Balance is a term that encompasses the main characteristics of sustainable tourism. Globally, this segment of tourism is booming due to strong pressures that human activities, such as tourism, have on ecosystems and communities. Ecuador, as a country which houses wonderful biological and cultural riches, has several options for sustainable tourism in its territory.
In September 2015, the ceremony of the 2015 World Travel Awards (WTA) in Bogota, Colombia took place. In terms of destinations, Quito was chosen as the Leader Destination in South America and the Finch Bay Eco Hotel in Galapagos as South America's Leading Green Destiny. Regarding hotels, Mashpi Lodge, located in the cloud forest of Northwestern Pichincha was awarded as Best Green Hotel in Ecuador, according to the WTA 2015 website.
According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the principles of sustainability relate to these aspects: environmental, economic and socio-cultural tourism development, and to establish an appropriate balance between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability", says the WTO website portal.
Regarding the first point, it mentions that sustainable tourism should "give optimal use to environmental resources, which are key elements in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping conserve natural resources and biodiversity", stresses the same portal.
The second theme is "respect the socio-cultural authenticity of the host communities, preserve their cultural and architectural assets and their traditional values and contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance".
Finally, the third is to "ensure in the long term viable economic activities that report well distributed socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders, among which are stable jobs and income and social services to host communities to help reduce poverty", the WTO website says.
A key point is that sustainable tourism "should also maintain a high level of satisfaction to tourists and represents for them a meaningful experience, making them more aware of sustainability and that encourages in them sustainable tourism practices", according to the WTO.
Sustainable Tourism in Ecuador
Napo Wildlife Center – Yasuni National Park
It is considered the most luxurious eco lodge in the Amazon of Ecuador. The Napo Wildlife Center (NWC) is in the Añangucocha lagoon in the Kichwa Anangu Indigenous reservation, owner of 21,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest. It is located within the Yasuni National Park.
From El Coca, Orellana, traveling in a motorized canoe for two hours down the Napo River until reaching the entrance of the Añangu community sewage canal, passengers change to a paddle canoe. There are several activities to do during the stay.
The Napo Wildlife Center is a good example of a sustainable tourism project because the Kichwa Anangu community owns and manages the hotel, making it a socially sustainable project. This is be
cause the community benefits from the profits generated by the operation of the luxurious hotel.
The community has invested in a unique system, probably the best and most advanced in the Ecuadorian Amazon: all wastewater is biologically processed to keep the marshes clean. On the other hand, energy is generated by solar panels, industrial batteries and silent generators, which make up an efficient system with minimal environmental impact, according to the Lodge website.
Mashpi Lodge - Pichincha
Mashpi Lodge is located northwest of the Metropolitan District of Quito. It is located in the middle of the Choco - Darien cloud forests, which are considered "hot spots": places where there is high concentration of fauna and flora biodiversity. It houses spectacled bears, ocelots, mountain tapirs, pumas, hummingbirds, toucans, owls and 450 other birds’ species, among the main ones. As for flora, many epiphytes such as orchids and bromeliads can be observed.
Mashpi Lodge is a place where comfort and nature conservation are intertwined. "Mashpi Lodge is more than a five-star lodge in the middle of a great forest: it was conceived and planned to provide unique travel experience in its class, where the material elements are the perfect complement to enjoy a unique and very close contact with fauna, flora, geology, geography, ecology, climate, landscape and the historical features of this extraordinarily biodiverse corner of the world, now protected as a Nature Reserve", says the establishment website.
Kapawi Lodge – Pastaza
Kapawi Ecolodge is located near the border between Ecuador and Peru. The confluence of the Pastaza and Capahuari (minor tributary of the Amazon in Peru) rivers is at a short distance away. It is in the middle of nearly two million hectares of territory of the Achuar people. Access to the hotel is by plane from Shell, Pastaza.
This area of the Amazon is very remote and far from populated centers. It is a well-preserved area of the western Amazon basin because it is isolated from deforestation and from the extraction of non-renewable natural resources.
To reach the hotel from Quito, visitors must go by land to Shell, Pastaza. There they travel by air to the Kapawi community. To reach the hotel one must travel in a canoe for 30 minutes.
The lodge is supplied by solar energy obtained through panels and it is complemented by a backup generator. Every room has energy-saving lamps. The hotel provides biodegradable soap and shampoo in the bathrooms and showers.
For solid waste disposal, Kapawi has containers to recycle biodegradable waste material, paper and non-biodegradable materials such as metals, plastic and glass. It is recommended to bring back the non-biodegradable waste, paying special attention to audiovisual equipment batteries that no longer work, according to the hotel website.
Kapawi has cabins built with sustainably sourced straw and wood. They are spacious and airy rooms. Each has a private bathroom, bedroom, hot water (when good weather permits) and mosquito nets.