Measured by square mile, Ecuador is the most biodiverse country on the planet. Few other countries can pack its ecological punch, which results from the huge range of habitats created by its mountainous Andean geography and its location on the Equatorial Line.
Nature-based activities and lodging have been Ecuador’s most successful tourism product. They have experienced extraordinary growth over the last decade. As a consequence, the country has been at the forefront of ecotourism and community-tourism development in Latin America. Its Amazon lodges are among the most famous in the Basin, garnering various awards over the last decade, including BA’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, while operators in the famed Galápagos Islands six hundred miles offshore in the Pacific and regarded as the archetypal ‘nature tourism’ destination, have won plaudits for their eco-conscious operations.
The most successful and widespread scheme to date in the Galápagos is the “SmartVoyager” Certification, established in 2000 by the Ecuadorian NGO Conservación y Desarollo in partnership with the New York-based Rainforest Alliance. The certification aims to improve the quality of life for local residents, reduce the ecological impacts of tourism, give tour operators a means to contribute directly to the local economy and to the environment, as well as giving travellers a chance to help people and wildlife while visiting natural treasures.
Due to the success of the SmartVoyager scheme, the Rainforest Alliance and Conservación y Desarollo recently expanded it to include the Ecuadorian mainland as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. In partnership with the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Association, which helps businesses with technical expertise and management practices on their road to certification, the program is set to certify some 90 businesses in Ecuador in the coming years.
In the Quito region, the Termas de Papallacta thermal spring complex, located just over an hour’s drive east of Quito, is the first establishment to receive the coveted SmartVoyager title. “We decided to get certification because we are very conscious of the fragility of the area in which our hot springs operate. Our business is founded on a natural resource, so we have to protect it,” said Jaime Pallares, general operations manager. “We were also keen to ensure the long-term sustainability of our business and the jobs we have created in the area. The SmartVoyager certification has set us firmly on a cycle of continuous improvement, as well as bringing down our operating costs, in water and energy use, for example, but also in warehousing. Our business is more profitable now, and we feel our ‘certified’ image is a reflection of the high quality of services we provide our guests, and will continue to do so into future.”
Eighteen other establishments – ranging from hacienda-hotels, urban hotels, cloudforest lodges to highland inns – are signed up for the certification process in the Quito region. The capital and its surrounding countryside is well on the way to improving the quality of the services it offers, while assuring environmental and social responsibility for the future.
Find out more about the SmartVoyager certification scheme at
Ecuadorian Ecotourism Association
Links to certified or on-course establishments:
Termas de Papallacta www.papallacta.com.ec
Hacienda Cusin www.haciendacusin.com
Hacienda Zuleta www.zuleta.com
Tierra del Volcan www.tierradelvolcan.com
Hacienda Hato Verde www.haciendahatoverde.com
Quilotoa Crater Lodge www.quilotoalodge.com
Black Sheep Inn www.blacksheepinn.com
La Rinconada (Pululahua crater) firstname.lastname@example.org
Santa Lucia www.santa-lucia.org
Septimo Paraíso www.septimoparaiso.com
El Encanto email@example.com
Sachatamia Lodge www.sachatamia.com
Reserva Verdecocha www.verdecocha.com
Mindo Garden www.mindo-garden.com
Mariposas de Mindo www.mariposasdemindo.com
Sapos y Ranas www.saposyranas.com
Mirador Río Blanco (Pedro Vicente) firstname.lastname@example.org
Patio Andaluz www.patioandaluz.com