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Fast Five Profile: Tropic Journeys in Nature

ECUADOR | Monday, 3 January 2011 | Views [2747]

1. Who are you?  Brief description of trips you offer.

My name is Jascivan Carvalho and I am the General Manager of Tropic Journeys in Nature as well as the Executive Director of the ecotourism foundation Conservation in Action, that I also helped to create.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to develop some practical and theoretical skills:  the ability to create projects around development opportunities; the capacity to conceive of businesses and make them happen; the capability to strengthen alliances amongst actors from different sectors and the ability to articulate proposals that address specific needs. I also have a profound knowledge of the tourism business and its multiplier effect, its value chain, and how the business activity can be linked to an effective model for promoting conservation, improving economic benefits for local communities and supporting protected areas.
My motivation is challenge, the desire to support people and their communities and to protect environments. I am also motivated by the search for opportunities to improve my knowledge and ability to support ecotourism businesses, development and conservation. Some good examples of the expeditions we have developed are the award winning Huaorani Ecolodge, our Galapagos Walking tours, and most recently our Waponi network of ecotourism enterprises and our ´Ecuador off the beaten´ path programs.

2.  How do you define Responsible Travel?

For me Responsible Travel is four things: support for and protection of the environment; support for local people and their communities, represented by non intrusive programs; respect, support and promotion of distinct cultures, above all indigenous cultures in the Amazon region; ethical treatment of all business partners and clients; and finally a determined effort to provide clients with exceptional experiences. 
We are fans of Responsible Travel and Sustainable Tourism concepts and try to apply them in every step we take as an organization. My objective is to share what we do to promote and develop Responsible Travel in Ecuador. Our idea is to provide small, community operated eco-tourism destinations that are dedicated to social and environmental improvement with the kind of support they need to survive in a very competitive market. 
Our operations provide a bridge between communities and their projects and the market. Through Tropic, Journeys in Nature, we provide the opportunity for community projects to work together to increase sales. Importantly our platform offers a central marketing point and a guarantee of quality for national and international operators, as well as providing training and quality management expertise to the communities themselves.  The objective is to combine quality and marketing.
We see ourselves as an important element to make Responsible Travel function in practice.

3.  What does your company do to make sure it travels responsibly?

Tropic is a private company that specialises in responsible, community-based eco-tourism. Tropic was founded in Quito, Ecuador in 1994, to demonstrate that sustainable and culturally sensitive tourism could be a viable business model. 
Tropic set out to do this by pioneering indigenous community tourism with the Huaorani people of the Amazon. Over the years the company has been a consistent partner and promoter of tourism initiatives with other indigenous communities, such as the Siecoya, Cofán, Siona, Achuar and Quichua. Tropic also works with community tourism initiatives in the Galapagos Islands and the Andean and Pacific coast regions of Ecuador. Between 10 and 20% of the company’s profits are donated to the Conservation in Action Foundation, which supports indigenous community initiatives such as the establishment of the Yame Forest Reserve in the Amazon, producing a guide to community based Eco-tourism, providing training in community legal rights regarding oil exploration, etc.

4. Tell us about a successful initiative. And an unsuccessful one - what did you learn?

Our emblematic and most successful experience is Huaorani Lodge, a community based initiative where the community itself owns and now operates the local infrastructure. The lodge took years to plan, consult and finally operate. It is now in its third year and besides having won various international awards is increasingly successful on an economic level.
On the other hand most community projects lack the capacity that Tropic has provided in the Huaorani project: i.e. the capability to develop but also to market their packages. And since its inception Tropic has been committed to providing this type of support in order to  develop and promote local initiatives as a way to protect environments and sustain local communities and their cultures. 
The success of this process at Huaorani Lodge, has given rise to the belief that these initiatives can work, and have a positive impact environmentally, economically and socially. Consequently we have been working with other community initiatives in a number of parts of Ecuador in order to strengthen their skills and to bring them together in a joint initiative to improve tourist packages and market products. We are now working on a formal sustainable tourism network, WAPONI, which will put Tropic and its partners in a leadership role in this area of tourism in the country and perhaps in the region. 
Regarding failures, I don't really have a sense of a project being unsuccessful but I do recognize that each project and each community is a new universe and due to that we may have made a few mistakes in our approach, taking for granted a few elements that needed more explanation, understanding and even regulate expectations from all parties involved.

5. What’s some advice you can offer to travelers wanting to travel responsibly?

I think this is a common advice for travelers but worth to repeat - investigate your provider´s credentials, see what other clients have to say, and look carefully at the operation´s raison d’être reason to be before purchasing a responsible tourism program. 
One of the fundamentals of the community projects organised or supported by Tropic is the ability of local communities to raise income levels by selling products both directly and indirectly to travelers. For example, apart from organizing and supporting the building of structures such as Huaorani Lodge, owned by the community itself, we have encouraged efforts to increase income in a number of different ways: by organizing opportunities for direct sale of handicrafts and explaining the importance of the sale of crafts to communities.

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