Few countries can boast as much natural and cultural wealth as Ecuador. Its four major assets: the coastline, the sierra, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands constitute four ecosystems with an infinite biodiversity. Twenty-five percent of the population is made up of indigenous communities with ancestral traditions, whose assertion of their identity has made Ecuador a pioneer in the development of community tourism.
The transversal and multiplying nature of tourism makes it a fundamental element of the country’s national development strategy, generating investments, increasing GDP and promoting the emergence of new sources of decent employment to increase the standard of living in local communities. In fact, the Plan Nacional para el Buen Vivir 2013-2017 considered community tourism as a transversal axis of the popular and solidarity economy.
CORDTUCH, the Corporación para el Desarrollo del Turismo Comunitario de Chimborazo, brings together a total of 11 community-based tourism initiatives in five cantons of the Chimborazo province. These initiatives have allowed for the development of complementary activities such as handicraft workshops, medicinal plant processing centres, Andean camelid management projects, nurseries, a cultural museum, agroecological farms… Reforestation projects favouring native plants, conservation of the páramo, the highland biotope and micro-watersheds have also been developed.
The province of Chimborazo has some interesting tourist attractions such as the Reserva de Producción de Fauna Chimborazo, the Parque Nacional Sangay and el Tren (Empresa Nacional de Ferrocarriles del Estado). CORDTUCH targets visitors, both national and international, to protected nature reserves, railway lovers and people interested in community tourism. With this in mind, CORDTUCH has carried out a study on the unmet demand in the province, which shows that the organisation only captures about 0.95% of provincial tourism.
In order to strengthen the activities of CORDTUCH and to be able to market the tourist services offered by its members, a commercial and technical arm has been created to organise and market excursions and tourist packages: the Operadora de Turismo Comunitario Puruha Razurku.
The community-based tourism initiatives launched by CORDTUCH members boost the local economy and generate employment through the preservation of the ancestral knowledge and cultural heritage of the Kichwa Puruwa people, allowing the development of intercultural relationships with tourists visiting these regions. They also contribute to the awareness and protection of natural resources, as a means to ensure the right of the population to live in a healthy and balanced environment.
The project funded by the Trade for Development Centre had the ambition to consolidate small community tourism businesses. This project lasted one year from August 2014 to 2015, and was funded with 189,961.25 euros.
It provided support through (1) the improvement of management capacities in general, (2) the development of tourism activities for local, regional or international markets, implementing systems of improvement and quality control based on sustainable tourism certifications, and (3) the participation in trade fairs to present what community tourism has to offer.
The results obtained from this project were as follows:
- Strengthening and training of CORDTUCH and its CTOs (community-based tourism organisations): CORDTUCH’s staff, board of directors and personnel from the 11 communities have a clearer vision of tourism and in this way the communities take ownership of this process and become generators of their own development.
- Conservation of the natural heritage of the TCOs: the work was carried out in 9 TCOs with training on the preparation of organic fertiliser, the installation of plots of land, organic vegetable gardens, and the planting of vegetables on sites designated by the communities. Integral farms and planting of native trees were implemented in 11 communities.
- Revitalisation of the cultural heritage of the TCOs: this was a methodological process that helped the CORDTUCH organisations to resume their spaces for dialogue and to strengthen meetings with their communities. To this end, 19 cultural revitalisation events were held, with 33 participatory workshops to obtain information for the preparation of ‘Andean Tales’ and training on cultural revitalisation, cultural meetings and the creation of a signage manual.
- Improvement of the tourism product of each TCO: construction of the headquarters, improvement of the Machay Temple trail and tourism infrastructure, implementation of tourism and bio-business signage.
- Effective marketing of the products of the CORDTUCH CTOs: marketing of tourism products, implementation of a marketing plan, promotional material.