Reflections from Ecuador: rethinking travel as an ecotourist and ecohost
by Dominique Gettliffe
Gettliffe Architecture participated in the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Conference in Ecuador this spring, then spent a few days exploring two of the four main regions of the country: the volcanic region of the Andes and the Amazon. The conference in Quito, exploration of Ecuador, and experience at different ecolodges, led us to new considerations for traveling as an ecotourist and hosting eco-tourists.
In a bold effort to reveal and promote the diversity the country has to offer, along side the most popular destination – the Galapgos Islands –Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism uses the tag line “all you need is Ecuador.” An inspiring presentation by Marcio Hall “Community Based Ecotourism in the Brazilian Amazon” drove this point home: a single destination in any place and of any scale – such as the Galapagos – can be loved to death, but in order to be sustainable and beneficial to the community at large, ecotourism must be dispersed to a variety of destinations.
This got us thinking about how ecotourists and hosts can work together to disperse tourism, leave a lighter footprint and hopefully, have a more distributed economic impact and richer social experience:
- 1. As a traveler, consider the experience you want from your trip: though certain destinations may be highlighted on your checklist because of their high popularity, it is well worthwhile veering off the beaten path and exploring hidden gems that offer their own unique experiences.
- 2. As a host, consider what is unique to your destination and how visitors can make an inspiring experience of it: the Galapagos may offer wildlife that other destinations do not have, so highlight what is unique about your area, what can be explored, and what the experience might offer that is distinctive. For many, exploring less known paths is appealing and desirable, so information, marketing and accessibility is important.
- 3. Consider planning your trip so it can have a positive impact on everyone: tourism impacts local cultures, economies, and environments. When tourism is more evenly distributed, it benefits involved communities more equitably, lightens the stress on the environment and deepens the visitor’s experience.
- 4. As a host, offer a genuine experience to your visitors: sharing your passion and knowledge of the area will create a unique, informative and memorable experience for your visitors – one that a guidebook or group tour would not offer.
Ecuador is making notable efforts to diversify Ecuador’s tourism and encourage visitors to experience the breadth of environments, cultures and landscapes the country has to discover. The conference also stressed that this is the responsibility of state and local governments, NGO, tourism associations, communities, to promote various facets of a region and offer a more complete experience of the culture and the geography to the visitors.