Ecotourism Investment Forum Targets Latin America

09/23/1999

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Strategies for strengthening investment in Latin America's ecotourism sector in Latin America was the subject of a forum held on September 24, 1999 by The Ecotourism Society (TES) and the Inter-American Investment Corporation at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Inter-American Development Bank

The one-day event included presentations by leading ecotourism entrepreneurs from Peru and Ecuador on their successful formulas for developing environmentally and culturally sensitive lodges. In addition, participants discussed how policymakers and bank representatives could create a more productive funding environment for "green" tourism.

"Not enough ecotourism ventures are being launched by Latin American entrepreneurs," said Megan Epler Wood, TES president, at the start of the forum. "There is little market and financial data available, and this makes it difficult to plan ventures that are likely to succeed. There has been a lot of business failure, particularly at the community level. This hurts local people who often do not understand their lack of success." TES is an international organization of 1,500 professional members in 60 countries based in the state of Vermont, U.S.A..

The forum also addressed the need for more research on the ecotourism market. Presently, the ecotourism accounts for an estimated 10 percent-30 percent of the total international travel market. But little is really known about the elusive ecotraveler, according to Epler Wood.

While the members of the IDB Group have experience in the ecotourism field, they could provide more support more where suitable opportunities exist, said Larry Harrington, United States executive director at the IDB Group. "When we look at the tradeoffs that countries must consider, between economic development and natural resource preservation, properly organized ecotourism can make a real difference," he said.

Richard Ryel, president of International Expeditions, one of the major nature tour operators in Latin America, discussed why private businesses like his will be pivotal to the success of ecotourism ventures launched in Latin America. "We represent a connection to the marketplace," he said. "Up to now the banks have tried to launch ecotourism ventures without involving key tour operators. This needs to change."

TES will publish a paper containing recommendations made by the forum participants.

The Ecotourism Society aims to help make ecotourism a sustainable development tool. TES activities include information networking, policy analysis, education and training, creating guidelines and monitoring programs, and developing new research and evaluation tools. It publishes analytic studies, guidelines, case studies and textbooks. More information on TES publications can be obtained at www.ecotourism.org.

Contact: Jorge Roldán

Telephone: (202) 623-3948

Email: jorgero@iadb.org