What ecotourism means for indigenous tribes in the Amazon
By: Kathleen McAfee
This article is presented by Peru For Less.
|Photo by Elizabeth Weintraub / Peru for Less|
Over the past 30 years, tourism in Peru has seen an explosive increase, growing on average of 25% every 5 years. As one of the largest and most profitable industries in Peru, tourism at its core is evolving to create new facets which are gaining importance and momentum. Perhaps one of the most intriguing and innovative of these new developments is ecotourism. In the heat of the climate change debates and worldwide push for countries and industries to “go green”, ecotourism in Peru, especially in the Amazon region, has gained popularity among the environmentally conscious travel community. Visitors and industry pioneers are eager to understand how people can travel more responsibly and protect the beautiful destinations affected by modern tourism.
Just as the term implies, ecotourism is a niche of the tourism industry which invokes environmentally sound principles and business practices among players in the tourism industry. It aims to protect the land, wildlife, natural and man-made attractions, as well as the cultural traditions and livelihood of indigenous and local populations.
|Photo by: Alisha Thompson / Peru for Les|
One of the areas of Peru most affected by tourism is the Amazon Rainforest. This vast region spans about 60% of the country, contains thousands of endemic and endangered plants and animals, and is home to about 5% (about 1.5 million) of the country’s population. Due to the popularity of this region among international travelers and its appeal to natural resource export companies, the 5% population (widely of indigenous tribes and heritage) living in the Peruvian Amazon is sadly overlooked, misrepresented, and even marginalized. It is not uncommon that large companies force entire indigenous communities off their lands or trick them with complicated legal contracts in order to gain access to cheap lumber, petroleum, and mined precious metals such as gold and silver. While the Peruvian government and environmental activists have made progressive efforts to protect regions of the Peruvian Amazon, unsustainable urban development around the Tambopata and Amazon Rivers have sparked growing controversy. Such projects as the Transoceanic Highway that passes through the Puerto Maldonado and unprecedented increases in visitors to the region only threaten further the lands and the livelihood of indigenous people living in the Peruvian Amazon. While the current situation paints a bleak picture for the people of the Amazon Jungle, there exists a gleaming hope in the fundamental tenets of ecotourism.
|Photo credit: Rainforest Expeditions / Posada Amazonas|
How does ecotourism benefit indigenous populations in the Peruvian Amazon, you ask? Well, let’s consider Rainforest Expeditions’ Posada Amazonas project in the Department of Madre de Dios around the Tambopata River. This initiative was envisioned in 1998 in efforts to protect the people of the Ese Eja community as well as their lands and surrounding wildlife from the negative impacts of urban development. The result has been the establishment of a top quality ecolodge that is owned by the community and co-managed by Rainforest Expeditions. The Ese Eja community also receives 60% of the profits earned by the ecolodge. The Posada Amazonas project is a leading example of how ecotourism can be profitable and conducive to the preservation of natural habitats and indigenous populations. Other entities have followed suit in order to work more closely with indigenous populations in the Department of Loreto. A growing number of tour operators within the Amazon Basin emphasize and promote responsible travel practices, provide energy efficient and low environmental impact facilities and services, and even help to sell locally-made products hand-crafted by the indigenous communities.
|Photo credit: Elizabeth Weintraub / Peru for Less|
So what can we take away from the ecotourism movement in the Peruvian Amazon? We learn that not only is ecotourism profitable, but it is also a completely plausible idea that tourism can benefit both travel companies and assist in the protection of indigenous communities, their lands, and the wildlife which surrounds them.
We also learn that we can all do our part as responsible travelers to reduce our impact on destinations we visit, including the local people who live there. It is as easy as remembering to recycle during your trip and minimize waste with reusable travel gear, or researching to find an eco-friendly hotel or lodge accommodation that also gives back to the local community. Here are some ways you can be a friend to mother nature during your next vacation.
As travelers and business alike, it is important not only to respect the environment of the destination to which we are visiting, but also respect the local people who live there in order to protect the beauty and allure for years to come.
This article is presented by the Peru Tours Experts. Contact us today to book your Amazon Tours adventure.