Community-based Ecotourism in the Maya Forest:
Six Case Studies From Communities
in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize
by John Beavers
The Irture Conservancy .
SUIDMAYAFOR PRO :'
Community-based Ecotourism in the Maya Forest:
Six Case Studies From Communities
in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize
The Nature Conservancy
Written by: John Beavers (Consultant to The Nature Conservancy)
These case studies were made possible by the collaboration of many organizations and indi-
viduals developing these community-based ecotourism projects. I want to thank all of the community
and project members for their openness, insights and frankness in discussing their projects. The field
people from the NGO's supporting these communities were very knowledgeable and helpful about the
major issues in the development of these projects. (See the list of principal contacts and organizations
supporting these projects attached to the end of this study.)
The compilation of these case studies was made possible by the support of the USAID RENARM/
MAYAFOR Project. Scott Wilber, the project coordinator, supervised this study and provided much
support and insightful editing which facilitated its completion.
The Nature Conservancy
Florcs, Pet6n, Guatemala
Table of Contents
F orw ard .........................................................................................................................................
Acknowledgments ............................................................... ................................................. 3
Table of C contents .................................................................................................................... 5
I. Tourism in the M aya Forest ............................................. ............................ ....................... 7
A. The Growth and Potential of Ecotourism ................................................................ 9
B. The Socio-economic Context For Conservation and Development ........................... 10
C. Conservation Through Development ................................................. ................. 10
II. Community-based Ecotourism In the Selva Maya ......................................... ............. 12
A Tourism in Southern Belize .......................................................................................... 15
1. The Toledo Ecotourism Association (T.E.A.) and its Philosophy ..................... 16
2. The Infrastructure, Organization and Administration of the T.E.A. Program ... 17
3. Major Issues Affecting the T.E.A. Program ...................................................... 21
4. C conclusions ...................................................................................................... 2
B. The Community Baboon Sanctuary ............................................................................. 26
1. Ecotourism Aspects of the Sanctuar ......................................................... 29
2. Issues Affecting Ecotourism in the Community Baboon Sanctuary ............. 29
3. C conclusions ................................................................................................ 3 1
C. The Maya Forest of Southern Campeche State ...................................................... 33
I. Ecotourism and the Ejidos ................................................... ................... 35
2. Major Issues Affecting Ecotourism in the Ejidos ....................................... 38
3. C conclusions ................................................................................................. 39
D T he L acandon Forest ............................................................................... ... ...... 1
1. Lacanji and Na Bolom: Crafts, Tourism and Cultural Survival ..................... 3
2. Issues Important to the Development of Ecotourism in Lacanj ...................... 45
3. C conclusions .....................................................................................................46
E. The Context for Ecotourism Development in Uaxactin ......................................... 48
1. Asociaci6n de Guias Eco-culturales de Uaxacttin and its Organization .......... 50
2. T he Project .................................................................................................. 5 1
3. Administration and Implementation of the Project ................................. .... 52
4. Issues Affecting the Success of the Association ................................... ...... 53
5. Conclusions ................................................ ................................. .............. 54
F. Ixchel S.C ............................................................................................................ ..... 56
1. The Development of the Posada Yaxnik ..................................... ....... ...... 5S
2. Natural Resource Activities in the Centro de Cultura de la Mujer .M\ ya ......... 59
3. Issues Affecting the Success of Ecotourism at Ixchel ................................... 60()
4. The Impacts of Ixchel's Ecotourism Initiative ............................................ 62
III. Conclusions ............................................................................................................................. 63
A. Characteristics of the Ecotourism Initiatives ........................................... ............ 63
B. Major Issues Influencing the Success of Community-based Ecotourism Businesses 68
1. The Organizational Aspect of Community-based Ecotourism ......................... 71
C. The Impacts of Community-based Ecotourism .............................................. ......... 72
1. Economic Impacts ....................................................................................... 72
2. Social Impacts ............................................................................................. 73
3. Ecological Impacts ..................................... .............. .............................. 74
D. The Implications for Conservation from Community-based Ecotourism .................... 76
Appendix ....................................................................................................................................... 78
Addresses and Contacts of Communities and NGOs Providing Project Support ......................... 79
References ..................................................................................................................................... 82
I. Tourism in the Maya Forest
Tourism is the largest industry in the world and is expected to continue growing, and possibly
double, by the end of the century (World Travel and Tourism Council, 1992). As many people have
more time for leisure and have the money to spend on travel they are looking for new and different
adventures outside of their own countries. Many of these adventures and attractions, which include
beaches, mountains, lakes, archeological ruins and different cultures are found within the developing
world. Because more and more tourists want to experience these unique attractions, tourism has be-
come an important component in the economic growth of many developing countries. This has spurred
governments to invest in the development and promotion of their tourism assets in order to boost and
further diversify their economies and generate much needed foreign exchange.
One region of the developing world which is beginning to experience the investment and eco-
nomic growth brought on by tourism is the area known as the Maya Forest (La Selva Maya). This four-
million hectare forest', shown on the map on page 8, covers parts of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.
The Maya Forest is the largest sub-tropical forest area in Mesoamerica. The abundance of natural
attractions and Mayan ruins along with various cultural aspects draws thousands of tourists every year.
Most tourists visit the Maya Forest region to see the many archeological sites including Tikal, Seibal,
Bonampak, Yaxchildn, Calakmul and Caracol (See map on page 8). Many of these sites are in forested
areas so that nature based and archeological based tourism take place together. Also, culture plays a
pan in tourism in the region. Indigenous groups such as the Lacandons, Choles, Tzeltales and Yucatecs
in Mexico, the Kekchis and Mopan Mayas in southern Belize, and the Itzas in Guatemala still live
within the Maya Forest region.
Tourism in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala plays a major role in their local and national econo-
mies. In Guatemala, tourism is second behind coffee in the generation of foreign exchange (INGUAT,
1993). In Belize tourism activities account for 25% of its gross domestic product (GDP) (Lindberg and
Enriquez, 1994) and in Mexico tourism represents about 25% of the value of all non-petroleum exports
(Boo, 1990). These countries have invested heavily in the development and promotion of large-scale
tourism. Resorts, luxury hotels and high-volume tours of various sections of the region have been
developed to bring in tourist dollars. On a regional level the largest promotion and development effort
has been the Mundo Maya project which is a five country effort for developing the tourism industry in
southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. The promotion emphasizes the abun-
dant archeological, cultural and natural attractions in the region.
The focus of development on large-scale enterprises has brought in a high volume of tourists,
has generated tremendous amounts of revenue for these countries and has created many jobs for people
in the service industry. However, there are two problems with this growth. Although economic devel-
opment is taking place and the multiplier effect from this development can be quite significant, the
'The Maya Forest generally refers to the complex of protected areas which include: the Maya Biosphere Reserve
in Guatemala (1.6 million hectares), the Lacandon Common Estate Property and Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in
Chiapas, Mexico (662,000 hectares), the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Campcche, Mexico (723,000 hectares), the Rio
Bravo Conservation Area in Belize (228,000 hectares) and various parks and reserves of the Maya Mountain Region in
Southern Belize (about 405,000 hectares).
DE LAS CASAS
__ NATIONAL BORDERS
S.....'TERN STION-A OT '.
,/: REPRESENTS AREA OF
T i "..M .-\Y A V )i R:S > i< > ,; ,, I -,
PROTECTED AREAS RESERVE
1. SIAN KA'AN BIOSPHERE RESERVE
2. CALAKMUL BIOSPHERE RESERVE
3. MONTESAZULES BIOSPHERE
RESERVE (LACANDON COMUNNITY)
4. MAYA BIOSPHERE RESERVE
5. RIO BRAVO CONSERVATION AREA
6. PROPOSED MAYA MOUNTAINS
p :.. *..~;
~ N S~ ~
M I : ,',1 *. \ < t il ; : l i r!
RI' Ci i' i ) \R! .\R l IM I \
10. I'RoPr' i'M.I) I s I'll. \s PRI l I ..I
ARLA L''.1P I1 \ %R1
majority of the wealth generated remains in only a few hands. Also, high-volume, large-scale tourism
is not appropriate for the Maya Forest's ecology which can be easily destroyed when too much devel-
opment takes place and when too many tourists overrun the carrying capacity of natural areas. On the
positive side, this growth in tourism may create a niche for grass-roots initiatives that want to develop
the tourism potential of their communities and surrounding natural and archeological attractions. The
development of this type of tourism, which does not depend on a high volume of tourists, could be
planned in a manner which could minimize the impacts on the natural environment and local cultures.
A. The Growth and Potential of Ecotourism
With such an abundance of natural attractions in the Maya Forest region, ecotourism is grow-
ing in popularity. In its purest sense ecotourism is tourism geared towards satisfying consumers' de-
mand for experiencing nature which includes such activities as bird watching, exploring rivers and
hiking in mountains or forest areas (which cannot be done successfully through large-scale tourism).
Beyond this simple definition, ecotourism can be an activity that plays a dynamic role in preserving
these same nature based attractions. According to Boo (1995), "Ecotourism can be a strategy for con-
serving natural areas. It is travel with a conservation agenda. It is defined as nature tourism that con-
tributes to conservation and economic development."
Within the Maya Forest region ecotourism initiatives are developing in various communities.
Ecotourism, which is community-based, may be a way to promote conservation through grass-roots
economic development by utilizing the growing tourism industry. This appears to be a sound approach
because much of the local population of the Maya Forest lives in or near forest areas and in some form
is trying to make a living from the forest's natural resource base. As ecotourism grows it may become
an important economic opportunity for communities if they are able to invest in it. By involving local
residents in income generating activities that are economically and ecologically sustainable, it can be
a way to involve people in conservation activities. Due to ecotourism's need for natural areas in order
to be viable, communities may want to conserve these areas in order to profit from their ecotourism
In the Maya Forest the development of ecotourism is taking place under a mixture of circum-
stances: 1) the underdevelopment and poverty of the local populations, 2) the fight to conserve the
dwindling natural resources in the region and, 3) a rapidly growing tourism trade. The development of
tourism brings a new market into an economically poor and ecologically rich area where, if local
residents are able to participate in this market, it may generate alternative sources of income which
may promote conservation. One of the threats, however, to this development is that well financed
endeavors could enter communities and dominate the ecotourism industry be squeezing out local ini-
tiatives. If this happens the opportunities for local residents to improve their economic situation through
ecotourism and the incentives for conservation from this endeavor may be severely diminished. Also,
better financed, larger scale enterprises could overrun the carrying capacities of natural areas and
communities which could destroy the long-term potential for tourism.
B. The Socio-economic Context For Conservation and Development
Historically, local communities have not been able to participate significantly in the economic
development of the Maya Forest region. And often, economic growth has been at the expense of the
natural resource base and local residents. Each region of the Maya Forest has its history of economic
booms and busts based on the exploitation of forest resources; most notably mahogany and cedar
extraction. Also, because these regions have been relatively underpopulated the influx of colonists
looking for land and opportunities while escaping poverty in their home regions has been a major
phenomenon affecting forested areas over the past 40 years. Because the development of the economy
and the growth of the population of the region have not been sustainable, the problems of poverty and
unsustainable forest use persist.
The combination of unbridled natural resource exploitation and rapid unplanned population
growth have resulted in the degradation and deforestation of thousands of hectares of forest and now
threaten to destroy what remains. In most cases, residents have no incentives for sustainable forest use
because they have no legal rights to the land or resources, and they do not have the financial resources
to invest in sustainable forest use activities. With few economic opportunities residents have no viable
alternative but to extract the valuable resources that they can or convert forest areas to agriculture
because it is their only means of survival. To help alleviate this problem, economic interests tied to the
standing forest must be established for local residents who are the major actors in the survival of the
Because of the threats to what remains of the Maya Forest, governments and NGO's are invest-
ing heavily in the conservation of the region. At the same time residents of the Maya Forest must have
economic opportunities which are alternatives to slash and burn agriculture and unsustainable forest
extraction. The issue, therefore, is how to fulfill both of these needs simultaneously. For many, conser-
vation and economic development are perceived as contrary instead of complementary to each other.
The development of parks and reserves are seen by many local residents as restricting their use of the
resource base and hindering economic development. Others see preserving specific areas as the only
way to save forests and ecosystems over the long-term. A balance between development and conserva-
tion in the Maya Forest may be the only way to accomplish sustainable economic growth and to avert
the boom and bust scenarios associated with resource depletion so common to the region. For many
conservationists, conservation can also be a tool to use the resource base, but, on a renewable long-
term basis. Including local residents in conservation by providing them with the opportunity to de-
velop ecologically sound enterprises will help them survive economically while, at the same time,
conserving the natural resource base through its sustainable use.
C. Conservation Through Development
The conservation and development community working in the Maya Forest see community-
based ecotourism as a tool which can promote sustainable natural resource use. Ecotourism may be
able to play a role if it is developed in a manner that combines both conservation and development. For
this to happen ecotourism must include opportunities for local communities to develop their own ini-
tiatives. Tourism is going to grow in the Maya Forest. Whether communities are able to benefit from it
will determine whether conservation will occur through ecotourism.
In order to encourage greater community participation in conservation, The Nature Conser-
vancy developed a Small Grants Program in 1994 through The United State Agency for International
Development (USAID) sponsored MAYAFOR project. The purpose of the program is to improve
conservation and management of natural resources in the Maya Forest region. As stated in TNC's
description of the Small Grants Program, its objectives are: 1) to increase the participation of local
residents, who depend on the local natural resource base, in planning and implementing conservation
and natural resource based projects; 2) to provide financial and technical assistance for conservation
and natural resource based projects; 3) to promote research, training and education in the conservation
and sustainable use of natural resources by local groups and organizations and; 4) to facilitate the
exchange and flow of information to increase the ability of local residents and entities to conserve and
sustainably use their natural resources. Projects sponsored under the program encompass one or more
of the following components: forestry, agroforestry, tourism, microenterprise development, environ-
mental education and community outreach.
The demand from communities for funding and technical assistance to support ecotourism
initiatives has been quite strong. Of the 18 projects financed by The Nature Conservancy nine of them
are ecotourism related. The Nature Conservancy viewed the support of these projects as a good oppor-
tunity for local groups to develop initiatives that would be sustainable and possibly provide incentives
II. Community-based Ecotourism in the Maya Forest
As part of the MAYAFOR project, this study was done in order to provide some insight into
community-based ecotourism projects and their development. Between February and July of 1995, six
ecotourism initiatives from the Maya Forest region were studied in order to better understand how
these community-based enterprises function. (See map on page 13.) Two projects from each country
were profiled and include: The Toledo Ecotourism Association (TEA) and the Community Baboon
Sanctuary (CBS) in Belize; the ejidos el 20 de Noviembre and Eugenio Echeverria Castellot #2 sup-
ported by the Consejo Regional Agrosilvopecuario y de Servicios de Xpujil S.C. and Lacanj: (within
the Comunidad Zona Lacandona) in Mexico and; The Association of Eco-cultural Guides of Uaxactin
(La Asociaci6n de Guias Eco-Culturales de Uaxactun) and Ixchel, S.C. in Guatemala. All of the projects
except for the CBS and Ixchel have received financial support for ecotourism from TNC's Small
Grants Program. However, other support such as ecotourism workshops and training have been pro-
vide to CBS and Ixchel as well as to the other projects. Also, TNC is supporting interchanges, promo-
tion and the development of a regional tourism association in Guatemala in order to strengthen these
The importance of the ecotourism projects profiled are that they represent creative and realistic
solutions to the problems of maintaining the natural resource base through their sustainable use.
Ecotourism in these projects is not a replacement but a complement to traditional economic pursuits. It
offers an alternative economic opportunity which may help in conservation efforts by lessening peoples
dependence on unsustainable forest use activities.
Many of these projects are just beginning to develop ecotourism through community-based
initiatives. "Community-based" implies a special context in which these initiatives are taking place.
Because they are communities that are economically poor, they have few resources to invest in devel-
opment projects. Therefore, they receive much outside financial backing, training and technical sup-
port from governments and NGO's. Much of this aid is focused on group initiatives (instead of on
individuals) in order to generate a higher level of participation by community members and to spread
the impact of this aid over a wider group of people. Consequently, these projects are developed and
managed by various types of groups (i.e. associations, committees, boards, etc.) which represent entire
communities or sectors of communities interested in developing ecotourism.
Traditionally, communities have been left out of the planning, development and protection of
their surrounding natural resources. The financial and technical aid provided to these communities
may be a beginning for placing decision making power in the hands of residents and may permit them
to participate in the resolution of their own natural resource use and development problems. Also, this
aid is designed to help communities invest in the tourism market while the opportunity is available.
While the tourism industry is growing, now is the opportunity for these communities to become in-
"Ecotourism" implies that these communities are entering into a business which is directed to
visitors who want to see nature; forests, rivers, lakes and the surrounding flora and fauna. However,
much of the tourism that comes to the Maya Forest is generated by the archeological richness of the
area. In most instances archeological sites are located within natural areas so that one activity is rarely
exclusive of the other. Within all but one of the projects studied, archeological attractions are pan of
their ecotourism efforts. Culture has also been incorporated into some of the projects which is another
DE LAS CASAS
--.-- fnIf NATIONAL BORDBLS
I. EiJIr i)
2. iXC.EN L S.(
5 : ".\ \- Fi \
6 7( ,1 F 1 .) r', ( -
asset that communities can draw upon in developing their niche in the market.
With the opportunity provided to invest in ecotourism, these community-based initiatives are
attempting to achieve three outcomes: 1) the development of competitive tourism businesses in which
their principal concern is a high enough level of income to continue the business and to generate
income for those involved in the project; 2) the creation of positive economic and social impacts for
the community or at least a sector of the community and; 3) the increase of probabilities for sustainable
use and conservation of forest ecosystems. From the point of view of governments and NGO's sup-
porting these projects, conservation is the ultimate goal of these initiatives. However, this can only be
reached if the businesses are successful and communities and residents retain the benefits of these
community development efforts. At that point the incentives for conservation occur and communities
can begin to afford to focus on conservation issues.
Whether community-based ecotourism initiatives will be successful enough to be a viable form
of development and hence conservation can only be answered over the long-term. The initiatives pro-
filed in this study are still maturing, however, they provide a view of: 1) the characteristics of these
types of projects; 2) where communities are in the development of these enterprises; 3) the major
issues they are facing in their development; 4) the expected economic and social impacts on the com-
munities (as well as the potential ecological impacts) and; 5) the implications that the development of
these projects have for conservation.
A. Tourism in Southern Belize
The Toledo District, the southern most district in Belize, is the country's least developed area.
It is home to three distinct groups of people; Creoles, Garifunas and Mayan Indians, the latter consist-
ing of Mopans and Kekchis. The Kekchis are the fastest growing sector of the population as they have
been arriving from Guatemala to settle in the Mayan Mountains. The Toledo District has been rela-
tively isolated from the rest of Belize and the economic development and investment in infrastructure
has been minimal. The District's economy is based primarily on agriculture and ocean fishing and is
one of the poorest areas of the country.
Although tourism is important to the local economy, to date, the tourism potential in the Toledo
District has not been fully realized due to its relative inaccessibility and the under investment in tour-
ism in the area. The region is only accessible from the north by an unpaved road and from the south -
from Guatemala by boat. Tourists have generally viewed Punta Gorda (P.G.), the major town in the
district, as a pass through to other destinations and not as a destination in itself because there have been
few reasons to spend time in P.G. and in the surrounding villages. This is not because of the lack of
attractions but due to the lack of investment. This part of Belize has one of the only true tropical rain
forests in this part of Central America (Annual rainfall of 400 cm (Horwich et. al., 1990)) and contains
one of the richest ecosystems in terms of biodiversity. Also, the villages are rich in traditional Mayan,
Garifuna and Creole culture.
The amount of tourism to the area is beginning to increase, and many local residents feel that
P.G. and the surrounding area are going to experience a surge in tourism in the coming years. Two
factors which will bring this change are the paving of the road connecting P.G. to the rest of the country
(to be completed over the next three years) and the increase in investment in tourism that is beginning
to flow into the Toledo District.
Although increased tourism is viewed as positive for the local economy, two important issues
being discussed are: how wide the distribution of economic benefits will be and; what negative im-
pacts will tourism bring (and who will suffer the consequences of the negative impacts). Residents in
the surrounding villages may see increased tourism in their villages without receiving a fair share of
the benefits. Because they do not have the money to invest in tourism, they will not share in its benefits
or have much input into how tourism will be managed in their own villages. As more tourists arrive,
wanting to see a "real" Mayan or Garifuna village and who want to walk in the surrounding forests,
there is the potential that some villages will be overrun. Without fully including villagers, they may
only receive residual economic benefits from this development by selling crafts or by working for a
tourist operation. Villagers may also feel a loss of dignity when they can only benefit from selling
small crafts or working in operations without the potential to improve their economic conditions.
When tourists visit a village without properly interacting with the residents it may cause misinterpre-
tations on both sides. Villagers may begin to resent tourism and tourists, and tourists may form a
negative image .of local people. Also, without sufficient control too many tourists may arrive, thus
making the experience unpleasant. This could decrease tourism and its potential positive impacts.
Villages in the Toledo District rely heavily on slash and burn agriculture. This is the major
threat to the natural resource base in the Maya Mountains. Deforestation affects local climates, water
tables and ecosystems. From the point of view of ecotourism, tropical forests are one of the major
tourist attractions to the area. Including residents in the development of tourism and allowing them a
fair share of tourism revenues could: 1) help increase the likelihood of a long-term tourist industry and,
2) place a much higher value on standing forest areas which would serve as an incentive for conserva-
tion and sustainable use.
Finding a balance between tourism, the environment and the culture of local residents is one of
the major issues being faced and debated as tourism in the Toledo District begins to grow. The Toledo
Ecotourism Association (T.E.A.) is attempting to address these issues as it develops the ecological and
cultural tourism potential in the area of the Southern Maya Mountains.
1. The Toledo Ecotourism Association (T.E.A.) and its Philosophy
The T.E.A. was founded in 1990 by a group of Toledo District Mayas, Garifunas and Creoles.
The residents wanted to become involved in tourism in their villages and were looking for a way to
improve their incomes through these types of activities. They approached a Punta Gorda businessman,
Chet Schmidt, who was involved in tourism through his own guesthouse, restaurant and tour opera-
tion. From this meeting developed the idea for a system of guesthouses to be established in the villages
primarily located in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. The T.E.A.'s program, called the "Village
Guesthouse and Eco-trail Experience", was developed to give local residents the opportunity to par-
ticipate in the planning, management, benefit and control of ecotourism in their villages. With the
increase of tourism to the area, a major concern of the Association is to control tourism in the commu-
nities so that it does not negatively affect village life and culture. This requires striking a balance
between the needs of villagers and tourists. In order for this balance to be struck local residents need to
be the main developers and beneficiaries of tourism in their villages.
The T.E.A.'s philosophy is that every community has a carrying capacity for the number of
tourists that it can handle. So as not to be overrun, they have developed a system where each village
works on a rotation system so that the tourists that visit the area are shared among the villages. WVhen
tourists arrive at the T.E.A. office in Punta Gorda, each village takes its turn in receiving those tourists.
Once a village has received a group, it waits its turn until all of the other villages have received visitors.
In this way the income from tourism is shared and so is the impact. Within each village various fami-
lies participate in the guesthouse program by preparing meals for the guests, attending the guesthouse,
serving as guides, and in some cases being story tellers, dancers and musicians. Once a family has
performed a service, such as cooking, they take another turn only after every other family has taken
their turn so that the benefits are spread equally. The other purpose of this rotation is to minimize
conflicts in the communities and between residents so that no single family or group monopolizes the
guesthouse. In this manner families do not become overworked or overexposed to tourism. The expe-
rience remains a novelty for families and tourists alike. Finally, because tourism is not meant to replace
traditional economic activities but to supplement them, rotations spread the benefits around the com-
munity so that everyone can work in the tourism trade without sacrificing their other activities.
The area is rich in natural, archeological and cultural attractions which the TEA encompasses
into their program. The Maya Mountains offer tropical rain forests which contain a high level of bio-
diversity. There are also many rivers and caves in the area which can be explored and the TEA villages
are located close to various archeological sites. Tours of these attractions (BZS28.00 per person for a 4
hour tour) can be taken on foot, on horseback or by canoe. Culturally the Garifuna, Creole and Mayan
cultures in the area have many traditional activities; dance, music, story telling and crafts that they
produce and which are promoted by the TEA. Visitors stay overnight in the village guesthouses
(BZS18.50 per night) and have the opportunity to view village life and eat traditional meals (BZS6.50
& BZS8.00 per meal).
Of the approximately 30 villages in the Punta Gorda area, five (Laguna, San Pedro Columbia,
San Miguel, Santa Cruz and San Jose) began to participate in the program in 1990 (See map on page
18). With few resources the five TE.A. groups began to build their guesthouses. It was not until 1992
that the guesthouses were actually completed and a very few guests began to arrive. In 1993 more
tourists began to arrive and since then the numbers have increased (See Table 2.2 on p. 21). Although
the original groups have each lost some members and the amount of tourists that have arrived are few,
the villages appear to have a positive outlook on the future of the program and more villages are
interested in joining the T.E.A.. In each community, the average number of families participating in the
T.E.A. is about 7 to 9. However, food and other service providers who do not appear to be members are
Presently the group is attempting a major improvement and expansion of their program with
grants from The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). With the help of
these grants, the T.E.A. will upgrade the five existing guesthouses and construct new ones in seven
other communities (Barranco, Blue Creek, Corazon Creek, Medina Bank, Pueblo Viejo, Santa Elena
and San Antonio) (See map on page 18). The expansion also includes the construction of multi-
purpose buildings, financed by WWF, in all of the 12 villages. These structures will house small mu-
seums, libraries and an area to sell local crafts. With this expansion more communities will be able to
participate in the T.E.A. program and it is hoped that a greater number of families in each community
will participate. To date, the group has done little promotion of their program, but this promotion is one
of the objectives of this expansion. As the program has grown it has suffered from a lack of staff and
administrative capabilities. With this expansion, the T.E.A. will try to generate enough revenue to hire
a full-time paid administrator in order to improve the administrative capabilities of the program.
2. The Infrastructure, Organization and Administration of the T.E.A. Program
The development of the guesthouse system in the original five participating villages was done
using the same standards and designs in each site. Every guesthouse is constructed under the same plan
so that each one is no better or worse than any other. Every village has one guesthouse which is divided
into two rooms and sleeps up to eight people. Each room has two bunkbeds and all of the necessities to
spend a night such as, sheets, mosquito nettling, lanterns, towels, eating utensils, water, etc. Construc-
tion of the original guesthouses was completed over a two year period because funding was minimal.
Between 1990 and 1992, the only portions of the houses that were constructed were the floors and
roofs. The guesthouses are rustic and were constructed of local materials including palm thatch roofs
and wooden walls. Also outhouses and other outbuildings for bathing have been constructed. The
amount invested in the construction and outfitting of each guesthouse in 1992 Belizian dollars was
about BZS3,292 (US$1,646).
Each community will establish a village protected area in order to develop an eco-trail for
tourists and to generate further income for the community. Within each village protected area commer-
cially grown organic crops (such as cacao), medicinal plants and a reforestation area (which includes
other flora used in arts and crafts and for food) will be developed to give tourists a view of the local
*SAN ANTONIO (N)
..-., .. " '' -
. ,: l'.,' .... . .. .... ..
SA ,. ..SANMIGUEL .. : .: N-.
*,.-.LUBANTUUNJIL ..-*! :
^ ''. r -- ^S-NL*SANOANTONIO (N) (N
SSANTA ELENA (N). Y.
[- PUEBLO VIEJO(N) BLUECREEK (N) \
........ ....... LAGUNA.. .(0 ..... ...
TLA(-UNA (0) -
- ORAZON CREEK (N)
.^ -- :- ** I ... . ,' --,
BARRANCO (N) *
~I- -r1 -
. -: .. ..-
.CLY~r;~-;;~.S;... i ;
flora and fauna and traditional agricultural practices. The income generated from the production in
these areas will be shared among group members.
Overnight stays, meals, tours and other services are priced the same in each village. T.E.A.
members who provide services in the community retain 80% of the money that is left by tourists and
20% is retained by the T.E.A. office in Punta Gorda (See Table 2.1). Of that 20%, 10% goes to a health
and education fund which is saved for three months and then distributed to the village school (the
money is used for pencils, notebooks and other materials) or to help subsidize health services (such as
lending money for medicine or paying for transportation to take someone to the doctor or hospital,
etc.). 10% goes into a conservation fund which villages use for trails, reforestation or other conserva-
tion projects. 55% goes to administrative costs for the office, such as brochures, copies and other
materials. 15% goes to promotion and advertising and the final 10% is allocated to government taxes
and professional dues paid by the organization. From the money generated through the accommoda-
tions, of the 80% left in the community, about 5% is allocated to supplies and maintenance, 7.5% is
collected by the government as hotel tax and about 87.5% is retained as salary for members working in
the guesthouse during that rotation. For meal and other service providers, 20% of their income goes to
the general fund and the remaining 80% is retained by the service provider.
Table 2.1 Percentage of Income Retained by Communities and the TEA and the Allocation of this
Income Generated by the Accommodations
20% Retained by the TEA Office 80% Retained by the Community
Use of money Percentage Use of money Percentage
Health & Hotel Tax' 7.50%
Education Fund 10%
Conservation Maintenance' 4.66%
Total 100% Total 100%
'Of the 80% retained by food and other service providers, they do not pay these costs. (However, any food or equipment
cosis that they incur in providing these services is taken out of this 80%.)
In order to maintain a high level of service in the guesthouse system, standards have been
established to help maintain quality (cleanliness, availability of clean water, safe food preparation,
etc.). In order to help monitor and guarantee this, each tourist is given a "trip ticket" which gives them
a chance to evaluate the project by describing what they liked or disliked and to mention any problems
that arose. This guarantees that standards are being met. If there are repeated problems at a specific
guesthouse, the district executive board, comprised of T.E.A. members, votes on whether to take the
community out of the rotation. Only when the community successfully address those problems are
they allowed back into the rotation by the board. This action has been taken on occasion.
The organization of the T.E.A. is democratic with two levels of leadership; one level oversees
all of the T.E.A. villages (called the T.E.A. district executive) and the second is established on the
village level. On both levels a chairman, treasurer and secretary are elected every two years. On the
village level, local group members from each community vote for their officers. On the district level
every member of the T.E.A. votes for the district executive officers. Along with the district officers, a
senior advisory council helps the group in matters of administration, management and other matters.
This group is comprised of the three district executive officers and representatives from The Belize
Tourism Industry Association, the Toledo Maya Cultural Council and the Toledo Homesite Farming
and Ecology Center. Also the Toledo District development officer (a representative of the government)
is included. Chet Schmidt's relation to the T.E.A. is as a "volunteer consultant". He does not hold a
formal position within the T.E.A. but he maintains a close relationship with them and is recognized as
a major force behind their development. He does not appear to have the last word in the T.E.A., but, he
has been the most prominent voice in its development. He has also led the debate on the problems of
tourism and its consequences and this has caused friction within the Punta Gorda tourism community.
The success of the guesthouses in terms of economic impacts has, so far, not been very high.
The number of tourists who have stayed in the guesthouses has not been sufficient to significantly
affect the villages or members of the T.E.A.. There are two reasons for this. Although the T.E.A. has
received a lot of publicly from articles and studies, they have done very little promotion of the guesthouses
on their own. Most of the tourists that have arrived have heard of the T.E.A. through articles or word of
mouth. Also, from 1990 to 1992 the buildings were under construction and since then the policy has
been to give the villages experience in managing the guesthouses in order to work out any problems in
the system. This slow growth policy is about to change as the present expansion will upgrade the
existing guesthouses and complete seven new ones. With this expansion will come more emphasis on
publicity and there will be sufficient capacity to handle a large number of tourists.
Although the number of visitors has not been very high, members feel that they have received
enough tourists to continue the program. The members appear to have a sense of the potential for the
development of tourism in their villages. An estimated 600 visitors have stayed overnight in the
guesthouses since they began receiving tourists about two and a half years ago. The first documenta-
tion of tourists began in 1993 in the five villages and the number of visitors from four of the five village
guesthouses are shown in Table 2.2. Although the number of individual guests can only be estimated
the table sums to 676 overnight stays. (Some tourists stayed in more than one guesthouse.) In 1995 (as
of April 5th), of the 79 tourists that have stayed in the guesthouses, 65 spent one night, 10 spent two
nights, and four spent three or more nights. In three out of four of the guesthouses, the trend in over-
night stays is moving upward. One of the major reasons for the low count in the San Pedro Columbia
guesthouse is because of the lack of interesting tourist attractions in the village compared to others.
Another factor that affects the number of tourists that may stay in any of the villages is that if T.E.A.
Table 2.2 Number of Overnight Stays in Each T.E.A. Guesthouse Since 1993
(Excluding San Jose)
Guesthouse / 1993 1994 1995 Total
First Tourist Through 4/5
Laguna 66 105 36 207
San Pedro 31 28 18 77
San Miguel .59 105 59 233
Santa Cruz 24 95 50 169
members do not adhere to the established rules (such as the rotation policy), tourists may not be sent to
certain villages until they correct the problems.
3. Major Issues Affecting the T.E.A. Program
A major issue in the Punta Gorda Community is the increase in the number of guesthouses in
the southern Maya Mountains. To date there are about nine other ecotourism projects which have
sprung up over the last year and a half. The debate that this has generated is whether a major increase
in the number of guesthouses and other types of tourism in the communities will: l)overrun the capac-
ity of communities to make the ecotourism experience a high quality one, 2) exceed residents' toler-
ance for tourists, thus destroying the long-term viability of eco / cultural tourism in the communities,
3) breed resentment and infighting from competition in the villages and, 4) hinder the long-term goals
of natural resource conservation because of the lack of planning and control of ecotourism in the area.
From the point of view of the T.E.A., these problems could very easily arise and result in no one in the
villages receiving significant benefits as they fight for short-term and fleeting gains from unplanned
The T.E.A. and Mr. Schmidt have pushed for control of eco / cultural tourism (within commu-
nities) by the villages themselves and they feel that the T.E.A. methodology should be the model for
this type of tourism development. Their argument is that: 1) the carrying capacity of the communities
needs to be taken into consideration, 2) the benefits must stay within the community and, 3) a slow
growth policy must be followed in order to maintain long-term tourism growth, and to avert a boom
and bust cycle and other negative aspects of tourism. Also, within the T.E.A., the percent of profit
(80%) and the distribution of that profit is much higher than that within any other private initiative. On
the other side of the argument are those that feel that competition should be allowed in the communi-
ties and that villagers should not be limited to a single alternative. Along with this argument is the
question of whether the T.E.A. can really represent the majority of community members and whether
all community members can participate. The debate on carrying capacity has polarized the tourism
community in Punta Gorda.
Although the debate over carrying capacity and the communities' monopolization of local
ecotourism continues, the growth and development of tourism in the villages is taking place anyway.
There are about 30 villages in the area and after this expansion the T.E.A. will have guesthouses in 12
of them. Already, in some villages, there are T.E.A. guesthouses and other competitors in the same
village. The competition will determine which business will remain over the long-term. The danger, as
this competition plays itself out, is that the villages may suffer the consequences of being overrun by
tourists and the conflicts from competition may cause long-term negative effects on tourism and devel-
opment in some villages. Also, the potential for sustainable development and natural resource conser-
vation may be lost for two reasons; some of the planning will not be done and the unequal distribution
of income may provide incentives for only very few people to move away from unsustainable natural
In some cases, local T.E.A. members have caused conflicts for the T.E.A. in general. The basic
complaint is that the original T.E.A. members are not permitting new members to join. Thus, only
some families are receiving benefits from tourists. The T.E.A. was instituted under the concept that
every resident in each village could play a role in the Guesthouse and Eco-trail experience and, the
original T.E.A. policy established that anyone in the village could join the Association. This policy has
not been adhered to for two reasons. In the beginning of the program there was much disbelief among
villagers that the guesthouses would generate any money or that any tourists would come at all. There-
fore, many villagers did not want to initially participate in the program which required an in kind
investment (of labor and local materials) to construct the guesthouses. In some villages the pressures
on the T.E.A. members by others was quite intense, but overtime it decreased and some of these same
villagers, who had not wanted to be members, expressed an interest in joining the T.E.A.. Because
those wanting to be new members had not put in any initial investment in the guesthouses, the original
members did not want to let new members join the group. Also, the number of tourists staying in the
guesthouses has not been sufficient to generate enough income for those that are already members,
therefore, they felt that if they let more members in that the distribution of guesthouse income would
be too little.
Given these problems, there are still residents who want to join the T.E.A. in the five original
communities and there are communities that want to begin their own T.E.A. guesthouses. The new
expansion that is taking place incorporates these issues. Within existing T.E.A. communities the present
guesthouses are going to be upgraded and repaired and a multi-purpose building is going to be built
which will house a place for crafts displays and sales, a library and a local museum. In these five
villages the new construction will provide the opportunity for those who want to become new mem-
bers to put in their investment in labor and thus show their support for the program. This may give
existing members a sense that the new people can join because they have made an investment in the
Also during this expansion, three of the guesthouses in the existing communities are going to
be moved to pieces of land rented by the T.E.A. In the beginning these three guesthouses were on
property belonging to a member of the T.E.A.. This has been a source of misunderstanding by the
community about the guesthouses. Members with a guesthouse on their property felt (at times) that
they could take liberties such as providing most of the meals or doing all of the work in the guesthouse
in order to gain the largest share of the generated income. With twelve guesthouses and with stronger
promotion, it is yet to be seen how much of an increase in the number of tourists there will be. Also, it
is not clear how much incomes will need to increase for T.E.A. members to feel that they are benefiting
from the project.
In the expansion to other communities the new guesthouses are to be situated on lands leased
for seven years from the communities (Also, the three guesthouses that are to be moved will be placed
on leased parcels.) These leases are to be in the name of the T.E.A. and not in the name of an individual.
This is being done for two purposes. In the new villages, the permission to lease land goes through the
village political structure. By approving the lease, the concept of the T.E.A. is reviewed by the com-
munity and approved which helps the T.E.A. receive backing and approval from the community as a
whole. By placing the guesthouses on unowned parcels of land, it helps demonstrate that the guesthouses
are pan of the community and are not a business controlled by only a few interests. This last point also
helps some members to realize that the guesthouse is not only for their own benefit and it makes it
much more difficult for only a few to try to claim and control the business.
Understanding and adherence by Association members to T.E.A. concepts and rules still needs
improvement. In general, the idea of rotations and how each guesthouse should function (service,
quality, administration, food preparation etc.) may be understood but not completely followed in some
villages. One example is the food which is served. Although it is generally good food, in many in-
stances it is always the same; often only eggs and beans. Based on the price charged for meals and for
the experience that the T.E.A. is trying to give tourists, a greater variety and quality must be main-
tained. Also, at one guesthouse there was confusion about the price being charged to tourists although
the costs are clearly printed on the trip ticket. Finally, some tourists arrive directly at the guesthouses
without making a reservation at the T.E.A. district office in Punta Gorda. This, at times, caused over-
crowding at certain guesthouses. More important is the fact that this gives certain members an oppor-
tunity to change charges to guests and pocket money without declaring it to the rest of the T.E.A.
The issues mentioned above may not occur frequently but could become a major problem if not
continually monitored. Many of these problems could be avoided by having an expanded administra-
tive capability to guarantee that the concepts, standards and rules of the system are adhered to and run
efficiently. To date, the T.E.A. has survived on an all volunteer administrative staff in the office in
Punta Gorda. The evidence of the lack of administrative coverage can be seen in the issues mentioned
above. Because this program covers five villages and will soon cover twelve, the lack of administrative
capacity could damage the program if high standards are not maintained. As part of the proposed
expansion the T.E.A. is going to maintain two full-time office people to help handle tourists and logis-
tics, to guarantee standards and to do promotion. However, guaranteeing salaries that are sufficiently
high enough to pay them may be difficult.
The natural attractions that the Maya Mountains offer (tropical forests, archeological sites,
caves and rivers) and the cultural attractions (Creole, Garifuna and Mayan Cultures) give the Toledo
District a good foundation for building a strong tourism industry. It is apparent by the amount of
investment taking place that tourism will grow quickly in the area. From the debate taking place in
Punta Gorda and from the strategy that the T.E.A. is proposing, it is evident that the economic, social
and ecological impacts of tourism are very much of concern to the villages in the southern Maya
Mountains. In order to compete with other investment taking place in the area, the T.E.A. is hoping to
expand to a total of twelve villages in order to have a share of this market. To maintain viability the
T.E.A. will have to compete for tourists with the other tourism businesses in the area. In order to do this
the level of organization and the quality of the service (and the experience) will have to compare
favorably with others. Also, promotion of the T.E.A. will have to be increased in order to increase the
flow of tourists. Finally, the T.E.A. must adhere to its own philosophy in order to ensure positive
economic, social and ecological benefits for the villages.
Probably one of the most important aspects of tourism that the T.E.A. is trying to manage is that
of fair distribution of tourism generated income. The T.E.A. believes that tourism can only supplement
peoples' incomes and that it should complement traditional economic activities taking place in vil-
lages. The concept of a rotation, both within each T.E.A. village and among all of the villages in the
system, provides tourism opportunities and income for villages and villagers that probably would not
be involved in tourism on their own. This rotation also diminishes the possibility of one or two villages
(or one or two families in each village) from completely monopolizing tourism. The rotation reinforces
the T.E.A. concept that tourism should complement traditional economic pursuits by lessening depen-
dency on a single economic activity such as agriculture. Tourism in this context represents diversifica-
tion of economic activities instead of the replacement of one activity for another. Also under the T.E.A.,
the development of tourism includes the subsidization of other activities that can further benefit the
entire community, such as the 10% of overhead that is applied to community education and health
services and the 10% that is destined for conservation and sustainable agriculture.
The social aspects of tourism development that the T.E.A. is concerned with revolve around
controlling the negative impacts of tourism on communities. The T.E.A. believes that each community
has a carrying capacity for the number of tourists that it can reasonably handle before there is too much
of a strain on the community. The ability to rotate tourists lessens the amount of individual contact that
the community has with tourists on a day to day basis. This may help retain the novelty of tourism for
residents which, in turn, may make the contact for tourists more authentic and of a higher quality.
Villagers will also not have to take a substantial amount of time away from their traditional activities.
Also, the T.E.A. is concerned about the maintenance of traditions, such as music, dance and crafts
which are part of the attractions built into T.E.A. villages. Tourists payment for these services may help
subsidize these traditions.
From a financial standpoint, the 10% of overhead which goes directly to the school systems in
the communities may directly affect local residents, because this money helps students with materials
that can help them continue their education's. Although this money has so far not been a substantial
amount, if tourism increases it could become more important to the villages.
Finally, the participatory approach of the T.E.A. and its democratic structure may help mem-
bers realize that they can have meaningful participation in the T.E.A. program. This may help partici-
pants to learn more about organizing and working in groups, and it offers them the opportunity to take
an active role in the community by being elected into one of the positions available.
One potential negative consequence of the experiences offered to tourists visiting the commu-
nity is that everything including the dance, story telling, music and crafts have a price. Although this
adds a monetary value to these cultural traditions and may help subsidize them, the danger is that these
aspects of the culture may become only commodities which no longer have cultural and spiritual
meaning but are only offered as products to be sold.
Tourism in the villages may have both direct and indirect influences on conservation. Directly,
the development of ecotourism could increase the value of the standing forest because this "attraction"
could be worth more by bringing in tourists compared to other possible uses such as logging. Also,
because tourism is only supposed to complement other activities and increase incomes this could lessen
communities dependence on unsustainable farming and forest use. The T.E.A. also has developed a
conservation fund that as tourism grows could be important in supporting village conservation activi-
ties. Indirectly, the eco-trails and village protected areas that are being developed, besides being tourist
attractions, serve as areas for maintaining traditional sustainable agricultural practices. These demon-
stration areas may show villagers conservation and sustainable resource use practices that may work in
their own parcels.
B. The Community Baboon Sanctuary
The Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS) is unique among ecotourism projects in terms of the
community-based strategy being employed to protect the black howler monkey population (locally
known as baboons). The sanctuary consists of contiguous parcels of privately owned lands ranging
from roughly 2 to 140 acres. On each parcel, owners have voluntarily pledged to preserve specific
pieces of forest and individual trees which contain the habitat and food sources of howler monkeys.
The sanctuary stretches about 18 miles along the banks of the Belize River which covers about 20
square miles and contains eight villages (See map on page 27).2 Through this community effort the
villages have created a successful wildlife reserve which also has become a popular tourist attraction.
The sanctuary was begun in 1985 with the help of Dr. Robert Horwich who was studying
howler monkey populations. He noted that there was a relatively large population of howlers in the
area and that local residents had a positive attitude about them. To further solidify residents relations
with the howlers and to further protect their habitat a sanctuary was formally established with 11 land
owners in Bermudian Landing. Each land owner signed a voluntary (non-legally binding) pledge to
conserve areas of forest and specific types of trees on their parcels that howlers need in their habitat.
Since then the sanctuary has grown to about 70 participants in eight villages (about 80 others have not
signed pledges but participate). A management plan was written and each landowner uses it as a guide
to help them conserve the howlers' habitat. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) helped to finance the
project and to build infrastructure for tourists to come and visit. In 1987 a museum and visitors center
were built in Bermudian Landing which is situated in the middle of the sanctuary. The other seven
villages are stretched along the river both north and south from there.
The CBS is run by a sanctuary manager, who has been in the position since 1987, and an
elected advisory committee that consists of one representative from each of the eight communities.
Although the sanctuary manager is not elected, the board is supposed to oversee the actions of the
manager and make decisions about the management, administration and planning of the sanctuary.
Until the last elections, over a year ago, board members only served for two years. However, now each
member serves indefinitely until each community decides to change their representative. The modifi-
cation of elections was done because the communities felt that two years was not enough time for
representatives to accomplish concrete results. They felt that it takes much longer for members to
understand the sanctuary and to make informed decisions about its management. As long as each
community feels that their representative is doing a good job they can remain in office.
The CBS is located only about one hour (20 miles) from Belize City which makes access to the
area convenient for tourists. Tourists who want to make a quick visit can take a 40 minute walk in the
woods and a quick tour of the museum. For those who want to stay longer, there are longer trails and
seven other villages to visit. There are bed and breakfasts that allow tourists to stay overnight and get
better acquainted with Creole culture and the forest areas surrounding the villages.
Over the past ten years, the four goals of the Community Baboon Sanctuary conservation,
research, education and tourism have been reached with varying degrees of success. The conserva-
tion of the howlers has been successful with a growth in the number of howlers from about 800 to 1800
FThe villages are Big Falls, St. Pauls, Willows Bank, Double Head Cabbage, Bermudian Landing. Scotland Half-
Moon, Isabella Bank and Flowers Bank.
i CARIBBEAN SA
1. Ecotourism Aspects of the Sanctuary
Landowners have expressed interest in generating income through tourism, either by receiving
money through the sanctuary or by investing in an operation which will bring in tourist dollars gener-
ated from services, food, and/or overnight stays. The sanctuary makes money through a BZS 10.00 per
person fee charged to visitors who tour the sanctuary. This money, combined with grants and donations
from other organizations, has provided some employment for guides, a museum receptionist / secre-
tary and for part time workers to maintain infrastructure and clear trails. There has also been some
residual benefit for transportation and store owners who have made money from tourism. Also, a few
families have invested in overnight accommodations and provide food for tourists. However, these
endeavors have been based on individual initiatives and few community members have capitalized on
the sanctuary's ecotourism potential.
Although many tourists visit, they could leave more money if there were better tourist infra-
structure. This lack of infrastructure could be because the development of the sanctuary has been based
on private initiatives so that a community-based strategy for ecotourism has not been pursued. About
five or six years ago the sanctuary did try to help people develop overnight accommodations, however,
this project did not work well. A few bed and breakfasts (B&B'S) were started with loans from the
sanctuary, however, there were administrative problems with these loans and it is not clear if they were
repaid. Another problem with these loans is that they were given out in Bermudian Landing which has
ended up with most of the financial benefits from tourism. Besides this attempt there has been little
planning or development by the CBS for the development of infrastructure such as restaurants, over-
night accommodations and more sophisticated tours.
The greatest area of development in tourist related services has been the increase in family
owned bed and breakfasts in various villages. This is probably the major tourism based income genera-
tor for residents in the sanctuary. In general the charge per person is BZS20.00 per person per night.
BZS5.00 for breakfasts and dinners and about BZS 10.00 for lunches. The exact number of bed and
breakfasts are difficult to determine. Five have been established in Bermudian Landing and there are
about two or three in three other villages. This would mean about 14 B&B's with each one having a
capacity between one and four persons. Guests stay directly in the homes of residents and share the
same living space with the home owners. Meals are prepared by the women of the B&B's, who also
appear to be the main administrators of these businesses.
Canoe and horseback rides are other diversions offered in the sanctuary. Individuals in a few
different villages provide these services, however, there is not much promotion and it does not appear
to be very formally organized. If a visitor looks into these possibilities something can be arranged, but,
guiding on foot is the major way for tourists to see the sanctuary. Overall, the B&B's and other activi-.
ties of the sanctuary itself are not promoted. To find out about the activities or the B&B's in the CBS
one has to ask at the museum and tourist information center. Outside of the community there has been
little promotion of the services although quite a few visitors do come to the sanctuary.
2. Issues Affecting Ecotourism in the Community Baboon Sanctuary
After ten years the Community Baboon Sanctuary, unlike many other community-based con-
servation projects in the region, is in the stage of building on and improving a tourist base it has already
developed. From an ecotourism perspective there are two major issues which must be addressed to
improve the sanctuary's ecotourism potential 1) The leadership in the sanctuary and, 2) the need to
increase tourism benefits and to spread them more evenly through the sanctuary. Although the sanctu-
ary appears to be doing well now, both of these issues are quite important for its long-term success.
Control and leadership of the sanctuary has been in the hands of a sanctuary manager and a
board that oversees him. Together they are responsible for the management and development of the
sanctuary. The manager was placed in the position since the sanctuary's initiation which has created a
misunderstanding about the authority that he actually has. The elected board has not been able to
control the manager and although they have authority over him, they have not been able to effectively
use it. Part of the reason has been because in the past some members of the board did not actively
participate or supervise the manager so that much of the power remained with him. The main problem
that this has caused is that, although the sanctuary functions, the opportunities to improve it and to
improve the local economy from tourism have not been actively pursued. The manager and board have
created few significant improvements and the sanctuary appears not to control changes that may effect
it but to only react to them. Presently, there are some very active members on the board including its
president who want to make the necessary changes to improve the sanctuary. The stagnation of the
leadership is a political issue but its resolution is important to guarantee that the sanctuary is developed
to its potential.
The other major discussion taking place in the sanctuary is about how to increase the benefits
of business generated by the sanctuary and how to spread these benefits to villages outside of Bermu-
dian Landing. Besides the loans made five or six years ago the sanctuary has not pursued a policy to
better manage and increase tourist activities and benefits. However, now there is interest among board
members and residents to increase tourism benefits and to spread the income generated more equally
among the communities. This issue has become much more important now that a business from out-
side of the community has built a lodge in Bemiudian Landing.
Although the number of tourists visiting the area has increased and some community members
are getting involved in tourism as guides and through B&B's, this development has not been planned
or organized in any manner. This lack of organization may diminish the level of returns that commu-
nity members receive and is beginning to cause friction within the sanctuary because some communi-
ties and individuals are not receiving the same benefits as others. As tourism has developed, the con-
centration of money, tours and B& B's has been in one town, Bermudian Landing. Part of the reason for
this is because the Baboon Sanctuary began there, the museum was built there and the only main road
goes directly to Bermudian Landing and the museum. If one wants to visit other villages, they have to
pass through Bermudian Landing and the museum to find information on where else to go in the
sanctuary. Other evidence of the centralization and emphasis on Bermudian Landing is that all of the
sanctuary's anniversary celebrations have been celebrated there although other communities have ex-
pressed interest in hosting the event.
Adding more urgency to increasing the benefits for community members is the recent estab-
lishment of a tourism enterprise from outside of the community. Because of the number of tourists
visiting the sanctuary, this enterprise has built a lodge in Bernudian Landing. The lodge offers accom-
modations with private baths, comfortable lodging, privacy and a variety of tours. According to B&B
owners this has cut into their market as tourists and some researchers prefer to stay there. Transporta-
tion and other infrastructure has been developed by the lodge to bring in tourists and give them tours
which bypasses the community. Finally, the business has promoted itself outside of the sanctuary
whereas the B&B's have not, so that visitors only really know of one place to stay. Also, the business
has advertised itself as being "in the Community Baboon Sanctuary" and through its advertising has
made it appear that they are some how related to or part of the sanctuary.
Another major reason why the lodge has been successful and threatens the bed and breakfasts,
has been the quality of accommodations offered by the B&B's. The lodging offered by the B&B's is
within homes. For some tourists the cultural experience that this offers may be a positive attribute for
the B&B system. However, there are no alternatives offered by the community. Many people who
come to see nature may be more interested in sleeping in a more secluded lodge or in camping out
instead of sharing a house with a family. Visitors who use the B&B's may feel restricted by having to
stay in someone's home. Also, there is no place for bathing and visitors have to use the river or go to a
water pump to bathe. Again, the experience may be interesting and unique for some but unacceptable
for others. The quality of the food is another aspect which may be unacceptable for some tourists as
usually no choices are offered and sometimes, if tourists come on short notice, there is little to eat and
it is hastily prepared. The reasons for these problems revolve around the fact that many of the families
who run the B&B's do not have enough money to invest sufficiently in the comforts that a tourist may
want. Also, these establishments have been set up informally so that they have received no training and
do not know how to run or improve a tourism related business.
Although the sanctuary was founded and developed using private initiatives, the sanctuary has
not done enough to foment the concept of developing the potential returns from tourism by community
members. There has been a lack of promotion of the sanctuary as a whole (although the number of
tourists has increased) and the services offered within the sanctuary receive very little promotion.
There is no organized strategy to develop overnight accommodations and the quality of most of these
accommodations cannot compete with the lodge that has been recently established. Without financing,
training and promotion of this sector, community members will not be able to compete with other
better financed and prepared business interests. Therefore, outside interests could easily capture a
large share of the market and the tourism benefits of the CBS. This will further lessen the benefits to
residents who already feel that they are not receiving a sufficient level of benefits from the sanctuary.
One final observation is that although tourists come for the natural attractions, the Creole culture could
also be promoted. One member of the CBS board stated that "the baboons have been promoted but not
the people" in referring to the fact that the community has more to offer than just the baboons and that
the community has not been adequately included in developing the potential benefits of the CBS.
Two ways to view the success of the Community Baboon Sanctuary are whether the sanctuary
functions and whether it has benefited the community. Overall, the CBS has been a success. The
sanctuary has survived for ten years, researchers come every year, many school groups come to learn
about the howlers through the museum and walks through the woods, and tourism has increased.
To date the sanctuary has not depended on tourism as an incentive for conservation. Con-
versely tourism has depended on already existing conservation efforts. As mentioned earlier the major
incentives for conservation have been the low level of dependence on farming and low population
growth which has minimized conflicts in land uses between production and preservation. However, if
social and economic conditions change farmers and landowners may have to use the land in a manner
that could threaten howlers, therefore, stronger incentives will be needed. Capitalizing on tourism in
the sanctuary is one possibility for boosting local community development which could further stimu-
late conservation and ensure the continued existence of the CBS. But, to date the positive economic,
social and ecological impacts of ecotourism on the area have probably not reached their potential.
Considering the economic impacts of ecotourism, the benefits derived by the communities
from this aspect of the sanctuary have been few. Because of the private nature of the development of
the sanctuary in general the development of business related to the sanctuary has been left in the hands
of individuals as no organized group effort has been pursued. In general, the people who have felt an
economic impact are the guides, secretary and sanctuary manager who deal with the tourists. The
BZS10.00 fee that is charged is the main revenue generator for the sanctuary and goes to maintenance
and to small salaries. Outside of this fee, owners of B&B's, local stores, private guide services and
local transportation have made money from the tourists who have frequented the sanctuary. The distri-
bution of this benefit has been unequal, as those in Bermudian Landing have received the majority of
the tourists. There has been no mechanism to include the 8 communities in general or those that have
an interest in generating a business related to the sanctuary.
Socially, the impacts of tourism appear to be minimal. The more long-term contact with outsid-
ers has been with researchers, instead of tourists who often do not stay for more than a day. From the
point of view of the income generated from tourism, the minimal amount of participation by villagers
outside of Bermudian Landing has caused conflicts within the sanctuary. However, this appears to be
one of the issues that the CBS is beginning to try to resolve. One of the negative impacts of tourism has
been that because the B&B's are designed so that tourists stay directly in homes, some members of
these families have come to resent having tourists take over their house. The close contact could have
negative repercussions as tourists and hosts alike may feel restricted and uncomfortable with this ar-
The ecological impacts from ecotourism are probably minimal in that the development of the
sanctuary was made possible from incentives explained earlier and not from ecotourism. In the future
the development of the ecotourism potential of the sanctuary could prove to be an important incentive
for continuing conservation. At least one of the guides was previously employed as a hunter but left
that as guiding paid better and occupied his time, and he enjoyed the work more than hunting. Indi-
rectly, the educational aspect of the museum and tours may affect the younger members of the com-
munity as they also may come to appreciate and lear about conservation along with tourists.
C. The Maya Forest of Southern Campeche State
The Maya Forest, in the southern area of the State of Campeche, Mexico, consists of dry sub-
tropical forest and adjoins the portion of the Maya Forest located in the Petin region of Guatemala. As
shown on the map on page 34, 723,186 hectares (248,261 ha of core zones and 474,925 ha of buffer
zones) of this forest area is within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve which adjoins the Maya Biosphere
Reserve in Guatemala to the south. About 82 ejidos are situated around the Calakmul Reserve which
contain about 380,000 hectares of forest. (There are also about 67,000 ha's of private property in the
area). In order to preserve the ecological integrity of Calakmul, it is hoped that the ejidos bordering the
reserve will serve as a buffer zone. To accomplish this, a balance must be struck between the economic
development of the area and the conservation and sustainable use of the natural resource base.
One of the differences between southern Campeche and the rest of the Maya Forest is that
much of the land ownership is ejidal'. The principal influx of ejidatarios to Calakmul began in the
1960's as residents from different regions of Mexico came to the area seeking land (Bosque Modelo,
1994). Ejidos were developed for both forest use and for traditional agricultural pursuits. However,
many of the people who came to populate the ejidos had little experience managing forests and in
many instances land was cleared for traditional agricultural pursuits. Due to the influx of population
and industrial logging activities the region contains various levels of forest degradation.
The same debate taking place between conservation and development in the rest of the Maya
Forest is taking place in the ejidos. Residents of the ejidos generate the bulk of their income from
agriculture and as within all rural agriculturally based economies in the region the standard of living is
low. Agricultural production is subsistence level and there are few other economic opportunities for
ejidatarios except forest extraction activities. Much of the region's forest has been logged since the
beginning of this century and very little logging is presently taking place. Chicle and other forest
products which are harvested to the south in Guatemala are not harvested as much in the ejidos because
of a combination of scarcity and the lack of a developed and organized market for these products.
Hunting for food is the only other activity which takes place within these forest areas. In general, the
forest has not been managed and in some instances is being convened to agriculture.
One of the few other development opportunities for the population is tourism which has not
played a pan in the local economy until recently. This is due to the growth of the tourism industry in the
Yucatan Peninsula. The promotion of the local ruins, Becin, Chicanni (Casa de la serpiente) and
Xpujil by the Mundo Maya project5 has been responsible for the development of ecotourism in the
area. Tourism should increase even more as the Mexican Government is investing in the ruins and
reserve at Calakmul, which was recently opened to the public. Calakmul, by far one of the largest and
most imponant ruins in the region, was relatively unaccesable until an all weather road was built in
1994 and development of the ruins and reserve began.
Xpujil is the only major town in the area of Calakmul and is the urban center for the ejidos in
'The ejido system in Mexico grew out of the revolution of 1910 when lands where turned over to many poor and
landless citizens. Ejido ownership is collective. An associated group of people in each cjido share in the ownership and the
benefit from the designated land and resources.
'A 5 country effort for developing the tourism industry in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and
Honduras by promoting their archcological, cultural and natural attractions.
\ YUCATAN /
/ .,...- IIORMIGUEIIO J"
'* EnDo E--YtL '
S t : "' o EUGENIO .-::
CALA .LB -S H R R: ES V '
S .-' . .. -.: r .. ...-. <^ ,>
' CAL. 'BIOSPHERE RESE ,-
MAYA BIOSPHERE RESERVE
iN ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES
and a guide can go with them. Presently, there is not enough tourism to keep the booth manned during
an entire day. Both committees work closely with the Consejo technician who works with them in all
aspects of developing the project.
The costs of developing the accommodations within each ejido were about US$9,000. per project
(US$18,000 (NS110,900) total), granted by the Mexican government through the Programa Nacional
de Reforestaci6n. Because the accommodations are built for attracting visitors who want to experience
the outdoors along with the archeological sites, the buildings are simple attractive wooden structures
with guano roofs and walls of wood and screening. Each sleeps about eight with a choice of beds or
hammocks. A small outdoor cooking area, a flush toilet and facilities for bathing are also provided.
The structure in 20 de Noviembre has a porch going all the way around its structure while the accom-
modations in Eugenio Echeverria Castellot have a solar powered electrical system. Each accommoda-
tion is located near the ruins and within the forest reserves of the ejidos. Because these areas and the
accommodations are located so far from the population areas in the ejidos there are logistical problems
with supplying water, transporting tourists and equipment and with guarding the posadas. This issue is
still being addressed but the Consejo is lending a truck for the short-run. Also, in the 20 de Noviembre,
mountain bikes are provided for tourists who want to explore the trails and to visit the ruins.
Income generated from the accommodations will be split equally between the ecotourism com-
mittees and their respective ejidos. The accommodations include three meals per day and guiding
services which cost each visitor NS200.00 per day (about U.S.S30.00). The 50% that remains with the
committee is for reinvestment into the project and the 50% given to the ejido is for projects which
address social and economic needs in the community. The distribution of the benefits in this manner is
consistent with the collective culture that the ejido system has developed. Ejido residents are usually
united around the concept that they share the benefits generated by projects equally. Income from
tourism is not all distributed in this manner. Income can also be earned by individual ejido members.
At least one member from each committee is being trained as a guide. (A guided tour of the ruins costs
about N$20.00 per person.) Also, a few people will earn money from maintenance and cooking. It is
difficult to determine how much of an impact these tourism efforts will have on the members of the
two ejidos. The Ejido 20 de Noviembre contains a population of 350 and the Ejido Eugenio Echeverria
Castellot #2 has a population of 260, which means that few may benefit directly. For the moment there
is little income being generated by the projects as few tourists have begun to visit. However, a number
of tourists already visit the two archeological sites. In 1993, Rio Bec (20 de Noviembre) received 56
tourists. In 1994, 161 tourists arrived and in 1995 about 30 arrived as of the first week of June. Eight
people have spent the night in the new, yet uncompleted, accommodations. This is the first year that the
Ejido Eugenio Echeverria Castellot #2 has kept track of the number of visitors that have entered the
site. About 70 visitors have visited El Hormiguero for the first six months of 1995.
Promotion is important to the success of tourism in the ejidos. As part of their promotion
strategy, with financial support from The Nature Conservancy (US$10,000), the Consejo Regional is
going to construct a "parador turistico" in order to have a place where information is readily available
to tourists who visit the area. The parador turistico will also include a small camping area with basic
facilities which will be constructed in the town of Conhuas (at the entrance to the Calakmul ruins,
about 60 Km from Xpujil) to keep visitors in the area and to generate income for the ejido. The infor-
mation center will help promote the guide services and the accommodations being developed within
the ejidos. By establishing a place where tourists can find information and guides conveniently and
quickly, this should help the guides and the two ejidos receive a greater number of tourists. For now,
there is no place in the area where this information is available and tourists who are just passing
through are not aware of the accommodations and other archeological sites off of the main road.
Because the southern Yucatan has a fairly good system of roads (the major conduits are paved),
many tourists opt to rent vehicles to have more freedom to move around the peninsula. In the area of
Xpujil many tourists only come for the day to see the ruins and then go to Chetumal or other cities to
spend the night. One of the goals of the ejidos is to entice tourists to spend the night in their accommo-
dations instead of going to the cities. Besides promotion, making sure that their accommodations are
comfortable, convenient and efficiently run (and that these enterprises can react quickly when tourists
show up without reservations) will help them capture a pan of this market.
Reaching potential visitors outside of Xpujil will be the most difficult hurdle in succeeding in
tourism. Most tourists come from Cancin, Chetumal, Palenque, Merida or Campeche. The ejidos have
developed brochures for their sites but they need to build further relations with tourist businesses in
these cities. So far only one group of tourists has stayed in the ejidos. They came with a tour operator
who set up a package deal with the ejido. The amount that the tour operator paid the ejido barely
covered their expenses as the greatest share of the profits stayed with the operator.
2. Major Issues Affecting Ecotourism in the ejidos
The major concern for the ejidos is whether they will gain a sufficient share of the tourism
market in Xpujil to generate enough income for the guides and ejidos. For now, it appears that not all
of the 30 trained guides will be able to be employed. However, as more tourists visit this may create a
greater demand for them. As mentioned earlier the guides closest to Xpujil have been able to generate
some income from guiding while guides from more distant ejidos have not been able to take advantage
of their training. Many of them have not guided even one tourist since their training and have, there-
fore, not pursued guiding any further.
The development of the camping and information center in Conhuas should help generate more
demand for the guide services. Also, this may take some of the tourism focus away from Xpujil which
will give other guides more opportunities to provide their services. For the first time this promotion
will give visitors an idea of the attractions and services available to them. The development of a legal-
ized guides association should also help them compete and negotiate with tour agencies so that they
will use local guides. Also, in the future ejidos may not allow tours within the ejidos from outside
operators unless they use a guide from the ejidos.
Outside of Xpujil, attracting tourists, and competing and negotiating with tour agencies is part
of the business that the ejidos are just beginning to consider. Promotion beyond Xpujil and agreements
with tour agencies will have to be considered for the business to bring in enough tourists and to grow.
Without access to the market in these cities, without an established name in the market, and with no
infrastructure to transport tourists on their own, the ejidos will have a difficult time beginning their
business without these middlemen. Therefore, they have to negotiate with tour operators who, like
most middlemen, may end up receiving the majority of the profits from the arrangement.
Another issue pertains to the ecotourism committees' administration and management of the
income generated from tourism within the ejidos. As tourism increases, in order to reduce confusion
and suspicion about how the income is being handled, accounting procedures should be established
which are simple and open to public inspection. This will leave little room for misunderstandings
about how much money is being made and how it is being distributed. This will reduce mistrust by
people outside of the committees and it will reduce the temptation by committee members to misuse
income. This issue has arisen and it has been difficult to find a solution to this problem, which can
lower morale and possibly keep these projects from succeeding. It is much easier to prevent these
situations from occurring by establishing clear rules and transparent procedures in the beginning than
trying to determine how to defuse situations of this type after they have arisen.
A final issue facing the ejidos is how to sustainably use their natural resource base, especially
in the face of new logging interests in the area. This is especially pertinent to the 20 de Noviembre
which has a forest reserve of 14,000 hectares, which is half of the ejido. Within the forest reserve,
about 3,350 hectares was set aside as a reserve for both flora and fauna where a minimum of interven-
tion is planned. This is where the Rio Bec ruins, the tourist accommodations and the hiking trails are
located. Until 1991, logging took place in the area of the ejidos and was one of the major generators of
income as well as one of the major causes of destruction to the forests. Presently, a Spanish firm has
bought the mill in Zoh Laguna and plans to begin logging in the ejidos again. With so few economic
alternatives, the value of logging to ejidatarios may be much greater than conservation efforts. In the
two ejidos, whether the amount of income generated from tourism will be enough to offset the income
from logging will be an important issue over the next few years. It should be noted that the reserves
were set up before tourism developed in the ejidos and that the only reason that the reserves have
remained is that, for now, competing land pressures have not been that strong. If whether to log be-
comes an issue, a strong tourism business in the area may provide enough incentive to maintain and
sustainably use some forest areas over the long-term instead of logging them.
Because involvement in tourism is so new in the ejidos, the number of tourists attracted and
whether tourism will make a significant contribution to the two ejidos and to the guides is yet to be
seen. A point in the ejidatarios' favor is that they are the first to promote ecotourism and, at least within
the two ejidos, they have control of the land containing the archeological sites Rio Bec and El
Hormiguero. This allows them to control the tourists that come into these areas and more importantly
gives them leverage to negotiate with outside tour operators who want to bring in tourists. From the
aspect of accommodations, the hotels in Xpujil do not cater to eco-tourists. Two of the accommoda-
tions are not very attractive and are situated along the main road and near population centers. The
Ramada Hotel is too expensive for many. This may give the ejido accommodations an advantage in
that they are reasonably priced, comfortable and located in secluded natural settings. However, they
need to determine how they can make these accommodations easily accessible to tourists and they
need to promote them so that tourists know they are available.
Because these endeavors are so new, judging the economic social and ecological impacts of the
guide services and accommodations is premature. However, assuming that they have a reasonable
inflow of tourists, some of these issues can be discussed. The two major ecotourism based income
generators for ejidatarios will be the guide service and the development of the two accommodations
within the ejidos 20 de Noviembre and Eugenio Echeverria Castellot #2. Obviously, by the number of
guides needed in the market and the few accommodations being generated, very few' ejidos and ejid:tarios
are going to be able to benefit relative to the size of the population and number of ejidos in the area (82
ejidos). However, tourism does provide an economic alternative to some. Also, it should be remen-:
bered that it is meant to complement other activities and not replace them.
The training of guides gives some ejidatarios a skill that could help them generate extra i::-
come. As mentioned earlier some guides may do well and earn up to a weeks wages in one day kwhi.e
others who live farther away from Xpujil earn nothing. The distribution of the benefits from this ser-
vice appears to be based on guides' access to Xpujil. However, with a tourist information booth .
camping area in Conhuas this may give others a chance to also panicipate. Within ejidos, the plan :'cr
distributing tourism benefits is geared towards benefitting everyone in the ejido. (This is because of
the design of the ejido system.) Of the funds generated from overnight stays in the accommodations.
50% stays with the ecotourism committee to be reinvested into the ecotourism business and 50c is
given to the ejido for projects and other community needs. If the accommodations are a success then
this amount of money could mean a lot to the ejido. Other income generated will come from guides,
cooks and maintenance people who work in the accommodations. Also, within the ejido a small amount
of income may be generated by store owners who may sell to tourists.
From the social aspect, negative impacts will probably be few as the number of tourists v ho
will come through and stay in the ejido villages should be few. The campsite is secluded and far from
the villages and the number of tourists that can be handled at one time is about eight. The positive
social impacts from the development of the ecotourism program may come from the further education
given to guides who will get a different perspective from working outside of agriculture. The trainim.
increases their knowledge in archeology and the nature and environment that surrounds them. It also
teaches them how to deal vith different people. The economic benefits generated by the ecotourism
business could go to satisfy specific needs in the ejido which could enhance the quality of life for the
From an ecological standpoint, it should be noted that the reserves were established before
tourism was thought of, so that tourism is possible in part because of the reserves and it has not pro-
vided the incentives for conservation. \Vhether tourism will generate incentives for future conserva-
tion and how well these incentives will compete v ith logging or other land uses is hard to judge. But,
if tourism grows it may generate other possible incomes w which may lessen some peoples' dependence
on extraction from the natural resource base. If incomes are supplemented enough. the more time spent
in tourism may reduce the time available for less sustainable activities. Ecotourism activities co,:!J
also begin to generate new attitudes about natural resource use, w which may reinforce the notion of their
D. The Lacandon Forest
The south western region of the Maya Forest is situated in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. This
par of the Maya Forest, known as the Lacandon Forest, contains one of the highest levels of biodiversity
in the Maya Forest and Mexico. Within this area there is a mix of private property, ejido property and
indigenous bienes comunales (common estate property) called the Comunidad Zona Lacandona. The
bienes comunales cover 614,321 hectares (See map on page 42), which was deeded over by the Mexi-
can government in 1972. Also, the 331,200 hectare Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve was established
in the area in 1978, of which 283,773 (85.68%) hectares lies within the bienes comunales of the Lacandon
Community (Comunidad Zona Lacandon, 1994). Of the estimated 450,000 hectares of prime rain
forest still remaining, 90% is contained within the bienes comunales (Comunidad Zona Lacandona,
The conservation of the Lacandon Forest is important to the health of the Usumacinta water-
shed shared between Guatemala and Mexico and to the protection of its rich biodiversity. This forest
also protects the way of life of three indigenous groups in the area, the Lacandons, the Choles and the
Tzeltales. However, conservation is made difficult by the poverty in Chiapas, which is one of the
poorest states in Mexico. The civil unrest in the area, brought on by the Zapatista revolution, high-
lighted the severity of the region's socio-economic problems.
The major threat to the Lacandon Forest is the ever forward moving agricultural frontier brought
on by the influx of immigrants and their dependence on unsustainable agricultural practices and ranch-
ing. It should be noted that most of these people have been forced to the area by severe socio-economic
conditions in other regions and they do not have title to these new lands. The only forest area that
stands a chance of being protected and which contains the majority of the intact Lacandon Forest is
Montes Azules and the bienes comunales which, on paper, are legally recognized.
The federally established boundaries of these areas are not being respected as land invasions
are a major problem for the Lacandon Community and the Monies Azules Reserve. Because the area is
mainly forest, to colonists it appears to be unclaimed or abandoned, so they clear the forest for agricul-
tural use in order to stake their claim to the land. The major impetus for land invasions is the increased
access to the area which was initiated when a road was built in the early 80's in the northeastern pan of
the territory along the Usumacinta River. The natural border, which was an effective defense against
outsiders, was breached and the small number of indigenous people, with few financial or legal re-
sources and with no government support, have not been able to defend their territory. Now, this road is
going to be paved to Bonampak to give tourists better access to the ruins in the area. Although this will
make accessibility better for tourists, it could make the area more attractive to new settlers.
Within the context of the growth of tourism in the area and the influx of population, the indig-
enous communities of the Zona Lacandona are trying to maintain their property, their natural resources
and their culture while trying to link themselves to the economy and culture of the outside world. The
need to make this connection must be balanced with the maintenance of their quality of life and cul-
ture. For their entire history, outsiders have consistently made inroads into their territory with negative
consequences for them and their forests. Now, they must try to make these links on their own terms
without being taken advantage of and without further detriment to their self-determination.
The communities within the bienes comunales are home to three indigenous groups which
account for about 12,000 people consisting of Tzeltales (61.97%), Choles (31.74%) and Lacandon
Mayas (6.28%) (Comunidad Zona Lacandon, 1994). Each group is spread out among various villages
_ ___ .. -. ... .-. .'-, .S 3: ..-
*:>,...*; -; -**.*. :' *.^ ysy f-.jI- *
\^^::^.*-.- ^ .*^ %^ V;I
DE LAS CASAS-"
: \1 1
- - -- STATE BORDERS
which are quite often established along clan affiliations. In many ways, these groups are not very
united with their main allegiance maintained along family lines. In order to better communicate and
coordinate between clans, each group within the villages has a leader who represents them in monthly
general assemblies. These representatives also take part in a supreme council which is the coordinating
body for the entire Zona Lacandona. These assemblies and councils are where most of the decisions
are made about issues affecting the community. The most important issues lately are land invasions,
obtaining support from the government and various aid organizations and economic development.
In the area of economic development, tourism and traditional crafts are business opportunities
that are growing in the Lacandon Community due to the uniqueness of the area and the people. Tourists
have been attracted to the area because of the forest, the local ruins and the indigenous culture. In order
to develop the tourism potential of the area to its fullest, the Lacandon Community will have to work
together in order to plan, control and benefit from tourism. This may be difficult because, although
they may have been able to unite and work together on certain issues and problems that confront them,
in the development of businesses, individual initiatives seem to be preferred over group or community
wide efforts. In order to examine these issues more closely this study will focus on the village of
Lacanji-Chansayab, shown on the map on page 42, where the tourism issue is beginning to be ad-
1. Lacanja and Na Bolom: Crafts, Tourism and Cultural Survival
Lacanji began to get involved in the ecotourism market in 1982, when the first overnight
accommodations were established by individuals offering visitors places to stay. Within the area there
are forests and rivers and an abundance of flora and fauna. They are also close to important archeologi-
cal sites such as Bonampak and Yaxchil.in and the village is home to the Lacandon culture. All of these
attributes attract tourists to the area ever year. However, the development of tourism in Lacanja has
not been planned or pursued by the community as a whole as individual initiatives characterize the
tourism industry in the village. With the new road and the increase in tourism it is important that
Lacanj: develop a plan to control and benefit from the growth of tourism in their village.
Na Bolom (House of the Jaguar), a local organization, is helping the Lacandons preserve their
culture and to confront changes threatening the Lacandon Community. Located in San Cristobal de
Las Casas, Na Bolom was the home of Trudy Blom who died in 1994. Trudy and her husband Frans
began working with the Lacandons beginning in the 1940's, making many expeditions to the area. Na
Bolom is continuing the relationship with the community that the couple began. However, to better aid
the Lacandons, Na Bolom is developing itself as an NGO with the objective of helping them develop
on their own terms which includes conserving their culture and natural resources and improving their
quality of life. Na Bolom is especially concerned with the destruction of the Lacandon Culture which
is related to the destruction of the surrounding forest. The influx of colonists and other influences are
changing the small remaining group of Lacandons which only number about 300 in Lacanji.
Over the last few years, Na Bolom has put much effort into the development of the Lacandon's
traditional crafts. Na Bolom has been instrumental in helping them organize and improve the industry
by expanding the sale of their crafts in Mexico, teaching them quality control and helping them deter-
mine which products sell well. The impact of this on the economic well being of families in the com-
munity has been significant as various families are able to supplement their incomes with craft sales.
At the same time this business serves as a subsidy for conserving this aspect of their cultural identity.
Although many families make crafts, the effort is an individual one instead of a group endeavor. Each
family makes its own crafts and those that adjust to the market and make higher quality crafts generate
more income than other families.
In order to continue helping the Lacandons develop on their own terms, Na Bolom and Lacanji
are trying to tackle other major development, cultural and conservation issues. This year Na Bolom is
developing a prototype "House of Culture" (casa de cultural) or community cultural center in Lacanja
which may serve as a base for addressing these issues. The House of Culture will provide space for the
community to hold meetings and workshops and it serves as a location to organize activities in order to
address various needs such as bilingual education and health. Other aspects of community develop-
ment, such as ecotourism and field research, will also be centered around the House of Culture. Pres-
ently, a traditional huerta and milpa are being planted there by another NGO, Dana A.C., which is
working in conjunction with Na Bolom. This huerta will serve as a teaching and experimental station
to help reinforce and preserve the traditional organic and sustainable agricultural techniques of the
From the tourism perspective, the House of Culture will give the Lacandons a place to sell their
crafts locally (and provide space for artisan workshops) and will serve as a museum for cultural and
environmental themes and as an information center for tourists. This center may be able to serve a
greater purpose by giving the community a place to meet, to organize and to help in the planning and
development of tourism within the context of Lacandon traditions and culture. Furthermore, its exhib-
its will also make tourists and outsiders more.aware of the cultural and natural resource issues that the
Lacandons are facing. If this House of Culture works well, Na Bolom hopes to develop five others in
different villages within the Lacandon Community.
In Lacanja accommodations and guiding have been around for years. There are three families
involved in ecotourism in Lacanji. These families provide accommodations, guide services and food,
although these have been developed on an informal basis. The first of these accommodations began in
1982, the second was developed in 1985 and the latest initiative began in 1990. All three consist of
simple wooden structures to sleep, a latrine and minimal infrastructure for cooking. The nearby streams
serve as bathing facilities for the accommodations.
The amount invested in these sites is difficult to determine but they were all constructed with
each families' own funds and some donations. Also, these families have received no training in the
development of these accommodations and services. The amount charged for services are about the
same in each place. An overnight stay is NS20.00 per person in the accommodations and NS10.00 for
camping. Guide services range from N$50 to NS70 to see the various ruins and natural attractions.
Meals are usually not offered but are negotiable.
Promotion of these accommodations and services are by word of mouth and there seems to be
little effort put into attracting tourists. The accommodations constructed in 1990 seem to receive al-
most all of the business that comes to Lacanji. Pan of the reason is that the owner has negotiated with
a tour operator in Palenque and the owner's brother, who works for another tour agency, shuttles
people to his establishment. Also, these accommodations are the best looking, cleanest and most com-
fortable. The owner is also making signs to put on the main road at the entrance to Lacanji, which
promote his accommodations, tours and crafts.
In general the owners do not keep track of the number of tourists who have stayed with them or
how much income they have generated. Also, there seems to be little outward resentment between the
three families over the competition and the rest of the community does not appear to be very interested
in these accommodations or in becoming involved in tourism on this level. At least on the surface the
jealousies and resentments found in other villages where tourism is growing is not as evident in Lacanji.
2. Issues Important to the Development of Ecotourism in Lacanja
Community organization and unity is needed for the Lacandons to develop strategies to deal
with the government, private enterprises, tourists and other communities outside of LacanjA. On the
Lacandon Community's side is the fact that they have the rights to most of the rain forest that is left and
that many archeological sites are within or near their property. Also, their culture is of great interest to
tourists visiting the Lacandons. If the Lacandons can better organize themselves they could use these
resources as leverage to make sure that tourism development of this area is in their favor and not
against them. This is especially important because the greatest negative impact that tourism could
bring to Lacanja is erosion of their culture. Because the remaining Lacandon community is so small
(about 300 people), it could easily be overrun by tourism.
The lack of community organization and unity plus the tradition of individual initiative is a
problem that faces the Lacandons and other communities inside of the Comunidad Zona Lacandona.
This has meant that, as a group, they have no strategy or policy to control and benefit from the influx
of tourists and the competition that this will bring. Instead of planning for this change they may only be
able to react to it. This could mean that they may not be able to benefit as much as they might from the
inevitable changes. If they do not control tourism, and if only a few people benefit from its growth, the
elements that make Lacanj:i a great place to visit could be lost, the negative social and ecological
impacts could be great, and the economic benefits would not have a very wide impact in the commu-
Because the Lacandon community owns the land and resource base, they have the potential to
control tourism and the leverage to negotiate with outside tour operators. A case in point of the need to
have leverage with tour operators is the relationship that one tour operator who has worked in Lacanji
has had with the Lacandons. This operator made an agreement with one family to bring in groups of
tourists who would use their accommodations. The operator sells a package deal to tourists that in-
cludes food, lodging and tours. Instead of the family charging tourists in Lacanja, the tour operator
receives one payment and shares it with the family. At times he has not paid what he owes them or he
has not paid enough. Also, he does not use local guides so little of the benefit stays in Lacanji. Guide
services and tour operators from outside of the community have the potential to take advantage of the
Lacandons by paying them little, by not using their guide services and by bringing in more tourists
than Lacanji can handle. Under this scenario, all of the negative impacts and few of the profits from
tourism would remain in Lacanjai.
To limit problems of this type, if they organize, the Lacandons could negotiate as a group with
tour operators. Already on the main ro:d there is a guard post to check for illegal transport of flora and
fauna and Conservation International has helped them develop other monitoring posts which they
could use to monitor tour operators and tourists. They may even be able to charge a fee at these posts
to guarantee that they receive a fairer share of tourism benefits. In the same manner that they are
organizing the crafts market with the help of Na Bolom, Lacanj: could do the same with tourism. The
concepts of service, quality and identifying the market, which is done with the crafts, need to be done
with ecotourism. Educating and training villagers on how to develop tourism will be important for
them to compete with other businesses that will grow in the area. Na Bolom, with financing from The
Nature Conservancy, will begin to address this issue by conducting a series of workshops in the region
on ecotourism development.
One final issue is that if there is too much emphasis on ecotourism this could take time away
from the traditional lifestyle and culture of the Lacandons. Ecotourism is meant to be a complement to
traditional activities by generating extra income from tourism opportunities. Ideally, ecotourism could
reinforce and subsidize cultural traditions and conservation. However, when traditions (and crafts)
become an attraction there is a danger of them becoming just commodities, thus, diminishing their
significance as authentic symbols of the lives and culture of the Lacandons. Striking the right balance
between too much and too little will be important and fundamental in the true sense of "eco" and
"cultural" tourism as this activity is developed.
With the construction of the new road and emphasis on developing the Bonampak and Yaxchil.n
ruins by the Mexican government, the level of tourism in the Comunidad Zona Lacandona will in-
crease greatly. Because Lacanji is only a few kilometers off of the road this will make Lacanji much
more accessible and the social, economic and ecological impacts of this development could be positive
as well as negative. Lacanji needs to act quickly to be able to take pan in the market and to develop a
strategy that will not let them be overrun by tourists or be taken advantage of by established and well
financed tourism businesses. However, the community has not thought about the possible changes or
threats to their community brought in by tourism and they, therefore, have not prepared for it. It ap-
pears that the only way that this issue will be fully addressed by the Lacandons is through the help of
Na Bolom. They will have to do much of the work in showing the community the threats, benefits and
steps needed to develop and control tourism on the Lacandon's own terms. The Houses of Culture may
be able to play a central role in this. Also, the workshops on ecotourism that Na Bolom has planned
will begin to focus the Lacandons on these issues.
As mentioned earlier the negative social impacts of tourism could be great, although ecotourism
could be used to positively impact the Lacandon society. The concept behind the House of Culture is
designed to reinforce and preserve the cultural identity of the Lacandons. In terms of development of
tourism the Houses of Culture could serve the purpose of helping Lacanja plan for tourism from within
their own cultural context. This could make tourism a very unique experience which could in turn
attract many tourists. Two possible dangers which Lacanja will have to take into consideration in the
development of tourism are: 1) the remaining Lacandon culture could be spoiled if tourism is not
controlled in the area; 2) turning the crafts and traditions that the Lacandons maintain into attractions
may make these vestiges of their society mere commodities and the real cultural significance could be
lost. On the other hand, tourism could: 1) help subsidize and reinforce the values of their culture; 2)
generate income and; 3) educate outsiders about the plight of their culture and natural resources.
From an economic perspective, for the moment, the only financial impact that tourism has
brought has been felt by the three families that have opened accommodations in Lacanjd. Private
initiatives instead of community initiatives have limited the distribution of benefits to a few members
of the community. From the outside, there appears to be little infighting over this situation and it is
difficult to say whether the entire community, as a group, wants to promote and participate in ecotourism.
A greater number of tourists are going to visit the community, therefore, a more organized community-
based approach would help the community as a whole capture more of the financial benefit of tourism.
As a united group they could be in a better position to negotiate with tour operators in order to receive
a fair share of the income generated by visitors. For now, the benefits outside of the three families
come only through residual money for food and crafts that are sold to visiting tourists. If tourism
increases enough, guiding and preparing food for tourists are activities which could be developed to
increase and more evenly distribute the economic benefit of tourism throughout the community.
The ecological impacts of ecotourism in Lacanja could be a problem if the village is not able to
control the visitors who enter. Too many tourists could negatively impact the forest by disturbing
sensitive areas, leaving garbage, blazing new paths through the woods or by otherwise disturbing
plants or animals. Too many tourists at one time can also spoil the enjoyment of nature by others which
could decrees the attraction of the area. If fees are initiated to gain access to the Lacandon Community,
pan of this income could be put towards conservation efforts (monitoring and guarding borders, etc.).
Another role of the use of tourism for conservation could be through the Casas de Cultura. The
Lacandons' plight may reach a greater audience through tourists who will arrive and see for them-
selves the ecological problems that exist. Ecotourism could help subsidize conservation and educate
visitors about the problems. Also the traditional huertas that the Houses of Culture will have, besides
being attractions for tourists, can help reinforce traditional organic and sustainable agricultural prac-
tices that the Lacandons are losing.
The growth of tourism could play a positive or negative role in conservation, depending on
how prepared and organized the Lacandons are to harness tourism and use it in a positive way. Ques-
tions still remain about how to organize tourism, how the community should benefit, and how to
control the negative impacts on their society and natural resources. With the help of Na Bolom, the
community is beginning to address these issues.
E. The Context for Ecotourism Development in Uaxactuin
Uaxactin is located 27 kilometers north of Tikal National Park within the Maya Biosphere
Reserve (MBR) (see map on page 49). The population has remained relatively small and stable with
an estimated population of 638 (ARCAS, 1994) due to the village's remoteness, lack of water, and
seasonal economy. Uaxactin's economy is based on the extraction of chicle, xate and allspice from the
surrounding forest. Because the extractive industry is the major economic generator in the community
and has generated a higher financial return than farming, agricultural expansion has been limited.
Farming is practiced for family consumption and not for income generation, and hunting supplements
the local diet. Tourism has also played a pan in the village due to its proximity to Tikal and because
tourists have been interested in Uaxactin's ruins, the surrounding forest and the adventure promised
by its remoteness.
Uaxactin is facing changes that make continuing its traditional economic activities difficult.
Chicle, once the major commodity produced in Uaxactin, does not have the strong international de--
mand it once had. (Chicle extraction once accounted for 8% of Guatemala's GDP and since the early
1970's it has been less than 1% (Schwartz, 1990).) It also appears that chicle and other forest based
products are becoming more scarce. Also, user rights in the MBR have been determined by rules
which, technically, do not permit inhabitants of the reserve to own land.
Community and industrial concessions form the principal user rights to the land and natural
resources in the MBR. Presently, communities are only given concessions on the basis of logging and
the cost of a concession is reflected in the returns to timber extraction. This cost may force communi-
ties to log because only timber production generates returns high enough to pay for a concession area.
Concessions, therefore, may limit the rights of MBR residents to extract traditional forest products.
For those communities without a concession, although they will not be removed from the land, their
rights to use the resource base and to live within the MBR remain ambiguous and undefined. Commu-
nities can not easily obtain these rights because the technical and financial resources needed to plan
and manage a concession are beyond their reach. Local NGO's are supporting some communities,
however, the time and investment needed to develop a concession limits their ability to work with
Like a few of the other older communities in the MBR, Uaxactin has been involved in non-
timber forest production for decades. The economies of these communities have been based on chicle,
xate, allspice, hunting and other forest products which require extensive areas for successful and sus-
tainable production. Under concessions these communities may have to produce on an intensive basis
because they will have to remain within the boundaries of their concessions. This mode of production
does not comply with non-timber forest production because they cannot be extracted on an intensive
level and there is no guarantee of access to neighboring concessions. Logging may also affect produc-
tion of non-wood resources. It may be difficult to maximize profits from joint forest products because
the modes of extraction may be in conflict. Also, many residents may not want to be involved in the
hazards of guarding their concession from poachers, which has been a major problem in the Petin.
Within the MBR with or without a concession ecotourism may offer an alternative for
maintaining the community's traditional relationship to the forest. Investing in ecotourism may help
communities sustainably use surrounding natural resources and may increase incentives for conserva-
tion by increasing the returns generated by the standing forest. It is difficult to determine whether
concessions may negatively affect tourism. Issues such as how tourism and logging can co-exist in a
.... . -. .. 5 "^ r a ? ,
MEXICO / -.;
i - r, -,
i .;- -:.Y.BIOSPHERE :- 2-10 .
,.1 .. ,
S " ""..RESERVE .' -'-.:" IR -.... -..,,. ,-.. -.'- -' .- . .. ...
E ; r E\-
- - NATIONAL BORDERS
------ I\TERRNATIONAL BORDERS
concession area are planning and technical issues which include questions such as the amount of un-
disturbed forest that is needed to maintain a high enough diversity of flora and fauna to attract eco-
tourists. Also, ecotourism, like traditional non-timber extraction, uses surrounding forests in an exten-
sive, instead of intensive, manner. A single concession area may not contain all of the attractions
necessary for ecotourism. The conflicts generated from tourism activities in neighboring concessions
could also be a factor. However, this could be less problematic than conflicts generated from sharing
non-wood extraction activities. Although Uaxact6n may also establish a concession, three years ago
the tourism improvement idea was put into action.
1. The Asociaci6n de Guias Eco-culturales de Uaxact6n and its Organization
When the Association for the Rescue and Conservation of Wildlife (Asociaci6n Rescate y
Conservaci6n de Vida Silvestre (ARCAS)), a Guatemalan conservation group, began working in
Uaxactin, community members expressed an interest in improving the tourism potential of the area. In
order to develop and organize tourism in a way that would benefit the local community, the Associa-
tion of Eco-Cultural Guides of Uaxactdn (Asociaci6n de Guias Eco-culturales de Uaxactln) was founded.
Uaxact6n is already visited by a few tourists who come to Tikal and also want to see the Uaxactnn
archeological site or tb walk in surrounding forest areas such as the Biotope El Zotz. The guides
association was formed to develop and promote these activities further. To further increase the benefits
from visitors, the association also wanted to provide accommodations for tourists to remain in the area.
The specific goals of the guides association are to: promote the sustainable use of natural and archeo-
logical resources in the area; improve the social and economic situation of the association members
through tourism services; create employment for the members of the group and the community in
general and; protect the cultural wealth of the area.
The association began activities in September 1992 and organized itself as a formal group in
February 1993 with a membership of 15. Of the 15 members, three are women and at least half of the
group is under thirty years of age with the youngest member being 13. When the group was formed,
none of the members had formal experience in ecotourism, but, some had informally shown tourists
around the ruins. The group has not had experience managing a project or soliciting and administering
funds. However, with the guidance of ARCAS, the group is acquiring the skills necessary to run their
own ecotourism business. An ARCAS worker is living in Uaxactin and is assigned to work with the
group on a daily basis on all aspects of the project. With ARCAS, the group members began building
the infrastructure for tourists to stay overnight and they received training in various aspects of ecotourism.
Most members joined the group because they wanted to make extra money through tourism. In
order for them to reach that point members have had to invest much time and in-kind investment in the
project. The group has been functioning for about two years and the infrastructure of the project will be
completed in 1995. To date only a small amount of tourism money has been earned, however, the
members hope that in the coming years they will be able to attract enough tourism to continue the
project and to increase their incomes. Although financial gain is the main goal of the group, they also
seem aware of the further importance of the development of ecotourism activities. They believe that
they may be able to help the community shape the development of tourism in a manner compatible
with the community's wants and needs. They also hope to deepen the community's understanding of
the usefulness of standing forests and create incentives to conserve the forest ecosystem.
2. The Project
The ecotourism project has two major components; the training of association members as
guides and the development of a tourist camping area. The first part of the project, which began in
January of 1993, initiated a system for the local guides to work within which would be professional
and equitable. The specific activities included guide training, structuring tours, building accommoda-
tions for tourists and promotion.
Specifically, project activities included instruction in archeology, ecology, human relations,
administration, marketing, English and guide training. Different organizations have provided training.
The Guatemalan Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives (FEDECOAG) has offered courses in ad-
ministration and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has provided some guide training. Tours
were designed for the archeological sites and an interpretive trail was established. Through a Q 1,000
loan from the Local Development Support Project (PADEL) land was bought to construct the tourist
accommodations. The camping area includes an open air guesthouse, with a capacity for 12 ham-
mocks, latrines and bathing facilities. All of the buildings are made of local materials. Through a
contribution from the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (INGUAT), the association obtained basic camp-
ing equipment which included hammocks, sleeping bags, tents, etc. Also, INGUAT officially recog-
nized the guide service and issued ID cards to identify them as registered tour guides. Tourist pam-
phlets and maps were prepared and guide services and the camping area were promoted through differ-
ent tourism businesses. Most of these activities were completed with a minimum of investment and
with no financial backing. The guides gave their time and materials for construction of the accommo-
A second phase of the project was begun in January of 1995 in order to improve the camping
area, offer better services and to create more interest and demand for the guide services and camping
area. With a grant from The Nature Conservancy for $24,109.00, the association has begun to improve
their camping site and is continuing their training and promotion activities. The group is constructing
an office for the guides and storage for equipment, a bungalow which will offer more comfortable
accommodations to tourists, a building for a restaurant, a water collection device (Aljibe) and a solar
powered electrical system. The training consists of classes that help the guides offer better services to
tourists by improving their knowledge of the area and by increasing their capacities to administer and
manage the project. This training builds upon previous training and includes courses in archeology,
ecology, administration, marketing, human relations, English, hotel and restaurant management and
enterprise development. In order to become more self-sufficient, the association plans to reinvest 25%
of the revenues generated by the camping and guide service into maintenance and improvements for
The first tourist to use the eco-camping facilities arrived on June 10, 1994. The association
began keeping records of the number of visitors that use their site beginning in December of 1994.
Over the first five months 20 people have used the association's guide service. Most of these people
have also used the eco-camping area. From the comments left by these tourists, they seem to be happy
with the tours and accommodations provided. When the infrastructure is completed, the promotion of
the area will become important to bring in enough tourists. At this point, promotion is being done
through ARCAS. And with their help, the association is going to different hotels and tour operators in
the Flores / Santa Elena area to promote their camping and guide service and to look for points where
they can advertise and leave information.
Because the association does not provide board, food is provided by the four local restaurants.
This helps distribute some of the economic benefit of tourism to other community members. In order
not to demonstrate favoritism among restaurants, the association rotates among the food providers, so
that each one has a turn to prepare food for tourists. This lowers the probability of infighting in the
community and gives more support to the association because they can demonstrate and directly share
some of the benefits of tourism.
3. Administration and Implementation of the Project
As mentioned earlier, the association receives most of their guidance and support through an
ARCAS staff person who works and lives in Uaxactdn. Although the group makes all of the final
decisions and the project is truly a group effort, they have had to depend heavily on ARCAS to help
with funding, training and implementation of the project. Although the group does have leadership, the
ARCAS person working with the association has often had to guide them on administrative issues,
such as money management, and help organize them to build the infrastructure and to complete other
parts of the project. As much as possible, the administrative, management and planning aspects are
assigned to the association in order for them to learn how to run the project and to take responsibilities
for these functions. Group members are learning new skills in bookkeeping, administration, promotion
and guiding, rnd they are learning how to work as a group in order to keep the project functioning. This
training should make the association less dependent on outside help in the future and will give mem-
bers the skills to manage, on their own, the ecotourism business that they are developing.
In 1994, the group survived its first, and so far only, major problem when internal conflicts
caused by the elected leader resulted in the resignation of more than half the members. Only six mem-
bers remained. However, the problem was resolved when the leader left and the original members
returned to the group. After this, the project began to establish itself and the group has remained intact.
The group meets often more than once a week in order to discuss the state of the project and any
problems that may arise. It appears that they have a much more solid group and the past problems have
not affected the association in a negative manner.
The structure of the association may have an impact on how well the group is able to circum-
vent or resolve problems. The association was developed with a fairly specific set of by-laws which
promote democratic participation, equity, rotation of power and oversight. A board of directors (junta
directive) and an oversight committee (junta de vigilancia) was voted on by the general assembly
which includes all 15 of the members. The five member board of directors includes a president, vice-
president, secretary and treasurer. Some members of the board serve for one year and others for two
years. The three members of the oversight committee are elected for one year and are responsible for
controlling the financial aspects of the association and its projects. The membership can vote to over-
ride any votes or decisions made by the junta directiva or by the oversight committee. Due to the small
size of the group and the number of members on the boards, most members should have a chance to
serve in some capacity as an office holder within the group. In this way the members can have different
perspectives on how the group functions which may increase respect for other members positions and
give them a better understanding of the dynamic of group decision making.
The project is being implemented at a slower pace than planned as the group is just beginning
to become more cohesive and is rebounding from the problem mentioned earlier. Construction is con-
tinuing, but due to each member's day to day activities, there is sometimes a lack of people to complete
work in the project. This years especially severe dry season has temporarily halted the construction
phase of the project because there has been no water.
As for the educational and training aspect of the project, members appear to be enthusiastic and
participate in the various classes that have been given. Visitors also appear to be satisfied with the
quality of the tours that the association has given. However, according to ARCAS the group still needs
to improve their organizational, management and administrative skills. Especially on tours of more
than one day, the logistics of preparing food, pack animals, and taking care of guests' needs to be more
efficient. However, this appears to be more from the lack of experience than training and should im-
prove over time. It is worth mentioning that this issue has not bothered tourists, based on their com-
4. Issues Affecting the Success of the Association
In order for the Associaci6n de Guias de Uaxactdn to function over the long-term it needs to
pay for itself. Specifically, it must attract a high enough volume of tourists for their guide services and
overnight accommodations. Only through the success of this business will the goals of sustainable
development and conservation actually be reached. With this in mind, the following issues of organiza-
tion, access to Uaxacitn, quality of services and promotion need to be taken into consideration in order
to guarantee long-term success of the business and of conservation efforts.
The organization of the association and the cohesiveness of its members is important to the
success of ecotourism in the area. As long as the group maintains its oversight and democratic structure
it should have a good chance of functioning over the long-term. The members now in the group repre-
sent almost everyone who is interested in ecotourism in Uaxactiin, so the problem of including others
has, so far, not arisen. However, in the future others outside of the group may become interested in
participating so it will be important to have a mechanism capable of both incorporating new members
and distributing benefits fairly.
As with any business and community development project it is hoped that the enterprise will
become self-sustaining. With group stability and efficient and competitive services, the association
should continue to function without outside support. However, over the coming years, support may be
needed to improve services and strengthen other areas. How long ARCAS will need to work with the
group is unknown, however, self-sufficiency is the key to the long-term survival of the association and
From a business perspective, three key factors which will determine whether UaxactOn can be
competitive in the ecotourism market are access, the quality of services and promotion. Uaxactin's
remote location, 27 kilometers North of Tikal, is both a major advantage and disadvantage. Its location
is a major asset because it offers an abundance of forest and wildlife, however, this isolation makes
access to Uaxactin difficult. Although access to Tikal is excellent, transportation to Uaxactin is diffi-
cult because of the poor condition of the road, especially during the rainy season. Furthermore, there is
little consistent transportation which makes it inconvenient for tourists to enter and leave at will. This
problem gives tour operations the opportunity to capture part of Uaxactfn's tourism market, because,
for reasons of time and convenience, some tourists may prefer a one day excursion rather than the
inconvenience and uncertainty of other transportation to Uaxactin. Already, tour operators bring in
groups of tourists that only stay for a few hours. These visitors do not use the local services in Uaxactin,
therefore, there is no economic benefit for local residents. Another option for tourists is to stay directly
in Tikal instead of venturing to Uaxactin. The association is beginning to negotiate with tour operators
and trying to determine how to improve access to the area which will be important for increasing the
volume of tourists that come to Uaxactin.
Although Uaxacttin has much to offer in terms of archeological and ecological attractions, the
quality of their tour services and accommodations will ultimately determine if they will succeed. Be-
cause the people being attracted to Uaxactin are interested in nature, archeology and the culture, the
camping area can be simple, but, it needs to be comfortable, clean and safe. Even the most experienced
campers want access to water, food and a comfortable and safe place to sleep. Although the camping
area is still being completed, in general, it is clean and the quality of the guide services and the camp-
ing area is good.
However, there are still some improvements which could be made. The camping area is within
the village, so there is not much sense of isolation. In order to block the camping area from the rest of
the community, more trees and other flora could be planted. Within the camping area, grass and more
trees and plants would make the area more attractive and inviting. There is a fence around the area but
this has not kept horses and other livestock out. The livestock leaves manure, tramples the flora and
also destroys pans of the grounds. All of these small details together are important to maintain a
competitive edge with other ecotourism enterprises in the community. With little effort and cost, the
association's camping area could maintain its quality and service in order to remain competitive.
Finally, promoting the services they offer is the only way to maintain an inflow of tourism that
will benefit the group. As the ecotourism market expands, promotion and making a name for them-
selves as a place to go will help guarantee a flow of tourists to Uaxactin. Within Uaxactun there is a
privately run ecotourism inn that appears to be more comfortable but more expensive. Also, there are
many ecotourism projects, both community-based and private, in the Peten that will be competing with
Uaxactin in the future. Promotion and providing convenient and high quality services will determine
if they survive in this market.
Overall, the surrounding attractions in Uaxact6n, the forests, the archeological sites and the
uniqueness of Uaxactin itself provide the Asociaci6n de Guias de Uaxacttn with a good base with
which to attract tourists. In order to take advantage of these attractions, the issues of service and
promotion need to be addressed. Although the economic, social and ecological impacts generated from
the association's ecotourism development can only be measured over the long-term, there are some
points which can be discussed as to how these impacts may be felt and how successful the project may
be in obtaining positive outcomes in these three areas.
The economic aspect of ecotourism has received the most focus in this profile reflecting the
area of greatest concentration by the association. The major reason for developing the eco-camping
and guide services has been to diversify and complement their personal economic activities and to
increase incomes for association members. For the community as a whole, economic benefits will
come from a higher volume of tourists who will patronize Uaxactin's restaurants and stores. Within
the association, the income generated is to be distributed evenly by giving members a chance to earn
money as guides. Also income will be provided by maintaining and supplying services to the camping
area which generates revenues from overnight guests. Within Uaxactin, the group is concerned that
economic benefits be distributed as evenly as possible in order to minimize friction within the commu-
nity. The association is careful to make sure all of the restaurants are promoted equally and that tourists
are rotated among the different establishments.
If the enterprise is successful there may be more residents who will want to join the group and
share in the profits. This may cause conflicts if original group members do not want to include others.
(However, this appears not to be the case as the group seems to be open to new members.) Further
distribution of income generated among a larger group will have to be handled without diluting the
share of income earned by the original niembers and without alienating incoming members who will
want to share in the revenues generated by the association. The only way that this may be able to work
is if the enterprise grows at a fast enough rate to pay new and original members a high enough income
for the work and investment that they have made. This scenario is doubtful as original members may
feel that they deserve a higher level of income as the enterprise grows. Also, there is no guarantee that
the enterprise will grow enough to be able to include new members.
As for social impacts, in the short-run, association members have received further education
and training as mentioned above. Through their participation in the association they may have experi-
enced personal growth through learning how to manage and administer the project and to work within
a social structure such as the association. Social impacts generated directly by increased incomes
depend on each individual. As incomes increase, there is no assurance that members will seek a higher
quality of life by investing in such things as more formal education or by investing in other opportuni-
ties. A negative aspect of tourism, which needs to be continually monitored, is that the influence of
more tourists may dramatically elevate the importance of financial gain in the community to such an
extent that both residents and tourists feel that tourism only revolves around a financial transaction and
not around ecology. :archeology and culture.
Finally, one of the hoped for outcomes of this enterprise is that it will give further incentive to
sustainable use and conserve the surrounding natural resources. Uaxacttin has relatively abundant
natural resources compared to many other areas of the Petin and this is in large part because of the
extraction of renewable forest products which has been the base of their economy. Agriculture is not
that strong and on some level residents understand how sustainable use works based on their experi-
ences with chicle. x:ie and allspice extraction. Tourism is another product which can have a positive
ecological impact by increasing the incentives for conservation by placing a higher economic value on
the standing forest. On the negative side. the impact of more tourists could be felt through increased
garbage, ecological d:tm:age from overused trails and a higher consumption of meat which is primarily
supplied by animals hunted in the surrounding forest. So far, the group has not used their ecotourism
business to directly promote conservation and sustainable use. Changing local attitudes about the envi-
ronment will probably come more indirectly through the economic success of ecologically sound en-
terprises like the ecoc:amping project. However, increased contact with tourists and the environmental
education component of the guides' training could also have an impact on attitudes about the surround-
F. Ixchel S.C.
Founded in 1979, lxchel6 S.C. (Sociedad Civil), is an organization for local Petin women to
better their quality of life through reconnecting them to the land and reestablishing their knowledge of
the natural environment and its sustainable use. The following themes serve as the basis for their work:
the reestablishment of women's rights to the land and its natural resources and the promotion of con-
sciousness and respect for conservation and management of natural resources. These concepts are
fulfilled by Ixchel through the development of programs that help women face and resolve economic,
educational, social and health issues while increasing their self-esteem and self-worth.
In 1990 lxchel obtained legal status as a civil association (S.C.). In 1992 they obtained a 30
year lease from the municipality of San Jose for 13.3 hectares of land, which was the site of an old
logging mill, where they established their headquarters called the "Centro de Cultura de La Mujer
Maya" (See map on page 57). Now that lxchel has a more permanent location the women have a stable
place in which to camn' on their daily activities. This has been a big step in the process of reestablishing
the women's rights to the land by actually possessing a parcel where they can begin to carry out their
activities in conservation and sustainable natural resource use.
Ixchel was founded by a Petin woman named Brenda Mallol. Much of what the project has
accomplished stems from her efforts since 1979 and financing from her own sources of income. Her
life revolves around the development and survival of Ixchel and until 1994, all administrative power
and daily responsibilities were centered around her leadership. Ms. Mallol has remained as the legal
representative of the organization but has begun to delegate responsibilities to other members. She
designated an executive coordinator w ho manages the center's activities. There is also a board of
directors comprised of Ms. Mallol, the executive coordinator, and eight other women who comprise
the rest of the members of lxchel. All of the organization's decisions are made by consensus within the
When the group first began in 1990. there were nearly 80 women who participated in Ixchel.
Since then, the number has dropped to eight. A major reason for the drop in participants is because
many women who left wanted short-tenr financial rewards lhat the organization was not able to offer.
Conflicts also developed about how Ixchel v as supposed to function which made some women decide
to leave the group. The remaining group of eight do the work at the center and have become the
members of the board of directors. In part, because of the.e conflicts. over the last year Ixchel has
changed its strategy for including members of the community. lxchel is developing itself as a training
center for women and instead of maintaining a large participating membership, women will be allowed
to join as associate members (with the exception of the eight women on the board of directors). This
allows them to learn and work within the various projects on a short-term basis.
Within the center, Ixchel is beginning to work under three broad themes; agro-ecology, culture
and community economic development. The specific projects that they are undertaking are captive
breeding of endangered animals, reforestation and traditional medicinal plant production. They are
also establishing an ecotourism center and inn. These projects were initiated only since the establish-
ment of the center and are not operating fully. Ixchel has two goals for the projects they are initiating:
1) to make the center self-sustaining by making the projects revenue generating and; 2) to use these
6Ichcl is Lh: M.ayan Goddess of medicine, birth and waving.
-..".. .... R4.-' "AVO.
RESERVE. -'. .: -. AR
M E: I C O "'-*** .... :"' . ""- ": .'
-: --; i: i'~l ~7~~
.. I -\
-- -- NATIONAL BORDERS
----- INTERNATIONAL BORDERS
:a J..".1 rt.r.
projects to train women how to use their own initiatives to run similar successful businesses. Through
these projects and this process, the organization wants to increase the self-esteem of women and de-
velop economically and ecologically sustainable ventures.
In order to reach all of the goals mentioned above, Ixchel wants to harness the ecotourism
potential in the area and within their center to help generate funding for their other projects. The
group is developing the Posada (Inn) Yaxnik in order to provide accommodations and food for tourists.
To date, only tours of the grounds have generated income, however, through the inn they hope to
generate a higher level of funds to help subsidize their other activities. The primary goal of the other
projects being developed are to promote sustainable natural resource use, but, these projects will also
be developed as attractions for tourists. The women view the center as a place where tourists will want
to visit and stay. Therefore, ecotourism is viewed as the quickest and best way for them to generate
money and draw attention to their other activities.
1. The Development of the Posada Yaxnik
Ixchel's most advanced activity is the Posada Yaxnik which is being developed in the main
building of the Centro de Cultura de la Mujer Maya. Development of the inn began in January 1995
and it should be fully functioning by the end of 1995. The purpose of the inn is to generate funds for the
Centro de Cultura to help finance the organization's other projects and to generate income for group
members. At least in the short-term the inn is expected to be the major revenue generator for the center.
The inn is envisioned as a place for tourists to stay while they learn about Ixchel and its work with
women and traditional natural resource use.
Investment in the inn has been relatively low because an appropriate existing structure from an
old sawmill was on the site, which the group rehabilitated. Its rooms were easily convened to bed-
rooms and there was a kitchen facility already in the building. The inn will begin operations with four
guest rooms, a kitchen and an eating area, however, there is room for future expansion within the
building (for up to ten rooms). To develop the inn, the group borrowed QI0,000 from their own small
loan program and have actively solicited help from companies to donate materials and from people
who could donate expertise and time. Ms. Mallol has also donated her own money to the inn and the
women of Ixchel have invested many hours in painting, cleaning and performing other jobs.
The services offered at the Posada Yaxnik are overnight accommodations, food and tours of
Ixchel. The women are also planning to organize other activities, such as tours of attractions in the
surrounding area. The rooms in the inn are simple and comfortable and each room has a private bath-
room. The cost of a double room in the inn is Q50.00 per night. A cost of a meal is Q10.00 and the cost
of a tour of Ixchel is Q5.00. All of the services at the inn, food preparation, cleaning, tours and admin-
istration and management will be provided by the women who are permanent members of Ixchel.
These duties are to be performed in addition to the obligations these women have in the other projects
in the Centro de Cultura. With financing from The Nature Conservancy, a short-term consultant is
helping them establish standards for their services and improve other details about the administration
and management of the inn which will make it run more efficiently, and be more attractive to tourists.
The possibility of the inn raising funds for other projects and paying a significant wage to the
women working there may not be feasible in the short-run given the number of rooms and the un-
known level of response they can expect from advertising of the inn and center. Promotion of the inn
and Ixchel has been minimal, however, they already have had a few guests without advertising. The
group plans on advertising locally through pamphlets distributed in businesses that tourists frequent.
The Posada Yaxnik is near other tourism projects in the area which could complement Ixchel's
activities. The Eco-escuela de Espaiol, run by Conservation International (an international NGO), in
San Andres promotes Ixchel and sends its students on field trips to the Centro de Cultura. This type of
promotion and coordination could help build a strong attraction for tourists. The Bio-Itza, which is a
private reserve that contains archeological ruins, and Motul which is an archeological site are nearby
and offer other attractions which may complement the Posada Yaxnik. Lake Petin Itza and San Jose
which is a traditional picturesque Petin village are also nearby. Already, foreign tourists visit the site
each week. Since January 1995, when they began registering visitors, 100 have come to tour the Centro
de Cultura as of May 1. Presently, this is the only place close to these attractions for tourists to stay,
which should make it easier to attract overnight guests.
Complementary to the development of the inn, a chain of inns are being developed through
some of the associate and permanent members of Ixchel. The purpose of this chain is to give women an
opportunity to generate income outside of the Centro de Cultura while receiving support from the
center. Four women have decided to open their own inns, one in San Miguel, two in San Andres and
another in San Jose. Each inn will consist of a traditional thatched hut on the families properties where
they will be able to receive guests and prepare traditional meals. The stays will be arranged through
Through Ixchel's community loan program the women will have capital available to develop
the infrastructure. The women are also required to work in the center in order to learn how to rnn their
own businesses. Training in administration and management of inns will be done mainly through
hands on experience in the Posada Yaxnik. The ability of these women to manage an inn and offer an
environment that attracts overnight guests will require the same efforts as in the Posada Yaxnik.
2. Natural Resource Activities in the Centro de Cultura de la Mujer Maya
Ecotourism is only one facet of lxchel's integrated activities. lxchel manages two projects
pertaining to sustainable natural resource use; captive breeding of endangered animals and an
agroforestry and medicinal plant program. These projects are just being initiated and should be func-
tioning within the next year. The group hopes that, over time, these projects will generate funds to
support their own operation, provide a financial return to the women and attract tourists. However, the
more likely scenario is that these projects will be initially funded from outside sources and from part of
the income generated through ecotourism.
lxchel has been granted permission by CONAP (Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas / Na-
tional Council of Protected Areas) to maintain an experimental farm for local wildlife. The goal of the
captive breeding program is to establish a demonstration farm for species that are endangered (mostly
from hunting pressures). The farm will be used for educational and experimental purposes in order to
begin to preserve these animals in the wild and to promote their sustainable use locally. The project is
small-scale and has just begun acquiring the animals that they will be using for captive reproduction.
Presently, they have tepezcuintle (Agouti paca), hocofaisin (pajuil), cojolitas, brocket deer (cabritas)
and white turtles. The specific objectives of this project are: to train women and local children in
animal management; to stimulate and increase economic opportunities; to develop a sustainable enter-
prise and; to generate alternatives for natural resource management and conservation. The most ad-
vanced part of this program is the tepezcuintle project. The women hope to generate revenues from the
sale of tepezcuintle both to others who want to begin like projects and for consumption. The project
will serve as a model for other groups and will begin a process which, over time, will decrease the
pressure on tepezcuintle in the wild.
The agroforestry program, is primarily concerned with the reforestation of the area of the cen-
ter. The area was practically void of trees in 1992, and of the 13 hectares that they have leased, so far,
they have reforested two hectares. Since 1992, 6,000 trees have been planted with the help of CARE.
All of the trees have some medicinal properties, serve as food production for the animals in the captive
breeding program or are used for human consumption. Also, the women are beginning a small trail
system on their land to teach others about the plants and trees of the area and they have begun a small
garden that contains herbs and other medicinal plants.
Although one of Ixchel's main focuses is on sustainable natural resource use, promoted by the
projects mentioned above, two other projects which complement the groups other activities are their
literacy and community loan programs. One of the more evident successes of Ixchel has been the
literacy program which, to date, helped eight Ixchel women, who could not write and who had minimal
reading skills, complete their third and fourth years of basic education. All of the members of lxchel
are literate, and the further education that they receive, besides increasing their self-esteem, gives them
the tools to study and understand more difficult concepts which will enable them to fully take part in
the other projects in the center. The other tool that Ixchel has at its disposal is a community bank which
the group uses to make loans for small business development. The bank has about Q20,000 which
Brenda Mallol began with her own money two or three years ago. The loans range up to Q500 and are
given out only after the applicant spends time at lxchel receiving some practical training in loan ad-
ministration and business management.
Both of these programs complement the overall goals of increasing women's self-esteem and
increasing their capacities to work within the natural environment by providing some of the tools
necessary to successfully run a business; a sufficient level of education and financing. Integrated into
these projects is the tourist aspect of Ixchel which is being developed through the inn and tours of the
3. Issues Affecting the Success of Ecotourism at Ixchel
Ixchel has the potential to attract tourists because of the projects being developed within the
Centro de Cultura de la Mujer Maya and because it is in the area of other local attractions. Its success
in attracting tourists is going to depend on how well the projects and concept of Ixchel are developed
along with assuring that the accommodations, tours of the compound and the restaurant are well run.
The issues pertaining to the tourism aspect of Ixchel, quality of the experience, service and promotion,
will determine whether Ixchel's ecotourism component will be successful.
With increasing competition in San Jose and the short boat ride from the hotels in Flores, the
inn will need to offer a comfortable, unique and reasonably priced experience in order to compete.
Although the rooms are comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and are reasonably priced, the administra-
tion and service will have to be sufficient enough to take care of tourists needs. With the small number
of women working at the inn, they will have to guarantee that the maintenance, cleaning and provision
of other services are covered. The success of the accommodations also depends on the level of promo-
tion to be generated. Promotion will be done by highlighting the accommodations that they offer and
by highlighting the other projects that they are implementing. The center will be promoted in Flores
and at other major tourist destinations, however, Ixchel has not begun to promote themselves yet.
Tourism is viewed by Ixchel as a revenue generator which will subsidize the development of
the organization's projects, and the projects, in turn, will serve as attractions for visitors. One of the
differences between Ixchel and many other ecotourism projects is that it is not in a forested area. It is
located in a populated area with very little forest nearby. In fact the grounds themselves are only now
being rehabilitated with trees and plants. The Centro de Cultura will need to improve its grounds and
have successful projects in order to offer attractions that other ecotourism sites may not have. If the
attraction of tourists is going to depend on the development of the center, the reforestation and gardens
that are underway need to be improved to make the compound more attractive and provide the natural
environment for ecotourism.
The above aspects are related to the quality of experience that tourists are looking for when
choosing places to visit and in determining how long to stay for. If there is much to see at Ixchel
tourists may feel that it is worth staying for a longer period of time instead of staying for only a few
hours. Also, if they can easily get to other attractions in the area they may choose to stay at the inn. If
the other facets of Ixchel begin to grow, as the only functioning women's group in the Petin, they may
become enough of an attraction in themselves to generate a strong flow of tourists.
Beyond the service and quality issues mentioned in the Posada Yaxnik, there are issues that
need to be addressed within the Ixchel organization as a whole. Because ecotourism is only a compo-
nent of Ixchel's other activities, in part, its success depends on how well Ixchel functions as an organi-
zation. Therefore, other issues which also need to be addressed include: the recruitment and participa-
tion of local women, the quality and success of their natural resource projects, its administrative struc-
ture and the attainment of an adequate level of self-sufficiency.
Ixchel has encountered various problems as it has attempted to establish and stabilize itself in
the Centro de Cultura de la Mujer Maya. As the group grew and they gained control of property, for
various reasons (such as little community support), resentments and rumors began to spread through-
out the San Jos6 community. Even after the land was formally secured in 1992, an attempt was made to
pressure Ixchel off of the land despite its thirty year lease. At this point many women left the group.
In part due to these problems, Ixchel changed its strategy for bringing women into the organi-
zation. With so few women from the community involved in Ixchel, further resentments or misunder-
standings could arise because the community may not feel that lxchel will benefit them. However, the
issues within the community seem to be abating. In the short-term, as the various projects begin to take
off, they may become more labor intensive. With few wonien working at Ixchel (all of them have to
balance their duties at home with their work at the center) this could affect the timely execution of the-
projects and could decrease their quality and likelihood of success.
Because Ixchel's activities are integrated, and with so few women working in the center the
administration of these projects is quite important to the success of Ixchel as an organization and to the
success of its ecotourism initiative. Two issues that need to be addressed are the delegation of respon-
sibilities and the sharing of decision making within the various projects. Many day to day decisions are
made through the leadership which makes the management of the projects less efficient. Especially
with so few women working and the numerous daily activities that have to be performed, this may
keep some jobs from being finished on a timely basis. Especially in the Posada Yaxnik, where timely
service is necessary, this could lower the quality of these services. Decentralization of decision making
and providing the women working on these projects with some administative and management skills
could make the daily running of the center much smoother and could help increase the quality of
services within the Posada Yaxnik. Also, the added responsibility, the increased decision making power
and the increased skills in administration and management will help empower these women and in-
crease their self-esteem which is one of the Ixchel themes.
Finally, a combination of self-sufficiency and the ability to find funding from other sources is
necessary for the continuation and growth of Ixchel. Although the Posada Yaxnik is viewed as an
income generator for Ixchel, it will not be enough to fund the entire center. In order to attract more
funding, and for the women to benefit from their work at the center, the success of Ixchel's projects is
critical. The experience that the women are gaining in administering funds and managing projects will
help them to run like activities in the future. Successes with their present activities will also show
potential funders that Ixchel is capable of running other projects. They also need to prove that they can
create an impact in the community. The smooth running of the organization also plays a part in how
well projects are executed. Their ability to reach a state of self-sufficiency through generating internal
funding and to attract further outside funding revolves around all of the issues mentioned above. In
turn this will determine the long-temn success of Ixchel.
4. The Impacts of Ixchel's Ecotourism initiative
The impacts of ecotourism will be felt mainly within the Ixchel organization. Directly, the
economic impact of ecotourism will be in the form of increased funds for the other projects in the
Centro de Cultura and incomes for the women working in the inn. The level of self-financing and
salaries that will be reached are difficult to determine. The distribution of income generated from
ecotourism is limited only to participants, however, if the inn is able to generate enough income to help
maintain and develop the other projects then the impacts could be much wider within the surrounding
From a social aspect, as the women become more involved in the administration and manage-
ment of the inn, they will increase their knowledge of business and other aspects of tourism. By devel-
oping these skills, it may also help them be able to generate income for themselves. If the women are
provided with an income from the inn, they may choose to invest in a manner that will improve their
quality of life for their families (e.g. more education for their children, better living conditions, etc.). In
the shor-run, the distribution of social impacts will be limited to those directly participating in the
management and running of the inn. Indirectly, because some of the income generated will go to
develop other projects, the social impact that these projects are meant to provide could be quite large as
they begin to reach out to the women of the community.
The Posada Yaxnik is being developed to help subsidize natural resource projects being devel-
oped by Ixchel. In this sense the inn will have a direct impact on natural resource conservation and
sustainable use because some of the income will be invested directly in their natural resource based
projects. Also the educational aspect of Ixchel's projects will complement the dissemination of infor-
mation on conservation and sustainable forest use to the community (and to visitors). These projects
may help lead to changes in attitudes about forest use by helping people better understand it and by
showing them alternative uses of forests that maintain their ecological integrity.
The six ecotourism projects presented in this study are all in the beginning stages of their
development and the ultimate success of these initiatives will only be determined over the long-term.
However, the case studies provide a view of where communities are in the formation of their ecotourism
enterprises and highlight the major issues related to their development. Although many of these projects
are just starting and have not reached their full potential, the studies examined possible outcomes in
terms of economic and social impacts on communities, ecological impacts on forest resources and the
implications of the projects for conservation.
These projects were initiated within a context of underdevelopment, rapid population growth,
unsustainable forest exploitation and the conversion of forest areas to agriculture. From the point of
view of The Nature Conservancy, the objective behind supporting these projects is to foster conserva-
tion and sustainable resource use through the development of community-based ecotourism enter-
prises. From the communities' point of view, this aid permits them to participate in the growing tour-
ism industry in the region in order to help themselves develop economically. Therefore, these projects
address the short-term needs of the communities for economic development, while aiming to fulfill the
more long-term outcomes for conservation and sustainable natural resource use.
With this in mind, this section will: 1) outline the basic characteristics of each group and their
respective ecotourism projects; 2) examine the issues facing these ecotourism businesses; 3) discuss
the issues pertinent to their development and sustainability; 4) examine the likely economic, social and
ecological impacts of these ecotourism initiatives and finally; 5) discuss the significance of these ef-
fons for fostering conservation. Although the significance of the conservation that will take place from
these initiatives is not completely measurable at this point, the potential is evident by the fact that they
offer an economic alternative to unsustainable forest use, they have the potential to positively affect
many people and many of the projects have sustainable use and conservation components built in to
A. Characteristics of the Ecotourism initiatives
The projects profiled in this study all have characteristics in common and are developing under
similar contexts as shown in Table 3.1 on page 64. All of these projects have been in existence for
between one and five years with the exception of the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS) in Belize,
which has been functioning for ten years. For the most part, ecotourism is only one aspect of other
conservation and development activities that these groups are developing, which include protected
areas and agroforestry activities. The services established by these ecotourism businesses include dif-
ferent combinations of accommodations, guide services, craft stores, museums (and centers for infor-
mation) and food services. In most instances the tourism activities being developed are diversified to
include other attractions such as archeological sites and culture.
Four out of the six projects studied include other activities of which ecotourism is viewed as an
integral component for generating income and/or to subsidize other activities. Only the Association of
Eco-cultural Guides of Uaxact6n, in Guatemala, and the Toledo Ecotourism Association (T.E.A.), in
Belize, have developed organizations solely for the purpose of developing ecotourism. However, the
Table 3.1 Principal Characteristics of Community-based Ecotourism Projects
Project Years of Ecotourism: Principal Infrastructure2
experience in principal activity Attractions
ecotourism or component of promoted'
Eco-cultural 3 Principal activity N, AR A,G
Guides of UaxactOn
Ixchel S.C. 1 Component N, C, CR A, G, F, M
Toledo Ecotourism 5 Principal activity N, C, AR, CR A, G, F, CS
Community Baboon 10 Component N A, G, F, M3
Ejidos 1 Component AR, N A, G, F, M
Lacanja 1 Component C, N, CR, AR CS, A, G, M'
1. Nature (N), Archeology (AR), Culture (C), Crafts (CR).
2. Accommodations (A), Guide Services (G), Food (F), Crafts sales (CS), Museum and centers of information (M).
3. The development of accommodations have been through private initiatives.
4. Ecotourism has developed though private initiatives, except for the museum.
T.E.A. strategy is that their ecotourism development will directly include conservation (village pro-
tected areas) and other economic development activities (organic farming and a crafts market) and that
ecotourism will serve as the catalyst for these initiatives.
The Ixchel women's group, in Guatemala, is developing its own compound which will include
agroforestry, wildlife breeding, medicinal plants, cultural preservation and the empowerment of women.
They are developing an ecotourism component because it is viewed as the best opportunity to generate
income and to subsidize their other projects.
The CBS was established as a howler monkey sanctuary with the four goals of habitat protec-
tion, education, research and ecotourism. Ecotourism as a community initiative has consisted of guided
tours and the development of a museum and information center to support the sanctuary.
In the ejidos in Mexico, (the 20 de noviembre and Eugenio Echeverria Castellot #2) ecotourism
is seen as one form for bringing economic development t& these communities. As with any other
product that they have developed timber, honey, agricultural products they view ecotourism as a
component of their development. They also see ecotourism as a complementary economic activity in
the forest reserves that they have established.
In Lacanja, ecotourism businesses (accommodations, guide services and food) have been de-
veloped by individual community members. Out of concern that the growth of tourism in the area may
bring problems to the village, Lacanji, through the support of a local NGO, is beginning to establish
infrastructure (a museum and information center) to try to organize and develop ecotourism on its own
In order to diversify and respond to the market as much as possible, besides nature based
tourism, all of the groups include archeological sites as pan of their ecotourism attractions, with the
exception of the CBS (which does not contain any archeological sites). Local culture and crafts are
other attractions which some groups are promoting. Especially in Lacanji and in the T.E.A. villages,
where local indigenous cultures still maintain their traditions, culture is a strong component of the
attractions that are being offered. The T.E.A. offers traditional dance, story telling and music as pan of
their tourism activities while LacanjA has a strong traditional crafts industry. Ixchel also focuses on
culture by highlighting local women's roles, traditional medicine and medicinal herbs and crafts. All of
these extra components help diversify these businesses within the tourism market and also make each
project unique by promoting a combination of interesting attractions.
All of these communities are in or near protected areas, and they are being supported finan-
cially or technically by governments and/or NGO's as part of larger conservation efforts in the region
(See Table 3.2 on page 67). By providing funding and technical support to communities in the Maya
Forest region, governments and NGO's are attempting to introduce economic activities compatible
with conservation and sustainable use in order to help diminish the pressure on the natural resource
base and protected areas. Because these projects are being supported with the intention that they should
positively impact as much of the community as possible the focus of this aid is on group or com-
munity-based initiatives instead of individual ones.
For communities, being located in or near protected areas and parks implies that there are
restrictions on their user rights to the land and natural resources. From the perspective of ecotourism,
this may have both positive and negative consequences for communities developing ecotourism initia-
tives. The fact that these are protected areas means that they have the potential to attract many tourists.
Communities near these areas can profit from this by investing in nature based tourism and, if the
integrity of these areas is maintained, long-term returns may be generated. On the negative side, user
rights for each community may be undefined or unfavorable in terms of the access and uses that they
may have to these areas. These issues are critical because each community needs to have access to the
attractions (forest areas and ruins) in order to provide tours and they need to develop secure and perma-
nent sites for their installations. It is also important to note that the volume of entrants needs to be
controlled so as not to overrun the carrying capacity of the ecology. If there is "open access" to these
areas, without defined user rights and without sufficient control of entrants, too many visitors could
degrade the ecology of the area and destroy the ecotourism potential that the intact resource has.
As shown in Table 3.2, Uaxactin, Lacanja and the CBS are located within protected areas. In
terms of access to natural and archeological attractions, the ejidos, Lacanji and the CBS have attrac-
tions within their own properties. Uaxactin is the only community located inside of a protected area
(the Maya Biosphere Reserves (MBR)) that has no established rights to the land or resources, al-
though, Uaxact6n has been their long before the MBR was declared. Technically, they have to negoti-
ate to-use the resource base and to enter the major attraction Tikal National Park. However, so far they
move around the MBR and Uaxactin ruins unhindered as there are no defined rules regarding their
entrance. The Lacandon Community, of which Lacanja is a pan, encompasses the majority of the
Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve (86%). The Lacandon Community has the right of ownership to
614,321 hectares of land of which about 450,000 hectares have intact forests and include some archeo-
logical sites. Unlike most of the other communities presented in this study their major concern is to
control the access by others to their property (principally land invasions).
The ejidos around the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve serve as buffer zones to that protected area.
The two ejidos studied own their own forest reserves which contain archeological attractions. The
guide services that are being developed outside of these two ejidos will rely on agreements with the
Calakmul Reserve and other area archeological sites for the development of this business.
Ixchel and the T.E.A. are both located on the periphery of natural areas and archeological sites.
Most T.E.A. villages are located on the edge of the Maya Mountains which are covered by various
forest reserves and parks. Many of their tours are in this area and there are various conflicts between
competing interests in the villages for access to these sites. Only the CBS has developed its own
sanctuary and does not depend on other protected areas or parks for its livelihood. Regarding installa-
tions (accommodations, offices), Ixchel and the T.E.A. lease parcels owned by the communities where
their installations are located. The CBS, the ejidos and Lacanjd own the property where their installa-
tions are located. The Guides Association in Uaxactin has purchased a piece of property in their com-
munity, although, technically no one is supposed to own property within the MBR. (Legally, the Guides
Association has "possession" of this parcel, although, this does not give them ownership.)
An interesting aspect of many of these community-based initiatives is that they have devel-
oped, or are planning to develop, their own conservation areas which will also serve as tourist attrac-
tions. The CBS is the best example of this as it developed a 18 mile long stretch of the Belize River for
its sanctuary. The ejidos have already developed forest reserves and a protected area for flora and fauna
which also include archeological sites. The 20 de noviembre has a 14,000 forest reserve containing a
3,350 hectare conservation area for flora and fauna. The ejido Eugenio Echeverria Castellot has a 800
hectare conservation area. These areas will serve as their major attractions. Ixchel is reforesting its
own 13.3 hectare compound where their center is located. They are establishing a medicinal plant and
agroforestry project and a wildlife breeding project which will also serve as attractions. Part of the
T.E.A.'s plans consist of developing their own village protected areas (VPA's) which will contain
forest areas and areas for traditional, organic and sustainable agricultural practices. These areas will be
geared for education and as a tourism attraction.
Another interesting characteristic of these projects are that they are all being developed through
groups instead of individuals. In these particular cases, they have developed this way because the aid
that governments and NGO's are providing is focused on group initiatives, instead of private initia-
tives, in order to widen the impact of these projects. The term "group" implies something different in
each community in terms of how many people they encompass and how tourism activities are being
developed. Also, the intended impacts and their scope differ between projects. As shown in Table 3.2,
the size of the groups working in these initiatives varies between small ones such as Uaxactcn and
lxchel to entire communities such as in the ejidos.
The Association of Eco-cultural Guides of Uaxactin has developed their ecotourism initiative
through a group structure that includes different offices, responsibilities and the like. The principal
benefits of their project are focused on group members, however, they have established a rotation to
evenly distribute tourists among the restaurants in the village.
Ixchel is developing as a center to support women in the community. The impact of the center
is presently focused on a core group of eight women who are permanent members of Ixchel. However,
the long-term impacts of the center will come from providing training and support for women in
Table 3.2 Context in wthi Community-based Ecotourism Projects are Being Developed
Project Government Situated in or close Land and Resource Deve!oping own 1. Group Sze
and/or NGO to Parks and/or use rights: reserves or 2. Intended
Support protected areas 1. Installations protected areas focus of
2. Attractions economic impact
(resources) of ecotourism
Association of Yes Inside of the MBR. 1. Purchase and NO 1.14 men.
Eco-Cuftural 27 Km north of Tikal donation women, and
Guides of 2. Not defined adolescents
Uaxact~n (technically they 2. Primarily on
have no rights) Group
Ixchel S.C. Yes Close to Arch. site 1. Leased Reforesting and 1. 8 women
Montul, the 2. Leased land rehabilitating 2. Primarily on
Biosphere Itza and the not defined 13.3 ha compound' Group
Toledo Yes Close to various 1. Leases from Establshing 1. 17 families
Ecotourism arch. sites and the village (7 Village Protected in each of 5
Association reserves; Columbia years) Areas in each TEA communities
(TEA) River, Bladen Nature 2. Not defined village 2. Group and
Reserve. Maya Mtn's community
Community Baboon Yes Close to Crooked Tree 1. Purchased Conlicuous 1.70 landowners
Sanctuary (CBS) Wildlife Sanctuary and 2. Private parcels of 2 Community'
the Rio Bravo property private property.
Conservation Area' Owners preserve
Ejidos Yes Buffer to Calakmul Ejido property Established 1.2 ejidos
Biosphere Reserve forest reserves consisting of
and reserves for 350 and 260
flora and fauna2 people each
Lacanja Yes Montes Azules Lacandon Common As part of the 1. 300 people
Biosphere Reserve. Estate Property Lacandon live in Lacanja
Bonampak. Yaxchilan. Community, they 2. Individual /
Lacanja protect their community5
614.321 ha Common
1. The CBS is a Community Sanctuary consisting of 70 parcels of private property in which each owner has a contract to maintain howler monkey
2. Ixchel's installations are located on 13.3 hectares (19 manzanas) of land rented from the municipality for 30 years where they are going to
3. The 20 de noviembre has a 14,000 hectare forest reserve containing a 3.350 hectare conservation area for flora and fauna. The ejido Eugenio
Echevenia Castellot has an 800 hectare conservation area.
4. Accommodations and food preparation have been developed through private initiatives.
5. Ecotourism has been developed through private initiatives, however, community level initiatives are being introduced by an NGO, Na Bolom.
The CBS consists of private landowners who have united to create a sanctuary that encom-
passes eight villages. One landowner from each village is elected to a board as a representative of his
community. Presently, few people directly benefit from the sanctuary as only a few businesses have
developed because of the tourism market that it has produced. Through this board, the CBS is begin-
ning to focus more of its efforts to increase the number of people who benefit from ecotourism.
The two projects with the most developed and comprehensive plans for distributing the im-
pacts ofecotourism are the T.E.A. and the ejidos. The T.E.A.'s development revolves around the inclu-
sion of entire communities. Each community has a T.E.A. committee which oversees the program.
Tourists are rotated between villages and villagers to provide the widest possible distribution of eco-
nomic benefits. Also, a conservation fund and a health and education fund have been established in
each village which are funded from part of the income generated from T.E.A. tourism initiatives in
each village. The ejidos are communally owned parcels of land. Within the ejido culture, the idea of
developing together as a community is imbedded in the system. All of the development that takes place
is to benefit each ejid:tario equally, therefore, the four member committees are elected to run ecotourism
activities on behalf of the entire community. Income generated from ecotourism is divided equally
between the project and the community.
Lacanji is one village in the loosely structured Comunidad Zona Lacandona. Each community
is represented within an assembly which is the political structure for the Comunidad Lacandona. Through
the assembly community projects are discussed and approved. Community level organization and
participation has not been very strong in Lacanji. The development of the house of culture, with the
help of a local NGO (Na Bolom), is the first step in uniting them and developing community level
ecotourism initiatives which will positively impact the entire community.
As is evident from the profiles of these projects, the number of people that they impact and
their long-term viability depend on the local circumstances within which development and conserva-
tion is talking place, the aid that is available, and the capacity that each group and community has to
develop an ecotourism business. There are a mixture of different factors which make these projects
feasible and which are going to permit them to grow and function over the long-term. The most impor-
tant factor is that these groups must run their ecotourism enterprise as competitive businesses. The
following section highlights some of these more important issues.
B. Major Issues Influencing the Success of Community-based Ecotourism
The goal of community-based ecotourism businesses is to create viable economic alteratives
within local communities in a manner that conserves the surrounding environment. These initiatives
must be profitable and self-sustaining first in order to reach the more long-term goals of conservation
and sustainable natural resource use. In order to accomplish this communities must have access to the
market and the quality of the ecotourism experience that they provide must be high enough and priced
correctly to attract a sufficient number of visitors and to be profitable. As was shown in Table 3.1, these
projects offer accommodations, guide services and other services and some are developing museums,
information centers and stores to sell crafts. Also, in addition to nature based tourism, they offer two
other attractions archeology and culture in order to diversify and meet the market's demand. In
general, all of the accommodations and services are simple and provide for the basic needs of tourists
(See the Accommodation and Service Cost Table in Appendix 1). However, tourists want a comfort-
able, unique and hassle-free experience which these enterprises must provide in order to be competi-
tive. With this in mind, a few important issues that these communities are facing and which are funda-
mental for their initiatives to be competitive are: accessibility, promotion, service and design.
Accessibility and Promotion
Many of these communities are located in isolated areas, which is an attraction in itself because
they are nature based businesses, but, this aspect also makes access difficult. Getting enough tourists to
arrive where the ecotourism businesses are located is a major problem. Inadequate or nonexistent
public transportation keeps many potential visitors from easily getting to these areas. Also, these
ecotourism enterprises do not have enough money to invest in their own transportation. Accessibility is
related to another problem which is the promotion of these enterprises. Again, because many are far
from the central urban areas or main routes where the majority of tourists are, it is difficult to contact
and attract visitors directly. Signs, pamphlets and other simple advertising, distributed in businesses
located in the major tourist centers, is the primary method that these groups are using to attract tourists
in the initial stage of their promotion.
Without an initial flow of tourists, without transportation and without direct contact with tour-
ists, communities will have to rely partly on tour operators who have the access to tourists and the
capability to transport them. This may cause another problem because these operators usually function
in a manner that does not mesh well with the offerings and needs of community ecotourism businesses
and which leaves a lower level of profits with the community. Tour operators sell tour packages to
tourists which include, accommodations, transportation, food and guide services. When communities
make agreements with tour operators, the operators may want to use local accommodations but supply
there own food and guides and they may ask for a lower price on accommodations because they are
bringing in groups. In many instances tour operators only come for a day and so the accommodations
are not even used. This can cut deeply into the income that communities can generate.
An advantage that some communities have for negotiating with tour operators (and to control
tourism) is that in some instances the communities own or have rights to the attractions. From the
perspective of culture, communities have the exclusive right to this "attraction". This may give them
leverage to negotiate for more equitable arrangements with tour operators. Communities such as the
CBS, the Ejidos, Lacanja and Ixchel own, or have the rights to, the land where many of the principal
attractions are located. In the case of the T.E.A. communities and Lacanja, the indigenous cultures in
these villages are in themselves tourist attractions. However, to negotiate, the communities have to be
united in order to have the necessary leverage to make a fair arrangement. If not, operators may make
arrangements with individual community members which can breed resentment and infighting within-
communities. This can upset the potential for the community to fully benefit from tourism because
some residents will benefit and others may not have the opportunity to benefit. For community-based
initiatives that are attempting to have a positive effect on the entire community or at least a sector of it,
these initiatives may be undermined because tour operators may circumvent them and go to other
sectors of the community where they can make an arrangement on their own terms.
Service is another area in which community-based projects need to place much of their empha-
sis. Competent and efficient guide services, clean and well maintained facilities, adequate food prepa-
ration and the ability to take care of tourists' needs are important aspects to successfully run an ecotourism
enterprise. Making all of these aspects run smoothly is difficult for any business. However, for com-
munities this may be more difficult because they are often managed by a group of people who usually
do not have experience in these areas. When the business is run by a group, often jobs are shared or
rotated and the responsibility for accomplishing certain tasks is not clear. Also, because these are not
full-time jobs, often in the start-up phases of these businesses there is not enough income to pay people
and the quality of the work performed and services provided may not be of a high enough caliber. Also,
members have jobs (farming, etc.) outside of these businesses and so cannot spend as much time as
needed on the project. These aspects are especially important in completing daily routine duties such
as cleaning and maintaining the accommodations. Cleanliness in sleeping areas, latrines/ bathrooms,
bathing areas and in eating places is especially important for travelers who expect these features when
they are paying for them. Meals are another aspect that is important. Eating local food is part of the
cultural experience of travel. Therefore, the food provided does not have to be "Americanized" or
"Europeanized", but it must be well prepared under sanitary conditions and have some variety.
In order to help improve service and management, many of these projects include training in
order to help members run these businesses. In general, training includes business administration,
tourism management, guide traiining (which includes education in archeology, biology, botany, first
aid, group management and other skills necessary to be a good guide), human relations, service and
other courses that makes members more capable of understanding and managing an ecotourism busi-
ness. This training may help correct any management and service problems.
A final element which is important to develop within community projects is the overall appear-
ance, aesthetics and comfort of the accommodations. These concepts are hard to depict because these
components consist of a number of details which make a place unique and enjoyable. All of the struc-
tures built by the communities are simple and use local materials, such as timber and thatch for roofs.
The designs of these accommodations need to include more than just a bed or hammock to sleep in.
They must be well ventilated, be designed for relaxing and have the necessary attributes such as,
enough chairs, hammocks, tables, lamps, water, and other comforts for visitors to rest and enjoy the
surroundings. Planting grass, trees, flowers or other plants in the area and maintaining the appearance
of the accommodations are details that can be attended to cheaply and are important to give the area a
sense of quality and comfort.
Many of the accommodations are located within villages which may create other issues which
need to be addressed. If an ecotourism experience is being promoted then the locations of the accom-
modations should be fairly secluded or at least convey the idea of a natural setting. If the experience
includes much of the culture, it is appropriate to be located in population centers, however, accommo-
dations should not be intrusive on villagers or tourists. The amount of interaction between villagers
and tourists in the accommodations should be a choice and not an obligation. Screening accommoda-
tions from the commotion of a village, closing off the area to roaming livestock and creating an atmo-
sphere that is comfortable and relaxing are simple planning and design issues which can be inexpen-
sively incorporated into the construction of community-based accommodations and which can make
the difference between an enjoyable place to stay or one that is unacceptable to tourists.
Nature, culture, adventure, comfort, convenience and good service all are components of a
quality experience that tourists would be willing to pay for. The communities studied all have attrac-
tions close at hand and are developing themselves to profit from ecotourism. Accessibility, promotion,
service and uniqueness are issues on which these initiatives need to focus to guarantee their niche in
the tourism market. Through training and experience these problems and shortcomings can be ad-
dressed. However, unlike private businesses, the organizational aspects of these projects produces
extra issues, such as group management and community relations, which are social dynamics that
these groups have to consider in developing these businesses.
1. The Organizational Aspect of Community-based Ecotourism
Because these initiatives are being backed by governments and NGO's, the ecotourism initia-
tives being developed are group oriented and are meant to benefit entire communities or at least sectors
of communities. Unlike many other private enterprises, these groups must work within the context of
the community which means that: 1) they must be accepted by the community and, 2) the groups must
work as a team and be cohesive. Before an ecotourism business can even begin to function both of
these issues need to be dealt with or problems could arise that may keep the initiative from being
Within communities many of the projects that develop need the support of villagers in order to
function. In many cases, the development of projects that generate income may cause jealousies and
infighting within the community. If the community has not supported orat least accepted the project in
its incipiency, as it develops, it could generate problems on personal and political levels within the
community. This could limit its positive impacts or, in the worst case, it could completely paralyze the
project. On the other hand, if these projects are supported by the community, they may have the oppor-
tunity to play a positive role by uniting residents and helping them develop positive attitudes about
such things as conservation. This unity may help in dealing with tour operators, as mentioned earlier,
or with other types of development that may take place in the community. This has been one of the
goals of the TEA and is one of the issues being discussed by the CBS and Lacanj1.
Once community acceptance has been achieved, the cohesiveness of the group is the next most
important step to successfully develop and manage an ecotourism operation. Leaders who have initia-
tive and who take and delegate responsibility, and the efficient and reliable work of group members is
important in maintaining an ecotourism business. Also, a cohesive group is important in limiting in-
fighting, placing blame on others for problems that may arise, and fighting over the management of the
project and the income being generated. These types of problems lower morale, lower the quality of
these projects and could lead to their failure. Both of these issues are aspects of community and group
based projects which need to be continuously monitored. Part of the development of these projects
includes training in administration, management as well as human relations which serve to educate
participants on how these businesses must function and to clarify members' roles within these projects.
C. The Impacts of Community-based Ecotourism
The major impacts generated from the development of community-based ecotourism projects
can be grouped into three areas; economic, social and ecological. It is hoped that the impacts of
ecotourism will be positive ones, however, these endeavors can create negative impacts as well. Espe-
cially in the developing world where local cultures can be easily impacted in a negative manner from
too much tourism. For this reason, many of these projects are focused on giving local residents a say in
the development of tourism taking place in their communities. In this manner they may be able to
better control and develop it in order to receive the positive impacts and to lessen the negative ones.
Because many of these projects are just beginning, many of the impacts discussed and included in
Table 3.3 on page 75 have not been experienced or addressed yet by these communities.
1. Economic Impacts
From an economic perspective, the long-term impacts on the community depend on how suc-
cessful these projects are at attracting visitors and generating enough income. Economic impacts are
measured by the amount of money directly generated by each project and indirectly generated by other
local businesses not associated with the project but that generate income from the growth in tourism.
These include stores, restaurants, transportation services and the like. The distribution of the income
generated by these projects is also important since the hope of the conservation and development
community is that the maximum number of people will be positively impacted. The distribution of
income depends on how this ecotourism development is planned by each group and community.
The organization of these initiatives and the number of people expected to be impacted vary
from entire communities to small groups. The projects with the potential for distributing the widest
impacts are the two ejidos the 20 de noviembre and Eugenio Echeverria Castellot #2, and the villages
working within the T.E.A. program. In the case of the ejidos, the four member committees in charge of
each project give 50% of the income generated to the ejido. The remaining 50% goes to maintenance
and reinvestment into the project. Money earned by individuals is made through guide and other ser-
vices associated with the accommodations. In the T.E.A., a certain amount is given back to the commu-
nity for health, education and conservation purposes and 80% of all of the income generated stays with
T.E.A. members in the community. A rotation system is used between villages and between service
providers in each village to guarantee a wide distribution of the benefits.
In Uaxactfin, the Association is expected to receive the majority of the income from the eco-
camping and guide services that they established. However, they rotate tourists between the different
food providers in the village in order to distribute tourism.benefits beyond the group. In Ixchel the
money made from the inn and tours of the compound will be used to support the natural resource based
projects that they are developing and pay the women working in the inn a salary for their services.
Ecotourism in the CBS and LacanjA has developed through private initiatives so that accommodations,
food services and guiding income impacts the families who have developed these initiatives.
Indirectly, the economic impact that the development of community-based ecotourism may
have on people and businesses not associated with the project can be significant. Artisans, store own-
ers, food providers and the like stand to increase their incomes by selling to a higher volume of people
that may come to their village because of ecotourism development. The economic benefit to the local
economy could be an important source of income for a wide range of people in a community.
Although the range of economic impacts between projects varies, at the least, this impact must
be significant enough within the group developing the project in order to make these initiatives suc-
cessful. Although it is possible that some people may be able to make a living from ecotourism, not
everyone will be able to do so. The main goal is to help raise incomes and diversify economic activities
so that people will not be so dependent on one form of generating income such as from unsustainable
2. Social Impacts
The development of these projects can have both positive and negative social impacts for com-
munities. On the positive side participants may learn new skills, some of the income from projects may
directly fund other community activities (T.E.A., Ejidos), the community may be better able to control
and plan tourism on their own terms (T.E.A., Lacanja) and, in general, participants may have an in-
creased sense of self-esteem (Ixchel) and a wider perspective of their community and the surrounding
ecology. Also, as people generate higher incomes they may improve their quality of life through in-
vesting in education, health, housing and other needs, however, there is no guarantee that they will do
this. On the negative side, if these projects are not able to control tourism development, the community's
capacity for tourists could be exceeded. Also, with the growth of tourism in communities the possibil-
ity exists that everything will be perceived from only a monetary perspective. Finally, tourism could
introduce or reinforce negative influences such as drugs and alcohol and it could alter the positive
aspects of local cultures.
Through the development of the projects, many participants are getting exposed to new expe-
riences which teach them new skills. All of these projects have educational and training components,
ranging from administration to human relations, which give members the capacity to run these busi-
nesses. Besides helping groups improve their capacities to run ecotourism businesses, training may
give members the knowledge and capacity to develop other projects in their communities.
Some of these projects also have components which share some of the income generated with
their communities. For example, the TEA established a fund that receives a percent of the ecotourism
income for health and education. The ejidos receive half of the money generated for ecotourism for
services that the communities may need. In Ixchel, part of the money from the inn is to be used to
subsidize other projects in the center. These three ecotourism projects directly fund and support other
endeavors that may help in the further development of their communities.
Developing ecotourism gives communities an opportunity to control and guide the growth of
tourism on their own terms. It is one of the few opportunities where an aspect of local economic
development has been placed directly in the hands of residents. This opportunity gives them decision
making power for how tourism should develop and fit within their communities.
This brings us to the major negative social impact that tourism can bring when tourism is
unplanned and uncontrolled and the number of tourists overruns the carrying capacity of a community.
Tourism can begin to affect the community negatively when the number of tourists who visit are more
than a small community can handle. This theme is being addressed in Lacanja and in southern Belize
with the T.E.A. where the culture of the indigenous residents of these areas is still strong and the
influences from outside could irrevocably destroy what remains of their cultures.
The influx of money from tourism can also cause problems in villages. When attractions -
culture (and crafts), natural environment all have a price, they may become nothing more than com-
modities and lose their significance as natural or culture treasures. The influx of money may also
create jealousies in communities as people feel that they are not receiving their fair share of the eco-
nomic benefits from tourism while,. at the same time, they have to deal with the tourists. This could
also have an effect on tourism as tourists begin to feel that the entire experience revolves around a
financial transaction instead of the enjoyment of nature, culture and archeology. At the same time, the
freshness of the experience may wear out for both hosts and tourists and the attractions that lured
tourists no longer do so as tourism in the community has gone from boom to bust.
Another danger of tourism that can impact small communities are other social problems such
as drugs, alcohol and the like. Without having an element of control over tourists, these problems may
arise which are difficult to alleviate once introduced into a community.
3. Ecological Impacts
The ecological impacts brought on by the development of community-based ecotourism initia-
tives can be both negative and positive. From the negative aspect, bringing people into natural areas is
bound to have some detrimental impacts through the possible disturbance of sensitive areas (nesting
areas, plants, etc.) and the increased pollution from trash and noise. In order to minimize these prob-
lems, how tourists enter areas should be carefully planned. Also, tourists need to be made aware of the
guidelines for interacting with sensitive areas. This aspect of ecotourism development can be educa-
tional for both tourists and communities as they learn how and why it is important to care for their
environment. However, if there is no control of ecotourism, the negative ecological impacts could be
devastating for cenain areas.
If tourists are not given specific rules about disturbing plants and animals, disposing of garbage
and wandering from trails then the ecosystem will be degraded and may spoil the attraction for other
tourists. In turn, this could hurt the ecotourism business for the community. Negative ecological Im-
pacts can also become a problem if there are competing ecotourism interests in the same village or
from tour operators who enter and want to use their own guides and trails. The negative impacts could
increase when these resources are not shared but are a battle ground of competition. Rules may not be
followed and too many tourists may arrive, thus, degrading the attractions.
It should be noted that tourism is growing in and around the communities profiled in this study.
Because tourism is going to continue to grow with or without residents' input, the best strategy may be
to help communities develop and control it on their own terms. By ensuring that local residents have a
share of the income that ecotourism can generate this may provide them with sufficient incentives to
control tourism and its negative impacts on the surrounding environment. Also, as previously men-
tioned, they may move away from depending on other activities that degrade the forest. Therefore,
although they may introduce some negative impacts, the incentives for conservation induced by
ecotourism may outweigh the negative ecological impacts that this activity could generate.
Table 3.3 Potential Impacts of Community-Based Ecolourism Projects
Economic Social Ecological
1. Direct income generated by each project
from accommodations, guide services, lees
and food services.
2. Indirect income generated from restau-
rants, stores, transportation providers and
3. The distribution of benefits ranges from
groups to entire communities.
1. Influence of cash economy: infighting, jeal-
ousies, uneven development, commodi-
lazation of products.
2. The distribution of income may not be very
3. Income generated may be invested in eco-
logically destructive activities.
1. New skills from training and education as-
sociated with ecolourism development
which could be applied in other projects that
address other needs.
2. Some project generated income may di-
rectly subsidize other community needs
such as health and education.
3. Community can plan, control and direct
tourism on own terms to increase positive
impacts and to control negative ones.
4. Increased sell-esteem and wider perspec-
tive on community development and con-
5. Possibility to increase ones own quality of
life through newly acquired skills and higher
1. Overrunning carrying capacities of commu-
2. Introduction or reinforcement of negative
social problems, drugs, etc.
1. Conservation effort and incentives may out-
weigh the initial ecological impacts from
1. Overrunning carrying capacities of natural
areas by tourists.
2. Increased ecological degradation.
3. Improper waste disposal.
________________________ _______________________ _______________________
D. The Implications for Conservation from Community-based
Governments and NGO's hope that ecotourism initiatives in the Maya Forest region will create
incentives for conservation. Communities may also be interested in conservation, however, their pri-
mary concern is with the development of these projects as businesses in order to generate income.
Positive economic and social outcomes are necessary first to provide the incentives for conservation
and sustainable resource use. As shown in Table 3.4 on page 76, this is based on the idea that: 1) if
income is generated by tourists attracted by standing forests, communities would have the incentive to
'maintain the forest resource (because of the added value to the standing forest), 2) time in the new
activity may take time away from unsustainable forest exploitation activities and, 3) ecotourism may
raise incomes which lessens dependence on activities that are unsustainable. Over the long-term, these
projects may change attitudes and educate communities about the positive impacts of conservation and
sustainable forest use. The training of guides on aspects of ecology, botany, conservation and the like
may also help disseminate and reinforce this knowledge within the community.
The potential to change peoples attitudes and relations to their environment is born out by the
fact that there are some communities where conservation activities have already been taking place
before tourism development such as in the ejidos and the CBS. In the ejidos, forest reserves and re-
serves for flora and fauna have been set aside in order to protect and use these resources over the long-
term. The CBS was developed through private land owners pledging to preserve howler habitat on
their properties which created a sanctuary. Tourism grew out of the success of this endeavor, although,
it has not reached the point of generating a financial return for their conservation activities. Although
conservation efforts have already been developed through community initiated protected areas and
reserves, ecotourism is viewed by these communities as one more tool to help reinforce the conserva-
tion of these areas.
Local interest in conservation is demonstrated by the fact that most of the projects provide for
specific conservation efforts beyond the conservation incentive that ecotourism creates. Projects, such
as the T.E.A., have conservation components that they want to include in their ecotourism activities.
The T.E.A. is developing village protected Areas (VPA's) which include forest areas and which dem-
onstrate local organic cultivation techniques (such as cacao) and traditional farming. They are being
developed as both tourist attractions and as commercial organic farming areas to generate sources of
income for the communities. The compound that Ixchel is developing will include captive breeding of
local endangered species, agroforestry, and medicinal herb and plant production. Besides serving as
attractions for tourists, Ixchel is developing these activities as pan of their training and education
program in natural resource use for local women. Their primary purpose in developing the inn and
other tourism activities is to generate funds for these other projects.
Besides developing conservation components for their projects, the ejidos and the T.E.A. set
aside a portion of the income generated that can be used by the entire community. The T.E.A. created
a fund for conservation in each of its villages which is financed by a percentage of the income gener-
ated from ecotourism in each community. The ejidos share 50% of the income generated by their
ecotourism activities directly with the community. They can use the funds for activities that address the
communities needs. All of the other projects profiled use some of their income to maintain trails and to
finance development of natural areas for tourism (making signs, cleaning trails, etc.), but, they do not
directly fund other conservation activities.
Ecotourism development can have significant positive impacts on local communities. The de-
velopment of these enterprises provides one the few economic alternatives that communities can capi-
talize on. However, to capitalize is not easy. Problems arising in the development of these enterprises
need to be surmounted in order for community-based ecotourism initiatives to create positive impacts.
Even if these projects do survive their start-up phase and manage to function, it is difficult to determine
how great the incentives for conservation are going to be. However, one fact is clear: for conservation
and sustainable resource use to succeed in the Maya Forest, local communities need to be included in
a meaningful way in economic development and conservation efforts. Helping them develop sustain-
able economic alternatives such as ecotourism can help take some of the pressure off surrounding
forests and provide incentives to local people to conserve their environment.
Table 3.4 Implications of Community-Based Ecotourism for Conservation
1. Added value to forest areas which provides incentives for their conservation and sustainable use.
2. Time in ecotourism activities may take time away from unsustainable forest use activities.
3. Change in attitudes and relationships to the forest through ecotourism activity (education, know-
ledge of environment).
4. Provision of direct funding and/or development of other conservation or sustainable use activities.
Costs of Accommodations and Services Offered by Each Ecotourism Enterprise (U.S. Dollars)
Project Overnight Guide Services Food Other
Association of Q 20.00 / person Local tour: Local Eating
Guides of Q 50 / guide Establishments
Uaxactin Trips > one day: set prices
S 40.00 / person/day'
Ixchel S.C. Q 50.00 / person 0 5.00 Donation Q 10.00 Crafts
Toledo BZS 18.50 / person BZS 28.00 / person BZ$ 6.50 Breakfast Dance, Music, Story
Ecotourism BZS 8.00 Lunch telling, Crafts
Association (T.E.A.) BZ$ 6.50 Supper
Community BZS 20.00 / person BZS 10.00 BZS 5 Breakfast
Baboon Sanctuary BZS 10 Lunch
(CBS) BZS 5 Supper
Ejidos NS 200.00 package. NS 20.00 Donation Included in Package Bike Rentals
Lacandon Communit: NS 20.00 / person NS 40 to NS 70 / Not Established Crafts
Exchange Rates (Aug. 1995): US 1 = BZS 2 / USS 1 = Q 5.61 / USS 1 = NS 6.21
1. Price per person decreases with larger groups.
Addresses and Contacts of Communities and NGO's
Providing Project Support
Toledo Ecotourism Association (TEA)
65 Front Street or P.O. Box 75
Punta Gorda, Belize District, Belize, C.A.
Pablo Ack T.E.A. Chairman
William W. Schmidt Senior T.E.A. Consultant
Associated Villages Laguna, San Pedro Columbia, San Miguel, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Barranco, Blue
Creek, Corazon Creek, Medina Bank, Pueblo Viejo, Santa Elena and San Antonio.
Word Wildlife Fund (WWF)
USAID/NARMAP Natural Resource Management & Protection Project
10/12 Unity Blvd.
P.O. Box 58
Belmopan, Belize, C.A.
Mark Nolan Chief of Party
Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS)
Bermudian Landing, Belize
Community Tel. 501-021-2001
Orlando Dawson President
Associated Villages Big Falls, St. Pauls, Willows Bank, Double Head Cabbage, Bermudian Landing,
Scotland Half-Moon, Isabella Bank and Flowers Bank.
Comite de Ecoturismo Ejido 20 de noviembre
Comite de Ecoturismo Ejido Eugenio Echeverria Castellot # 2
Holpechen, Campeche, M6xico
Tel. (982) 4-03-73 y (982) 4-03-76
Fax (982) 4-00-76
Victor M. Trejo May member comit6 Eugenio Echeverria Castellot
Victor Cahuich Cahuich member comit6 20 de noviembre
Consejo Regional Agrosilvopecuario y de Servicios de Xpujil, S.C.
Zoh-Laguna, Municipio de Holpechen, Campeche, M6xico
Tel. (982) 4-03-74
Fax (982) 4-00-76
Miguel Angel Soza Huerta Project Coordinator for Ecotourism
Pronatura, Peninsula de Yucatan, A.C.
Calle 1-D No. 254-A x 36 y 38
M6rida, Yucatan, M6xico
Tel./Fax (99) 44-22-90 y 44-35-80
Fernando Sastre M6ndez Project Coordinator for Ecotourism
Lic. Armando Sastrr Mendez Coordinador Area Socioec6nomica
Carmelo Chanbor Yuk President of the Supreme Council
Kin Bor- Inn Owner
Av. Vicente Guerrero No. 33
San Crist6bal de Las Casas,
Chiapas, Mexico 29220
Will Hoffman Coordinador General
Dr. Navarro No. 10
San Cristobal de las Casas
Chiapas, Mexico 29200
Sonia Kroth Project Coordinator
Agrupaci6n de Guias Ecoculturales de Uaxactdn
Aldea Uaxactin, Flores, Pet6n
Jos6 Elfido Aldana, Presidente
Associaci6n de Rescate y Conservacion de Animales Silvestres (ARCAS)
Santa Elena, Pettn, Guatemala, C.A.
Pat Pinelo Coordinadora del proyecto de ecoturismo de Uaxactin
Nuevo San Josi, Petdn, Guatemala, C.A.
Telifono comunitario 502-9-508135
Brenda Mallol Legal Representative and Founder
Alba Gudela Huex Chan Executive Coordinator
The Nature Conservancy has funded the above ecotourism projects with the exception of the CBS and
lxchel which have received training and technical assistance through TNC.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
Avenida Barrios No. 11
Ciudad Isla de Flores
C.P. 17001 Petin, Guatemala, C.A.
Tel./Fax (502) 9-500546
Scott Wilber Coordinator, TNC/MAYAFOR
Anonymous, Una Visita a Lacania-Chansavab: Low Impact Tourism in the Lacandon Rainforest, Na
Bolom, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, 1994.
Boo, Elizabeth, Introduction to Ecotourism, in Compatible Economic Development: Tourism, Northrop
Brad, Jerry Touval (eds.), workbook prepared for the Nature Conservancy's Conservation Training
Week, Quito, Ecuador, May 21-27, 1995.
Boo, Elizabeth, Ecotourismo: Potenciales v Escollos, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation, USAID,
Washington, D.C., 1990.
Comunidad Zona Lacandona, Towards the Sustainnble Development of the Comunidad Zona Lacandona,
Comunidad Zona Lacandona, Chiapas, Mexico, 1994.
Consejo Regional de X'pujil, Bosque Modelo Para Calakmul: Ecologia Productiva Propuesta, Consejo
Regional de X'pujil Zoh-Laguna, Campeche, Mexico, 1994.
Horwich, Robert H.; Jonathon Lyon, A Belizean Rain Forest: The Community Baboon Sanctuary.
Orang-utan Press, Community Conservation Consultants, Gay Mills WI, 1990.
Institute Guatemalteco de Turismo (INGUAT), Cifras de la Industria Turistica, Ciudad de Guatemala,
Lindberg, Kreg; Jeremy Enriquez, An Analysis of Ecotourism's Economic Contribution to Conserva-
tion and Develooment in Belize, Volumes 1 & 2, WWF & Ministry of Tourism and the Environment
Lindberg, Kreg; Donald E. Hawkins (eds.), Ecotourism: A Guide For Planners and Managers, The
Ecotourism Society, North Bennington, VT, 1993.
Northrop, Brad; Jerry Touval (eds.), Compatible Economic Development: Ecotourism, workbook pre-
pared for The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Training Week, Quito, Ecuador, May 21-27, 1995.
Pickell, Robert J., The Toledo Ecotourism Associ:tion: Business Plan, Toledo Ecotourism Associa-
tion, Punta Gorda Belize, November 1992.
Pinelo, Claudia Patricia; Raquel Paz Tun, Informe Final de Servicios Prestados en la Comunidad de
Uaxacttin Flores. Petin, Unpublished report on field practicum to receive the title ofTecnico en Turismo,
Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, Centro Universitario de Petin, September 1994.
4 ; 6 "
Toledo Ecotourism Association, Training Manual and Vision Statement, Toledo Ecotourism Associa-
tion, Funded by the United Nations Partners in Development Program, Punta Gorda, Belize, January
Toledo Ecotourism Association, Tour de Forest, Toledo Ecotourism Association, Funded by the United
Nations Partners in Development Program, Punta Gorda, Belize, January 1995.
Vasquez-SAnchez, M.A.; M.A. Ramos (eds.), Reserva de la Bi6sfera Montes Azules. Selva Lacandona:
Investigaci6n para su Conservaci6n, ECOSFERA, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, M6xico, 1992.
White, Kathy, Ecotourism: A Grassroots Strategy for Sustainable Economic Development in Rural
Belize, M.S. thesis abstract, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, April
World Travel and Tourism Council, The WTTC Report: Travel and Tourism in the World Economy,
Brussels, Belgium, 1992.