruits and fish. Former hunters
Trujillo and Llano are popular with the locals and
serve as expert rain forest guides, and those locals who
have used this goodwill to help organize ecotourism
still hunt are educated to identify endangered species,
committees in each of the nearby towns along the
which they refrain from shooting in deference to Trujillo’s
coast, enabling local people to learn about and benefit
philosophy that ecotourism is a viable alternative to hunt-
from the region’s growing ecotourism industry.
ing—one that depends upon healthy animal populations.
Trujillo often uses Cabañas Pijiba to demonstrate to
To provide additional conservation lessons to visitors,
locals that ecotourism is a viable business. Capitalizing
Gonzalo Trujillo’s Cabañas Pijiba Lodge
Trujillo and Llano have become scuba dive masters
on the success of their on-site energy management,
grew from the awe he felt upon seeing the pristine
and frequently treat guests to tours of the underwater
they convinced local communities to use solar power
wilds of Nuqui-El Chocó for the first time, when he
world lying just beyond the rain forest. Through these
and water wheels instead of diesel generators. They
left Medellín 14 years ago to pursue life as a fisherman.
excursions, the couple highlights the fragility of marine
also have established a much-used library on these
He quickly traded his seafaring ambition for the pursuit
environments and the need for their conservation.
and other alternative energy sources.
of environmental preservation and, with no formal
In other educational efforts, Llano founded SENTIR
Trujillo’s “accidental” lodge is a success, and not
training or preconceived notions, turned his house
(the Spanish verb “to feel”), which educates local com-
just for him. He and Llano use Cabañas Pijiba as a
into a small hotel, employing local people and sharing
munities on their history, land and native animal species.
model and a meeting place, helping to train numer-
with them his newfound love of native flora and fauna.
Through SENTIR, Llano and Trujillo have launched a
ous community members in tourism management,
Seeking to protect the lush region and improve the
regional outreach program to address the impact of
conservation and the use of environmental technology.
lives of local communities, Trujillo took a steady
hunting and trapping on numerous endangered species.
stream of friends and family members on tours of his
rain forest homeland. Fueled by the success of these
outings, he and his wife, Martha Llano, have since
Ecotourism Excellence Award,
built four additional bungalows and can accommodate
24 tourists. However, Trujillo prefers to limit capacity
Community Activist and
Nuqui-El Chocó, Colombia
to 18, boosting the quality of service and minimizing
impact on the forest.
True to his grassroots spirit, Trujillo markets his
lodge through a friend in Medellín who arranges all
reservations for Cabañas Pijiba. Visitors fly to the
coast, where they are greeted by one of Trujillo’s
employees and transported 50 minutes by boat to the
lodge. The journey introduces visitors to the region’s
combination of rain forest and ocean environments
and the importance of estuarine ecosystems.
Cabañas Pijiba is designed to minimize impact on
the environment. Airy, clean bungalows are constructed of palm trees and other sustainably harvested
woods to blend gracefully into the surroundings. A
water wheel provides power for the bungalows as well
as for Trujillo’s kitchen, where local cooks provide a
John Aspinall was one of the pioneers of
The leadership of the Coastal Resources
The Kapawi Lodge is nestled in the Napo
Costa Rica’s emerging ecotourism market in the late 1980s, establishing Tiskita Lodge and Arenal Observatory Lodge, two of Costa
Rica’s most ecofriendly destinations. Arenal Lodge was among
the first hotels to receive the country’s four-leaf rating for sustainable tourism.
As part of the Tiskita Lodge project, Aspinall and his family
donated 50 hectares of land and beachfront as a nature reserve and
established a foundation to help the neighboring Guaymi Indians
produce handicrafts. The foundation has since developed a visitors’
center and a craft market and has raised funding for a variety of
community projects, including a health clinic, a new primary
school, scholarships and a housing program for teachers, which is
critical to attracting qualified educators to this small community.
Currently, Aspinall owns and manages Costa Rica Sun Tours
and Costa Rica Connection, both tour operator businesses. His
companies prepare clients for their visits by providing a 24-page
booklet that features cultural guidelines, Aspinall’s ecotourism
philosophy, suggested reading and a list of conservation organizations. Whenever possible, he subcontracts tour activities, such
as horseback riding and transportation, to local operators.
Furthermore, Aspinall continually provides language and guide
training to help his guides boost their incomes. He was among the
first ecotourism operators to provide bilingual guides on Costa
Aspinall remains an active and respected leader in the industry.
An honoree president of Costa Rica’s Association of Ground Tour
Operators and past board member of Canatur, the country’s
Chamber of Tourism, Aspinall supported efforts to limit the number of visitors to Costa Rica’s Monteverde Reserve and backed a
policy of charging a higher entrance fee. He isn’t afraid to challenge the establishment: In the early 1990s, Aspinall protested
the hosting of Expotur—Costa Rica’s largest travel trade show—
at the San Jose Palacio, which was under fire for destroying
important habitats while building a hotel on the Nicoya peninsula. As one colleague observed, Aspinall’s stand was courageous
and, at the time, costly to his business.
Management Project (CRMP) in the Philippines recognized that to
ensure the success of conservation projects, local communities
should never be manipulated or forced into environmental responsibility. Instead, CRMP adopted a strategy of empowering the
local people with knowledge of their coastal ecosystems—information that naturally bred respect for the environment. Project
leaders provided technical assistance and advice, then stood at
arm’s length to let the people determine how to use their new
Through model projects, CRMP let communities define their
own development needs, determine the types and numbers of
tourists they would accept and run test tours to see what they
liked and didn’t like about real-world ecotourism, all before they
were asked to commit to implementing projects.
The two ecotourism products borne of this effort speak volumes
about CRMP’s impact on the preservation of the Philippine coastline:
• The Olango Birds and Seascape Tour is owned and operated by
the Suba, Olango Ecotourism Cooperative, which comprises 55
coastal village residents from Olango Island. The residents provide tours, such as canoeing through a seascape fringed by six
islets; snorkeling and diving in a protected marine sanctuary; visiting seaweed farms; interacting with the community and guided
birdwatching in the 920-hectare Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary.
Local economic benefits from this project include community service fees, product sales and profit margins (20 to 50 percent of the
• The Cambuhat River and Village Tour, owned and operated by
coastal villagers, showcases rustic village life and local management
of river, estuarine and mangrove areas. Visitors enjoy paddling
with a fisherman along a mangrove-lined river; watching demonstrations of oyster farming; visiting villages to see the making of
traditional handicrafts; and learning about local interpretations of the
value of river management.
The group’s commitment to empowering local people to preserve
their own homeland will be CRMP’s enduring legacy. The work
being done—and the model ecotourism businesses springing up
along the 2,000 kilometers of coastline—are early testaments to
the group’s success.
CRMP is a seven-year project funded by the U.S. Agency for
International Development and implemented by the Philippine’s
Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Pleistocene Refuge in the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin, 160 kilometers east of the Andes. The compound’s setting, amenities and
low-impact technologies put it in the upper rank of forest lodges.
But it is the venture’s deep commitment to local community participation that has brought the highest praise.
Kapawi’s owners, Canodros Ltd., had the keen foresight to
realize that the local Achuar community would need to be deeply
involved in the project for it to be successful—especially since
many native populations in Ecuador have been decimated by
exploitative oil companies. The Achuar are a full partner in the
project: Community members make up a majority of Kapawi’s
staff, receive $2,000 per month in rent (plus a $10-per-visitor fee)
and will inherit the business outright in 15 years.
Kapawi demonstrates careful environmental planning
throughout the lodge. The 20 thatch-roofed houses were built following Achuar architectural concepts—not one nail was used—
with energy provided by solar panels. The houses stand on stilts
on the edge of the Kapawi Lagoon, a construction strategy that
minimized impact on surrounding vegetation. Wellwater is
pumped into five reservoirs and then distributed via submersible
solar-powered pumps, without chlorine treatment. Sun showers
give each guest 10 liters of warm water per day, and all soap and
shampoo used are biodegradable. In addition, management
rotates guest visits among numerous trails, lagoons, rivers and
camping sites to minimize impact on the ecosystem.
Perhaps most significant to the future of the local environment, the Kapawi project has shifted many of the local people’s
primary source of income from unsustainable cattle ranching to
ecotourism. About 30 percent of local community members are
now discussing how to limit or eliminate cattle ranching entirely.
The lodge owners also are battling to protect local wildlife.
One example is a project called Wankanim, the Achuar name for
giant otter, an endangered species native to Ecuador. Working
with the U.S.-based Pachamama Alliance, Kapawi officials are
seeking to determine the species’ distribution, abundance, diet
and behavior, as well as to monitor mortality and understand the
socioeconomic factors fueling the otter fur trade.
To establish Lisu Lodge in the mountains
As in any field, advances in ecotourism
Oswaldo Muñoz has spent 32 years as an
of northern Thailand, Vincent Tabuteau and John Davies applied
their experience in working with Thailand’s hill tribes to fashion a
lodge both welcoming to visitors and rewarding for local people.
Their strategy was particularly crucial in this region, where
indigenous people have long been culturally and economically
isolated from mainstream Thai society.
Tabuteau and Davies lease the land for the lodge from the
local community and work closely with Lisu village elders to
ensure that guests experience the region’s authenticity. The lodge
employs only local people and buys all food from local suppliers.
Designed with thatched roofs, wood framing, woven bamboo
walls and rattan floors, buildings blend in with other village structures and the surrounding landscape. All decorations are made
locally, and lodge managers are building a handicraft center and
shop where local artisans can show and sell their embroidery,
woodworking and silversmithing.
Tabuteau and Davies commissioned an anthropologist to work
with a nearby village to determine how to establish mutually
beneficial relations and published a set of guidelines on interaction between the local community and the tourism industry. The
guidelines are intended to ease tourism pressures on those villages that have been exploited as a tourism resource. These
efforts helped earn the lodge TravelAsia’s Ecolodge of the Year
Award in 1998.
In addition, the managers have carefully limited Lisu Lodge’s
capacity to six rooms (accommodating 12 guests) and brief visitors
in detail on proper interaction with the Lisu villagers. The Lisu residents have embraced the lodge as their own, and lodge operators
conduct ongoing innovative research projects—with the Pacific
Asia Tourism Association and the Association of Thai Travel
Agents—that always involve local people as equal participants.
In October 1999, Tabuteau and Davies expanded their ecotourism
efforts by opening a remote outpost in the village of another
mountain people—the Lahu—who physically constructed the
lodge and now receive half of the money that tourists pay for
overnight stays. Through these ecotourism businesses, Tabuteau
and Davies are helping the local communities find environmentally
friendly ways to earn income and are offering authentic ecotourism experiences, bringing a bright future to a beautiful and
would not be possible without bold leadership and measured risk.
Ron Mader put himself squarely on the forefront of the ecotourism revolution when he transformed his El Planeta Platica
newsletter into the Planeta.com Web site in 1995.
A self-described “information catalyst,” Mader brokers ideas—
ideas about how to thrust ecotourism issues into the public eye and
ideas on successful collaboration within the industry. His persistence,
skill and vision have made Planeta.com one of the leading ecotourism
Web sites in the Americas and an award-winning Internet product.
The site sprang from what Mader saw as a need to educate
foreign and domestic travelers on nature travel in Latin America.
The site now features articles on all things “eco,” not just
tourism: environmental issues and policies, biodiversity, pollution
prevention and key meetings and events. Many nongovernmental
and local community efforts rely on Planeta.com as a vehicle for
creating publicity, as well as discussing and implementing programs. It also provides links to myriad groups working on environmental issues.
Mader himself is directly involved in numerous activities that
support the environmental conservation efforts being discussed
on Planeta.com. To further facilitate professional information
exchange, in 1999 he began a series of roundtable discussions
about ecotourism in Mexico City, with the first two sessions each
drawing 20 specialists. He also has been instrumental in launching roundtable discussions regarding ecotourism with the
Mexican Association for Adventure and Environmental Travel
(AMTAVE) and has made a major contribution toward ensuring
that the industry as a whole initiates self-regulating mechanisms.
Mader speaks frequently at colleges and conferences and
holds technical workshops and meetings with tourism groups to
teach them about sustainability. Planeta.com continues to inform
the ecotourism community and influence policy. Operators,
researchers, students, regulators and activists use Planeta.com
as a clearinghouse on environmental issues, biodiversity and
indigenous concerns. Knowing that all successful movements
require broad participation, Mader publishes articles by representatives from all points along the spectrum of eco-aware professionals, including travel agents, travelers, academics and
government officials, giving Planeta.com a truly planetary reach.
ecotourism ambassador, guiding naturalist tours in Ecuador as
well as teaching and lecturing—in his words, “spreading the word
on the importance of professionalism, honesty and common sense”
in all aspects of ecotourism and constantly striving to improve the
industry by “studying what works and what doesn’t, and why.”
His tours are renowned for their extraordinary educational
content and environmental and cultural sensitivity; some are
accredited university biology and anthropology courses. His tireless efforts include helping establish one of Ecuador’s first
ecolodges, founding Nuevo Mundo Travel & Tours, heading the
Ecuadorian Ecotourism Association, co-authoring Ecolodge
Guidelines as vice president of the board of directors of the
International Ecotourism Society and directing the Equatorial
Solar Museum. He is also an activist: Once, after seeing a large
oil spill in the Cuyabeno wildlife reserve, not only did Muñoz
immediately alert the government, but he also quickly joined
efforts with Accion Ecológica and Tierra Viva, two Ecuadorian
environmental organizations, to lobby for mandatory restrictions
on oil companies’ operations in the jungle.
In addition, he teaches indigenous populations how to adapt
existing infrastructure needed to start ecotourism lodges and
helps communities set up operations and manage the initial
investments. To minimize tourism’s environmental impact, Muñoz
promotes what he calls “sustainable marketing,” a blueprint to
help both communities and operators prepare for the introduction
of tourists to culturally and environmentally fragile destinations.
His approach includes strategies for keeping a new site secret
until all involved and affected—including local populations—are
ready for a tourism influx. And it entails setting visitation quotas to
ensure that tourism supplements a pre-existing economy instead
of overwhelming or replacing it.
Muñoz embraces one of ecotourism’s greatest challenges,
that of selling conventional tourists on the concepts of sustainability and conservation. In this vein, he is focused on developing
more affordable trips and programs to make ecotourism attractive
to visitors of all income levels, not just the wealthiest travelers.
Muñoz’s vision and leadership are perhaps best summarized in his
proposed new definition for ecotourism: “Travel that promotes the
rational utilization of natural and human resources throughout the
ecosphere, while committing and benefiting all of its direct and
David Ricalde’s impressive resume reads
P.T. Sherpa has long had a meaningful
More than 100,000 people a year trek
like a dream ecotourism itinerary in Peru and Bolivia: Manu
Biosphere Reserve, Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone, Machu
Picchu Historical Sanctuary, Noel Kempff Mercado National Park
and Madidi National Park. But he wasn’t satisfied simply to provide tours and travel in these remote and spectacular environments. Instead, he chose to educate tour operators and guides on
how to better preserve the forests, run more professional operations and, in turn, attract more business. He does this selectively,
working only with those communities that he believes hold real
tourism potential and commitment to preserving biodiversity.
In 1996, Ricalde developed a training program for 20 young
members of the Quechua-Tacana community in Madidi National
Park that focused on natural history, but included components on
customer relations, management, communication, sustainability,
conservation and operational efficiency. Today, 25 percent of
those trained are guides, hosting international tourists who pay
$80 a day for tours.
Ricalde commands the level of respect among his students
and peers that can produce real results. In the late 1980s, supported by the MacArthur Foundation and Wildlife Conservation
Society, Ricalde proposed the establishment of the TambopataCandamo Reserved Zone, which now protects 1.4 million hectares
of rain forest in southeastern Peru, a significantly larger swath of
forest than would have had been guarded under other proposals
presented at the time. Today, part of this protected area is the
Bahuaja Sonene National Park, which likely exists due to
In 1999, Ricalde worked with the Fundación Amigos de la
Naturaleza, a Bolivian nongovernmental organization, to provide
guide training to the communities of Piso Firme, Porvenir and
Florida near Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. By encouraging,
training and empowering young members of three local communities near the park to capitalize on ecotourism, Ricalde made
major strides toward reducing environmental destruction, which
often occurs simply because of the lack of awareness of alternative ways of life. Ricalde is presently working as director of science with Peru Verde, an organization that develops ecolodges to
fund conservation efforts.
connection to the land and environment: Before becoming executive director of Kathmandu Environmental Education Project
(KEEP), Sherpa studied and taught agriculture, worked as a
forestry officer and was (and remains) an active mountaineer.
Since he joined KEEP, Sherpa has spearheaded the Positive
Impact Tourism (PIT) program, an effort to educate trekkers and
tourism industry workers on how to practice low-impact ecotourism in Nepal. Sherpa’s weekly slide shows in Kathmandu on
safe, environmentally conscious trekking are wildly popular,
reaching thousands of tourists each year. Such attention is crucial
to Nepal’s ecotourism future, given the frailty of high-altitude
regions in the face of rising numbers of tourists.
Under Sherpa, KEEP initiated a water bottle fill-up program to
encourage reuse of plastic water bottles. The group also trains
trekking guides to use energy sources such as kerosene instead of
firewood. Using his renowned charm and extensive contacts,
Sherpa motivates local people and visitors to get involved in tree
planting and garbage clean-up day—no small feat in Nepal’s
To promote cross-cultural effectiveness, KEEP empowers local
guides by training them in English language proficiency, safe
trekking practices and ecotourism skills. In 1999 alone, KEEP has
provided four training programs on sustainable tourism, sanitation and waste management and Nepal’s natural heritage for 270
participants. Sherpa is capitalizing on the successes of these programs by planning tree plantings by tourists along trekking routes
where deforestation is most severe, as well as starting a flora
restoration project at the visitors’ center in Bardia National Park.
Along with his responsibilities at KEEP, Sherpa remains an
active member of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, the
Himalayan Foundation for Integrated Development and the Nepal
Heritage Society. And he is tackling one of the biggest environmental pressures by encouraging local people, trekking guides
and tourists not to use rivers and other water sources as bathrooms and trash dumps. He preaches and practices his principles
through weekly slide shows on trekking gently and work habits that
one colleague described as “tireless and persistent.” Sherpa’s
dedication is winning him recognition outside Nepal: Another
ecotourism company is duplicating KEEP’s model visitors’ center
in the mountain state of Sikkim in India.
through Nepal’s highlands, a level of traffic that could easily
destroy its delicate habitats and isolated cultures. But operations
like Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge give hope that tourism can
serve as a force for good in Nepal. The stone lodge—built in 1998
by Tiger Mountain Group, a founder of Nepal’s adventure travel
industry—offers a stunning, low-impact Himalayan experience to
visitors and demonstrates a unique level of commitment to the
From buying local goods and employing villagers, the Pokhara
Lodge has made a promising start on its goal to stem the tide of
young people leaving the village for jobs in the city. Lodge construction maximized employment of local villagers, even those
who were illiterate, and about one-third of the 250-person construction force was female. More than 96 percent of staff working
at all Tiger Mountain projects are local villagers.
The lodge’s terraced design, replete with indigenous flora,
blends naturally into its hilly surroundings and offers 19 guest rooms
in 13 hand-cut-stone bungalows. Conservation concepts are integrated into guided activities and lectures, and guest interaction
with the villagers is sensitively managed to reduce interference
with local customs and prevent panhandling, a common negative
impact resulting from tourism.
To minimize the lodge’s impact on the environment in
outfitting the property for water service, Tiger Mountain bought a
spring and well on the Bijaypur Khola River and hired local engineers to design and install a two-pump system that transports the
water up to the lodge in an aesthetically and environmentally
sound manner. The pumps feed a 90,000-liter reservoir beneath
the lodge’s main courtyard, holding a week’s supply of water at full
guest capacity. Furthermore, rainwater and shower waste are recycled for landscaping and construction, and laundry is done at the
midstation of the two pumps to conserve energy. Biodegradable
kitchen waste is composted and used on site, and no chemical
paints or fertilizers are used.
The Pokhara Lodge has already won the Pacific Asia Travel
Association Heritage & Culture 1999 Gold Award and was voted Best
New Ecotourism Product in TravelAsia’s 1999 Breakthrough Eco
Awards. By offering visitors top-tier accommodations in an ecologically friendly setting and respecting local customs, Pokhara Lodge
is educating its guests in the best way possible—by example.
COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT Rainforest Expeditions and
others learned that working with communities involves investing
large amounts of time in developing a relationship of trust and
openness. They worked hard to understand fully community needs
and their social structures. After carefully helping to build local
capacity, they gave decisionmaking authority to the community.
This approach has resulted in one of the most successful ecotourism projects today.
EDUCATION AND AWARENESS Gonzalo Trujillo and others
leveraged the power of “word of mouth” to educate others and
spread awareness. So successful were Trujillo’s efforts that an
ecotourism movement was spurred in the region. A critical element
was having Cabañas Pijibas’ demonstration of a practical real-life
model, with its use of sustainable technologies and low-impact
infrastructure. This was also the case for the Coastal Resources
Several recurring themes were pivotal to the
USE OF ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGIES Alternative technologies—such as Kapawi’s use of solar panels and Pokhara Lodge’s
use of recycled water for landscaping—are critical to ensuring a
low-impact, environmentally sustainable ecotourism product. This
is especially important in environmentally fragile areas.
of the 2000 Ecotourism Excellence Award
empowerment; education and awareness; use of environmental technologies;
common sense; and persistence, skill and vision. These
serve as models for the
best practices have proved to be successful and
ecotourism industry. By incorporating these principles into their
operations, real benefits to local communities and conservation efforts have been realized.
COMMON SENSE All award winners and finalists displayed this
characteristic, which was manifested in a multitude of ways.
Common sense was used to ensure the longevity of the very
resource on which ecotourism is capitalizing—the natural environment and the communities that live there. For example, John
Aspinall lobbied that limitations be set on the number of visitors
to fragile areas; Lisu Lodge carefully managed the interaction
between tourists and communities based on lessons learned; and
Oswaldo Muñoz suggested that ecotourism should not be introduced until the community is truly ready.
PERSISTENCE, SKILL AND VISION From P.T. Sherpa’s tireless
efforts to educate the community and tourists and Ron Mader’s
tenacity in building Planeta.com, to Rainforest Expeditions’ joint
venture with the Ese’eja and Gonzalo Trujillo’s mission to show
that alternatives do exist—all of these individuals demonstrated
through their persistence, skill and vision that humankind can live
in harmony with nature.
Cover, Top to Bottom Courtesy of Lisu Lodge; Haroldo Castro
Inside Front Cover Haroldo Castro
Page 1 Haroldo Castro
Page 2 Haroldo Castro
Page 3 Haroldo Castro
Page 4 Courtesy of Rainforest Expeditions
Page 5 Courtesy of Rainforest Expeditions
Page 6 Courtesy of Cabañas Pijiba
Page 7 Courtesy of Cabañas Pijiba
Page 8, Top to Bottom Haroldo Castro; Courtesy of Coastal
Resources Management Project; Courtesy of Kapawi Ecolodge
Page 11, Top to Bottom Courtesy of Lisu Lodge; Courtesy of
Ron Mader; Courtesy of Oswaldo Muñoz
The next Ecotourism Excellence Award will be presented
Page 12, Top to Bottom Courtesy of David Ricalde; Courtesy
of P.T. Sherpa; Courtesy of P.T. Sherpa
in the year 2002, the United Nations International Year
Page 14 Robin Briggs Abadia
of Ecotourism. Applications, instructions and qualifying
Page 15 Haroldo Castro
criteria will be available as of May 2001, and the deadline
for submitting a nomination is November 1, 2001.
Page 16 Haroldo Castro
Inside Back Cover Haroldo Castro
Back Cover Haroldo Castro
For more information about this publication, or to
request an application, please contact:
2501 M Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20037
I NTERNAT IONAL
After January 1, 2001:
1919 M Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
© 2000 Conservation International