If you take a trip to the Conservation Coast, you’ll never want to leave. The Guatemalan Caribbean coastline is home to extraordinary beauty and biodiversity – it’s a tropical paradise where sparkling sea meets lush forest. Surrounded by every colour you can imagine, you’ll hear hundreds of different bird songs and spot animals and plants of all shapes and sizes. It’s a place certainly worth protecting, and we are proud of our project here, working with local communities and landowners to conserve almost 60,000 hectares of threatened forest coastline.
One of the important ways in which the Guatemalan Conservation Coast REDD+ project protects this land is through supporting sustainable enterprises. The project integrates conservation and sustainable development approaches to productive land use, helping local people to pursue viable, sustainable livelihoods. One of the key enterprises driving positive change for rural communities on the Conservation Coast is ecotourism. Our project provides technical assistance on business management, market support and access to finance and training to build a network of ecotourism sites and ecological reserves throughout the Caribbean region of Guatemala.
Ecotourism on the Conservation Coast is a key contributor to forest and biodiversity conservation. Ecotourism is a business model that only works when the land is protected – a unique and protected destination is a desirable one. Ecotourism, and the jobs it provides, also diverges community livelihoods away from destructive land management and towards a regenerative relationship with the environment. By 2021, the project aims to support nearly 720 jobs, some of those in ecotourism, 30% of which will be held by women.
Furthermore, ecotourism brings additional revenue to the project which can be funneled towards conservation activities. Visitors to the project’s ecotourism sites pay an ‘Ecological Footprint’ tariff that contributes directly to the sustainable management of protected areas. Ecotourism at the project also has a strong focus on environmental awareness, providing visitors with access to onsite environmental education, as well as trails and community guides. By respecting the strong environmental and social compliance standards of all ecotourism sites on the Conservation Coast, visitors promote ecotourism as a valuable and unique alternative to traditional tourism, further validating this business as a viable and resilient revenue stream for local communities.
So, buy the ticket, take the ride. We all need to travel less, but when we do travel, let’s choose a place where we can relax and learn, knowing we’ve contributed to protecting our environment rather than degrading it.