Resilience and the Learning Mentality in the Lacandon Jungle
At the beginning of 2022, the Gallo Giro Ecotourism Center located near Las Nubes in Maravilla Tenejapa, Chiapas, saw its main service vanish, leaving the team without its main source of tourism income. Just at that moment, they began a process of transformation that, thanks to the resilience of their community, they were able to find new opportunities through the Sustainable Destination Crops Program Market Ready.
How to transform a crisis into a sustainable opportunity:
A few decades ago, in the ejido La Fortuna Gallo Giroa group of migrant families from Comalapa, Chiapas, ventured into the Lacandon Jungle in search of new opportunities. They struggled against the dangers of the road, until finally, they found a fertile land that offered them a true fortune: water, resources and natural bounties.
Since then, they have been dedicated to corn cultivation and farming activities. But in the year 2000, they decided to organize themselves to found the Gallo Giro Ecotourism CenterThis initiative allowed them to dedicate a large part of their time to administration, restaurant service and guiding visitors.
Today, the Gallo Giro Ecotourism Center is a Limited Liability Cooperative Society, comprised of a team of 15 men and women. Kelvin and Dover, grandsons of the founders of the community, lead the group and continue the legacy of their ancestors.
Immersed in the exuberant vegetation and fauna typical of the Selva Lacandona, the Gallo Giro Ecotourism Center today, offers a wide variety of services, ranging from lodging and cocoa workshops to the preparation of authentic tortillas. In addition, in the crystalline waters of the Santo Domingo River, visitors can enjoy exciting kayaking and rafting adventures for the more adventurous.
Although all this sounds ideal, it has not been easy. The Gallo Giro team has had to face great challenges. Below, we share with you some of the challenges they have had to overcome with dedication and perseverance in order to continue offering quality services to their visitors.
Challenges at Gallo Giro: The end of rafting and the search for sustainable alternatives
Gallo Giro, a nature tourism center in Selva Lacandona, had two 8-person rafts that offered exciting 2-4 hour rides along the river, enjoying the beauty of the riverbank. Although the center faced challenges in attracting visitors, rafting became its star service and main source of income, thanks to an alliance with other centers in the area.
However, in late 2021 and early 2022, the rafts broke down due to poor maintenance and lack of a suitable place to store them. Unfortunately, they could not be repaired and the center could not afford the cost of purchasing new ones.
But this was not the end for Gallo Giro. La Mano del Mono approached the center, along with others in the area, to implement the Market Ready Sustainable Destination Crops Program as part of the project "Protecting threatened habitats through nature tourism in Selva Lacandona".. This experience demonstrated that while challenges can change the course of the business, they can also provide opportunities for future growth and improvement.
Market Ready Sustainable Destination Crops Program
The Market Ready Sustainable Destination Crops Program sought to improve the tourism offerings of the centers of the Lacandon Jungle. It focused on self-evaluation, design and redesign of the offer, identification of opportunities, prototyping of innovative tourism experiences, and continuous improvement. In addition, it was implemented in three regions of the Selva: Nahá, Metzabok and Las Nubes.
In the particular case of Selva Lacandona Cultivation worked with 5 Centers distributed in Las Nubes, Nahá and Metzabok. The program took them through a path consisting of a self-assessment, 4 modules, application of multiple work and study tools, 7 1-on-1 coaching sessions and the co-design of prototypes of innovative tourism experiences.
For Gallo Giro there was a clear call to action: to reinvent itself. And so one of its prototypes was born "Under the stars and by the river: Outdoor camping in Selva Lacandona". This experience integrated services that the center offered separately, such as kayaking, food and lodging, and added a new element: camping. The Gallo Giro team set up a space on one side of the river for camping. The latter was called El Amate and is surrounded by lush trees.
In one of the stages of the program, the Gallo Giro team participated in a meeting with about 10 potential business partners. The partners were happy to learn more about the Center and gave positive feedback about the Camp experience, which gave Gallo Giro the confidence to know that they have much more to offer besides rafting.
One of the main lessons that the program provided Gallo Giro was growth mindset and resilience. Despite the loss of the rafts, which represented the center's major source of income, they remained steadfast in their participation, confident of the process and with an open mind to find options and diversify services that will help them get closer to the tourist, eliminate dependence on one service and improve as an Ecotourism Center. In addition, the Gallo Giro team learned how to create experiences in an innovative and professional way, always considering the client, nature and without forgetting to consider the profitability necessary to maintain their project.
The purpose of La Mano Del Mono is to create alliances for the well-being of local communities and the conservation of natural areas by promoting sustainable tourism, where alliances are key to its success. This is why the Market Ready Cultivation Program in the Lacandon Jungle was another example of how working together can generate greater conditions for sustainability.
Learning to reinvent itself: Gallo Giro's resilience and ecotourism opportunities
This is where Gallo Giro is located, an Ecotourism Center who has been sharing with us a valuable lesson on resilience and mental growth during the program in which we participated along with La Mano del Mono.
At the beginning, the team was in crisis, their main source of income was lost and they were worried about how to replace the damaged rafts. But in spite of everything, they decided to stay firm and committed to the process, with an open mind to new opportunities that would allow them to get closer to the tourist and improve as an Ecotourism Center.
It was thanks to exercises such as Livelihood Mapping, customer analysis and prototype design that the Gallo Giro team realized they could offer other high-value experiences. They discovered the possibility of setting up a campsite, packaged their food, guide and kayak services, and even developed storytelling tools to enrich the tourist experience with legends related to the Santo Domingo River.
Most importantly, his team learned to create experiences in an innovative and professional manner, always considering the visitor, nature and the profitability necessary to sustain his project.
The lessons we have learned from the Gallo Giro team go beyond a simple case study. We learned that even in the most difficult situations, resilience and a growth mindset are the keys to moving forward.
But not only that, we also discovered that, through ecotourism, opportunities can be created for the entire community. From getting involved in this economic activity, to promoting nature conservation, to implementing innovative programs that generate unique stories like Gallo Giro.
In short, a path is opening up towards a sustainable and fair future for all, in which nature tourism is a powerful tool. And thanks to the lessons of Gallo Giro, we are confident that we can continue to learn and move forward together on this path.
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Written by Carlos Aguilar, Lead Facilitator
Proofreading and editing by Viviana Vásquez, Communication Leader