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 2015website.
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 to 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 viable economic activities in the long term 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 represent a meaningful experience for them, to make them more aware of sustainability and encourage in them sustainable tourism practices", according to the WTO.
Another concept is from the Eco intelligence web portal, which stresses the importance of "meeting the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, ensuring a balance between economic growth, environmental protection and social welfare, which is known as Triple Sided Sustainability", it says.
On the other hand, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), supports the concept of sustainable tourism in four macro criteria: sustainable management, social and environmental impacts, cultural and environmental impacts (including resource consumption, pollution reduction and conservation of biodiversity and landscapes, according to its website.
Sustainable Tourism in Ecuador
Mashpi Lodge - Pichincha
Mashpi Lodge is located northwest of the Metropolitan District of Quito. It is located in the middle of the Chocó - Darien cloud forests, which are considered "hot spots": places where there is a 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 a 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.
The lodge was built with steel walls that were manufactured in Quito before being transported to the Lodge to minimize the impact on the forest. The Lodge uses LED lights to reduce energy consumption. It also uses yellow lights so as to not attract insects at night. The Hotel treats its wastewater in a biological way using its organic waste and recycling solid waste, according to information obtained from the Mashpi web portal.
The Hotel works with the Mashpi local community for the provision of organic produce from the area. This reduces the carbon footprint and provides income to the community. The purpose of the Lodge is that 80% of its employees are from the local community. Mashpi guides are the best naturalist guides in the country; several of them are natives and residents from the area who can convey their knowledge of forests and the global importance of biodiversity with passion and enthusiasm, says the Lodge website.
The Mashpi project was one of the first in the country to participate in the government program called "Believe Ecuador", devised by the Ministry of Production. This implies that the Ministry invested $ 1.5 million dollars of the total project cost. In return, the company will work with the Ministry to create and support a local community association in which its employees hold at least 10% of the shares of this amount, according to the Mashpi web portal.
In Mashpi you can hike in the primary forest to observe the abundant flora and fauna, and there is also an activity that involves cross bike through the woods above (at the height of the canopy). There are 4 days, 3 nights and 3 days, 2 nights’ programs.
Finch Bay Eco Hotel-Galapagos
It is situated on the "Germans" beach in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. Finch Bay has several measures making it the most sustainable hotel in the Galapagos archipelago. It is the only hotel in the islands that has its own wastewater treatment plant. It has solar panels, which reduce energy consumption between 50 and 70% for water heating, motion sensors and eco-efficient electrical appliances, according to the review of the hotel website.
The isolation of the rooms has been adapted to keep the cold air inside. All supplies of soap, detergent and shampoo are made with biodegradable ingredients. Furthermore, the hotel classifies its waste and recycles plastic, glass, paper and cardboard. The organic waste is used as compost
The composting system enriches the vegetable orchard, green vegetables and herbs from the hotel, which results in less food transported to the hotel, thus reducing their carbon footprint. Finch Bay does not offer takeout food and no disposable plates or cutlery are used. All food and products come from local stores.
The hotel collects rainwater daily to be subjected to purification for later use. It constantly monitors its piping system to prevent water leaks. Additionally, Finch Bay has planted over 500 mangrove trees around the hotel.
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 Indigenous reservation the Anangu Kichwa, 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 to reach the entrance to the Añangu community site where passengers change to a canoe paddle. There are several activities to do during your stay.
The Napo Wildlife Center is a good example of sustainable tourism project because the Anangu Kichwa community owns and manages the hotel, making this a socially sustainable project. This because 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 for clean marshes. 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 website of the Lodge.
The Lodge offers several activities, including the ascent to the observation tower of the "canopy" or higher ecological forest floor; this is the main activity in NWC. The tower is 40 meters high and is built next to a tree. At dawn you can see several species of animals: howler monkeys, capuchins, sloths, harpy eagles, toucans, tanagers, hoatzines, the main species.