The one thing that strikes you in Ecuador is that responsible tourism comes naturally. So much of it is locally run and environmentally aware. This is due to a combination of factors. First, they seem to be innately socially conscious people and proud of that heritage. Second, the people took on the oil industry and its devastating impacts on people and place, in an unprecedented case to protect their indigenous lands in the 1990’s. And thirdly, in 2008, a new constitution was ratified by the people which included a Chapter: Rights for Nature
. This acknowledges that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, and that the people have legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems.
This explains the reassuring proliferation of eco accommodation in Ecuador. In nearly all cases, when you look for somewhere to stay, it will be locally managed, environmentally responsible, with local employees and serving local food. These range from plush haciendas to small, locally run lodges. Gleaming examples include the famous Black Sheep Inn, Napo Wildlife Center and Kapawi Ecolodge of course, but these are just like the elders in a one great big family of businesses looking out for one another.
However, times are a changing in Ecuador at the moment. The current government is threatening to overturn some of the 1990’s social and environmental achievements, announcing in 2013 that that it will auction more than three million hectares of Amazonian rainforest to Chinese oil companies. Not only do local people object, but international campaigners are watching on with interest too. For more information, see Amazon Watch’s
website. The Pacific coast is developing too, with a push to attract outside investment, in particular from expats who want somewhere cheap to retire to. Expats who want nothing more than a second tourism income to top up their retirement fund. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, with many destinations kept afloat by expat tourism businesses. However, just to be wary that on the coast, in particular, the community vibe might be dissipated with time. But hopefully not.