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Ecotur Panama, is a project created by The Environment Ministry that is working with English experts in sustainable tourism. This project try create a series of standards that will allow the country to exploit national parks while at the same time protecting those areas. The project called “Design and Implementation of Standards for Ecotourism in Protected Areas” is a joint venture with Sustainable Travel International (STI).
These standards have been used all over the world for the last 20 years as a tourism marketing strategy to guarantee sustainability by regulating tourism operations and infrastructure in the protected areas. They seek to protect the environment, get communities involved and at the same time make sure that private investment is profitable.
Dr Indra Candanedo, Strategic Goals Coordinator for the Ministry of the Environment , and British sustainable tourism advisor, Louise Twining-Ward, who is also president of Sustainable Travel International, are working to establish the criteria to be used to create those standards for the Ecotur project.
Dr. Candanedo explains that the adoption and compliance of those standards by companies and communities will give the opportunity to apply a seal of quality while at the same opening opportunities to exploit national and international markets.
Ecotur Panama bring the attention of Twining-Ward that said this is a fascinating project, because unlike in the old days, today there is a balance between exploiting tourism and protecting the environment. “Tourism is like fire, if you control it it can warm your home and cook your food, but out of control it will destroy everything. The same thing happens with tourism, it has to be managed carefully, so it will not destroy the fabric of the country,” she said.
“Panama is really just catching up with green tourism. Costa Rica has been doing it for the last few years. We are just trying to create a checklist for tour operators, the communities around the area and for those who manage businesses related to tourism. It is a voluntary system that will benefit everybody,” said Twining-Ward.
The British expert added that right now she is sharing her experience in order to create standards that will give assurance to visitors. Tourism business is working in accordance with the agreed sustainability criteria and has been verified with a clear framework. Certificates will be given to those companies that comply with the standards.
Some of the standards include waste disposal, infrastructure (roads, accommodation), tours and stay-overs in the protected areas, to minimize environmental damage as much as possible. As part of the Ecotur pilot project it is expected that 20 tour operators will adopt those standards during the first year. The government will invest more than half a million dollars to implement this project in protected areas.
Ecotur Panama project is a model from the promotion of sustainable tourism in the nine parks of the Panama Protected Areas National System. The objective of this model is for it to contribute to the biological diversity, conservation, and the sustainability of the protected areas.
National parks / Parques nacionales
- Altos de Campana National Park
- Barro Colorado Island
- Cerro Hoya National Park
- Chagres National Park
- Coiba National Park
- Darién National Park
- Omar Torrijos “El Cope” National Park
- Chiriquí Gulf National Marine Park (Golfo de Chiriquí Nacional Parque)
- Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park
- La Amistad International Park
- Las Cruces Trail National Park
- Portobelo National Park
- Sarigua National Park
- Soberanía National Park
- Volcan Baru National Park