Stories Behind the Cultivation of Sustainable and Market Ready Destinations in the Lacandon Jungle

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Viviana Vasquez

Results reports do not always allow us to share everything that is experienced in a project. It is not always possible to reflect in them the emotions, fears, joys or satisfactions of the work done. However, last May 25, we had the opportunity to share with the community of Local Hands Network, the stories behind Growing Sustainable and Market Ready Destinations in the Lacandon Jungle, located in Chiapas, Mexico. 

Nature tourism as a conservation tool 

During an inspiring meeting, where more than 30 people participated, at La Mano del Mono, we became aware of the urgent need to protect a region like the Lacandon that stands out for its biodiversity and biocultural richness but in the last 50 years has lost 50% of its jungle. 

This need resulted in an innovative project made in partnership with  US Fish & Wildlife Service, Chujum Lab and CONANP: Protecting threatened habitats through nature tourism in the Selva Lacandona. An initiative whose purpose was to support the conservation of the rainforest in the communities of Nahá, Metzabok and Las Nubes in Chiapas, Mexico, through the co-creation of the Lacandon Region as a Sustainable Tourism Destination. 

Nature tourism has been used as a conservation and development tool that provides local economic benefits and maintains ecosystem integrity through low impact use and low consumption of local resources by developing non-extractive economies. It is experiencing increasing growth in the global market, and the Selva Lacandona has exceptional potential to offer unique experiences in this field. 

The voices of the protagonists and the Market Ready program

During the event, we had the honor to welcome the real protagonists of this story, the entrepreneurs of the Gallo Giro Ecotourism Center of the Las Brisas Ecotourism Center and of the Causas Verdes Las Nubes Ecotourism CenterThe participants shared their experiences throughout the cultivation process in the region.

The project is supported by the Market Ready Model to strengthen entrepreneurial capacities, the creation of strategic alliances to improve the preparation of nature tourism in Selva Lacandona and the co-creation of authentic tourism experiences that are closely linked to natural ecosystems and local culture.

We saw how the Market Ready process allowed us to organize ourselves better, diversifying the tourism services of our ventures. What changed in our process was the greater participation of the communities and a great desire to work. 

Dover Aguilar, Centro Ecoturistico Gallo Giro

As part of this effort, more than 40 hours of training were conducted for 15 participants, among whom it is expected to have an equitable gender representation. Social inclusion, especially of young people, was a fundamental component of this strategy. As part of the results of the process, 5 prototypes of ecotourism experiences were designed and developed.

Video of the meeting:

In order to validate the prototypes, lay the groundwork for commercial alliances and increase the region's visibility as a sustainable and attractive tourist destination, a commercial validation meeting was held in San Cristobal de las Casas, where the five prototypes were presented to tour operators and destination managers. Since the event was a hybrid event, conversations were held with local stakeholders from Chiapas and other cities in Mexico.

This meeting provided a platform for the exchange of ideas and the search for growth opportunities. It focused on establishing valuable business linkages and resulted in 10 to 12 business validation appointments per center. 

In addition, 5 microsites were generated for promotion and visibility in the Market Ready directory for Green Causes, Gallo Giro, Nahá, Las Brisas, Metzabok and four more microsites at Vaolo for Green Causes, Gallo Giro, Nahá, Las Brisas a platform for the dissemination of sustainable tourism and who supported us by validating the experiences designed by the centers.

We sought new support and organization for our venture and we feel more consolidated thanks to this process. In addition, we had the opportunity to make our services known to other travel agencies to obtain more income while generating more jobs for the community. We dream of reaching an international audience. 

Don Emi - Causas Verdes las Nubes Ecotourism Center

This project was an important step towards the protection and conservation of the jungle in the Lacandon Region. Through nature tourism, it is hoped to generate a positive change that will reverse the trend of forest loss and promote sustainable development in the local communities. 

The co-creation of the Lacandon Region as a Sustainable Tourism Destination involved the active participation of the communities of Nahá, Metzabok and Las Nubes, who will become the custodians of their own natural and cultural treasures. Through training and knowledge sharing, local communities were empowered to become leaders and guides in the promotion and operation of authentic ecotourism experiences.

When we started with this project in Selva Lacandona, I was very suspicious of achieving results. However, we were aware of the benefits of the process and what we needed to improve in terms of product and visibility. 

Olindo Noel Pérez Vásquez - Centro Ecoturístico Las Brisas

The success of this project will not only be measured in terms of economic results, but also in the effective conservation of the rainforest and the strengthening of the region's cultural identity. By offering authentic tourism experiences that respect the integrity of the ecosystem and celebrate cultural diversity, awareness will be raised about the importance of preserving and valuing nature. This in turn will foster an attitude of respect and care for the natural and cultural environment, both on the part of visitors and the local communities themselves.

The purpose of La Mano Del Mono is to create alliances for the wellbeing of local communities and the conservation of natural areas by promoting sustainable tourism, where alliances are key to its success. Therefore, the Cultivation of Sustainable Destinations and Market Ready in Selva Lacandona was another example of how working together can generate benefits for all involved.

We would like to acknowledge the support of our allies US Fish & Wildlife Service, Chujum Lab and CONANP throughout the process, which serves to remind us that in this type of project, alliances are fundamental to trigger the changes and improvements we seek.