Ecotourism as a Biodiversity Conservation and Community Development Mechanism

Carefully managed ecotourism operations with proven benefits for local people can be a powerful driver of rainforest conservation

A typical ecolodge room with a jungle view (Photo: David Johnston)
A typical ecolodge room with a jungle view (Photo: David Johnston)
A typical ecolodge room with a jungle view (Photo: David Johnston)

Over the years, our wildlife research and ecosystem valuation studies have proven that one of the positive drivers of rainforest conservation in the Peruvian Amazon are profitable, nature- and community-focused ecotourism operations. Since discovering this fact, we have been active in throwing our weight behind existing ecotourism operators, especially those managed by local Peruvians, including those established by native communities.

We aim to help these operators in as many ways as we can, including mentoring, marketing, wildlife species lists and photo-guides, wildlife videos, tour guide training (especially with respect to correct species identification and safe animal handling), and direct feedback and recommendations on their operations with an eye to helping them improve quality, become more sustainable, and maintain or grow profitability. We also try and host many of our field research teams at the nearest locally-managed ecotourist lodge, which results in monetary flows to them for services such as accommodation, food, transport, artisan purchases, and so forth. In the low-season months, this income can be particularly beneficial to some operations that might otherwise have had to close at this economically lean time of year. This process has also led to us advising communities and local entrepreneurs when it comes to establishing new or incipient ecotourism operations. We currently collaborate closely with 20 such ecotourism operators, which together are responsible for protecting an estimated 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of rainforest. 

Closing the ecotourism-conservation loop in the Peruvian Amazon
Closing the ecotourism-conservation loop in the Peruvian Amazon
The Market Triumph of Ecotourism
The Market Triumph of Ecotourism
Socio-ecological factors influencing tourist satisfaction in three ecotourism lodges in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon
Socio-ecological factors influencing tourist satisfaction in three ecotourism lodges in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon
Indigenous ecotourism in the Amazon, a case study of Casa Matsiguenka in Manu National Park, Peru
Indigenous ecotourism in the Amazon, a case study of Casa Matsiguenka in Manu National Park, Peru
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