March 29, 2014

Easter Island, the most interesting place in the world

Moais in various conditions at Rapa Nui National Park, in Easter Island, Chile.
© Hernán Torres

by Marcela Torres

A couple of weeks ago, the travel blog of the prestigious Forbes business magazine highlighted Easter Island, in Chile, as “the most interesting place in the world”. According to blogger Larry Olmstead, he is surprised that people do not hear more about the island, considering that –in his opinion- it is much more compelling than other remote and exotic destinations such as Machu Picchu, the Maya ruins or the pyramids in Egypt.

What makes Easter Island so special? Olmstead says it’s the mystery and enigma surrounding the Moai statues. The author states that although the Machu Picchu buildings and the pyramids are impressive, we know quite a lot about who built them and for what purpose. This is not the case of Easter Island.

In his blog, Olmstead also mentions that in the island you do not see the big crowds of tourists that take away attraction to many other destinations that are overcrowded. We have already commented on the importance of avoiding excessive use of tourist attractions previously in this blog.

The good news is that in Easter Island, although tourism is the main source of income, both the local population and the government authorities have shown interest in promoting the development of sustainable tourism.

Proof of this is the Sustainable Visitor Center that opened in May this year within Rapa Nui National Park, which covers a large part of the island. This is the second of its kind –the first was built in 2006 in Los Flamencos National Reserve, in northern Chile- and a great step forward towards responsible tourism.

With technology such as solar panels to provide electricity and reinforced safety measures for people visiting the place, the total cost of this infrastructure was 468,000 U.S. dollars that were contributed by the Valparaíso Regional Government, American Express –through the World Monuments Fund (WMF)- and the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF), the government agency in charge of managing protected areas in Chile.

This is part of the Chilean Government’s strategy to promote sustainable tourism in Easter Island, with initiatives that include an ecotourism training program carried out in 2009 jointly with UNESCO and the National Tourism Service’s (Sernatur) current campaign to provide a sustainability distinction, a kind of certification that will be applied as a pilot project in the island with the intention of replicating it in other destinations within Chile.

All of these improvements and the well-deserved acknowledgement of Easter Island in Forbes magazine’s travel blog are, no doubt, important to promote responsible tourism in this magical place so that it can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

This entry was originally posted by the author on August 17, 2011.

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