March 29, 2014

International Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) 2012

Celebration of Cultures Party, ESTC 2012

by Marcela Torres

It was a great honor for me to be able to deliver, precisely on the day of Chile’s Independence, a presentation on the experience of contributing to developing ecotourism at the Chaxa Lagoon, in Los Flamencos National Reserve in the Atacama Salt Flat. The project, which we developed for CONAF Antofagasta and the Lickan-Antay Indigenous Community of Toconao with the Torres Asociados Limitada consultancy firm, consisted of building the first sustainable Visitor Center in a protected area in Chile and implementing a set of bilingual materials to interpret the natural and cultural values of the area.

The interest of attendees in learning about this experience gave me great satisfaction because it was that project which made me realize that I wanted to dedicate my life to ecotourism and motivated me to study a masters in the topic.

The International Ecotourism Society has been promoting ecotourism for over a decade and working to ensure that tourism activity generates benefits for both the host communities and the environment of the destinations where it operates. This version of the Conference was attended by representatives from such diverse countries as Argentina, Botswana, Canada, Ecuador, Guyana, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya and the United States, to name a few. All of us analyzed issues such as how to fund sustainability initiatives, development and empowerment of local communities, the role of ecotourism in promoting the conservation of endangered species and the unique opportunity of the travel industry to contribute to eradicate poverty.

During the meeting, the International Ecotourism Society also launched the guidelines to regulate “voluntourism”(volunteer tourism), which it developed together with the Planeterra Foundation. The document can be downloaded from the TIES website.

The Celebration of Cultures party, the closing event of the Conference, was the highlight since it allowed attendees to share with the rest some aspects of their culture, such as music and typical outfits, and it emphasized the importance and the great potential of tourism to unite people from so many different countries around a common goal: A better quality of life for all.

This entry was originally posted by the author on September 23, 2012.

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