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YCEC: Conservation messaging in the age of the wish list

Nature-based tourism is a valuable tool for the conservation of vulnerable natural ecosystems worldwide. However, the growing demand for nature-based tourism presents a significant challenge for governance and communication between travelers, businesses and governments. This topic was discussed at a panel of intergovernmental, non-profit and private sector professionals organized by YCEC -Yale Program on Climate Change Communication- on March 1, 2023. The meeting was attended by La Mano del Mono and its partnership coordinator Mauricio Miramontes, Dr. Amy Vedder, professor at the Yale School of the Environment, Dr. Anna Spenceley, Chair of the IUCN Tourism and Protected Areas Group, and Dr. Susanne Etti, Manager of Global Environmental Impact.

yale program climate change

Challenges and strategies for sustainable nature-based tourism

Panelists stressed that organizations doing conservation work in protected areas must redouble efforts to communicate the need for capacity building and funding to international development organizations, private donors and other conservation funding mechanisms. This is more important than ever, as the growing demand for nature-based tourism requires better governance and messaging among travelers, businesses and governments.

"At La Mano del Mono, we work to promote sustainable tourism in protected areas by connecting social enterprises with market partners and encouraging sustainable practices in tourism operations. Undoubtedly, it is a complex and challenging scenario, facing the effects of climate change, especially in natural areas. Today, we have to face increasingly longer drought seasons, and agricultural production lines are undergoing changes such as in coffee crops, where producers have had to move to higher altitudes."

Mauricio Miramontes. Alliances Coordinator : La Mano del. Mono

In addition, governments can and should leverage technology for visitor management and pre-arrival communication to set expectations and guidelines around nature-based tourism. Destinations have successfully implemented the use of QR codes, booking platforms, online visitor reservations and e-rate portals, virtual safaris and more for this purpose.

Tourism companies also have a great opportunity to review their internal values and subsequent messaging on decarbonization by continually improving the sustainability of their own operations and products, developing or championing industry best practices across the industry, such as non-contact wildlife tourism and citizen science.

Responding to this need, La Mano del Mono has developed "Reserva Natura", a platform that integrates a reservation system that communicates local communities with visitors, to ensure more efficient communication between communities and tourists. This ensures that visitors are aware of the importance of the areas they visit and enjoy them in a conscious and responsible manner."

Mauricio Miramontes. Alliances Coordinator : La Mano del. Mono

Guides and trip leaders who interact directly with visitors play an important role in interpretation and education, helping visitors make deep connections to the local culture and ecosystem, while promoting a travel mindset more focused on connecting with people, culture and learning.

Extractive economies also exert significant pressure, as they represent the main source of gas emissions that contribute to climate change. However, in Mexico's tropical areas, the main generator of these emissions is deforestation, as well as the growth of monocultures.

More than 50% of the indigenous communities have migrated from their lands, seeking other opportunities in the cities and in the United States. This is the overall picture of the challenges facing tourism in the regions.

- Mauricio Miramontes.

Currently, La Mano del Mono has been working for 15 years with the Market Ready platform to strengthen the capacities of local enterprises, connect them to the market and encourage sustainable practices in their operation.

We have worked with more than 500 local enterprises in 90 protected areas in Mexico, which has allowed us to positively impact more than 30,000 families in rural and indigenous territories, making tourism an important complement to their development activities.
In these protected areas, we estimate that we are receiving between 17 and 25 million visitors. These are famous and highly visited areas that are experiencing complexities in managing the resources coming from tourism. They need to find a way to translate this tourism boom into real possibilities for sustainability and conservation. The Selva Lacandona and Balandra are clear examples of this situation.

Mauricio Miramontes.

Nature-based tourism is an important tool for the conservation of vulnerable natural ecosystems. However, better governance and messaging between travelers, businesses and governments is essential to ensure its long-term sustainability. Capacity building and funding for international development organizations, implementation of technology for visitor management and pre-arrival communication, and promotion of sustainable practices throughout the industry are some of the key strategies to be adopted to achieve this goal.

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